Intel’s Skylake-X and Kabylake-X Meet Our Scale

Was it worth the weight?

Yesterday Intel’s latest desktop chips were unleashed upon the world. In the coming weeks we’ll have a review of Intel’s new parts: the $999 Core i9-7900X code named Skylake-X and the Core i9-7740K code named Kabylake-X. Today we’re embarking on a different kind of review. Lately I’ve met a lot of people that think reviewing CPUs is a pretty cut and dry business with no room for differentiation or innovation. In this article we’ll attack those expectations head on by posing a simple question: was Skylake-X worth the weight?

The testing methodology here is simple: zero the scale out, grab a chip, place the chip on the scale. Wait thirty seconds for the scale to calm down and then snap a moody black and white glamour shot. Each of these chips are beautiful in their own way and we want you, our dear reader, to understand that. No silicon is perfect; but the right amount electrical leakage can warm your heart.

At the top of this article we had our Skylake-X sample on the scale. It’s a hefty chip weighing in at an even 50 grams. But it got nothing on the X299 platform’s entry-level champion Kabylake-X which is the heaviest of our chips at 61.9 grams. That a whopping 24 percent increase in weight despite offering less than half the cores of its 50 gram sibling. When looking at the key data-center metric of cores per gram Skylake-X absolutely trounces Kabylake-X in our testing. I have little doubt that our full review will bear out this difference in the slightly more meaningful performance per gram metric.

How could we forget Ryzen? More importantly how could we forget to include a contender from yesteryear’s X99 platform? Weighing in at a feather like 39.3 grams we have AMD’s six core value monster the Ryzen R5 1600X. That’s 57 percent lighter than its quad-core Kabylake-X competition.

Representing Intel’s old X99 platform we have the Core i7-5960X. How much does the greatest desktop Haswell chip ever made weigh? A meaty 51 grams as it turns out. Credit where credit is due to Intel; they’ve essentially maintained the same weight profile in their HEDT parts across the Haswell and Skylake generations. It’s good to see a product line that hasn’t been bloated by the ravages of time.

On a core for core basis, no matter what generation of Intel silicon we’ve looked at, AMD’s has the lighter core with Ryzen. This makes sense from a conceptual perspective as Intel’s designed its HEDT chips as number crunching brutes while with Ryzen AMD’s opted for a more balanced approach. It turns out that those philosophies extend all the way out from silicon to the very packaging of these chips.

There you have it: the first round of the ultimate weigh-in challenge. Last year Intel and AMD both spent a lot of time talking about the focus and energy they’ve spent on reducing the Z-height of their chips. With this challenge we hope to light a fire under these two to help them take a lighter and more airy approach when packing their chips.

It’s still too early to say how AMD’s ThreadRipper will compare, but I think that chip has a fair shot at setting a new heaviest CPU record. Until then, remember that there’s more to a chip than just tired old metrics like performance per watt and performance per dollar. We’ve entered a new era where performance per gram and performance per millimeter of Z-height are make or break metrics for some of the most influential companies on the planet. SemiAccurate stands tall at the forefront of reviewing innovation in the never-ending quest to bring our subscribers content that they can’t get anywhere else.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.