Earlier this year, microprocessor giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) released a desktop processor known as the Core i7 6950X Extreme Edition. It has 10 cores, the highest core count of any consumer desktop processor released, and carries a manufacturer-suggested retail price of $1,723 -- the most expensive desktop processor that Intel has released in recent memory, by a lot.
When the product was announced, I had the following to say about its price point:
I suspect that Intel is trying to test the limits of what the hardcore PC-enthusiast crowd is willing to pay for the very-best performance. The company's marketing department might figure that a customer who's cool with dropping a grand on a processor might not have an issue dropping $1,723 on a processor.
Based on an early read, it would seem that this hypothesis may have been correct.
Core i7 6950X might be outselling Core i7 6900K
Intel's previous-generation Core i7 Extreme Edition processor was the eight-core Core i7 5960X, a product that sold for around $1,000. In the current generation of processors, the eight-core model still sells for around $1,000 (street pricing is more like $1,100, so pricing went up a bit generation over generation), but it's no longer the company's most expensive desktop chip.
Even for over a grand, it's not worthy of the Extreme Edition branding; it's merely "Core i7."
At any rate, over on Newegg.com, there have been 12 reviews of the new 10-core product -- nine of them are 5 out of 5 eggs (all nine of these reviews come from verified owners of the chip), with three coming in at 3 out of 5 eggs.
One of the three-egg reviews seems to be from somebody who doesn't even own the product and just wanted to complain about pricing. Another one comes from someone who claims to own the product (though this individual didn't buy it from Newegg, if he or she does own it) but then proceeds to pitch a vastly inferior product from a competitor to Intel. The final review is from somebody who simply got a bad chip.
In contrast, there is just one review, albeit a positive one, for the cheaper eight-core 6900K.
The greater number of reviews of the higher-end and much-higher-priced 6950X relative to the 6900K may suggest that the 6950X is selling better than the 6900K. If this is the case, this would serve to validate the notion that the kind of person who would have bought the $1,000 Core i7 5960X last generation is the same kind of person who would buy a $1,723 Core i7 6950X.
That said, we can't discount the possibility that buyers of $1,723 processors are simply more interested in posting their thoughts on the product than buyers of $1,000-$1,100 processors are.
Intel's next-generation high-end desktop processors are expected to be available in up to 10 core variants. This isn't unusual considering that the company's next high-end desktop processor family, known as Skylake-X, will be manufactured on the same 14-nanometer chip technology that the current chips (known as Broadwell-E) are.
Those cores will be more powerful and the underlying platform should improve, so Skylake-X stands to be a good next step for Intel's high-end desktop processor family.
After Skylake-X, though, Intel will have the luxury of using a new, 10-nanometer manufacturing process. This should allow the company to cram even more cores in. At this point, I am inclined to think that Intel will try to deliver more performance and cores at the current price points rather than introduce an even higher price point at which to sell a higher-core-count product.
Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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