The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Let's be honest, getting to play with hardware before launch is typically quite interesting and it's sometimes a headache when you are the beta-tester, but this time it was downright fun. Most of the time I know what I am going to see before I actually see it; yea I know the 9980XE is going to be slightly better than the 7980XE and I know the 2950X is going to be slightly better than the 1950X.
However, this time I had no idea what I was going to get. We heard so many rumors about this CPU, mostly about its price, and let's not forget the drama over the Computex demo being chilled. Today we are here to basically show you what this CPU is capable of, and there are some shockers. For starters, it will only cost $2,999. Yes, $3K, not that $8K rumor floated around CES, and not the $10K people thought it might also cost considering it's based on Intel's Xeon Platinum 8180. We haven't even revealed the most interesting stuff, so let's get to it!
The W-3175X has the same 28 cores and 58 threads as the Xeon Platinum 8180, and the same 38.5MB L3 cache. It does sport a 255W TDP, which is 50W higher than the 8180. That extra TDP allowed Intel to increase base clock 600MHz to 3.1GHz, and the CPU supports a 4.3GHz Turbo Boost 2 clock for a single core, while the 8180 only goes to 3.8GHz. The platforms are very similar with both CPUs offering up 48 PCI-E 3.0 lanes, bringing platform total to 68 PCI-E lanes. We get the same hexa channel controller with support for ECC RDIMMs. However, the W-3175X is very unlocked, the CPU, cache, and memory can all be overclocked pretty easily.
The Xeon W-3175X is priced at $2999, but will only be sold to Sis and then to you.
The CPU and Test Setup
Intel didn't ship us the CPU alone, instead, they shipped a fully built 80lbs system as well as an "OC kit," so while we were installing the OC kit, we had a chance to actually see the CPU. We can see it looks pretty similar to the Xeon Platinum 8180, with two holes for heat expansion and the same pad layout. It also lacks the RFID chip that we see on Core-X series CPUs.
On the left was what was shipped to us, the rig has some pretty impressive cable management. However, we needed to standardize the system a bit, since we don't use a GTX 1080, but instead a GTX 1080 Ti in our testing. Later on, we also swapped out the cooler for an EKWB Phoenix 360 Annihilator, which was recommended for overclocking.
Here is part of the OC kit, the EK Phoenix 360 Annihilator, a six to 8-pin converter cable (for changing PCI-E into 12v ESP for the CPU), and they also sent another 1600W Titanium PSU for more extreme overclocking.
We will mention that we switched out the GTX 1080 for a GTX 1080 Ti, and that for overclocking we used the EK cooler instead of the Asetek one mentioned below. You might notice both the coolers are unreleased.
Out of the Box Performance: CINEBENCH, wPrime, and AIDA64
As the CPU isn't going to be sold as a standalone product like every other product in our charts, we decided to review it as it with the exception of changing the GPU out to one of the GTX 1080 Tis we normally test with. We would typically change our DRAM, SSD, and cooler, but in this case, since it's sold in configurations much like this one, so we opted not to. We have considered doing a more standardized test in the future for those interested.
While singlehandedly beating every other unlocked CPU in our charts in CINEBENCH, Intel has taken back the CINEBENCH crown for now. What's more interesting are the single threaded results in CINEBENCH, with the CPU doing quite good. In wPrime, we start to see the Xeon and Threadripper parts go head to head.
One thing to keep in mind with our memory tests is that while the Xeon W-3175X is running hexa channel memory, it's also running ECC registered DIMMs, which will hurt performance a little bit. The Xeon gold systems were only using quad channel. In the AIDA64 IOPS and FLOPS tests, we see the Xeon W-3175X blow away everything else. Memory bandwidth performance isn't too shabby, but latency is taking a slight hit.
Out of the Box Performance: Blender, Handbrake & More
Out of the Box Performance: Blender, Handbrake, SuperPI, and ScienceMark
As the CPU isn't going to be sold as a standalone product like every other product in our charts, we decided to review it as it with the exception of changing the GPU out to one of the GTX 1080 Tis we normally test with. We would typically change our DRAM, SSD, and cooler, but in this case, since it's sold in configurations much like this one, we opted not to. We have considered doing a more standardized test in the future for those interested.
In Blender we once again see it go head to head with the Threadripper 2990WX, just slightly beating it within the margin of error. In Handbrake, both in taking a 4K video to 1080P and changing another video's codec, we see the Intel Xeon W-3175X is the one to beat. In ScienceMark we get a taste for more legacy software, which really likes frequency, but the software also can't take advantage of all the cores the Xeon has to offer (it has a core limit). With the memory latency results we saw earlier, we were not expecting the CPU to crank out 32million digits of PI as quickly as it did.
Synthetic Gaming Performance: UNIGINE and 3DMark
As the CPU isn't going to be sold as a standalone product like every other product in our charts, we decided to review it as it with the exception of changing the GPU out to one of the GTX 1080 Tis we normally test with. We would typically change our DRAM, SSD, and cooler, but in this case since it's sold in configurations much like this one we opted not to. We have considered doing a more standardized test in the future for those interested.
Fire Strike and CloudGate results are okay, nothing to really see in them. The UNIGINE results are very interesting, as they set a trend you will find more obvious on the next page. Basically, the CPU can game.
Gaming Performance: Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, & More
Out of the Box Gaming Performance: Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, GTA:V, Ashes of Singularity
As the CPU isn't going to be sold as a standalone product like every other product in our charts, we decided to review it as it with the exception of changing the GPU out to one of the GTX 1080 Tis we normally test with. We would typically change our DRAM, SSD, and cooler, but in this case, since it's sold in configurations much like this one we opted not to. We have considered doing a more standardized test in the future for those interested.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Ashes of the Singularity
Games like frequency, and the Turbo table of the Xeon W-3175X must be quite the impressive one by the numbers we are seeing. The CPU not only has game, it can game. Not only can it game, but you might also be able to call it the best gaming CPU in the world if all you play is Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, and there are literally dozens of us who play that game. We are still a bit shocked by how well it did in games, but keep in mind we did mention earlier that we didn't standardize the memory or SSD, both of which are superior when it comes to this system compared to our stock systems we typically use.
Overclocking and Power Consumption
We were not able to measure power consumption at the 8-pin connectors due to physical constraints, the only thing we saw was CPU package power reported as 215W, while its most definitely much higher as that's under its TDP. We think if we did measure it physically it would be above 255W, closer to 300W or 320W. ASUS said this on default power settings, "The default power setting enforces strictly POR limits of the processor" and they aren't one of the vendors who unlocks power default on Z390 boards, at least not if you don't touch anything like XMP or MCE.
Here are some power numbers (not from Intel), 4GHz with AVX Prime 95 Small FFTs will pull 680W, 4.2GHz Prime 95 Small FFTs non-AVX will pull 568W, and 4.5GHz CINEBENCH will draw 560W. Those are all core overclocks. That's a lot, especially at AVX in Prime95. Remember us telling you that the Asetek cooler was swapped for the EKWB for overclocking? Did you know that new Asetek cooler is rated for 500W, which means the EKWB one must be rated even higher.
Here is where things got interesting. The CPU has no STIM (solder thermal interface), and instead uses paste, but it's able to overclock above what we expected. We went with 1.2v on the VCore, but didn't touch mesh or mesh frequency, we set XMP, LLC to level 6, increased all external and internal power limits (even though ASUS said that's done automatically when setting all core OC), and set VCCIN to 2.05v so that performance wasn't hindered.
Our temperatures look fine, but we did catch one or two cores throttling down to 37x a few times, which means some internal power limiting is going on. However, we hit 4.6GHz, at 4.5Ghz we didn't have that throttling. Keep in mind, that while Handbrake isn't a really touch benchmark, it is engaging internal AVX units.
We decided for fun to see how high the CPU could go without totally throttling but completing CINEBENCH. We also wanted to see if performance would scale up with a non-AVX benchmark, and CINEBENCH is pretty good at that. Performance did scale, and only one core hit a thermal throttle, and that's all the way up to 4.8GHz. We did have to increase VCore to 1.25v to achieve this, while 4.7GHZ was cool with 1.2v, 4.8GHz required an extra 50mv.
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Performance: Who would have thought that an Intel 28 core CPU wouldn't be anything but a beast? It has four fewer cores than the higher-end ThreadRipper, but that wasn't enough to leave the CINEBENCH crown with AMD. Overall it did quite well performance-wise, but we expected that as it's basically a supercharged version of Intel's best Xeon offering.
Overclocking: Even though it uses paste instead of solder thermal interface material, it still did a decent job of clocking up. We also used normal UDIMMs for overclocking, and it handled them with ease at 3200MHz, and we have heard it can do 4GHz pretty easily as well. While we typically use standard AIOs except for our ThreadRipper systems (we use Enermax's TR4 one), Intel did ship this system in this configuration for a reason. They wanted the system to be in a very well ventilated case and use a cooler rated to cool 500W, while they gave us another cooler for overclocking, and we won't speculate how much that can handle. I would have never thought the system could be cooled on air over 4.4GHz, but I was wrong.
Platform Expansion : We think 48 PCI-E 3.0 lanes from the CPU and another 20 from the PCH are pretty nice. While there aren't more than two options out there for your motherboard, both options are total beasts and offer the best technologies both ASUS and GIGABYTE have to offer. It's kind of like a tax you have to pay to run this CPU, but it gives you one really nice platform, albeit you are stuck with a huge case.
Ecosystem: Intel says you can get this CPU through a system integrators like Boxx or from a few OEMs worldwide. So, you won't be able to go down to Microcenter and pick one up with one of the two motherboards in the world that support it.
Power: Like we mentioned in our power section, we believe the CPU pulls around 300W at stock. It's kind of how more expensive cars require better, more expensive gas.
If you are going to buy this system from an SI, which is the main buying option, then you will get performance similar to what you see in the charts compared to if you went to a store and bought the other parts. The CPU is more than a CPU, it's pretty much a system going up against our standardized test systems, and you will end up with something similar if you get this CPU in your home or office. What's clear is that it's either as good as or better than its 32 core AMD counterpart. However, costs are higher for sure.
Not only in the CPU price that is $2999 (which is much better than expected), but in system and power cost. While you can only buy this CPU in a properly configured system, we do believe that to be somewhat of a good thing. For starters, you are dealing with a $3,000 CPU and a motherboard that probably costs over $1,000, and I bet neither Intel nor the two partnering motherboard vendors want a ton of RMAs. It's essentially a server system not dumbed down for consumers, the CPU isn't the easiest to install, RAM compatibility is probably a bit limited, and you will need to properly power and cool the machine.
It's not time for amateur hour, where you might get away with buying a cheaper AIO or saving money and mixing and matching RAM. In fact, Intel knows exactly who this is for. They know the content creators and producers out there just want a rock solid system that just works and that they don't need to tinker with, and that a lot of those people buy from system integrators like Boxx. The Xeon W-3175X system is next level impressive, but it's not cheap, and that's the point we are making. If you want the best of the best for content creation and production, then this is the clear winner if you are willing to deal with the value proposition.
The Bottom Line: If you want the best of the best for content creation and production, a W-3175X system is what you want, but it will cost you a pretty penny.
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