To Broadwell-E or not to Broadwell-E. That is the question!
If you're an enthusiast and that Nehalem or Sandy Bridge setup you built years ago is ready for a replacement, you might be considering an X99 motherboard build. The operative question then becomes, "should I wait for Broadwell-E or just buy Haswell-E and be done with it?" After a weekend at PAX East talking to several SIs, Intel employees, and all the other hardware vendors, we were able to get a few bits and pieces of information that may help you make your decision, but first, let's look at some numbers.
Intel's latest Extreme Series processor and accompanying X-class chipset were officially launched back during PAX Prime, where we videoed one of the first systems to use an X99 chipset and Haswell-E processor. Haswell-E and X99 are intended for deployment in high-end production and enthusiast rigs; they'll game far better than anything else available, but if there's ever a time that “overkill” is applicable, it's using HW-E / X99 to play games. These components are classed for the likes of 3D rendering, video encoding / editing, high-bitrate game streaming, and production environments.
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The show floor presence was much more vibrant for Intel at this year’s PAX Prime. When we visited the company at East, presentation was largely devoted to a few 700-series SSDs, some (very large) gaming notebooks, and that was about it. This event’s booth came equipped with Intel-branded lamp shades over the ceiling lights – a clear indication of the company’s technological progress.
Impressive light diffusion aside, Intel did have fairly exciting lineup of hardware to look at: The i7-5960X had its embargo officially lifted at 9AM PST and made an appearance at the show, ASUS has its new X99-Deluxe boards powering the booth, Alienware, Falcon Northwest, Maingear, and other shops have systems present, and there’s a clear push toward the DIY PC consumer. A huge step in the direction we all want to move.
Intel's Haswell-E and X99 platform have been in development for a while now, and after several months of cloudy release schedules, it looks like Intel is sticking to the original 3Q14 timeline. X99 will be the world's first consumer-ready platform to support DDR4 memory and eliminate traditional channeled architecture, making it appealing for enthusiasts and development rigs. Haswell-E will be the first line of CPUs on the platform, continuing the last-gen -E suffix for extreme-series CPUs.
There's been a lot of delaying going on in the industry lately. NVidia and AMD have both pushed back launches (Maxwell, Titan Z) on the GPU side, Intel pushed back X99 / HW-E to 3Q14, and even delayed Broadwell into "4Q14 or 1Q15." All of these delays are attributable to fabrication process changes that are sweeping the semiconductor industry right now; we're shrinking the process to a point that it's small enough that new engineering hurdles have arisen -- good news for innovation, but bad for the impatient.
Intel's desktop CPU lineup is split between its mainstream processors, mid-range i-Series units, and high-end *-E series "Extreme" microprocessors. The current relevant models are, as many of you already know, Haswell (i5-4670K, 4770K, others) on the 8-series Lynx Point chipset (1150-pin socket) and Ivy Bridge-E (i7-4930K, 4960X, others) on the X-class X79 Patsburg chipset (2011 pins).
Rolling into 2013, Haswell was ramping up for its Performance (i-series) product launch with Ivy Bridge-E in tow; the previous generation always launches its extreme series CPU just after the mainstream launch of the impending generation, in a somewhat opposite fashion from the GPU industry. Now, with 2014 effectively here, we'll see Haswell-E launch with DDR4 support in roughly Q3 2014.
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