Six-Core Analysis, Part 2: Intel Core i7-980X Scaling


Both AMD's Phenom II X6 and Intel’s Core i7-980X prove that a larger CPU core count is by far the most reasonable technique for improving overall performance. This largely depends on software support for threading, as applications need to be able to take advantage of more than one or two processor cores. However, with this support in place, we can see from our results that you’ll not only be getting much faster performance, but also highly improved efficiency (performance per watt).

Since idle power between six, four, or only two active cores doesn't vary much, we can only recommend leaving all cores switched on all the time (as we suspected at the start of this piece). There are other, much more effective ways to reduce power consumption than disabling cores. Likewise, our results show that it makes sense to pick the highest possible core count within a processor generation when you’re looking for maximum performance in threaded environments.

Unfortunately, only professional applications are truly thread-optimized across the board. Lots of popular software, even from large software houses like Adobe, might not always be good at utilizing multi-core resources. Thus, clock speeds remain important, even though they make limited sense from an efficiency standpoint. We’ll soon be looking at the two six-core processors again to compare their Turbo features at stock speeds and at overclocked speeds, since it seems that these dynamic mechanisms are the best way to combine the best of both worlds: high clock speeds and a large core count.