More CPU Competition Coming for Intel

On January 9, 2019, AMD CEO and President Dr. Lisa Su presented a CES 2019 Keynote. During the keynote, she demonstrated a new desktop processor, (at 1:25:00 in the video). This was a 7nm, 8C/16T, 3rd Generation AMD Ryzen 3000 series “Matisse” desktop processor running the Cinebench R15 Multithreaded (MT) benchmark vs. a 14nm, 8C/16T Intel Core i9-9900K “Coffee Lake” desktop processor.

System Comparison

These two systems were as identical as possible (outside of the motherboard and processor), meaning identical 2666MHz memory, video card, and storage. The Intel system was running at stock clock speeds vs. an engineering sample Ryzen running at lower than final clock speeds. The Cinebench MT score for Intel was 2040, while the Cinebench MT score for the AMD Ryzen 2 was 2057. The Intel system was using 179.8 watts, while the AMD system was using 133.4 watts during benchmark. This benchmark pegs all of the cores in the system, so this is extremely significant!

Dr. Su held up one of these Ryzen 2 processors, showing a 14nm I/O die on the left and the 7nm 8C/16T Zen 2 processor die on the top right. It was pretty obvious that there was room on the package for another identical Zen 2 processor die on the bottom right. During interviews over the next couple of days, Dr. Su basically confirmed that the Zen 2 family had room for an extra processor die and that we should expect a higher core count SKU. AMD purposely used an eight core CPU for the demo so that they would have the same core count as Intel’s current top of the line processor.

Processor Details

It appears that what AMD demonstrated was actually a mid-range Ryzen 5 class SKU, running with artificially slow memory, at a non-final lower clock speed that still had a slightly higher Cinebench MT score (with the same core/thread count) as the current best mainstream desktop processor that Intel has available. Since the core/thread counts were the same between the two systems, this means that the single-threaded performance should be about the same. If this is true, then this would be the first time in an extremely long time where AMD has better single-threaded performance than Intel. The final version of these Zen 2 processors should perform even better than this early sample.


You may be wondering what this has to do with server processors and with SQL Server. It turns out that the upcoming 7nm AMD EPYC “Rome” processors use the same Zen 2 architecture and 7nm manufacturing process as these Zen 2 mainstream desktop processors. If the 7nm AMD EYPC Rome processors end up having better single-threaded performance than the upcoming 14nm Intel Cascade Lake-SP processors (which I think is pretty likely), then AMD is going to be extremely competitive in the server market and for SQL Server usage. This is especially true if you consider AMD’s advantage in memory density, PCIe lanes (which will be Gen 4.0) and hardware cost. Dr. Su actually did a demonstration of a one-socket AMD EPYC Rome system vs. a two-socket Intel Xeon 8180 system, showing the AMD system winning.

Both the desktop Ryzen 2 and the server EPYC Rome processors are due to be released in mid-2019.

AdoredTV has their analysis here, while UFD Tech has their analysis here. Anandtech has a good writeup here.


How to Check if Your Processor Supports Second Level Address Translation (SLAT)

If you want to run Docker for Windows, you will need to be running one of these specific Windows 10 SKUs. These include Windows 10 Professional, Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 Pro for Workstations, or Windows 10 Education Edition. Since Docker for Windows requires Microsoft Hyper-V, you will also need a processor on your host machine that supports second level address translation (SLAT) in order to run Hyper-V.  You will also want/need SLAT support for pretty much any other hypervisor that you may be using.

Modern Processors

This should not be a problem in most cases, since nearly all systems that are running Windows 10 will have a new enough Intel or AMD processor so that SLAT support won’t be an issue. For AMD, SLAT support, which they call Rapid Virtualization Indexing (RVI), was introduced in the Barcelona microarchitecture in late 2007. For Intel, SLAT support, which they call Extended Page Tables (EPT), was introduced with the Westmere microarchitecture in early 2010.

Checking for SLAT Support

If you want to actually check your system to confirm that you have SLAT support in your processor (before you install Hyper-V), here is how to do it:

1. Download Coreinfo from this link

2. Extract the zip file, and then copy the Coreinfo.exe file to the root of your C: drive

3. Open a command prompt as an administrator

4. Navigate to the root of your C: drive in the command prompt

5. Run this command: coreinfo –v

6. The –v switch shows virtualization-related features

If you see an asterisk on the feature line, that means the processor supports that feature. If there is a dash on the feature line, the processor does not support that feature. You want to look at the EPT line for Intel or the NP line for AMD. This tells you whether your processor has second level address translation support.


Figure 1: Results of Coreinfo –v on an Intel Core i7-8700K Processor

If you already have Hyper-V installed, you will get inaccurate results, as shown in Figure 2. Just to be clear, this AMD processor does have SLAT support, but the fact that Hyper-V is running gives the wrong results.


Figure 2: Results of Coreinfo –v on an AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X Processor


You must have second level address translation support in order to run Docker for Windows since that is a Hyper-V requirement. This is actually a good thing, since second level address translation support gives you better virtualization performance.

New Intel Desktop Processor Families

Intel formally announced its 9th generation Core mainstream desktop processors on October 8, 2018 at its Fall Launch Event in New York. So far, Intel has announced three members of this new Intel desktop processor family. The prices below are the MSRP prices. Actual street prices are a currently little higher, especially for the Core i9-9900K. Supply is also a little tight so far.


First, the Core i9-9900K has a base clock speed of 3.60 GHz, a Turbo clock speed of 5.0 GHz, and 16MB of L3 cache. Next, the Core i7-9700K has a base clock speed of 3.60 GHz, a Turbo clock speed of 4.9 GHz, and 12MB of L3 cache. Finally, the Core i5-9600K has a base clock speed of 3.70 GHz, a Turbo clock speed of 4.6 GHz, and 9MB of L3 cache. All of these processors are aimed at gaming and general desktop usage. They are competitors to AMD’s Ryzen 2xxx mainstream desktop processors.

You may have noticed that Intel has dropped hyper-threading (HT) from the Core i7 line. This was is something the Core i7 has always had, and it was one of the main differentiators over the Core i5 line in the past. The lack of HT means a loss of about 25-30% of your overall CPU capacity when you have the same number of physical cores.

All of these new Intel processors have soldered thermal interface material (rather than thermal paste) which will help with heat dissipation. This will let them run more cores at slightly higher (100-200MHz) clock speeds more often. These processors also have hardware-level mitigation for some of the Meltdown CPU exploits. This will give better performance than software or firmware mitigations.

Intel Core i9-9900K

Intel Core i9-9900K

These new processors will all work in existing Intel 300 series chipsets (with an updated BIOS).  Intel is also introducing a new Z390 chipset, which is a very slight improvement over the previous Z370 chipset, primarily with native USB 3.1 Gen 2 support and built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi support. Here is the list of Z390 motherboards from NewEgg, while AnandTech has a roundup of Z390 motherboards here.

 High-End Desktop Processors

Intel also announced a new generation of high-end desktop (HEDT) processors, which are the Core X-Series processors. The HEDT processors use the LGA2066 socket on X299 motherboards. There are seven SKUs in this family.

These processors are designed to compete with the AMD Ryzen Threadripper HEDT processors. Unlike previous generation Intel HEDT processors, every one of the SKUs in this family support 48 PCIe 3.0 lanes.