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Intel Core i7-975 Extreme And i7-950 Reviewed

Conclusion

If you spend enough time in our comments section, then you’re probably under the impression that AMD currently holds the performance crown and can do no wrong. I get it; AMD is the underdog and it’s hip to applaud competition. I'm certainly in favor of faster hardware, lower prices, and fair capitalism; those things benefit us all.

But don’t let the fanboys fool you—Intel’s Core i7 is the fastest CPU out there, which is why, even after giving our readers a chance to weigh in and guide the direction of our System Builder Marathon series, two of the three builds ended up based on Core i7-920 CPUs. The processor tears up our A/V and productivity tests. Plus it competes well-enough in gaming environments to trade blows with the competing Phenom II and older Core 2 architectures.

It’d seem to be all good news, then, that Intel is launching the Core i7-975 Extreme and Core i7-950, running at 3.33 GHz and 3.06 GHz respectively, at the same prices the company was asking for its Core i7-965 Extreme and i7-940, right? After all, you’re getting 133 MHz  in both cases without spending a penny more than you would have otherwise.

For the folks who buy tier-one boxes and have no interest in touching their nuts and bolts, the appeal of these new chips is clear. But that isn’t me, and it’s probably not you either. There’s a reason we keep revisiting the Core i7-920. Despite its 2.66 GHz stock clock (and the fact that everyone’s overclocking experience is going to differ), we haven’t seen a single sample that had a problem exceeding the speed of Intel’s thousand-dollar flagship, plus some.

I don’t have any problem recommending Core i7 over Phenom II right now—even if it costs an extra $100 (this was my conclusion back when AMD launched the X4 955, and it hasn’t changed). But that recommendation only extends as far as the Core i7-920. At $562 and $999, the 950 and 975 Extreme launching today don’t warrant the step up if you’re an enthusiast undeterred by the thought of Bclk-based overclocking.

Kudos to Intel for raising the bar and enabling extra performance, even when both of the products being replaced were uncontested. But we’ll leave those premium bins to the folks who don’t mind spending extra money on peace of mind. At least for the time being, and given the frequencies we already hit with it, the i7-920 is too sweet a deal to ignore at $280.

  • smithereen
    I've never seen anyone saying that the Phenom II is faster than any Core i7...
    Reply
  • cruiseoveride
    Doesn't make any difference with games
    Reply
  • cangelini
    The i7's disadvantage in Far Cry 2 is well-known. That it gets beat in HAWX is something we only discovered this time around. In everything else, it's the faster CPU.
    Reply
  • Tindytim
    Are we going to see a price reduction in the 940 or the 965 that gives me any reason to purchase them over the 920?
    Reply
  • cangelini
    Not enough to warrant spending an extra $200 or more, in my opinion.
    Reply
  • burnley14
    Good thing I didn't shell out for the 965 yesterday.

    Oh wait, I don't have unlimited cash, so I won't be shelling out for the 975 any time soon either . . .
    Reply
  • Dustpuppy
    Those game results look like you ran into serious GPU limits. As a result I think you may have been showing a difference in motherboards rather than processors on some of those tests. That does make it an interesting result in other ways though. It looks like the i7 boards have room to mature a little bit more relative to the older tech.
    Reply
  • Summer Leigh Castle
    Who said that AMD holds the crown in performance? I think any half witted enthusiast who hasn't been hiding underneath a rock for the past year knows that the i7 (and even the core 2 duo in some test) is king. I would hope that people who visit tomshardware or rather any tech website knows that in terms of highend power, AMD doesn't come close to Intel at all.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    DustpuppyThose game results look like you ran into serious GPU limits. As a result I think you may have been showing a difference in motherboards rather than processors on some of those tests. That does make it an interesting result in other ways though. It looks like the i7 boards have room to mature a little bit more relative to the older tech.
    Likely, yes. If you look back to this doozy of a benchmark-fest, you'll see it isn't under you add a second or third GTX 280 that i7 starts putting on some distance. Up until then, though, it's worth noting that the other two platforms (Core 2 and Phenom) are actually faster!
    Reply
  • doomtomb
    Really, any of the i7 processors besides the 920 seems like a waste because of the marginal performance increases for exponential price hikes. I was especially alarmed by the DDR3 memory results. There is the synthetic benchmark advantage of higher bandwidth at higher speeds but absolutely no difference across the board ranging from 1066 to 2133 in real world encoding or what not.

    Pretty absurd, I think I'd just stick with the 920 @ 3.8GHz and some affordable DDR3 1600MHz memory.
    Reply