Last year, Intel launched an unusual desktop CPU family. The Kaby Lake-X series of processors was an attempt to goose demand for Intel’s HEDT (High End DeskTop) platform by offering cheaper CPUs based on Kaby Lake, rather than the Skylake-X cores that Intel introduced at the same time. The Core i7-7740X and Core i5-7640X were clocked marginally higher than the mainstream desktop parts (though the Core i5-7640X got a larger boost in this regard), but the chips had limitations that hit them hard at market. Now Intel is planning to pull the entire product line.
That’s the word from a new Intel support document, which notes:
Market demand for the products listed in the “Products Affected/Intel Ordering Codes” tables below have shifted to other Intel products. The products identified in this notification will be discontinued and unavailable for additional orders after the “Last Product Discontinuance Order Date” (see “Key Milestones” above).
The problem with Kaby Lake-X had little to do with the processors themselves, and everything to do with how they integrated into the HEDT platform. Because Intel hadn’t designed its LGA2011v3 socket with integrated graphics in mind, no Kaby Lake-X chip could use its graphics capabilities or QuickSync encoding. While most enthusiasts don’t use Intel integrated graphics as a primary solution, it’s still nice to have the GPU for emergencies, and QuickSync is useful in its own right, for fast encodes.
Because Kaby Lake-X only had two memory channels, half the DIMMs on a standard HEDT motherboard were useless, which is never a great way to position a product. And, of course, the problem only got worse once Coffee Lake debuted and the Core i7-8700K dropped. A comparison between the families makes the point rather well:
In a world where the Core i7-8700K didn’t exist, the Core i7-7740X at least offered marginally higher clocks at the same price point and the option to upgrade to a higher core-count CPU at a later date. But once the six-core, high single-core clock Core i7-8700K was in market, there was simply no way to justify Kaby Lake X. While we gave the nod to the Ryzen 7 2700X as the better overall chip at the top of the market, the 8700K is still an excellent processor with unmatched single-thread performance, while six-core Core i5s offer excellent scaling in their own right.
For several years, there’s been a rumor that Intel would attempt to move enthusiasts over to the HEDT space entirely by shifting its overclockable and higher-clock CPUs over to that market. It’ll be interesting to see how the HEDT platform continues to evolve now that Coffee Lake has introduced six-core CPUs to the desktop. Intel has multiple options available, including stepping up memory channels and core counts to more aggressively compete with AMD’s Threadripper. Intel has held the line on price, at least publicly, since Skylake-X launched last year, but we could still see a shakeup the next time HEDT is refreshed.
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