What is Intel Xeon?Intel's workstation and server chips explained

Xiaobai Software  2022-09-07 21: 33  read 42 views

When most people hear Intel, the first thing that comes to mind is the Core series.Most people are fine with an i3, i5 or i7 computer, and if you need great performance, a Core i9 should be fine for you.But what if you're in a more professional environment with different hardware needs that consumer chips can't meet?In these cases, you would choose Xeon.

 

But what exactly is an Intel Xeon?Should you care about it?

What is Intel Xeon?

 

Xeon is Intel's brand of workstation and server chips.Unlike Intel's Core CPU lineup, which is primarily aimed at the consumer range, Xeon is an all-encompassing brand that includes everything for heavier work, business, server, and even embedded systems.Basically, anything that isn't aimed at the average user is suitable for the Xeon brand, whether it's an office computer or a supercomputer.Xeon chips can use the same sockets as consumer desktop chips, while some of the other CPUs in the family, especially those for servers, fit into larger sockets.

The first processor to use the Xeon brand was the Pentium II Xeon, which entered the market in 1998.Back then, Intel used the Pentium brand extensively, and the Pentium II Xeon was basically a business-oriented version of the Pentium II chip.Then came the Pentium III Xeon, and then in 2001 came the standalone Xeon chip without the Pentium brand.Since then, Xeon chips have grown alongside Intel's consumer chips, keeping in mind its traditional, non-consumer focus.

Xeon processors are ubiquitous in supercomputers around the world, and are even found in workstations like the Mac Pro.There are even mobile Xeon chips - business laptops with a focus on "mobile workstations" often feature Xeon chips and business-oriented GPUs.

Why are Intel Xeon chips different?

 

There's nothing stopping you from setting up a server using a regular PC.However, Xeon chips have several advantages over Intel's standard chip lineup that make them attractive to enterprise users.

First, Xeon chips don't focus much on single-core performance, clock speeds, and a powerful single core by itself.Instead, you'll typically find these chips have a few cores, run at more conservative clock speeds, and in some cases, consume less power (in fact, you may encounter some servers that use passive convection cooling entirely instead of fan or water).

They focus on core count and multi-core performance, not single-core performance.Therefore, these computers are better suited for multi-threaded workloads, where having a powerful single core is not important.In this regard, Xeon chips are similar to AMD's Threadripper or Epyc lineups.These chips also have several cores running at lower clock speeds, providing unparalleled multi-core performance, while being weaker on the single-core side.

This also means that Xeon chips are not suitable for gaming.When you're gaming, single-core performance matters a lot to actual performance.Having a lot of cores isn't that important, as long as it's good cores, you can use a CPU with six to eight cores.If you have 16 or 24 cores and they're not fast, the game won't perform well.Few games benefit from having so many cores.However, multithreaded tasks are common in the commercial world.

Other differences include that they don't have integrated graphics (since you'll probably need a GPU to go with that too), and the Xeon chips don't support overclocking. Xeon Phi takes the core principles to the extreme, adding several smaller cores and more memory bandwidth.

They are also significantly more expensive than desktop chips.And we're not talking about a small difference.A consumer CPU can set you back $100 to $1000, and server/workstation chips in the $2000 to $10000 range are common.Of course, for big businesses, this may be something they can afford, but for any audiophile, unless they have a massive budget, it's definitely out of reach.

If you've ever wondered why the Mac Pro is so expensive, this is one reason.Of course, you could argue that these internals, despite being expensive, are still seriously overpriced, but that's another topic.

Should you buy Xeon chips?

 

For 99% of people who read this article, the answer is no.

For the right user, Xeon CPUs can be amazing.Like other chips in the same series, they are built to smash multi-threaded tasks.However, for the average user's workflow, Xeon CPUs may not provide any improvement, and in some cases, may even be worse.For example, it won't do your game any favors or substantially improve any part of your daily workflow.

We should clarify here that nothing will run badly, not even games, but you're not really getting your money's worth and you're not using the chip's full potential.At its best, it runs the same as if you were buying a $400 CPU -- only you're paying ten times as much.It's not really the best deal.However, this is not a chip for you after all.

If you're a power user or someone working in the enterprise space and want to build a workstation or server for a specific use case (like video editing or animation), that's a different story.If you've weighed the usual Xeon vs AMD Epyc/Threadripper debate, and you still want to go with Intel, then, by all means, go ahead and get one.This would be a great addition to your setup or rack.

This is not a CPU for the average consumer

Xeon chips are Intel's most expensive products, so many believe they're also the best the company has to offer in that sense.But that's not entirely true.They're the best chips for some situations, but for most of our readers, a Core i9 CPU will suffice.

As always, do your own research and see what works for you.

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