Intel’s Core i9 and AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper are facing off in the toughest CPU match in years. Historically, if you wanted the fastest PC chip, you bought Intel. If you wanted to save money, you went with AMD. With Threadripper, AMD claims you can have it all: a low price, and the best performance.
We pitted both chips against each other in a grudge match… and each walked away claiming victory. If you’re obsessed with single-threaded performance (including games), back the Core i9 and its higher clock speeds. Threadripper 1950X’s outsized core count punches way higher in multithreaded performance, though, and it’s the people’s champion in everyday tasks and price.
Typical comparisons between two chips boil down to price versus performance (or “speeds and feeds,” as it’s often called). We don’t usually test every chip in a family, but we’ll review flagships. And our assessment of Intel’s Core i9 and AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper can help you determine which, if either, of these top chips is worth is worth its price. AMD and Intel can adjust pricing at any time, so you may want to review Intel’s official price list or buy an AMD chip from its online store.
Spec-for-spec, AMD earns the advantage on price, with its Threadripper chips costing from $549 to $999. Intel’s Core i9 chips are far more expensive, with prices soaring to $1,999.
Intel’s pros include a broader diversity of Core i9 processors, plus a chip with more cores than anything AMD offers. Intel chips are also more power-efficient.
The critical clock-speed metric is a mixed bag: AMD’s Threadripper offers higher base clocks, but can’t keep up with the Core i9 when clock speeds are boosted under load. Both the Core i9 and Threadripper come unlocked, so overclocking is a viable option.
Ryzen Threadripper 1950X ($999 on Amazon): 16 cores, 32 threads; 3.4GHz base clock, 4GHz boosted clock
Ryzen Threadripper 1920X ($799 on Amazon): 12 cores, 24 threads; 3.5GHz base clock, 4GHz boosted clock
Ryzen Threadripper 1900X ($549): 8 cores, 16 threads; 3.8GHz base clock, 4GHz boosted clock
The Ryzen Threadripper 1950X and 1920X launched on August 10, along with X399 motherboards. The 8-core Threadripper 1900X will launch on August 31.
If Threadripper’s official chips are too rich for your blood, take heart: There seems to be a slower, possibly cheaper Threadripper on the way. The Threadripper 1920 (no “X”) is also a 12-core, 24-thread processor, though it’s clocked slightly lower than its cousin: 3.2GHz, boosting to 3.8GHz. It appears to consume less power (140W) compared to the 180W of other Threadripper “X” chips.
Intel’s own chip breakdown is a bit messier. All of Intel’s Core i9 chips are predicated on the Skylake architecture, known as Skylake-X. But some of the slower chips are branded Core i7. If you’d like to know more about those, our original Core i9 news story breaks it down further. Here, we’re sticking to the Core i9 brand.
Intel Core i9
Here’s a summary of Intel’s Core i9 chips, complete with the Core i9 clock speeds Intel recently revealed:
Core i9-7980XE ($1,999): 18 cores, 36 threads; 2.6GHz base clock, 4 GHz-4.4-GHz boosted clock
Core i9-7960X ($1,699): 16 cores, 32 threads; 2.8GHz base clock, 4.2GHz-4.4GHz boosted clock
Core i9-7940X ($1,399): 14 cores, 28 threads; 3.1GHz base clock, 4.3GHz-4.4GHz boosted clock
Core i9-7920X ($1,199): 12 cores, 24 threads; 2.9GHz base clock, 4.3GHz-4.4GHz boosted clock
Core i9-7900X ($999, or $1,059 on Newegg): 10 cores, 20 threads; 3.3GHz base clock, 4.3GHz-4.5GHz boosted clock
As of early August, only the Intel Core i9-7900X is shipping. The 12-core Core i9-7920X launches on August 28, while the 14-, 16-, and 18-core Core i9 chips ship on September 25.
The Core i9 consumes less power than Threadripper: The highest-end i9-7980XE, i9-7960X, and i9-7940X consume 165W, while the Core i9-7920X and i9-7900X consume 140W.
Core i9, Threadripper
As you might expect, the Core i9 outperforms everything that Intel has previously made—and because Intel has outperformed AMD for the past few years, you might expect Intel to remain on top of the heap. In fact, Intel says the Core i9-7980XE is its first consumer CPU to hit one teraflop of performance.
You can only conclude that the new Core i9-7900X is the fastest consumer CPU ever produced by Intel,” Gordon Mah Ung says in PCWorld’s review of the Core i9. “There’s just no argument.”
Unfortunately for Intel, Threadripper is putting up a fight. As Gordon Mah Ung writes in PCWorld’s Threadripper review: Threadripper is “arguably the most powerful consumer CPU ever unleashed upon mankind.”
Indeed, Threadripper blows away the Core i9 in multithreaded applications, such as rendering or video conversion. Meanwhile, the Core i9 performs higher on games and applications that are coded for single-threaded performance. Don’t despair, AMD gamers: Even after a hard day’s work rendering 3D objects or converting video, the new Threadripper’s Game Mode helps elevate gaming performance to levels where the difference between the two chips is negligible.
Similar to the Ryzen chips we’ve reviewed previously, Threadripper offers competitive performance at a very competitive price. Right now, if you buy a top-of-the-line Threadripper, you can buy a top-notch graphics card to go with it before you equal the price of a Core i9. Price weighs very heavily in Threadripper’s appeal, even before we take into account its solid performance.