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Welcome To Gulftown

Intel Core i7-980X Extreme: Hello, Six-Core Computing
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Of course, Gulftown is enabled by Intel’s 32nm manufacturing process—the same node we saw debut back in January with the Clarkdale and Arrandale processor families. This time, however, enthusiasts don’t have to be bamboozled by a second, on-package 45nm die handling graphics, memory control, and PCI Express connectivity. The Core i7-980X gets us performance-freaks back to where we want to be—on-die memory controller, PCI Express handled by the well-endowed X58 chipset, and discrete graphics only, please.

With Gulftown, Intel uses its 32nm process to add cores and cache, rather than push integration. As a result, we have a six-core processor with 12MB of shared L3 cache. Architecturally, Gulftown is otherwise the same as Bloomfield. Each core gets 32KB of L1 instruction cache, 32KB of L1 data cache, and a dedicated 256KB L2 cache.

The 12MB shared L3 actually is a potential performance-booster. Because the cache can be dynamically allocated, an application that only utilizes one core can conceptually monopolize the entire cache. According to Intel, there are some gains to be had in gaming, for example, but it’ll be difficult to gauge just how much of the speed-up we see comes from increased core count versus cache, particularly since we’re using very few single-threaded benchmarks any more.

Despite the addition of two cores and 4MB of L3, Gulftown employs a smaller die than its predecessor (248 square millimeters versus Bloomfield’s 263). Transistor count increases from 731 million to 1.17 billion. That’s fairly incredible, considering the Core i7-980X fits within the same 130W thermal envelope as existing Core i7-900-series processors.

Core i7-980XCore i7-980XCore i7-975Core i7-975

Gulftown’s memory controller remains unchanged, still rated for three channels of DDR3-1066 memory. This is actually somewhat interesting, since the 130W Westmere-EP processors that Intel plans to launch alongside Gulftown support DDR3-1333 (and with up to two modules per channel, no less). Nevertheless, we should see similar memory performance, as Bloomfield’s four cores clearly weren’t starved for data anyway.

The other addition worth noting is AES-NI, Intel’s hardware-based instructions for accelerating the cryptography standard. Previously seen only in the company’s Clarkdale-based Core i5s (and unfortunately left out of the other Clarkdales), AES-NI isn’t yet having a massive effect on performance. But as we’ll see in the benchmarks, there’s a ton of potential there.

2010 Intel Core i7 Processor Family

Base Clock
Max. Turbo Clock
Cores / Threads
L3 Cache
Memory
TDP
Price
Core i7-980X
3.33 GHz
3.6 GHz
6/12
12MB
3 x DDR3-1066
130W
$999
Core i7-975
3.33 GHz
3.6 GHz
4/8
8MB
3 x DDR3-1066
130W$999
Core i7-960
3.2 GHz
3.46 GHz
4/8
8MB
3 x DDR3-1066
130W$562
Core i7-920
2.66 GHz
2.93 GHz
4/8
8MB
3 x DDR3-1066130W$284
Core i7-870
2.93 GHz
3.6 GHz
4/8
8MB
2 x DDR3-1333
95W
$562
Core i7-860
2.8 GHz
3.46 GHz
4/8
8MB
2 x DDR3-133395W
$284


Hyper-Threading And Turbo Boost Persist

Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost were both interesting new additions to Bloomfield. They naturally are a part of the Gulftown story, too.

We hadn’t seen Hyper-Threading in years prior to Bloomfield. Because the software community has become better about threading since then, though, the feature was more of a boon to Nehalem than it was to Pentium 4. Thus, the same technology that allowed four cores to address eight threads now enables six cores to juggle 12. At the very least, this makes for a cool screen shot, especially from a single-socket desktop.

Turbo Boost carries over as well. We were really starting to get excited about Turbo when the Lynnfield-based quad-core chips emerged with four and five speed bins (133 MHz increments), giving us up to 533 MHz with a single core active. Unfortunately, Gulftown drops us back to Bloomfield’s more conservative binning structure. When one core is active, you’ll see two bins (or 266 MHz) of speed-up, yielding 3.6 GHz. With two or more cores active, you get a one-bin boost to 3.46 GHz.

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Top Comments
  • 29 Hide
    one-shot , March 11, 2010 3:15 AM
    shuffman37First Comment, I'll be staying up to read this review =)


    I'm guessing you didn't read this.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/toms-hardware-reviews-news-comments,9855.html
  • 18 Hide
    frozenlead , March 11, 2010 3:53 AM
    Why do we bother with iTunes anymore..just get rid of it. I did I don't even know how many years ago.
  • 13 Hide
    eugenester , March 11, 2010 3:47 AM
    I wonder how much AMD's Phenom II X6 will be and how it will compare to 980X...
Other Comments
  • 29 Hide
    one-shot , March 11, 2010 3:15 AM
    shuffman37First Comment, I'll be staying up to read this review =)


    I'm guessing you didn't read this.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/toms-hardware-reviews-news-comments,9855.html
  • 9 Hide
    tipmen , March 11, 2010 3:15 AM
    Hm, not bad at all more cores at the same price as 975. Games don't seem to scale that much but CAD and transcoding is improved overall. Glad to see AMDs 965 hold its own in the game segment.
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , March 11, 2010 3:19 AM
    one-shotI'm guessing you didn't read this.http://www.tomshardware.com/news/t [...] ,9855.html

    Nope, Haven't bothered looking at that. The 980x doesn't really make any difference in gaming but I wasn't expecting anything earth shattering. Does look good against the 965 x4 for mutlimedia applications.
  • 0 Hide
    beans4you , March 11, 2010 3:21 AM
    glad im going with the right x58! miiiight have to upgrade my cpu choice ;) 
  • 3 Hide
    tipmen , March 11, 2010 3:25 AM
    shuffman37Nope, Haven't bothered looking at that. The 980x doesn't really make any difference in gaming but I wasn't expecting anything earth shattering. Does looks good against the 965 x4 for mutlimedia applications.



    It is a good reminder how to act on toms you should read it when you get the chance.
  • 1 Hide
    gkay09 , March 11, 2010 3:27 AM
    Lolz...The Crysis benchmark and the Chris's starting line...Am sure he would have been forced to post that so that no one start with the infamous tag line "But can it play Crysis ?" :p 
  • 13 Hide
    gkay09 , March 11, 2010 3:32 AM
    And Chris it would be nice if you could post some benchmarks of games that are CPU taxing like the GTA IV/ FSX...Most of the games used in the above benchmarks dont tax the CPU as much as these...
  • 2 Hide
    cangelini , March 11, 2010 3:40 AM
    I hear you there gkay...I used to do more with GTA IV (not sure how prolific FS X still is), but it just depends on how many folks still want to see it. As a *general* rule, $1,000 CPUs aren't going to do much for your high-res gaming. However, it's a good point that there are a couple of titles notorious for hitting graphics far less than host processing power!
  • 1 Hide
    footsoldier , March 11, 2010 3:43 AM
    wow wow..6 cores already!! Truly is the fastest now. AMD, do keep up!!
  • -4 Hide
    pinkfloydminnesota , March 11, 2010 3:46 AM
    NO GTA IV? Should get great gains as it's notoriously CPU limited by the best quad cores. Unforgivable.
  • 13 Hide
    eugenester , March 11, 2010 3:47 AM
    I wonder how much AMD's Phenom II X6 will be and how it will compare to 980X...
  • 18 Hide
    frozenlead , March 11, 2010 3:53 AM
    Why do we bother with iTunes anymore..just get rid of it. I did I don't even know how many years ago.
  • 0 Hide
    curnel_D , March 11, 2010 4:01 AM
    TheCapuletFSX would be a perfect gaming title for the CPU benchies. The thing is, it's not a gaming crowd title, but there are still a ton of people who still use it.Another really good title for CPU benchmarks is Lost planet. From what I remember, it is one of the best cpu scaling games, even today.

    Wholly agreed.
  • 0 Hide
    touchdowntexas13 , March 11, 2010 4:06 AM
    Alright, so just a bit of speculation, but how does everyone expect these new six-core cpu's to affect prices of the mid-high grade cpus?

    Obviously this Intel won't be forcing down any reasonable prices, but I am hoping that AMD's six core will bring down the price of either the i5-750 or the i7-930.

    I guess one can always hope...
  • 2 Hide
    Zinosys , March 11, 2010 4:16 AM
    Well, from a gaming standpoint, there is not much difference between the chips. But in a corporate environment (workstations/servers), the 6-core processors are going to make a HUGE difference, and to say that you can run 2 extra cores with almost the same power consumption, that's priceless.

    Great article! :) 
  • 2 Hide
    avericia , March 11, 2010 4:17 AM
    "What’d really be cool for the enthusiast crowd would be a line of quad-core CPUs manufactured at 32nm. Almost certainly scalable to even higher clock rates"

    This is exact same thing I've been dreaming of, a high clocked 32nm quad at a reasonable price, maybe even with an unlocked multiplier :p 


    Hopefully we don't have to wait until Q1 2011 to be able to buy one.
  • 5 Hide
    shin0bi272 , March 11, 2010 4:37 AM
    To be honest the main reason I got an x58 mobo when they came out was the rumor that there was going to be an 8 core version with HT and turbo mode within 2 years of the original launch date. It would seem those reports were right (they were intel's original claims after all) but might be a little late depending on how fast the 6 cores sell. But hopefully by the time the 8 core versions come out I'll have the money to buy one lol.

    Great article though I really enjoyed flipping through all the pages of benchies... sort of wish you could have used dual 5970's for the gaming test though since the 5850 seems to have been your bottleneck with all the game tests.
  • 6 Hide
    doomtomb , March 11, 2010 4:38 AM
    This thing is real and it's FAST. I'm impressed but gamers, you don't need it. Benchmark breakers and Pixar need it though.
  • 4 Hide
    noob2222 , March 11, 2010 4:56 AM
    This is definatly aimed at business use only. Gamers would be wasting thier money on something like this.

    Without seeing numbers, I'd guess AMD will counter with 2/3 of the performance, (possibly more depending on how aggressive they take thier speed boost), but it will be at 1/3 of the price. We may find out as early as April.
  • 1 Hide
    magicandy , March 11, 2010 5:06 AM
    How can you run game benchmarks for a CPU without testing THE most CPU-taxing genre, RTS? Seriously, I was at least expecting World in Conflict or SupCom 2....I mean those games will really show you CPU differences.
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