Intel panic-releasing the X299 platform because of an unannounced AMD system

Rumours suggest Intel are bringing the launch of the Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X platforms forward.

New Intel platform launch

Update April 20, 2017: Another source from Taiwan, this time DigiTimes, is reporting Intel’s Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X platform will be appearing at this year’s Computex show in Taipei. With the company recently cancelling their own Intel Developer Forum in August a June release is looking more and more likely.

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The report claims the information has come from Taiwan-based PC vendors – potentially Asus, Acer or MSI – and states the Basin Falls platform which covers the high-end processors and beefy X299 chipset will be unveiled at the show with full availability following at the end of June.

DigiTimes also says the platform will get a run-out at E3 a week or so later too, giving the US and gaming audience a preview of Intel’s top-end platform as well.

I had previously thought this would be too early for Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X to be launched given Intel’s traditional release pattern, but given the cancellation of August’s IDF show in San Francisco they no longer have an event of their own at which to put new processors front and centre.

The shutting down of IDF just a few months before it was all meant to kick off is itself a bit of a worrying sign. The event was always a great place to talk directly to the engineers who created Intel’s CPUs without the standard PR filter in place and to hear about what was coming up next and how they were dealing with the challenges the industry faces.

With a resurgent AMD it would seem like something Intel needs to do more than ever, but it’s starting to look like the big blue chip monster is burying its head in the sand.

There is also a suggestion from the DigiTimes report that Coffee Lake processors will start appearing in August, though I expect that’s more to do with the mobile chips appearing in back-to-school laptop releases rather than the much-anticipated six-core Intel desktop CPUs.

Update April 10, 2017:Taiwanese site, Benchlife, have been stirring the pot again, suggesting Intel’s new X299 platform will arrive earlier than expected due to pressure fromAMD’s unannounced high-end desktop platform, X399.

The original expectation was for Intel to launch the new Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processors, along with the X299 motherboard platform, in August this year. Benchlife were speculating on that meaning a Gamescom launch, but I suspected an unveiling at Intel’s own Intel Developer Forum was more likely.

They are now claiming the X299 platform launch could be pulled forward to June to coincide with the Computex show in Taipei instead. Benchlife have reportedly had some updated information on the production of the entire new processor and motherboard range which puts manufacturing at the start of June.

AMD AM4 socket

They are also claiming this is likely a reaction to the reports of AMD launching their own HEDT range, called the X399. It’s a whole one hundred better than Intel’s new platform, so I’m not surprised Intel are worried…

Personally I still don’t reckon we’ll see Intel launching Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X at Computex in June. I’ve no doubt there will be a boat-load of X299 motherboards on display by all the Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers, but I don’t think production starting in June necessarily equates to a full platform launch in that same month.

It’s quite possible production has been brought forward specifically so those board bods could get their mobos on display at the big Taiwan tech show, more for them than so Intel could get their new chips out of the door earlier to steal a march on AMD’s rumoured new platform.

But hey, I’ve been wrong before. I thought AMD meant it when they said their AM4 platform was going to be future-proof, but with higher-end X399 boards already being rumoured it sounds like the existing Ryzen boards are going to be superseded rather quickly.

Previous update January 24, 2017:Fresh rumours from the East are claiming Intel will be unveiling their ultra high-end X299 platform, with 10-core Skylake-X chips, in August this year.The rumour has come from Taiwanese tech site, BenchLife, who say the top-end Intel chips could be set to appear at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany at the tail end of August.

Personally I’m not convinced Intel would launch a new 10-core überchip at a gaming-specific show given that such $1,700 processors are more aimed at content producers than gamers. And there’s also the fact the Intel Developer Forum is taking place between August 15 and August 17 in San Francisco, which is normally the event where they like to show off their most advanced new CPU tech.

That’s where my money would be.

Best high-end CPU for gaming runner-up - Core i7 6850K

Still, I’m with BenchLife when they say they’re expecting some motherboard manufacturers to be displaying X299 boards all over Computex in Taiwan at the end of May, beginning of June.

Whether it’s behind closed doors or bold-as-brass on their Nangang stands those excitable mobo types will be keen to show off the most advanced chipset around.

Original story November 2, 2016: Intel have confirmed their next generation of high performance übercore CPUs will be running on the new X299 motherboard platform.

The announcement has come from leaked product change notification (PCN) document that has been sent out to Intel’s partners. The document contains details of a change to the transportation of the platform controller hubs (PCH) for various chipsets. The upcoming 200-series Kaby Lake chipsets are all pretty well known, but there are two news ones that have cropped up – C422 and the X299.

C422 is likely to be for server and enterprise goodness, but the X299 chipset has to be for the upcoming Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processor ranges.

As we’ve previously mentioned Intel are bringing both the high-end Skylake and Kaby Lake generations of chips to fruition at the same time, meaning that both mainstream and high-end processor lines are going to be using the same CPU technology generation for the first time. Well, for a short time until Cannonlake tips up at the end of next year…

Intel vs AMD

The high-end versions of Intel’s Skylake and Kaby Lake chips are set to arrive hand-in-hand in late 2017, but with a whole new naming convention. And that’s not even the weirdest bit.

As if it wasn’t already confusing enough, Intel are looking to make their processor lineups even more baffling next year, so says a report from Benchlife. Right now Intel’s most advanced CPU architecture is not the design they use to create their most powerful desktop parts – the high-end Broadwell-E processors are actually an architectural generation behind their more mainstream Skylake siblings.

So we’re still waiting for Skylake-E to appear, replace the current Broadwell-E parts and give our high-end desktops a boost. Except it’s rumoured not to be arriving until well into 2017 now, and will not actually be called Skylake-E. According to the Benchlife report Intel are ditching their old high-end nomenclature, instead introducing Broadwell-E’s 14nm successor as Skylake-X.

We’ve gone from Extreme to eXtreme then. Great. Edgy.

And with Skylake-X not scheduled to land until 2017 we’ll already have the upcoming Kaby Lake CPU refresh – the mainstream desktop successor to Skylake due this year – processing away in our rigs. That will leave Intel’s most powerful consumer chip, the $1,700, ten-core/twenty-thread, Broadwell-E Core i7-6950X, two generations behind for nearly a full year.

So far, so confusing. But wait, it gets better. Or worse, depending on whether you find Intel’s classic marketing obfuscation hilariously backward or just bafflingly obscure.

Skylake-X is reportedly not going to appear on its lonesome at the tail-end of 2017. Intel are apparently looking to level up the architectural disparity by releasing Kaby Lake-X at the same time. Both new processor families are due to operate on a new high-end desktop platform called Basin Falls, with a new LGA 2066 socket, which will be the platform for their top chips all the way to the 10nm Cannonlake-X process shrink.

But why release both Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X chips at the same time? On the mainstream desktop Kaby Lake is going to be like the Devil’s Canyon refresh we saw with the Core i7-4790K, a slight architectural tweak taking advantage of a mature production process to boost clockspeeds. With Kaby Lake-X though it’s set to be a whole different ball-game.

Skylake-X will be the direct successor to the current Broadwell-E range, and will house chips with six, eight and ten HyperThreaded cores, a TDP of 140W and quad-channel DDR4 support. The full high-end enchilada. The concurrent Kaby Lake-X range though will be restricted to four HyperThreaded cores, a TDP of 112W and only operate with dual-channel DDR4 memory support. In other words, exactly what the standard Kaby Lake range is meant to bring to the mainstream.

So if you want to have an expensive high-end motherboard paired up with a processor which almost entirely fails to take advantage of the platform’s major benefits then the Kaby Lake-X range looks like it’s going to be for you. You freak.

As with any industry rumour report, my sodium levels are rising more and more as I write this, but we’ve seen Intel do some crazy things so I wouldn’t put it past them…