Intel's controversial 'auction-only' Core i9-9990XE finally goes on sale, sort of

You can now buy Intel's ultra-rare 14-core, 5GHz Core i9 processor.

If you covet nigh-impossible things to get, then you’ll be happy that Intel’s ultra-powerful and uber-rare Core i9-9990XE processor has finally reached retail.

Well, sort of anyway. As noted by AnandTech’s Anton Shilov, German retailer CaseKing.De has listed the Core i9-9990XE for 2.999,00 Euros or $3,376.08 American. This LGA2066 CPU packs 14 Hyper-Threaded cores based on the Skylake-X microarchitecture, and it can run all those cores at 5GHz turbo frequency. 

Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of the Core i9-9990XE. The CPU isn’t in Intel’s official ARK database. It only showed up on the radar when it surfaced earlier this year as an “auction only” item. And by auction, that didn’t mean consumers could nab them by bidding on them—it meant the companies that built high-end PCs would have to bid on them to get one.

The auction-only approach was derided by PC enthusiasts who felt left out of the action, and by AMD fans who said it was just a PR stunt to get attention.

Intel has never commented much on it beyond saying that the Core i9-9990XE was built for special use cases. A spokesperson reiterated that stance when we asked for a comment on the processor’s retail availability:

“The Intel Core i9-9990XE is designed specifically for the financial services industry because of specific customer requirements. Because the Intel Core i9-9990XE was built with unique specifications and high frequency to meet the workload needs of this targeted industry, it can only be produced in limited quantities and will not be broadly made available. The part will be offered through an auction to ensure fairness in supply distribution.”

But conversations we’ve had with boutique vendors indicate the Core i9-9990XE was mostly an experiment to drum up excitement.

caseking IDG

CaseKing.De is selling perhaps the rarest Core i9 ever made.

The idea was to give boutique vendors who already traffic in exotic hardware and prices an even more exotic chip for their most discriminating customers. It didn’t always work out that way though.

System builder Puget Systems gave the Core i9-9990XE a good going-over and found it to be a stupidly fast CPU. But even so, Puget decided it wouldn’t sell systems containing the powerhouse chip, citing its lack of warranty, unpredictable availability, and excessive heat production.