Intel Xeon: Complete Guide to Server Processors

intel xeon

Intel Xeon: Complete Guide to Server Processors

Key Points:

  • The Xeon is broken down into many categories to provide different levels of solutions.
  • As powerful as the Xeon is, it probably is overkill for the average home computer.
  • Intel CPUs have core counts of up to 28 and a manufacturing process of just 14nm!

The Intel Xeon processor revolutionized server technology. But the Xeon did not take over all at once. Instead, Intel continuously improved the Xeon processor with each new generation. The result is a lineup of the most popular server processors in the world.

Today’s article will explore the legendary Intel Xeon, a server-grade processor responsible for powering servers in data centers worldwide. We’ll review some of the latest Intel Xeon processors and dive into some of their unique features.

Intel Xeon: Best Deal Today

The Intel Xeon is one of the best processors you can buy to outfit a business workstation or build a server farm. While consumer Intel processors are designed strictly for use in home PCs, Xeon CPUs are purpose-built enterprise-class solutions for large-scale business use.

As a result, there are hundreds of different models to choose from, each with its unique abilities and features. The various families of Intel Xeon processors can be broken down into a few distinct categories:

  • Budget Option: Intel Xeon E Series
  • Best Low-Power: Intel Xeon D Series
  • Best Workstation Class: Intel Xeon W Series
  • Scalable Server Processors: Intel Xeon SP Silver, Gold, and Platinum

Intel Xeon: Overview

Intel corporate office HQ
Intel is the world’s largest semiconductor chip manufacturer by revenue.

The Xeon line is a cornerstone product of the world’s most famed CPU company — Intel. You can’t talk about processors without discussing Intel, and there is a good reason for this. The company got its start in 1968 in Mountain View, California.

With an army of skilled technicians and researchers, the company set out to change the computing world forever. Only a few years later, in 1971, Intel released the 4004 chip, the first microprocessor on the market. Intel enjoyed massive success throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

By the time the ’90s drew to a close, Intel had the world’s largest market share of any chip maker. Intel used this as leverage to muscle its way into the business sector.

While the company’s early chips were responsible for bringing personal computing to the masses, even more potential lay on the horizon with business users. Before the decade was out, Intel released the first official Xeon processor.

Based on a Pentium II, this new Xeon was aimed squarely at business and enterprise use. In the past, servers did not use particular high-performance processors. Instead, they used relatively weak, underpowered CPUs for home use or custom fabrications. Nothing could compare to the new Intel Xeon. 

While the earliest Intel Xeon processors used an archaic 250nm manufacturing process and only supported single-core processing, this would soon change. After a few years of development, Intel released the Netburst architecture, which allowed Xeon processors to operate with two cores. Progress increased rapidly over the following decade, with manufacturing processes getting smaller and core counts increasing.

Largest Electronics Companies

Intel company has been building microchips for many years.

Intel Xeon: Different Versions

Today, Intel Xeon CPUs are some of the most powerful processors in the world. With core counts of up to 28 cores and with a manufacturing process of just 14nm, the latest Xeons push the envelope of what a processor is capable of. 

Enough history—let’s talk about the current lineup of Intel Xeon CPUs.

Intel Xeon processors have undergone drastic changes and updates since the earliest models. Today, the current Xeon CPU offerings are broken down into a few specific categories. Each version is aimed at a particular use case and comes with its own set of unique advantages.

Intel Xeon E Series

Release Date2018
Word size64-bit
PCIe16 PCIe 3.0 lanes
Package65 – 95 Watts
MemoryUp to 128GB DDR4 ECC

If you look around the Intel Xeon product catalog for a few minutes, one thing becomes clear; Xeon CPUs are downright expensive! If you’re in charge of deploying a multi-million dollar data center, spending a few thousand on processors is not a problem. On the other hand, if you’re just an average joe hoping to get your hands on a workstation CPU, Xeons can appear out of reach.

Intel recognized this cost disparity eventually, although it did take 20 years. Released in 2018, two decades after the first Xeon, the “E-series” is the most economical Xeon processor ever made. This is the ideal model for you if you’re excited to get your hands on a Xeon without going bankrupt.

Intel Xeon E-2124 Processor, 8M Cache, 3.3GHz, FC-LGA14C, MM973772, BX80684E2124 - Retail Boxed
  • Intel Xeon E Processor
  • 4 Cores, 4 Threads
  • 8 MB Intel Smart Cache
  • 3.30 GHz Processor Base Frequency; 4.30 GHz Max Turbo Frequency
  • 8 GT/s Bus Speed
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Intel Xeon E processors are one step above mainstream desktop CPUs like the Intel Core i5, i7, and i9. They come with all of the workstation features you would expect, such as error-correcting memory and vPro. However, this level of Xeon does not offer the professional level of performance you might find in a pricier model like the W-series.

Even so, Intel Xeon E processors offer competitive performance for the money. The entry-level Xeon E-2124 offers four cores and 8 megabytes of L3 cache at under $200. Support for up to 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes and full ISA support make this a competent server processor. 

Intel Xeon W Series

Release Date2017
Word size64-bit
PCIe48 PCIe 3.0 lanes
TDP120 – 140 Watts
MemoryUp to 512GB DDR ECC

The W-series is a step above the E-series and is aimed at the professional workstation and server market. Launched in 2017, the Xeon W series is the workhorse of Intel’s lineup. Packing more cores than the previous generation Xeon E3 series CPUs and with higher PCIe and memory bandwidth, this CPU is a winner.

Intel divided the W-series into two distinct categories. On the lower end, you have the Xeon W 2000 series. Aimed at workstation enthusiasts, this model offers competitive performance at a relatively low price.

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Conversely, you have the Xeon W 3000-series positioned as the high-end model. Based on the same socket type as scalable Xeon processors, this is the best W-series Xeon available.

The best Xeon W series models cost upwards of $7,000. For this price, you get 28 cores, 56 threads, and a max frequency of 4.6GHz. With support for up to 512GB of error-correcting DDR4 RAM, this CPU offers top-notch performance for data centers, servers, and cloud services companies.

Intel Xeon D Series

Release Date2015
Word size64-bit
PCIe24 PCIe 3.0 + 8 PCIe 2.0 lanes
TDP20-65 Watts
MemoryUp to 128GB DDR4 ECC

The Intel Xeon D-series is unique. Launched in 2015, this series was initially announced two years earlier as a collaboration between Intel and Facebook. It’s focused on delivering low-power modular performance for concurrent workloads. The Xeon D series is perfect for applications requiring significant memory bandwidth.

The biggest benefit of this processor is its energy efficiency. With specific models capable of sipping power at a TDP of just 20 watts, these CPUs are designed strictly for low-power performance. That’s not to say they can’t perform.

In fact, quite the opposite. Despite the low energy consumption, these processors can handle up to 128GB of error-correcting RAM, full ISA support, and high bandwidth for up to 32 PCIe lanes.

Intel Xeon Scalable Bronze Series

Release Date2017
Word size64-bit
Technology48 PCIe 3.0 lanes
TDP85 Watts
Memory768GB DDR4 ECC

Intel divides the rest of the current lineup into its family of “scalable processors.” In order of least to most powerful, you have Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The Xeon Bronze is the entry-level scalable model. Designed as the successor to Intel’s older Xeon E5 and E7 series, this CPU is aimed at entry-level buyers of dual-socket servers.

INTEL XEON BRONZE 6 CORE PROCESSOR 3104 1.70GHZ 8.25MB 85W CPU CD8067303562000
  • PART NUMBER: CD8067303562000
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Ideal for lighter workloads, you can still enjoy the benefits of the Xeon platform, such as enhanced security, memory, and PCIe bandwidth. Unlike the other Xeon’s scalable series models, the Bronze model is relatively affordable. However, these CPUs don’t have more advanced features like Hyperthreading or Turbo Boost.

Intel Xeon Scalable Silver Series

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Release Date2017
Word size64-bit
PCIeUp to 48 PCIe 3.0 lanes
TDP70 – 85 Watts
Memory768GB DDR4 ECC

The Xeon Silver series is the next step up in Intel’s scalable lineup. With extra features like Turbo Boost and Hyperthreading, these CPUs are better for more complex workloads. In addition, this is the perfect processor for you if you need higher bandwidth than the Bronze series. However, this performance increase comes at a higher cost.

Intel Xeon Scalable Gold Series

Release Date2017
Word size64-bit
PCIeUp to 48 PCIe 3.0 lanes
TDP85 – 200  Watts
Memory1TB DDR4 ECC

Intel introduced the Gold series as a modest step up from the Silver series. As you might expect, this processor offers even higher specs and more advanced features for intensive workloads. Xeon Gold processors are massive, with an oversized System-on-Chip design accounting for the increased proportions. 

Intel Intel Xeon Gold 6134
  • The package length is 4.3 centimeters
  • The package height is 13.7 centimeters
  • The package width is 11.4 centimeters
  • Package Weight : 0.136 kilograms
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Additionally, while most Xeon Gold CPUs support 768GB of RAM per socket, the high-end M versions support up to 1.5TB of RAM per socket. You should be prepared to shell out some cash for these CPUs, though.

Intel Xeon Scalable Platinum Series

Release Date2017
Word size64-bit
PCIe48 PCIe 3.0 lanes
TDP250 – 400 Watts
MemoryUp to 2TB DDR4 ECC

The Intel Xeon Platinum series is in a league all its own. As the highest-end segment of scalable processors, the Platinum series offers substantial performance benefits and unique perks. These CPUs deliver special features for machine learning applications.

Additionally, you get support for performance-enhancing features like software and hardware accelerators. With such extensive support for artificial intelligence processing, the Xeon Platinum delivers a level of performance on the absolute cutting edge of technology.

  • CACHE: 38.5MB L3
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As you might expect, this series comes with the highest price tag. Even the cheapest entry-level Xeon Platinum models come in at over $3,000. That’s if you could call these CPUs “entry-level” at all, as they are anything but.

The flagship Xeon Platinum, known as the 9282, offers 56 cores, 112 threads, and an earth-shattering 77 Megabyte L3 cache. As the most elite Xeon currently on offer, expect to pay over $15,000 for this processor.

intel xeon

The Intel Xeon processor revolutionized server technology.

Intel Xeon: Review

As the Intel Xeon has evolved, it has pushed the boundaries of processing technology and claimed new territory for the company. With each generation smashing benchmarks set by the previous models, it’s no wonder thousands of companies have scrambled to get their hands on these processors.

After two decades of Xeon CPUs, they have become the most popular processors for servers and workstations worldwide. Additionally, Xeon processors typically offer more cache than desktop-grade CPUs.

While standard desktop processors primarily focus on single-core performance, Xeon processors are designed for intensive multi-core workloads. Many of the best Xeon CPUs have core counts in the dozens. Of course, this extra performance comes with a higher price tag, and Xeon CPUs are also some of the most expensive processors in the world.

However, Xeon processors are not better in every aspect. Xeon CPUs are less suitable for gaming and other consumer-level apps than desktop-grade models. This is due to their lower clock rates and lack of integrated graphics systems. Additionally, Xeons do not support overclocking, making them a poor choice for enthusiastic gamers. 

Intel Xeon: Pros and Cons


  • Scalable and expandable
  • Multi-core performance
  • High memory bandwidth
  • Virtualization
  • Security


  • Expensive
  • Low single-core performance
  • High power draw

Intel Xeon: Is it a buy?

Intel Xeon processors are not ideal for every use case. They have a particular audience compared to mainstream desktop processors like Intel Core and AMD Ryzen CPUs. 

Buy it if…

You want an enterprise-grade processor. Nothing works better for building out data centers, cloud computing platforms, web-hosting networks, and business computing. The Intel Xeon processor is the dominant player in the business processing industry. Open any server, and there is a strong chance that it has a Xeon processor powering it.

Additionally, if you manage the IT department for a tech company, there will come a time when you need to update your data centers with new hardware. Since Xeon processors have been used in the industry for many years, you should be educated on the various models available to make the best choice.

Don’t buy it if…

There are indeed more reasons not to buy a Xeon processor. For one, they are not suited to the typical applications that a home user will put through. You’ll get better performance from a consumer-grade CPU such as a Ryzen or Intel Core series for most tasks, from gaming to streaming. Xeon is excessive for most desktop PCs.

If you’re building a server to host web applications or serve multiple users, the Intel Xeon really shines. This is the ideal environment for the Xeon, which is why it’s so expensive. An Intel Xeon will not let you down if money is on the line and performance is critical.

Up Next…

We have lots more of reads for you dig into about specs!

Frequently Asked Questions

Who makes Xeon processors? 

Intel makes Xeon processors and has done so since 1998.

Is Xeon better than AMD? 

A Xeon CPU is not necessarily better than AMD. The EPYC series from AMD is the company’s answer to the Intel Xeon CPU. However, the processors are comparable.

Is Xeon better than i7 for gaming? 

No. Xeon processors are not designed for gaming and will not perform as good as an i7. Instead, Xeon shines in business and server applications.

What are Xeon processors used for?

Xeon processors are used in data-intensive, high-bandwidth applications that require multicore processing and high throughput. You will often find Xeon processors in servers and data centers.

Are Xeon processors good? 

Xeon processors are high-performance, scalable, and secure solutions for business computing, artificial intelligence models, and data serving. They are great for servers and workstations, but offer average or even below-average desktop computing performance when compared to consumer-grade CPUs.

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