Image: Intel / Gizmodo

Here we go again. It’s Computex time in Taipei, and that means that Intel is announcing an insane new lineup of ultra powerful processors—some of which seemingly exist only so that you’ll pay attention to the cheaper CPUs the company sells to average humans. This year, Intel has outdone itself with the Core X-series, the crown jewel of which is an 18-core, 36-thread processor with a retail price of $2,000.

Are you extreme enough for the i9 Extreme? In other words, do you really need to spend two-thousands-fucking-dollars on an 18-core CPU? Almost certainly not. Does Intel care if every performance desktop junkie takes out a second mortgage to buy its crazy new chip? That’s highly unlikely.

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Intel’s engaging in yet another annual cycle of geek kabuki theater, a performance of one-upmanship that’s as much about any single company’s ability to build and sell the biggest, best, most futuristic processor on the market. Last year, the company pulled off a similar maneuver with the launch of a 10-core i7 Extreme Edition that sold for $1,723. And then, this year, AMD almost outdid Intel by announcing its 16-core, 32-thread Ryzen processor (nicknamed “Threadripper”) two weeks before the big show in Taipei. The i9 Extreme, of course, tops that, but Intel is suddenly realizing that other processor makers are starting to catch up to its historically superior offerings. The newly serious competition from AMD is surely part of the reason why Intel’s going totally extreme right now.

Almost nobody needs a processor as powerful as the i9-7980XE right now. As our own Alex Cranz explained a few months ago, most regular computer users would be perfectly happy with Intel’s quad-core i5 processor, which will sell for $242. From there, adding cores and boosting performance drives up the price, but each tier offers diminishing returns. In other words, you’ll only really be able to tap into the tremendous processing power of the most expensive i9 X-series processors if you’re doing ultra CPU-heavy work like rendering 3D images.

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But hey, that’s what crown jewels are for. Intel’s most powerful chip isn’t just a component that a few people will buy; it’s a beacon on a hilltop that hundreds of thousands of Intel customers will see. To use a car metaphor, the similarly named BMW i8 wasn’t meant to be the common man’s car, when it turned heads at the New York Auto Show in 2014. It was supposed to be a glimpse at the future. And hey, while your gawking at this incredibly Minority Report-inspired electric car, check out these affordable BMWs over here.

Intel is doing the same thing yet again and upping the ante all around. Joining the new Skylake-X family of processors is the cheaper but still improved $242 4.2 GHz Kaby Lake-X i5 chip mentioned earlier. Things get more exciting from there as the Skylake-X i7 lineup offers three options:

  • i7-7740X (four cores/eight threads, up to 4.5GHz, $340)
  • i7-7800X (six cores/12 threads, up to 4.0GHz, $390)
  • i7-7820X (eight cores/16 threads, Turbo Boost 3.0, up to 4.5GHz, $600)

Next comes the Skylake-X i9 lineup, the cheapest of which represents a nice price cut from last year’s tippy-top model. However, Intel didn’t offer many more details—aside for the price and core count—for the most expensive four processors in the Skylake-X family:

  • i9-7900X (10 cores/20 threads, Turbo Boost 3.0, up to 4.5GHz, $1,000)
  • i9-7920X (12 cores/24 threads, $1,200)
  • i9-7940X (14 cores/28 threads, $1,400)
  • i9-7460X (16 cores/32 threads, $1,700)
  • i9-7980XE (18 cores/36 threads, $2,000)

Did you get all that? Probably not so here’s a chart from Intel’s presentation at Computex with more details about the specs:

Image: Intel via Ars Technica

Intel says that the new processors as well as new motherboards will start shipping in a few weeks. Presumably, we’ll learn the details of the ultra expensive Skylake-X processors before then. But like we said before, you probably don’t need to buy one of those anyways.

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[Intel, Ars Technica]