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The Intel Core i7-990X Extreme Edition Processor Review

Conclusion

Two months ago, when I finished testing Intel’s Core i5-2500K and Core i7-2600K, I came to the conclusion that you’d have to be battier than Charlie Sheen with a suitcase of blow to spend $1000 on a Core i7-980X Extreme Edition in the face of Sandy Bridge-based CPUs. I was so convinced, in fact, that I didn’t bother benchmarking the super-exclusive chip, and instead focused on drilling deep into Quick Sync and Intel’s HD Graphics engines.

Now, in the face of a new flagship processor, we see that there are actually situations where a Core i7-900-series chip still makes sense. Frankly, enthusiasts and gamers need not apply. You can get so much value from the Core i5-2500K for $230 that it’s entirely worth waiting for new P67-based motherboards before you buy something new. Or, hold off for Z68, which will have some surprises of its own. The $770 you pocket as a result of not buying an Extreme Edition CPU buys a sick set of GeForce GTX 570s in SLI and a couple terabytes of storage.

But if your workstation is responsible for making you money; if it’s a true workhorse that you know for a fact muscles through threaded software like Premiere Pro, 3ds Max, and MainConcept (among others), then there’s a legitimate business case for buying the highest-end processor possible. And if you’re in that position, you can probably calculate exactly how long it’ll take for the Core i7-990X to pay for itself.

More so now than ever before, Intel’s X58 Express platform is being pegged as a 1P server/workstation configuration, and not a power user’s toy. There are limited reasons you’d actually want to spend $1000 on a processor in light of Sandy Bridge’s potency. The reasons are there though, and we’ve illustrated where you can expect to see them surface…

Win a Core i7-990X? We can make that happen.

…granted, it’d be a lot more fun to win Intel’s six-core flagship in a random giveaway, wouldn’t it? Well, we can make that happen—and all you have to do is enter. We’ve opened up the stash box, and here’s what we have:

  • 2 x Combo Intel Core i7-990X and Intel DX58SO2 Motherboard: Value of $1261
  • 1 x Combo Intel Core i7-980X and Intel DX58SO2 Motherboard: Value of $1261
  • 2 x Combo Intel Core i7-950 and Intel DX58SO2 Motherboard: Value of $556
  • 25 x one-month supply of Sparkling ICE water (two cases): Value of $54

The contest is going on between now and the end of the day, March 10th. Click here for the entry-sheet and a full list of rules.

  • kikireeki
    Chris, I think your first conclusion still valid.
    Reply
  • binoyski
    Darn, the contest should be open to all Tom's Hardware registered users even from a different country!
    Reply
  • Saljen
    My friend just built a new gaming rig with the 980x as the processor... He plays Age of Conan. I busted up laughing when he said he spent $1k on a processor that he'll only use to 1/10th of its potential. Told him he should have gotten an i5, now I'll send him this article as further proof.
    Reply
  • HansVonOhain
    This is just a ripoff by intel on those who are not knowledgeable enough that more expensive does not always mean better.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    kikireekiChris, I think your first conclusion still valid.
    Which one was that? :)
    Reply
  • adamboy64
    Well, some people just want the best when they buy a PC, regardless of cost efficiency, can't blame 'em. There'll always be that market.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    binoyskiDarn, the contest should be open to all Tom's Hardware registered users even from a different country!
    Really wish it could be binoyski. We have specific tax laws, unfortunately, that prevent it. Same reason the folks in RI can't enter :-/
    Reply
  • joytech22
    Wow AMD's CPU is just getting plain-ol decimated in this review.

    Still, it does hold it's ground even though the architecture is like 4 years old, using the same technology that was around back when the C2Q's we're the high-end (the same as the original phenoms on a die shrink).

    Because of this, I can almost guarantee AMD's success with their future CPU's, just like I predicted the 2600K would be faster in most cases than the 980X.

    That doesn't mean I'm saying that Bulldozer will outperform the i7's or upcoming 8-core Intel CPU's I'm just saying that there's going to be some serious decisions for upgraders this year.

    I mean look at Magny corus 12 core (2.2GHz) vs i7 980x, it's almost as fast and 1GHz slower (but 12 physical cores) and cost's the same.
    Reply
  • iam2thecrowe
    joytech22Wow AMD's CPU is just getting plain-ol decimated in this review.i wouldnt say decimated, and its cheaper also. That benchmark of metro 2033 is interesting, particularly the better lowfps the AMD chip managed. But i agree they have flogged this horse as far as it will go and they need bulldozer ASAP to be competitive.
    Reply
  • haplo602
    HansVonOhainThis is just a ripoff by intel on those who are not knowledgeable enough that more expensive does not always mean better.
    I thought that's what Intel is doing with all of their CPUs :-)
    Reply