Unless you’ve been living in a cave the past five months, you know that Intel’s Core i7 is the fastest, most powerful, and most overclockable CPU to hit the market since, well, since Intel’s last major CPU rollout: the Core 2 Duo.
The Core i7 is a quad-core CPU manufactured using Intel’s 45 nm process technology. It’s currently available in three flavors: The 2.66 GHz Core i7 920, the 2.93 GHz Core i7 940, and the 3.2 GHz Core i7 965 Extreme Edition. All three parts have 8 MB of cache and an integrated memory controller; only the Extreme Edition features an unlocked multiplier.
We’ve been curious to find out what boutique PC vendors might build around this new processor, so we invited three of the big names in this space—Alienware, AVADirect, and Cyberpower—to send us their best efforts for a rigorous round of benchmarking.
We instructed them to build the best all-around Core i7 PC they were capable of—something that would be suitable for everything: gaming and other forms of entertainment, productivity, and hobbies like digital photo and video editing. And to make the challenge just a little more interesting, we told each manufacturer that they had to hold their final retail price tags to $2,500 or less.
Would they be able to leverage all that the Core i7 has to offer at that price point? Would we see systems with six gigs of DDR3 in order take advantage of the triple-channel memory architecture? How far would they push the clock speeds? Would they make use of the extra PCI Express lanes Intel’s X58 chipset has to offer? What other goodies might they be able to squeeze into that budget? Let’s find out.