Xeon vs. Core: Are Intel’s Expensive CPUs Worth a Premium?

Desktop computer and headphones on a desk in a low-lit room.

Apple made a big splash in June 2019 when it introduced an overhauled Mac Pro desktop computer dripping with processing and graphics power. The primary components behind the new Mac beast are Intel Xeon processors. They range from an unnamed eight-core, 3.5 GHz Xeon W (possibly, the Xeon W-3223), to another as-yet-unnamed 2.5 GHz, 28-core Intel Xeon W processor (likely the Xeon W-3275 or W-3275M).

The new Mac tower inspired discussions around the How-To Geek watercooler about whether packing one of these multicore behemoths into your next PC build is worth it.

Let’s face it; Apple’s new workstation isn’t realistic for most of us. Pricing for the new Mac Pro starts at $6,000 and escalates up to “small business loan.” The new desktops also have restricted upgrade possibilities due to proprietary connectors, and they lack the vast gaming potential on the Windows side.

So, should you leave the bounties of Core i7 and i9 processors behind to experiment with the world of Xeon?

Probably not, and here’s why.

What’s a Xeon CPU?

Xeon is Intel’s CPU lineup, and it’s aimed primarily at business workstations and servers. These CPUs typically offer more cores than mainstream PCs, but the clock speeds are a little wonky when compared with their Core i7 and i9 counterparts.

The Intel Xeon W-3275/W-3275M, for example, has clock speeds that start at 2.5 GHz and go up to 4.40 GHz, with a further boost to 4.60 GHz under certain loads. Compare that to the popular Core i9-9900K, which has a base clock of 3.60 GHz and a boost of 5.0 GHz. Clearly, the Core i9-9900K’s clock speeds are loads better for the average PC user.

Intel's Xeon processor package.Intel

Then, you have the Xeon W-3223. This is also an eight-core, 16-thread chip, like the Core i9-9900K, but its clock speed tops out at 4.0 GHz, and its MSRP is about $250 higher than the i9-9900K. In short, Xeon clock speeds can either be close to a top Core part or well below it.

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