Intel Core vs. Intel Core X: What’s the Difference?

Intel Core chips come in all shapes and forms. The lineup was first introduced in 2006 with the iconic Intel Core 2 Duo before splitting into multiple ranges with the i3, i5, and i7 in 2010. It quickly became Intel’s flagship series, overtaking Pentium and pushing PCs to new heights. However, even since the very introduction of the lineup, it’s been separated into two different branches—with one of them being much more expensive than the other.

Which raises the question: what are Intel Core and Intel Core X? And what’s the difference between both, and is Intel Core X worth the extra money?

Why Are Separate Chip Lineups Needed, Anyway?

The reason why we have different chip lineups is simple. Different people have different needs, and some users need features others might not. That being said, the market needs to have a scope that’s just as wide.

In computing, there are regular consumer chips that can be used by everyone from the most average user to the most hardcore gamer. But when you start getting into the enthusiast/workstation range, where you need to crush through some heavier workloads a normal chip might struggle with.

For these chips, you need to recur to another category—workstation chips. On that range is where the Intel Core X sits and how it’s differentiated from the regular Intel Core range.

Intel Core: The Chip for Everyone

First off, we have the good old Intel Core chips, the classic ones everyone knows.

Since 2010, the Intel Core lineup has comprised the Intel Core i3, i5, and i7, and since 2019, has also included the Core i9. Despite being consumer chips, they’ve gotten pretty powerful, to the point they’re able to crush through multithreaded tasks if you aim for the higher range of chips.

Despite that, though, there’s a reason why Intel makes a more expensive range of chips. These CPUs have a smaller socket, and they might also be lacking in things like core counts for certain users. The Intel Core i9-12900K is the best chip in Intel’s range right now, and the one with the most cores, but even then, it only goes up to 16 cores, which are split between eight performance Golden Cove cores and eight efficient Gracemont cores (more commonly known as E-Cores and P-Cores).

They’re the best in their class for certain tasks, most notably gaming, productivity, and everything a regular person would do on a PC. But for certain things, we need more. This is where Intel Core X comes in.

Intel Core X: The Chip for Pros

Intel Core X stands for “Extreme Edition.” We first got to know it with the very first Intel Core i7 Extreme, which was launched in 2010 alongside the other Intel Core consumer chips. Alongside the Core i7 X-series, we also have the Core i9 X-series. In fact, it was the very first time we saw the Core i9—it first launched in 2017 alongside Intel’s seventh generation range, before seeing a consumer introduction in 2019 with the Core i9-9900K.

There are a few notable differences between Core X and Core chips. The main one comes in the core count.

The very first Intel Core i7-980X came with an hexa-core setup, something formidable for its day. Right now, the latest X chip, the Intel Core i9-10980XE, comes with a whopping 18 core and 36 thread core setup. The other notable difference comes in the socket, with the Intel Core X coming with a bigger one than what Core chips normally have—not as big as the socket in a server chip, but still big nonetheless.

They also have certain disadvantages, though. They’re amazing for workloads that benefit from having a lot of cores, so if that’s what you’re looking for, it might not be the worst idea. On the other hand, while tasks like gaming are perfectly doable, games won’t run as well as they do on a Core chip since those chips have lesser yet faster cores.

Intel Core vs. Intel Core X: Which One Should You Buy?

There’s one other thing we glossed over: these X-series chips haven’t seen a release for some time. To be exact, the last time we saw X-series chips launch was with the 10th generation of Core CPUs, and that was in 2020. Even then, they were carrying over an outdated architecture, with the 7th Gen and 9th Gen X-series using the Skylake-X architecture and 10th Gen chips using Cascade Lake, which wasn’t much of an upgrade anyway.

Furthermore, Intel has made it clear that, at least for now, there will be no more Intel Core X CPUs. In August 2020, eagle-eyed Intel fans on the ASUS ROG forum spotted slides in an Intel presentation suggesting that there would be no more Intel Core X CPUs for that year—and true to form, we’ve not seen a Core X CPU since.

Which leads us to the next point. Right now, Intel Core chips are a no-brainer, even for productivity stuff, since they’re coming with more cores now. The Intel Core i9-12900K, as we mentioned before, comes with 16 cores and 24 threads, making it a good option for multithreaded tasks, and is a massively powerful CPU.

Now, if Intel Core X does see a new release anytime soon, it might well be worth looking into because, at the very top-end of CPU manufacturing, marginal gains could be worthwhile for your rig.

Intel Core X Is Not Worth It Right Now

Right now, if you want to get an X-series Intel Core CPU, there’s not much of a point to it—if you need a massive amount of cores, we would actually recommend you to lower your expectations and get an Alder Lake chip, or either get a Xeon or hop straight to AMD and get a Threadripper or an Epyc CPU. You’ll probably be better off with any of those options than with an X-series CPU in 2022.

As for non-X Core chips, they’re clearly Intel’s main priority right now, and they should continue improving over the next years.

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