Intel Places Big Bets On Enthusiast Segment With Core i7 Extreme Edition Processors

Intel unveiled its high-end Core i7 Extreme Edition desktop processors Monday as a boost for enthusiast system builders within it client compute segment.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company launched the product at Computex in Taipei, Taiwan, touting the processor's faster performance and multi-tasking capabilities as focal points for system builders in the gaming segment.

"Just as consumers are expanding what they’re doing with their PCs, the Intel Core i7 processor Extreme Edition delivers a new level of capability -- now with up to 10 cores of mind-blowing performance," said Gregory Bryant, corporate vice president and general manager of the Connected Home and Commercial Client at Intel in a blog post. "Enthusiasts expect to push their systems with multiple compute-intensive applications at the same time. That's exactly what we've delivered."

[Related: 5 Things Partners Need To Know About Intel’s New Kaby Lake Architecture]

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The Core i7 Extreme Edition, which runs on Intel's Broadwell architecture and is available Tuesday, is meant for high-end desktops -- the i7-6950X model starts at a hefty $1,723.

The processors will feature improved specs, running at 3GHz with boosted speeds of up to 3.5GHz. According to Intel, the Core i7 Extreme Edition’s i7-6950X model, its first 10-core desktop CPU, is almost 35 percent faster than its predecessor, the Haswell-generation i7-5950X model.

Randy Copeland, president and CEO of Velocity Micro, a system builder and Intel partner based in Richmond, Va., said he has seen a tremendous reception for the newest Intel i7 Extreme Edition -- and has already sold out his initial launch inventory.

"This is a solid bump in performance over the previous generation in several respects, but -- including about a 15 percent performance improvement over the previous architecture, the normal clock speed increases, and now more cores and cache ... the net result is a more capable high-end system for our professional and semi-pro customers, and our enthusiast customers are also all over this launch," said Copeland.

Forecasts for the PC market may be grim -- Intel this quarter lowered its PC market expectations, saying it sees the market declining in the high single digits in 2016 -- but CEO Brian Krzanich has stressed that the enthusiast segment is an area of growth within the client computing segment that the company will tap in the future.

According to Krzanich, while the PC market overall is facing a decline, gaming PCs are growing at double-digit rates year over year.

Velocity Micro is using Intel’s Extreme Edition chips in its Raptor Z95 system, and Copeland said his product is twice as fast as the same model delivered a couple of years ago.

"[Customers] all are getting the combined benefit of the latest Broadwell-E CPU technology that is also piggybacking on the launch last week of the unbelievable Nvidia Geforce GTX1080 graphics processor and the latest NVMe solid state storage drives," Copeland said. "The combo of these three recent components at the same time is yielding astonishing benchmark results and that translates into astonishing productivity or gaming increases for our customers."

The Extreme Edition processors also support DDR4-2400 RAM, Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0, and up to 25 MB of shared cache, and features 40 PCI-Express lanes connected directly into the CPU for optimized graphics setup.

The processors are also unlocked, meaning that overclockers will get the headroom and tools that they need out of the box.