I recently wrote about the apparent supply-to-demand imbalance of Intel‘s (NASDAQ:INTC) eight- and 10-core Core X processors for the high-end desktop market. In short, demand seems to be outstripping supply. 

I pointed to a couple of factors that may be driving this supply to-demand imbalance. The first was that the Skylake-X-based Core X chips are based on the same chips Intel sells to its data-center customers in the form of Xeon Scalable Processors.

The backside of an Intel Core X processor.

Image source: Intel.

Since those data-center customers generally dramatically outnumber the high-end desktop processor customers, and since those data-center customers feed into what is arguably Intel’s most important business unit, they’re likely to be taken care of first, at the potential expense of consumers.

The second factor I wrote about was that the launch of these chips was rushed. That may have given Intel less-than-typical time to build up inventories of some of these Core X chips — which, in turn, may have caused Intel not to ship enough initial product to its distribution partners.

As I think about it, though, another potential factor comes to mind: the difficulty of building these Core X chips.

Intel’s Core X lineup is relatively aggressive

One of the things I really liked about Intel’s Core X lineup is that it’s aggressive — substantially more than what Intel sold previously. What I mean is that Intel validates these chips at much higher speeds out of the box than it had done with previous high-end desktop chips.

Here’s an example. Intel’s last generation Core i7-6950X — a 10-core processor that sold for north of $1,700 at launch — was rated at a base frequency of 3GHz and a maximum single-core turbo frequency of 3.5GHz. This year’s Core i9-7900X, also a 10-core processor, comes rated at a 3.3GHz base frequency but a maximum single-core turbo speed of 4.3GHz.

What this means, then, is that Intel needs to certify that each one of the 10 cores found on the 7900X runs at 4.3GHz — a 22% jump from what Intel had to deliver with its prior-generation 10-core part.

Now, to some extent, Intel’s improved manufacturing technology helps Intel deliver that increased frequency — Intel says the 14-nanometer+ technology used to build the 7900X is about 12% faster than the 14-nanometer technology used to build the 6950X. But I still believe the 7900X is fundamentally significantly harder to build than the 6950X.

Moreover, Intel sells the 7900X for $999, while the older 6950X sold for around $1,700, so demand is likely to be higher for the 7900X than it was for the 6950X simply because of the former’s much lower price point.

A similar argument can be made for the Core i7-7820X eight-core processor relative to the last-generation Core i7-6900K. The 7820X runs at much higher frequencies out of the box than the 6900K did, yet the 7820X is substantially cheaper.

So when considering the supply-to-demand imbalance, it may be that the current Core X processors are seeing higher demand than their predecessors because of lower price points while being significantly harder to manufacture.

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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