Sash's Wishlist for Intel Core going into 2020 with 'Comet Lake' and beyond.

Okay, so I've been a bit harsh on Intel. Well, if you know me you'll know I don't really like Intel that much and I went into some details regarding that in this post. You can also read some other ramblings from me over Intel and their "high prices", here.

With that out of the way, I wanted to make things better by essentially making a wishlist like I did for Radeon, but for Intel's 'Core' brand processors - or whatever comes after that; assuming they are going to replace it some time. And basically what I want from their products and what would make me stop ranting on and talking badly about the company. I'm not a shill, but I am a fanboy and I am passionate. But at least I'm honest. :3

The list is ranked in no particular order, as before. Just whatever I type first.

Fully SMT-enabled mainstream and high-performance lineup.

As I said, there isn't an order of importance here but I'll put this one first. I would like all of Intel's i5 and i7 series processors to feature Simultaneous Multi-threading (SMT) or what Intel calls 'Hyper-threading'; that is to say, each physical CPU core can process two logical software threads in almost paralell, effectively increasing the processor's multi-threaded throughput without adversly affecting single-threaded workloads.

Tech Babbling:

Modern CPU cores like Skylake and Zen/2 are very wide beasts, they have lots of individual components and resources within the core that a single software thread (a stream of instructions essentially) can't fully saturate on its own. Of course you have Out of Order execution, and Instruction Level Paralellism with just one thread but there is limit to the paralelism that can be achieved with just one thread. So SMT helps saturate the otherwise idle resources by allowing that core to run two threads together, and the core's logic will intelligently share resources between threads - making sure that if one thread doesn't use one of the execution ports for example, it will be allocated to the second thread. That's my understanding anyway.

For example, the i5-8600K is a Hexa-core processor (in that it has six physical processing cores) but without SMT support it can only run a single thread per core. So you get six threads in total - whereas the i7-8700K has SMT for 6 cores and twelve threads. In workloads that can use more than six threads (and trust me there are many - including newer games) this can significantly increase performance.

Well, in the case of the 8th gen, it was reasonable I assume because of the 6/12 nature of the 'i7' flagship part. However, the 9th gen struck me as a regression because Intel moved SMT up to being exclusive to the i9 parts - even the i7-9700K doesn't feature the technology. It only has 8 threads - versus 12 on the 8700K. Now I won't go into performance too much, but I'll say that the 8/8 nature of hte 9700K is probably a small(ish) amount faster in MT work than the 6/12 nature of the 8700K, but not by a huge amount and depends on the workload.

With that Rambling out of the way, here is what I want from 10th Gen lineup:

  • i9 = 10/20

  • i7 = 8/16

  • i5 = 6/12

  • i3 = 4/8

  • Pentium = 4/4

  • Celeron = 2/4

This strikes me as the perfect opportunity to implement this, with the flagship silicon getting 10 cores. This means I don't want to see a 10/10 on the i7, please. I think an 8/16 is more balanced and would likely require less binning (as it can have defective cores) and the price should reflect that. I'll move onto price in a moment.

Reasonable / Fair Pricing

This is a big one for me. What I mean by this, is that Intel needs to stop placing a Premium on their products vs competing brands like Ryzen - because they no longer are the premium brand. That's objective, and here's why. 3rd generation Ryzen moved onto a superior process technology (TSMC 7nm) versus Intel's regurgitated iterations of 14nm, have superior features (this includes PCI-E 4.0 and a more versatile socket infrastructure [and a premium cooler but more on that in a moment]). And also, performance per watt. Ryzen 3000 is significantly more efficient than Coffee Lake's 9th gen and from what I can gather, that won't change much with the 10th gen (9th + 2C + 4MB L3).

Intel may have a small advantage in single core (read: it is small) on average, but it is not absolulte, and it is absolutely not large enough to command a premium because of it. On the flipside; in cases where Ryzen 3000 wins (especially in more threaded applications) the difference can be enormous. I'll give an example.

Core i9-9900KS commands a $10(ish) premium over the Ryzen 9-3900X. i9-9900KS, compared to 3900X has:

  • < 15% higher single threaded performance in most applications, including gaming. The difference is often smaller.

  • > 25% lower multi-threaded performance in most applications

  • Significantly lower performance per watt - gets a lot hotter

  • Effectively end-of-life platform (Z390/LGA 1151) - no upgradability next year

  • PCI-E Gen3 vs Gen4 on the 3900X

  • Does not include a cooler - you have to buy one seperately and will cost you an extra $35+ for a reasonable cooler for this particular processor

With that in mind, the i9 processor has only one advantage, and it is arguably the smallest difference - especially long-term. I made a post on this subject that you can read here. With all the other disadvantages, how can this be considered a 'Premium' product? The answer is; it can't. Intel can compete as their products are generally very good (with a few adjustments) but the price is huge factor.

In most (all?) games you will absolutely not notice the difference between the 9900KS and the 3900X; but in applications where the 3900X is advantgeous; you definitely will. You will also notice the included cooler, better platform, features - and if you do long renders or distributed computing for a hobby; the performance per watt, too.

This rings true of essentially the entire product stack, the i9 vs R9 here is just an example.

Reasonable coolers for every mainstream/performance SKU.

Another big one for me. I won't spend too long on this one as it's pretty self-explanatory. I want each SKU to include a reasonable cooler, fit for the TDP of the product it is bundled with. With 'K' series Intel CPUs, you could argue there is no cooler because the person is purchasing this item to overclock it; that should imply they will buy their own cooler.That's true but;

  • 'K' SKUs often have higher clock rates and bins that non 'K' SKU, it actually makes sense to buy them over the non 'K' even if you don't overclock.

  • The non-'K' SKU don't include reasonable coolers. They are barely adequate, especially for adjustments/tuning (which they don't support. but more on that shortly...)

Aftermarket coolers should be exactly that; aftermarket. The Wraith Prism is a great example of a fantastic, reasonable (and premium) cooler that comes with the Ryzen 7s and Ryzen 9 3900X - the 3950X I would have liked to have seen bundled with a cooler but I will turn a blind eye since it's moving into the Ultra-High-End, where aftermarket cooling is essentially the norm. I'll turn that blind eye to Intel, too.

On the note of 'overclockable' SKUs, I will talk about that in a moment, but; the Wraith Prism does actually allow for some limited overclocking/tuning on the parts it is included with. Zen2's limited OC headroom compounds that, but it's less a fault of the cooler but more an issue with clock cieling on the architecture. As it stands, these processors run almost their limits out of the box - on the stock cooler no less - at perfectly reasonable temperatures.

Unlocked Multiplier on all SKUs

Aaaaand there it is. This is one area that I feel is unacceptable for Intel. Of course, with Skylake's reasonably high OC headroom, Intel's marketing and love for product segmentation would dictate that we have to force people to buy a higher performing SKU to get that performance level. But, AMD has already proven that you don't need to do this. Adding value to the higher tier product by including a better cooler, or actually binning it to have more headroom. Examples are the X and non-X parts, these are both unlocked by the X parts tend to have better included coolers and better bins/stock clocks.

With Intel, you have to pay more, for the privilege of not having a cooler and being able to tune your processor. That doesn't make sense. With each tier in the product stack, create a better cooler to entice customers to buy that item and the better binning/rated speeds that go with it; over the cheaper alternative. This adds value but doesn't physically force your customers to pay more, but you still sell the SKU because they have real value - not value you've artifically created by turning off a microcode feature.

Please stop with the misleading marketing.

Final note. I know all companies (Including AMD) do this, but Intel's 'gaming' and 'real-world workload' marketing agenda lately is just down-right misleading at best, and flat-out lying at worst. Let your products' merit speak for itself, give us some benchmarks to show case it; sample to reviewers;' put effort into adding value and people will buy it and you'll make money. There's not need to mislead people like this:

Thanks for reading. ~


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