AMD is also battling for their attention, the end of 2019 is an unusual time for computing.
The high-end desktop, or HEDT, is what I am referring to.
These machines are used to run computer-aided designing software. They also process scientific research data.
You have two options to get one, either go to a company that acts as systems integrators and pull parts from various manufacturers to create a system or you can plug the parts together yourself on your kitchen table.
The second option can save money. However, at higher prices desktop systems, the gap may be smaller because of the margins in higher-end parts.
Comparing Workstation Processors
Computer system specifications often start with workstation processer. Modern practice can make this a mistake. The majority of computing work will be done on a graphics card.
Let's compare two workstation CPUs to see the details, there are many options, but it is worth looking at a few to learn more about the issues we may encounter while evaluating other CPUs.
There are two very obvious options such as, an Intel Core i9-9920X or an AMD Ryzen3900X.
The X-suffix indicates an enthusiast-grade part.
This means that you can set the clock speed to match the company's recommendations, but this is not something that will be of much interest to those who do post-production work.
Core count is what is important, The only Core i9 CPUs with more than eight cores is X-suffix, while the 9920X has twelve cores.
Some software, which will remain anonymous, could really make great use multi-core workstation CPUs but isn't that great at it.
Some software does a great job, but benchmarks are the only way you can find out.
Intel Core i9-9920X
The 9920X contains 19.25MB of cache memory. This is used to scratchpad data and keep it available, without having to go to main memory.
It can be plugged into a 2066-pin socket and is clocked at 3.5GHz.
As you would expect from a device that has so many numbers, it is also quite expensive at just over 1000 units.
These are the main numbers, and many people don't need to look further.
It's not surprising that things like the AMD Ryzen3900X can sometimes be so amazing. It too has 12 cores and runs at 3.8GHz, boosting to 4.6% for a fractional speed advantage.
The 64MB level-three cache is also impressive.
Modern workstation CPUs have a built-in PCIe controller that talks to plug-in expansion board and other peripherals.
The 3900X also has a generation 4 PCIe Controller, rather than the Intel's PCIe3.
It is at least half the price of the Intel option and offers a better experience in many key areas. What is the deal?
PCIe Controller Setups
The most significant difference lies in how the PCIe controller setup is. The Core i9 series is designed to be an industrial-strength solution that targets the high-end desktop market.
The slots for plug-in expansion devices are connected to the workstation CPU through a variety of communication channels known as lanes.
Each channel is either 1, 2, 4, 8, or 16. Things like GPUs are 16-lane devices. Four-lane devices include Workstation hard disk controllers and an HD-SDI input/output card.
Core i9 9920X comes with 44 PCIe lanes. This is enough to support two GPUs, and other bits and pieces.
The Ryzen 3900X has 24, while the Core i9 9920X has 44. The computer's mainboard might have some permanent components that can also absorb some of those lanes.
However, it is clear that the Core i9 can run two high-power 16-lane GPUs at full bandwidth.
It all depends on whether or not we believe we really need two powerful GPUs. There are simpler, more affordable GPUs that can produce a desktop display with just a few lanes.
It's common to use a simple GPU for the on-screen display, and a powerful one to do the heavy lifting. It can also use only eight lanes to run two 16-lane Ryzen workstation CPU GPUs.
It all depends on whether the GPUs' computational workstation power supply or computer's ability to transfer data between them.
This is largely controlled by how the software is written, something that can only been determined from benchmarks using that software on the hardware.
Choose CPUs Based on the Necessity
Some results suggest that applications like grading are more compute-limited than bandwidth-limited.
This could be because each lane of a PCIe 3.0 slot can transfer approximately two gigabytes per second. It's not sending frames to the GPU, or retrieving them.
The problem is doing the processing once they are there. So the PCIe lane shortage might not be a significant issue.
There's also one last problem. The Core i9 has PCIe 3.0, while the Ryzen workstation CPU uses PCIe 4.0. Version bumps effectively double bandwidth.
A GPU connected to an eight-lane PCIe4.0 connection has the same bandwidth as one connected to a 16-lane PCIe3.0 connection.
This sounds fantastic and makes the Ryzen a solid choice. The only GPUs that support PCIe 4 are AMD Radeon's range. Sometimes, we may want one from Nvidia.
Thunderbolt is another controversial topic that has been primarily, but not entirely, an Apple issue. I will discuss it next time I talk about workstation motherboards.