The Intel Core i9-10980XE fits the bill as a processor aimed at enthusiasts, with a blitzing multi-core performance for creative work and gaming. It hits the market sweet spot between affordable consumer processors and the more powerful Threadripper options, but consequently has a niche audience. If you're willing to spend just under a grand for a CPU, then there's no doubting you're getting super-powerful chip.
- Excellent performance
- Lots of new features
- Low power consumption
- Superb overclocking potential
- Not as many cores/threads as Threadripper rivals
- A little pricey
- Review Price: £N/A
- 18 cores, 36 threads
- 3.0GHz base clock
- 4.6GHz boost clock
- 14nm manufacturing process
- Wi-Fi 6 support
The Intel Core i9-10980XE is one of four new processors in Intel’s 10th Generation X-Series lineup, sitting right at the top of the SKU table for specs.
With 18 cores and 16 threads, this chip has been designed specifically for handling multiple intensive creative applications at once while also boasting huge overclocking potential, proving overkill for your average consumer. There’s no stopping you using it for gaming too, but with an intimidating $979 price, it may not offer the best value for money for that use.
Intel is pitching the i9-10980XE towards professional creatives and enthusiasts but, with it sandwiched between the consumer-level Intel Core chips and AMD’s more spec-heavy Ryzen Threadripper range, Intel needs to hit the performance sweet spot to make this a worthy buy.
Related: Best Intel Processor
Intel Core i9-10980XE – Technology, specifications and chipset
Judging the Intel Core i9-10980XE from solely the spec sheet, there isn’t a whole lot different between it and the the previous-generation counterpart the Intel Core i9-9980XE.
Both processors have an identical core/thread count at 18/36, while even the 3.0GHz base clock speed and 165W TDP are the same. The only noticeable difference here is the boosted clock speed, jumping up from 4.4GHz to 4.6GHz.
|Cores||Threads||Base clock speed (GHz)||Boosted clock speed (GHz)||TDP
|Intel Core i9-10980XE||18||36||3.0||4.6||165W||$979|
|Intel Core i9-9980XE||18||36||3.0||4.4||165W||£1077|
|Intel Core i9-7960X||16||32||2.8||4.2||165W||£774|
|Intel Core i9-9900K||8||16||3.6||5.0||95W||£600|
|AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X||24||48||3.8||4.5||280W||$1399|
|AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX||24||48||3.0||4.2||250W||£936|
The SKU specs table doesn’t show the whole picture though, as arguably the biggest improvement to the Intel Core i9-10980XE is the 10th Generation architecture, which brings with it a whole slew of features including support for Wi-Fi 6 and DDR4-2933 up to 256GB, while also benefiting from Intel’s AI technology via Intel Deep Learning Boost.
While not new to the X-Series family, the Intel Core i9-10980XE also sees support for Thunderbolt 3 and Intel Optane SSD 905P, with the former allowing for faster data transfer speeds and the latter making it quicker to save and load information stored on your system.
Related: Intel Core i9-10900K review
Intel Core i9-10980XE – Test setup
In order to see how those specs translate to performance, I tested the Intel Core i9-10980XE with multiple benchmark tests, while also testing two other processors for comparison.
Unfortunately we had no AMD Ryzen Threadripper CPUs available at the office and only had the Intel Core i9-7960X chips and Intel Core i9-9900K, which were comparable to the Intel Core i9-10980XE. We have reached out to Intel to order in some more 9th Gen X-Series processors for comparison, and will update our results once they arrive.
In order to conduct a fair test for the three processors, all the component used for each test rig were kept consistent other than the motherboard – due to the i9-9900K using a different chipset. The components can be seen below:
- Motherboard: Asus ROG Strix X299-XE Gaming for X-Series, and Asus Maximus XI Extreme for Intel Core
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance 2666MHz, 16GB DDR4
- Cooler: Corsair Hydro Series H150i PRO RGB 360mm liquid cooler
- PSU: Corsair CX750M
- SSD: Samsung 850 EVO
- OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
We used a Corsair Hydro Series H150i PRO as our cooling solution, and didn’t use any Intel stock coolers for consistency reasons. At this level, many will likely use a liquid cooler instead, which will likely squeeze out more performance power when overclocking.
Intel Core i9-10980XE Performance – Benchmark results
Geekbench 4 and Cinebench 20
We decided to pit the Intel Core i9-10980XE against the i9-9900K to see how significant of an effect those extra cores and threads had on the overall performance. The latter has a higher base and boosted clock speed, which shows why it saw the best single-core benchmark results in our Geekbench 4 tests.
As soon as multiple cores and threads come into use though, the i9-10980XE wipes the floor with the i9-9900K, which is no surprise given the advantage in core counts. The 7th Generation i9-7960X wasn’t miles behind the i9-10980XE in any of the Geekbench 4 tests though.
Cinebench 20, meanwhile, is a more creative-focused benchmark, and showed the i9-10980XE to have a huge performance advantage over the other two chips when it comes to dealing with 3D modelling and animation workloads.
PCMark 10 offers a more holistic approach to benchmarking, but is very useful in analysing the performance of different types of workloads: Essentials, Productivity and Digital Content Creation. Thanks to its high boosted clock speeds, the Intel i9-9900K excelled at the essentials and productivity tasks – even beating the i9-10980XE, despite being considerably cheaper.
Unsurprisingly, it was a different story when it came to digital content creation; the i9-10980XE is the best chip of the three when faced with creative-focused workloads, especially when running multiple applications simultaneously.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
The Intel Core i9-10980XE isn’t really intended for gaming, with the $979 price deemed too high to appeal to such a gaming-centric audience. However, our benchmark results did show the chip to have substantial gains over the i9-9900K when gaming, despite Intel heralding the 9th Gen processor as the ‘world’s best gaming desktop processor’.
I used Shadow of the Tomb Raider as our example of a triple-A game, which is one of the most graphically demanding titles. With the resolution set to Full HD, the i9-10980XE saw a whopping 46fps improvement on the i9-9900K. Even with the resolution hiked up to 4K, a meaty 25fps advantage still existed between the two.
Since Dirt Rally was released back in 2015, it’s naturally a less GPU-intensive video game. Interestingly, the results show there is little difference between all three processors when playing Dirt Rally in 4K – that’s not an issue considering the 111fps is already ridiculously high, but it does suggest the i9-9900K is better value for playing old games in Ultra HD.
That’s not necessarily the case when playing in Full HD though, with the i9-10980XE boasting a 46fps frame rate boost on the i9-9900K. You’ll have to have a monitor with an insanely high refresh rate to take advantage of that performance though.
Total War: Warhammer II (4K)
I used the Total War: Warhammer II in-game benchmark to represent the performance for modern real-time strategy games. With the resolution cranked up to 4K, there wasn’t a huge difference in frame rate performance between the i9-10980XE and rival CPUs.
The i9-10980XE only saw a 6fps advantage during the general campaign, and 7fps increase when simulating a battle when compared to the Intel Core i9-9900K chip. If you’re only planning on using your PC for Warhammer II, then the i9-10980XE really isn’t a worthwhile investment.
The Civilization VI benchmark test differs from other games here, measuring the average time it takes the AI to make it move in this turn-based strategy game. This means a low turn time is better than a high turn time, as nobody wants to be sitting around for the AI to make decisions.
Intel’s i9-10980XE saw the best speeds, but waiting an additional 0.28 seconds is hardly an issue if you’d rather opt for the cheaper i9-9900K processor.
Related: Intel Core i5-10600K review
Intel Core i9-10980XE – Power consumption
The Intel Core i9-10980XE has a very impressive power consumption, despite being such a powerful processor. In fact, the Intel Core i9-10980XE saw the same peak power draw as the i9-9900K when running the Cinebench benchmark.
The idle power consumption was actually lower than both the i9-9900K and i9-7960X too, showing Intel has done a very good job at making its new X-Series chip so power efficient. This means you shouldn’t need to worry too much about upgrading your PSU, especially if you currently have the Intel i9-7960X, which has an even greater power draw when both idle and active.
Related: Best Gaming CPU
Intel Core i9-10980XE – Overclocking
One of the biggest strengths of the Intel Core i9-10980XE is its overclocking potential, with an Intel spokesperson suggesting it can be ramped up to a gigantic 5GHz performance. Bear in mind though, that was with liquid cooling and Intel has said every chip will be different, so don’t expect that level of overclock when buying the processor.
For example, I never surpassed 4.32GHz with an all-core overclock, and was limited to a 4.37GHz single-core overclock. But with more high-tech hardware and more time on my hands, I’m sure I could have achieved better overclocking results.
Should you buy the Intel Core i9-10980XE?
The Intel Core i9-10980XE is a great processor for enthusiasts and professional creatives, with its 18 cores and 36 threads proving fantastic for multitasking and running intensive applications.
Intel has also slashed the price compared to its 9th Generation counterpart too, making the i9-10980XE a dramatically cheaper alternative to the new AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X. Since we’re yet to test any of the 3rd generation Threadripper CPUs, it’s difficult to compare them to the i9-10980XE, but the cost is so great they will likely attract different audiences.
The i9-10980XE also offers a surprisingly good gaming performance, eclipsing that of the i9-9900K which Intel previously celebrated as the “best gaming desktop processor”. But with the massive price difference between the two chips, you’re probably better off using the money to invest in a graphics card instead.
Overall then, the i9-10980XE hits the sweet spot between consumer and professional. If you want more power than what the i9-9900K offers for gaming and creative pursuits, but don’t want to spend over a grand, then Intel’s flagship X-Series is worth considering.
The Intel Core i9-10980XE fits the bill as a processor aimed at enthusiasts, with a blitzing multi-core performance for creative work and gaming. It hits the market sweet spot between affordable consumer processors and the more powerful Threadripper options, but consequently has a niche audience. If you’re willing to spend just under a grand for a CPU, then there’s no doubting you’re getting super-powerful chip.
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