The high-end desktop (HEDT) market has been quiet for some time. Intel’s latest HEDT products were released 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 (opens in new tab) to AIDA64 6.60.5944 (via Tom’s Hardware (opens in new tab)) lists preliminary support for a CPU series called 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 latest Cascade Lake X Series (opens in new tab), topped by the Core i9 10980XE. It would be a weird mistake for AIDA64 developers to refer to the 13th Gen Raptor Lake as Alder Lake-X, so unless Intel is just playing with us, it looks like there’s a new HEDT platform coming. And that’s very exciting.
Let’s speculate on the form these CPUs might take. We can be sure they’ll include higher TDPs, overclocking support, maybe four-channel DDR5, and a bunch of PCIe 5.0 lanes, including PCIe 5.0 M.2 support.
It is possible that Alder Lake-X is a desktop version of Sapphire Rapids (opens in new tab), perhaps by including more E cores, or will you omit them in favor of more P cores? Of course, we’re just speculating, which is fun to do!
The HEDT market has fallen by the wayside in recent years, at least on Intel’s side. As we see more and more cores included in major CPU models, one of the benefits of HEDT platforms is gone. But there’s AMD’s Threadripper 3000 series, which includes the powerful 3990X (opens in new tab) with its 64 cores and 128 threads. Maybe Intel just didn’t want to even try to compete with that.
But HEDT platforms are not just 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 multiple PCIe x4 SSDs without compromising conventional chipsets. Give me 128 PCIe lanes, please! No compromises needed.
If Intel is ready to release Alder Lake-X, AMD is ready 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 launch. But, AMD could certainly easily respond if they wanted to.
A thriving HEDT ecosystem would be welcome. Given the price of high-end Z690 motherboards, imagine what highly complex HEDT boards will cost! The inclusion of RGB will double the price, right? At the very least, that could push conventional board prices down.
Imagine a hypothetical Core i9 12980 XE, X499 motherboard with 4x32GB of DDR5-7000 and RTX 4090 Ti? That sounds like a very tasty system and one I definitely couldn’t afford. I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one to covet that.