Computex 2017: Intel rediscovers the desktop

In recent years Intel has used Computex to try to shake up the laptop market. The chipmaker announced the Ultrabook and later coined the term 2-in-1 here in Taiwan, and more recently it has been pushing concepts such as true wireless computing.

Not all of these initiatives have worked but Intel and its partners have certainly succeeded in making laptops notably thinner, lighter and more attractive (some of these were on display during today’s opening keynote). This hasn’t been enough, however, to reverse the long slide in the overall PC market.

One rare bright spot has been the high-end systems for gaming, virtual reality and content creation. Intel says sales of its unlocked desktop processors have been growing 20 percent year-on-year. So perhaps it’s no surprise that this year it has turned its attention to that market with the announcement of several new products including the world’s first 18-core desktop chip. “It’s the best of the best,” said Intel’s Gregory Bryant, the head of the Client Computing Group, in his keynote.

The announcement of the new X-Series, which will be sold under the Core i5, Core i7 and new Core i9 brands, had been widely rumored. But the surprise was that it would scale all the way from a $242 Core i5-7640X with four cores (eight threads) to a $2,000 Core i9-7980XE Extreme Edition with a whopping 18 cores and 36 threads. Intel described it as the first CPU capable of 1 teraflop, or one trillion floating-point operations per second. Altogether the launch includes nine chips with six-, eight-, 10-, 12-, 14- and 16-core variants in the middle.

These Skylake-X processors are a replacement for the Broadwell-E line that currently tops out with Core i7-6950X Extreme Edition, which has 10 cores and carries a list price of a little more than $1,700. The new Core i9-7900X, also with 10 cores, will be priced at $1,000. In a core-for-core comparison of these two chips, Intel said the new i9-7900X will…

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