The Intel Core i7-990X Extreme Edition Processor Review

Benchmark Results: Content Creation

In Intel’s Second-Gen Core CPUs: The Sandy Bridge Review, Intel’s Core i7-2600K was the fastest processor in our lineup of ten different tested chips. None of the Extreme Edition models made it in that story, but several folks requested results from the flagship processors. Well, here you have it.

Using the mental ray renderer in 3ds Max, we’re able to visually see the software taking advantage of all of the Core i7-990X’s logical cores. The result is a fairly significant performance improvement in switching from the quad-core -2600K to the Gulftown-based CPUs.

There is not, however, much difference between the incoming flagship and its predecessor.

AMD’s $240 Phenom II X6 1100T is able to shove its way past the $300 Core i7-960 using two extra physical cores to best Intel’s eight logical processors.

The Core i7-2600K also ruled our Photoshop CS5 benchmark previously. Again, that changes here. Both Extreme Edition processors glide right by. Though, again, we see much less differentiation between the -990X and -980X.

This was another compelling victory for the Core i7-2600K in my Sandy Bridge launch coverage. However, the Core i7-990X and -980X both show us better results when they’re factored in.

Clearly, Adobe spent little time optimizing for AMD’s processor lineup. The six-core Phenom II X6 1100T gets decimated by even the quad-core Core i7-960.

Premiere Pro would be an excellent use case for Intel in showing off what six cores and 12 threads can do, demonstrating that there is an audience for these $1000 CPUs. However, I have an even easier way to cut all of these times down to a minute or two: buy a CUDA-enabled GeForce card. When you enable hardware-based acceleration of Adobe’s Mercury Playback Engine, encode times plunge (Adobe CS5: 64-bit, CUDA-Accelerated, And Threaded Performance).

After Effects CS5 doesn’t emphasize parallelism as intensively as Premiere Pro. The Core i7-2600K slides right past both of the hexa-core heavy-hitters. Moreover, the difference between first place and last is much smaller.

The results here are similar to After Effects, and the Core i7-2600K outmaneuvers both Extreme Edition processors.

Cinebench’s built-in CPU benchmark favors the six-core Gulftown-based chips, but the OpenGL renderer turns back much better results from Core i7-2600K.

Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • kikireeki
    Chris, I think your first conclusion still valid.
  • binoyski
    Darn, the contest should be open to all Tom's Hardware registered users even from a different country!
  • 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.
  • HansVonOhain
    This is just a ripoff by intel on those who are not knowledgeable enough that more expensive does not always mean better.
  • cangelini
    kikireekiChris, I think your first conclusion still valid.
    Which one was that? :)
  • 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.
  • 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 :-/
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 :-)