Six cores. That’s how many are in Intel’s ridiculous new Core i7-980x. MaximumPC takes us deep inside the world’s fastest CPU, with full, mind-searing benchmarks.
Meet the world’s fastest CPU. OK, so we just gave away the big reveal to our report before you even flipped one page, and without so much as the common courtesy of a spoiler alert. For that, we do not apologize, because it’s not like you couldn’t have guessed how this one would end up. After all, Intel’s new 3.33GHz Core i7-980X builds on all the goodness of the ass-kicking quad-core 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition, but is smaller, cooler, and has an additional two cores under its heat spreader. With Hyper-Threading enabled, that’s a cool 12 threads at the ready. How could anyone screw that one up?
With Hyper-Threading enabled, that’s a cool 12 threads at the ready. How could anyone screw that one up?
In fact, Intel’s Core i7-980X seems to be one of the most flawless launches we’ve seen from the company in some time. By flawless, we mean there are no contortionist acts, such as explaining to consumers that a new socket (LGA1156) will have the same CPU branding as an incompatible existing socket. Nor is there the head-scratcher of a very novel, yet very limp, integrated graphics chip in a CPU (Clarkdale), which, by the way, won’t work in boards that lack graphics output ports.
With Core i7-980X, you update your BIOS, drop the chip in, and-voilà-you spend hours rocking a six-core high. Put simply, Core i7-980X is 24-ounces of prime-rib red meat for performance enthusiasts who really haven’t had much to gnaw on since the original 3.2GHz Core i7-965 Extreme Edition came out two years ago.
So we’re done, right? You don’t need to read on? Sorry, there’s still more to learn. If you want to know if your motherboard works with the new chip, what applications can really exploit the six cores, and how this bad boy performs, you’ll have to keep reading.
What’s in a Name?
We know that, by now, enthusiasts should be immune to Intel’s confusing model numbers, but there’s one thing that sticks in our craw about the Core i7-980X: Despite it being the world’s first consumer x86 hexa-core, and despite it using the latest 32nm process, it’s label is a mere five notches greater than the quad-core Core i7-975 Extreme Edition part it ostensibly replaces.
Surely, all the goodness of two more cores and a total 12 threads of computing would warrant a Core i9 designation, or at the very least, a much higher model number, right? No, Intel officials told us. The company said that, despite previous reports that it would call its hexa-core Core i9, Intel backed off when retailers and vendors complained of too many blasted brands. And as to why it isn’t a 999X or 9900X, Intel said such gestures are unnecessary. The part is designed for enthusiasts and the folks who buy it will know that it’s not a mere five clicks more than a Core i7-975.
Beneath the Surface
Fortunately, the chip is fairly simple to understand. It uses the new 32nm process that was introduced with the dual-core Core i5/Core i3 Clarkdale CPUs. For code-name junkies, that makes it part of the Westmere family-not part of the original 45nm Nehalem family. All six-cores reside on a single contiguous piece of silicon. Like the original Nehalem CPUs, each core has 2MB of L3 available to it, giving the CPU a total of 12MB of L3 cache. The cache is shared across all the individual cores, which means a single core can have up to 12MB of L3 cache if the other five cores are sleeping.
As is the case with all Extreme processors, the chip is fully unlocked letting you change multipliers as well as Turbo Mode ratios. Turbo Boost is present but not as pedal-to-the-firewall as the LGA1156 parts. The Core i7-980X will give you a Turbo Boost up to 133MHz if more than one core is active. With single-threaded apps, the CPU will Turbo Boost up to 266MHz. That’s boring compared to the Core i7-870, which will boost from 2.93GHz to 3.6GHz, or about 733MHz. We’d be remiss, though, if we didn’t point out that the Core i7-870 starts out at a much lower clock speed.
If You Build It, Will They Come?
If you think it’s all sunshine and lollipops for hexa-core computing, it’s not. As always, the problem is finding applications that will actually use the available threads. That was a problem with the original dual-cores and quad-cores; now with a hexa-core and Hyper-Threading, the situation hasn’t improved much. The apps aren’t nonexistent, but they’re certainly not as prevalent as you would hope. That makes upgrading to the Core i7-980X something you’ll want to think about first. Certainly, if you are a mega-multitasker, more cores don’t hurt. But if your primary applications are single- or dual-threaded, the extra cores will just sit idle, so you’ll need to seriously consider whether paying for a hexa-core makes sense.
A Close-Up Look at the Core i7-980X
All six cores of Intel’s Core i7-980X share 12MB of L3 cache on the die. The 1.17 billion–transistor CPU also has two QPI connections but only one is enabled on consumer CPUs. The second QPI is use for multi-CPU Xeon configurations.
In the final analysis, this is a CPU that turns in performance that is, at its worst, equivalent to the Core i7-975 it replaces. At its best, the i7-980X offers up to 50 percent more performance than its closest competitor. That’s pretty much unprecedented and certainly helps the Core i7-980X earn its crown as the new performance king.
For Full the Article check out Intel’s 6-Core Gulftown Gets Tested, Blows Us Away
for Benmark and More About this6 Core Monster CPU