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Intel Core i7-975 Extreme And i7-950 Reviewed

Introduction

Intel doesn’t need to launch a pair of new CPUs today. Its thousand dollar Core i7-965 Extreme is already the fastest chip out there by a comfortable margin. Its five hundred-something dollar Core i7-940 slides into second place without an issue. And the company’s entry-level Core i7, the 920, is reasonably priced to the point where it fits into our $1,300 System Builder Marathon parts list (and of course, it also helps that the 2.66 GHz chip approaches 4 GHz with some regularity).

Nevertheless, the company is taking advantage of Computex to launch a pair of fresh Core i7s—the 975 Extreme and the 950. Given their names, you’d think that these newcomers would fall into place on either side of the i7-965. But that’s not the plan at all. Instead, Intel says the i7-975 Extreme will replace the 965 at its exorbitant $1,000 price point and the i7-950 will replace the 940 at $562.

For the time being, 940s will probably float around in the channel at reduced prices. But with i7-920s still the overclocking darlings for less than $300, even a discounted i7-940 would still cost more than we’d be otherwise willing to pay for it.

i7-920, i7-965, and i7-975

Things Change / Stay The Same

The last time we reviewed a Core i7 processor was the Nehalem architecture’s launch in November of last year. Back then, the infrastructure supporting i7 was decidedly high-end. A handful of $300-$400 motherboards were pretty much it, and 1.65V DDR3 triple-channel memory kits were still brand new.

Fortunately, much has changed. There are at least four X58-based motherboards selling for less than $200. Six gigabyte DDR3 memory kits are selling for well under $100 now. And even the entry-level (for the i7 family, that is) 920 has dropped a bit down to $279. Of course, those price points only matter if you’re in the market for Core i7 as cheap as you can find it.

Core i7-975 Extreme and Core i7-950 are not in the same category. The i7-975, specifically, is for the enthusiast who wants a guaranteed 3.3 GHz+ clock rate, to know he’s getting the D0 stepping, and doesn’t mind shelling out the same $999 that, yesterday, would have bought a 3.2 GHz i7-965 Extreme.

The i7-950 puts 133 MHz on its predecessor, but still remains the middle-child. At $562, the i7-950 costs $280 more than the i7-920 and runs well within reach of every 920 overclock we’ve ever seen—even the retail chips that have come through our lab. Thus, we’re not going to spend a ton of time on the i7-950 (though you will see it in all of the benchmark charts).

  • 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