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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In this $2660 high-end PC build, we'll show you how to build a top-of-the-line streaming and YouTube content creation system that will last for years.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

haswell-e4Image source: VR-Zone's June, 2013 leak of HW-E's initial specs.

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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