There is a dedicated market segment for non-consumer or enterprise-grade computer processors. Intel has recognized this since the 1970s and further in the 1990s with the introduction of sub-line of Intel Pentium processors for workstations and servers. Nevertheless, beginning in 1998, the company introduced a new line of microprocessors called Intel Xeon. It is targeted for specific non-consumer workstations, servers, and embedded market segments. The entire product line has undergone numerous iterations over the years and the newer generations have introduced more capabilities aimed at meeting the current requirements of enterprise-grade microprocessors. This article lists and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of Intel Xeon.
Pros of Intel Xeon: Advantages and Notable Capabilities
It is important to underscore the fact that Intel Xeon processors are designed and deployed for high-performance computing. This is their general advantage over consumer-grade processors such as Intel Core and Intel Core Ultra and even the processors under the AMD Ryzen product line. The brand has even become ubiquitous in supercomputers. The following are the specific features, capabilities, and benefits or advantages of Intel Xeon processors:
1. High Core Count and Thread Count
One of the defining characteristics and advantages of Intel Xeon processors, particularly when compared to Intel Core processors, are their higher core count and thread count. These enable them to handle multithreaded workloads and run applications that require parallel processing. Take note that both efficient multithreading and parallel processing are critical in servers and mainframe computer systems used in cloud computing and cloud computing services, big data analytics, virtualization, scientific research, and physical simulations.
2. Support for Large RAM and Cache
These processors also support a larger amount of memory or RAM compared to processors for the consumer market segment. Note that Intel Xeon Max 9468 supports up to a total of 4TB of RAM and a total of 8 memory channels. This is the same for Intel Xeon Platinum 85719. The former has a cache size of 105MB and the latter has a cache size of 300MB. The support for a huge RAM and the large cache memory size are critical for handling demanding and continuous workloads, virtualization and containerization, and scalable configurations.
3. Error Code Correction Technology
Another notable advantage of Intel Xeon processors centers on their support for a feature called error code correction or ECC memory. ECC is a type of data storage that uses an error correction code to detect and correct n-bit data corruption that occurs in memory. It is an essential feature in computers or use cases in which data corruption cannot be tolerated. Hence, because servers and several mainframe computers operate round-the-clock, ECC memory helps in reducing the risk of downtimes, ensures service reliability, and reduces maintenance.
4. Intel Support and Security Features
The entire product line is included in the product roadmap of Intel for an extended period. This means that processors under this line tend to have a longer lifespan than their consumer-grade counterparts. This translates further to extended or long-term support. An extended support is crucial for organizations that depend on stable platforms. These processors also boast advanced security technologies from Intel such as Boot Guard, Operating System Guard, Total Memory Encryption, Trusted Execution, Run Sure, and Control-Flow Enforcement.
5. Expansive Processor Variant Selection
Another advantage of Intel Xeon as a brand is the availability of a range of processors to cater to the diverse requirements of organizational users. The E sub-brand is positioned as an entry-level server solution while the D and W sub-brands are for individual workstations. Both the Max and Scalable sub-brands cater to the market for high-performance computing. Both also have built-in artificial intelligence capabilities such as Intel Deep Learning Boost and Intel Advanced Matrix Extension. The Scalable sub-brand is designed for scaling up systems.
Cons of Intel Xeon: Disadvantages and Main Limitations
Remember that Intel Xeon is a brand for non-consumer microprocessors. These processors have different general hardware and technical specifications that make them less ideal and inefficient for use in personal computers. It is still technically possible to use these processors in a particular PC built. Some enthusiasts have demonstrated this. It is still not generally recommended because of its limitations. Below are the disadvantages of Intel Xeon processors:
1. Expensive Newer-Gen Processors
One of the disadvantages of Intel Xeon processors is that they are significantly more expensive than their consumer-grade counterparts. The entry-level E-2436 retails for around USD 319.00 However, for best-in-class performance, take note that the higher-tier Max 9462 has a retail price of around USD 7995.00 while the Platinum 8571N has a price tag of around USD 6839.00. An Intel Core i9 14900K is priced at around USD 600.00. The price difference is staggering. It is not practical to spend on an Intel Xeon processor for a personal computer built.
2. High Power and Cooling Requirements
Not all Intel Xeon processors have high power draw. However, for the best-in-class processors intended for high-performance computing, the power requirement is higher than mid-range and high-tier Intel Core and other general-purpose processors. This higher power draw comes from their higher core counts, large memory support, higher thermal design power or TDP rating, and other specialized features. Furthermore, because of their higher power draw, they also require advanced heat management and cooling systems such as liquid cooling.
3. Lower Clock Speeds of CPU Cores
Another disadvantage of Intel Xeon processors is that their individual cores tend to have lower clock speeds than general-purpose processors. The performance cores of an Intel Core i9 14900K have a base clock speed of 3.2 GHz and a max turbo frequency of 5.8 GHz. The performance cores of an Intel Core Ultra 9 185H have a base frequency of 2.3 GHz and a max turbo frequency of 5.1 GHz. An Intel Xeon Max 9462 runs at 2.70 GHz base and 3.50 GHz at max while an Intel Xeon Platinum 8571N runs at 2.4 GHz base and 4 GHz at max frequency.
4. Inferior Single-Threaded Performance
The higher core count and thread count of Intel Xeon processors make them suitable for tasks or applications that benefit from multi-threading and parallel processing. However, when it comes to single-threaded tasks or applications, some, if not all, of them might be less ideal. Intel Core processors often prioritize higher clock speeds. This is crucial for single-threading. Examples of single-threaded tasks or applications include web browsing, playing older and even some modern games, word processing, and basic image and audio editing, among others.
5. Unoptimized for Running PC Games
Several enthusiasts have demonstrated using Intel Xeon for PC gaming. It is doable. Some have even showcased above-average and excellent gaming performance. These processors are still not optimized for PC gaming for several reasons. The most obvious is their inferior single-threaded performance. Another reason is that most do not come with integrated GPUs for running average game titles. A discrete GPU is a default requirement for high-performance gaming but this will bloat the overall cost of the built. Intel Xeon is impractical for PC gaming.
Takeaways: Advantages and Disadvantages of Intel Xeon
It is important to reiterate and underscore the fact that the advantage of Intel Xeon is that it is a brand of processors aimed at non-consumer users. These processors excel in workloads involved in server computing, workstation computing, and high-performance computing. Their high core count and high thread count make them efficient at tasks or running applications that benefit from or can take advantage of multithreading and parallel computing.
However, when compared to general-purpose microprocessors, such as Intel Core and Intel Core Ultra processors, they might still offer decent and even better performance in most cases but they are still generally inferior in some cases. The main disadvantage of Intel Xeon processors is that they are unoptimized for personal computers and are not designed as general-purpose processors. A consumer-graded processor is still advisable for general-purpose computing.