Today, Intel’s W-2200 series Xeon joins Cascade Lake-X in the 2019 HEDT lineup. The Xeon W line goes further down into low-performance territory than Cascade Lake-X does, but the top-four CPUs in the lineup effectively are Cascade Lake-X: they’ve got the same core and thread count, same base and turbo frequencies, same amount of cache, same number of CPU lanes, and the same advertised TDP, along with support for Deep Learning Boost, Thunderbolt 3, 2.5G Ethernet, and Wi-Fi 6.
Aside from Cascade Lake-X being unlocked for overclocking, the biggest—and so far as we can tell, only—real differentiator between Cascade Lake-X and the top four Xeon-W2200 processors is Intel vPro platform support. The vPro label means that Xeon-W2200 CPUs support up to 1TB of ECC RAM (compared to Cascade Lake-X’s 256GB of non-ECC) and Intel Active Management Technology (an out-of-band management system that runs on the Intel Management Engine, not the main x86-context CPU).
The other differentiator between Cascade Lake X series and Xeon W-2200 is, of course, price. Like Cascade Lake-X, Xeon W-2200 cut Xeon W-2100’s prices roughly in half—Xeon W-2295 costs $1,333 compared to Xeon W-2195’s $2,553, for example. This still leaves you with about a 25% price increase going from a Cascade Lake-X CPU to its equivalent in the Xeon W-2200 line.
The cheaper half of the Xeon W-2200 line—including the $667 8C/16T Xeon W-2245—are rather odd ducks. They don’t really compare directly to any other Intel CPUs and are best suited for lightly threaded applications that need a lot of RAM. If you don’t need the 1TB of addressable RAM or Intel’s out-of-band Active Management, you can get a faster CPU for the money in either Intel’s $440 8C/16T i9-9900 or AMD’s $330 8C/16T Ryzen 7 3700X—and if your app scales well across lots of threads, you’re likely better off with AMD’s $675 16C/32T Epyc 7282—or whatever comes out in November to replace last year’s $640 16C/32T Threadripper 2950X.
If you’re in the market to upgrade an aging Intel HEDT workstation, the price cuts make this a pretty decent time to do it. Although there’s not much to look at in terms of year-on-year performance from 2018—about a 10% increase in performance across the board—you can just about double the performance of a three-year-old Xeon e5.
The real question raised is whether it makes more sense to re-up with Intel for your HEDT desktop, or switch to AMD. It’s difficult to effectively answer that question before we learn the final details on this year’s Threadripper CPUs, due out in November—but our guess is, team AMD is probably going to be looking better for most workloads.
Intel forces you to choose between huge banks of ECC RAM on Xeon W or overclocking support on Core X. Threadripper brings both to the table in a single CPU, offering both 2TB addressable ECC RAM and Precision Boost Overdrive overclocking. Intel will likely continue to have a small advantage on single or dual-threaded workloads, but we expect that advantage to have shrunk dramatically this year in Core X/Xeon W vs Threadripper 3, just as it did with Core i5/i7/i9 vs Ryzen 3000.
The only real remaining questions are in price—and more importantly, big OEM vendor buy-in. Most people aren’t buying Xeon W CPUs from small system builders; they’re buying them in pre-built Dell, HP, and Lenovo workstations. We know AMD already has at least some traction with HP thanks to the news about the EliteDesk 705 G5 line. If it can score similar deals with big OEMs in the workstation/HEDT market, there’s a potential for real upset to Intel’s long-standing near-monopoly in that space.
Listing image by Intel Corporation