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Intel Core i7-980X Extreme: Hello, Six-Core Computing

Conclusion

Even before benchmarking Intel’s new Core i7-980X I had a sense for how the processor would perform. Add cores and cache, but leave the rest of the architecture alone, and don’t be surprised to see scaling wholly dependent on software’s ability to utilize those additional compute resources.

Fortunately, for Intel, most of the apps in our benchmark suite are able to make the best of Gulftown’s six cores, reflecting a software environment that has come a long way since the Pentium Extreme Edition 840 debuted back in 2005. Now, we’re making benchmark decisions based on whether titles are threaded or not.

It’s a bit of a bummer, then, that the only six-core CPU for the desktop is Intel’s Core i7-980X. The processor is certainly impressive. It takes the performance of Core i7-975 and accelerates it even further, especially in MainConcept, HandBrake, Photoshop, and TMPGEnc’s DivX encoding workload. At the same $999 price point, picking the 980X over the 975 is a no-brainer. Time is money. If the time Core i7-980X will shave off your renders, encode jobs, or CAD projects is worth the processor’s asking price, this is the fastest desktop processor money can buy. Update: Intel clarifies that Gulftown will be available within the next few weeks; it's simply taking the wraps off of the processor a bit early. So, Core i7-980X will be the fastest desktop processor just as soon as it's available.

But again, we’re talking about a thousand bucks here. If you’re primarily gaming, we see the Core i7-920, Core i5-750, and Phenom II X4 965 serving up just as much muscle at the resolutions and quality settings at which you’re going to want to play.

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 and armed with AES-NI, these would be high-performance, lower-power options that’d go really well with today’s less-expensive X58-based motherboards.

The potential for such a design is supported by Intel’s plans to launch quad-core 32nm Xeon processors based on its Westmere-EP design. But the most we could get out of Intel regarding its desktop plans was “we’re considering all options.” Ah well, we tried. At least for the near future, it looks like Intel will get to bask in the even-larger performance advantage its Core i7-980X opens up over the competition’s fastest offering. Just be ready to open your wallet wide for the privilege of owning one.

  • one-shot
    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
    Reply
  • tipmen
    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.
    Reply
  • one-shotI'm guessing you didn't read this.http://www.tomshardware.com/news/t ,9855.htmlNope, 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.
    Reply
  • beans4you
    glad im going with the right x58! miiiight have to upgrade my cpu choice ;)
    Reply
  • tipmen
    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.
    Reply
  • gkay09
    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
    Reply
  • gkay09
    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...
    Reply
  • cangelini
    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!
    Reply
  • footsoldier
    wow wow..6 cores already!! Truly is the fastest now. AMD, do keep up!!
    Reply
  • pinkfloydminnesota
    NO GTA IV? Should get great gains as it's notoriously CPU limited by the best quad cores. Unforgivable.
    Reply