Intel says their huge core-count boost has nothing to do with AMD creating the 16-core Ryzen Threadripper and is all about the mega-taskers.
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I sat down with Intel’s Frank Soqui, one of the big boss men for their enthusiast desktop chips, at E3, and he’s adamant that they’re not reacting to the competition. Now, to you and me, it probably looks a little suspicious that core-counts have only been very slowly creeping up over the last decade, yet as soon as AMD announces plans for a 16-core processor, Intel pops up at Computex and drops an 18-core processor bomb.
But Soqui says it was always going to be like that. “We were always planning that sort of trajectory,” he explains, “and there’s a reason why we do that. Have we explained mega-tasking to you?”
I groaned inwardly.
Mega-tasking is Intel’s favourite new buzzword and is all about the kinds of people who do lots of different, complex, system-intensive workloads. Traditionally, they’ve had to use multiple machines because one would struggle to do it all, but now with the upcoming X-series and AMD’s Threadripper they’re going to be able to use a single PC.
“Independent of what our competitors do we will put out extreme edition processors,” Soqui says. “We’ll push performance, we’ll push threads, we’ll push cores, we’re pushing memory performance. This is not a response to the competition, this is a response to the end user.”
Gotta say I’m still not 100% convinced they were always going to go this far, but it stands to reason that Intel are upping the core-count again after introducing the first 10-core desktop chip with the Broadwell-E range. There are more people using their PCs to game, record, stream, and edit content at home than ever before, so catering to this audience is really a no-brainer. Both Intel and AMD have been making noises about this as a reason for their high-end consumer CPUs.
But, if I’m honest, I think Intel were maybe looking to introduce a 12-core Skylake-X chip this year, which would have been great for the content creators. Making the move to 14-, 16-, and 18-core chips though still smacks more of winning the numbers war than being something that was always on the roadmaps.
As Soqui says, though, these advances are almost inevitable. “Those kind of capabilities you only see those extreme gamers do become mainstream later, because that is highly aspirational. We can push 18 cores, I can’t tell you how many years later but 18 cores is going to be the middle of our roadmaps.”
I’ll just let that sink in for a moment. 18 cores as the middle of the roadmap. How’s a 36-core, 72-thread processor sound to you?