Intel debuts 9th-generation Core chips, including Core i9 and X-series parts, with a few twists

Intel unveiled its 9th-generation Core desktop chips on Monday with the notable omission of a key feature: Hyper-Threading, at least on all but the most exclusive Core i9-9900K for mainstream PCs. Hyperthreading has also been reserved for a new iteration of Intel’s X-series processors, which includes up to 18 cores and 36 threads. 

In a livestream Monday morning from its Fall Launch Event in New York, the company announced just a single Core i9 chip, the $488 Core i9-9900K, Later, the company privately revealed two others in the Core i7 and Core i5 families. 

Intel also announced a new series of X-class chips for gamers, ranging from 8 cores and 16 threads through 18 cores and 36 threads. Prices will range from $589 to $1,979.

What this means: It’s certainly fair to say that Intel surprised us all with the unexpected shift of its upcoming 28-core chip to the Xeon family, as well as the announcement of the X-series chips, too. And what’s the deal with hyperthreading? Intel’s announcement certainly adds some new topics to talk about in the months ahead.

Part of the confusion was due to what Intel was expected to announce: a family of new 9th-gen chips, from Core i3s up through the Core i9, and how it did so. On the publicly available livestream, the company revealed only the presence of the Core i9-9900K, as well as the presence of the new X-series parts. Later, after the livestream had concluded, Intel fleshed out the remaining members of the K-series parts, and disclosed the price and performance of the X-series parts.

However, Intel didn’t even mention what many enthusiasts wanted to know: why only the i9-9900K, out of all of Intel’s mainstream parts, boasts the hyperthreading feature.

Intel Core i9 9th gen packagingAdam Patrick Murray /IDG

Intel’s 9th-gen Core i9 packaging.

Hyper-threading is now an Intel gaming feature

Hyperthreading, of course, has been a staple of Intel’s processors since 2002’s Pentium 4. As clock speeds tended to top out at 4GHz to 5GHz, parallelism—originally in the form of support for more processor threads, and later to more physical cores—kept the processor performance on an upward trajectory. 

Rival AMD made multi-core chips a staple of its success with Ryzen and its Threadripper parts, with a massive 32-core, 64-thread 2nd-gen Threadripper already on store shelves. Game developers, though, have been slower to keep up, with most using just a handful of the available threads. That’s made hyperthreaded, multi-core chips more suitable for video editing and rendering, rather than everyday PC workloads.

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