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Intel Slashes Price of i9 X-Series Processors By Up To 50 Percent

'It is not related to AMD. It's in service of my customer and oh, by the way, I believe AMD's going to be the one responding to this versus us responding to them,' Intel executive Frank Soqui tells CRN of the chipmaker's drastic price cuts to its Core i9 X-series high-end desktop processors.

Intel is slashing the price of its next generation Core i9 X-series processors for the high-end desktop market by up to 50 percent.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker announced on Tuesday that a new line of Core i9 X-series processors that will launch in November will pack bigger bang for the buck for enthusiasts, content creators, overclockers and small businesses.

The processors feature up to 18 cores and 4.8GHz in turbo clock frequency, but what's most notable is the pricing: the processors are 40-50 percent cheaper than the previous generation.

[Related: New AMD Ryzen Pro 3000 CPUs To Take On Intel vPro]

Case in point: the forthcoming Intel Core i9-10980XE's recommended customer pricing is $979 for 18 cores, 36 threads, a base frequency of 3.0GHz and a turbo clock frequency of 4.8GHz. That’s a whopping 50 percent cut compared to the previous-generation Core i9-9980XE which was priced at $1,979 for the same number of cores and base frequency and a slightly lower turbo frequency. That means a faster processor, with added features like Deep Learning Boost and expanded memory capacity, at half the cost.

The other processors in the new lineup include the Core i9-10940X, the Core i9-10920X and the Core i9-10900X, which come with 14 cores, 12 cores and 10 cores, respectively. Other features across the entire lineup include Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology and platform support for 72 PCIe lanes.

Frank Soqui, vice president and general manager of Intel's Desktop, Workstation and Channel Group, said in an interview with CRN that semiconductor giant has not embarked on a processor pricing shakeup of this magnitude ever before. He said Intel decided to lower the prices for its X-series processors after observing customers who held back from upgrading due to the $1000-plus price tag of the previous generations.

"That gap is so big for the people at the top end of our mainstream roadmap [with processors like the Core i7], they can't cross that chasm,” said Soqui, a 37 year Intel veteran. “So we brought those prices down, so that those people could move up and enjoy a higher performance."

Soqui said he expects rival AMD to be forced to respond to Intel’s more aggressive i9 X-Series Processor pricing.

"It is not related to AMD,”he said of the unprecedented price cut. “It's in service of my customer and oh, by the way, I believe AMD's going to be the one responding to this versus us responding to them.”

CRN has reached out to AMD for comment.

Price Cuts Arrive As Intel-AMD CPU Battle Heats Up

The announcement of the new Core i9 X-series comes with the processor battle between Intel and AMD heating up on multiple fronts, including in the desktop processor space.

In July, AMD launched its third-generation Ryzen mainstream desktop processors, which comes with higher core counts and a lower price-per-core ratio than Intel's ninth-generation Core processors that target the same market.

Some industry observers and partners have wondered if Intel would respond by lowering the prices of its ninth-generation Core processors, but that has not played out.

Meanwhile, AMD recently announced plans to launch its third-generation Ryzen Threadripper processors, which compete with Intel's X-series in the high-end desktop market, in November. Like the mainstream Ryzen series, AMD has positioned Threadripper as price-competitive to Intel.

Partners Applaud Intel's Decision

Randy Copeland, CEO of Velocity Micro, a Richmond, Va.-based system builder that sells Intel- and AMD-based PCs and workstations, applauded Intel's decision to lower the prices for the new Core i9 X-series processors. He sees it as a response to increased competition from AMD.

"I think they had to get to a more realistic price point. It's going to make it a very competitive product," he said, adding that it could force AMD to react in turn. "It will certainly put some reactionary pressure on AMD when they announce the pricing for the new [Threadripper]."

Before AMD released first-generation Threadripper in 2017, Copeland said Velocity Micro's systems running on Intel's X-series processors were the top seller. But the Intel X-series systems have since fallen out of Velocity Micro's top 10 bestsellers, he added.

"When Threadripper came out as a viable option, there was no price-to-value justification for the X-series," Copeland said.

But that is now changing with the new X-series, according to Copeland, who expects the processors to sell well with power users, which includes gamers and other enthusiasts, as well as video producers and engineers who rely on applications that benefit from high core counts, frequency and memory. He said the fact that they support up to 256 GB in DDR4-2933 memory is a major selling point that will help customers who don't want to spend more for Intel's Xeon or AMD's EPYC processors.

"We have a lot of customers looking for a high core count system that has more than 128 GB of RAM and don't want to go to Xeon or EPYC," Copeland said.

Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI, a Fremont, Calif.-based Intel distributor and AMD partner, said he doesn't expect Intel's big price move on the X-series to ripple to the rest of its portfolio.

"That's not a long-term winning strategy and that's not something Intel traditionally does," he said. "They are going to continue to emphasize the things they are good at."

One of the upsides for Intel partners, Tibbils said, is that the new X-series processors will bring up the average selling price for customers who previously would have bought one of Intel's mainstream Core processors. It could also bring up the average selling price of the overall system, with customers opting to purchase more components or more expensive components, like high-end graphics cards.

"It will pull a lot of stuff along with it," he said.

Price Cuts Could Be A Good Sign For Intel's Supply

Intel's major price cuts for the Core i9 X-series processors could be a good sign for the company's supply of high-end products, given that the company is still dealing with some CPU shortages, according to Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

"This could be a function of Intel looking better in the fab," he said. "They might feel more comfortable they can up the gas on these big parts."

Taiwanese news site DigiTimes reported in late September that Intel was continuing to see supply constraints for its 14-nanometer chip manufacturing capacity. An Intel spokesperson confirmed that the company is continuing to deal with some shortages as demand for PCs exceeds expectations.

"We have added 14nm output capacity and are ramping volume on 10nm with systems on shelf for holiday," the Intel spokesperson said. "While our output capacity is increasing, we remain in a challenging supply-demand environment in our PC-centric business. We are actively working to address this challenge, and we continue to prioritize available output toward the newest generation Core i5, i7 and i9 products that support our customers’ high-growth segments."

Moorhead said Intel's new X-series processors could prompt a new refresh opportunity for commercial customers with aging PCs and workstations.

"It gives channel partners the ability to go back to their customers and say, 'that processor that's $1,000 is now $500 and you have worn-out gear — now would be a great time to [upgrade],'" he said.

For Copeland at Velocity Micro, the system builder executive said he expects the Intel X-series to return to the limelight and become a big seller once again.

"At these price points, it brings them right back into a high-volume opportunity," he said.

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