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Friday, June 14, 2024

There are hints that Intel will return to the HEDT market with Alder Lake-X

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The high end desktop market (HEDT) has been quiet for some time. Intel’s last HEDT products were released back in 2019, while AMD’s Threadripper 5000 series has so far been restricted to the professional market. Is Intel preparing a new Alder Lake HEDT series? The release notes for AIDA64 6.60.5944 (via Tom’s Hardware) list preliminary support for a CPU series going by the name of Alder Lake-X.

For some time, Intel has referred to its HEDT processors by adding an X suffix. The X moniker has been used by Intel for all of its high end desktop platforms up to the most recent Cascade Lake-X series, topped by the Core i9 10980XE. It would be an odd mistake by the AIDA64 developers to refer to 13th Gen Raptor Lake as Alder Lake-X, so unless Intel is just messing with us, it would seem as though there is a new HEDT platform coming. And that’s very exciting.

Let’s speculate as to what form these CPUs could take. We can be sure they will include higher TDPs, overclocking support, perhaps quad channel DDR5 and a whole bunch of PCIe 5.0 lanes, including PCIe 5.0 M.2 support. 

It’s possible that Alder Lake-X is a desktop version of Sapphire Rapids, perhaps with the inclusion of more E cores, or will it omit them in favour of more P cores? Of course, we’re just speculating, which is fun to do!

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The HEDT market has fallen by the wayside in recent years, at least on Intel’s side. As we see ever more cores included in mainstream CPU models, one of the benefits of HEDT platforms has dropped away. But then there’s AMD’s Threadripper 3000 series which includes the mighty 3990X with its 64 cores and 128 threads. Perhaps Intel just didn’t want to even attempt to compete with that.

But HEDT platforms aren’t all about core counts. HEDT platforms tend to be feature rich, and their high PCIe lane counts appeal to many enthusiasts. It’s not easy to run a GPU, expansion cards and a bunch of PCIe x4 SSDs without some compromise on mainstream chipsets. Give me 128 PCIe lanes please! No compromises necessary.

If Intel is set to release Alder Lake-X, then AMD is well set to respond. It has released Threadripper Pro 5000 series models based on the Zen 3 architecture, but these are in short supply, with Lenovo enjoying exclusive access for several months after the launch. But, AMD could surely respond easily if it chose to.

A thriving HEDT ecosystem would be welcome. Given the price of the high end Z690 motherboards though, just imagine what highly complex HEDT boards will cost! The inclusion of RGB will double the price, right? At least it might push the prices of mainstream boards down a notch.

Imagine a hypothetical Core i9 12980 XE, X499 motherboard with 4x32GB of DDR5-7000 and RTX 4090 Ti? That sounds like a pretty tasty system and one that I definitely couldn’t afford. I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one to lust after it though.

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