Intel gives gaming desktops a boost with Haswell-E

A new eight-core CPU, plus the X99 chipset, both aim at high-end PC gamers.

Much of the talk about upcoming PCs revolves around the next generation of processors from Intel. Codenamed Broadwell, those chips include the next generation of Core i-series CPUs, expected in products next year, and a new line for slim, low-power devices, called Core M, expected in late-2014 products.

But before we get to any of that, Intel's current generation of Haswell CPUs, also known as fourth-generation Core i-series chips, has one more trick up its sleeve. The Haswell-E line is a collection of high-end Core i7 CPUs for desktop computers, including the new Alienware Area 51, also announced today.

Haswell-E is Intel's first eight-core desktop processor (a six-core version will also be available). It pairs with Intel's new X99 motherboard chipset, which supports newer DDR4 RAM and up to four graphics cards.

The flagship CPU in the line is the Core i7-5960X, a 3.0GHz eight-core/16-thread chip that can turbo up to 3.5GHz. Also available will be the Core i7-5930K and the Core i7-5820K, both of which are six-core/12-thread chips.

Intel says the performance of the top-end chip over its predecessor, the Core i7-4960X, is up to 20 percent faster at 4K video editing and 32 percent faster in 3D rendering. This is also the first Intel desktop platform that natively supports Thunderbolt 2 connections for fast connectivity and data transfer, especially important with the growth of 4K video.

Most of the major gaming desktop makers are expected to offer Haswell-E systems starting from the end of August, including Maingear, Falcon Northwest, Velocity Micro, and Origin PC. We've already gotten a chance to see one very distinct new system in action, the pyramid-shaped Alienware Area 51. While this new hardware may give the desktop gaming market a boost, we've seen a major shift to gaming laptops in the past year, and high interest in alternative forms of PC gaming, such as Valve's Steam Machine concept.

The new Haswell-E Core i7 CPUs will be available immediately, and cost from $390 to $1,000.

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