Intel Core i7-970 Processor Review, Lower Cost 6-Core - HotHardware

Intel Core i7-970 Processor Review, Lower Cost 6-Core

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On the surface, the new Core i7-970 Extreme looks just like its socket 1366-based predecessors, as you can see in the image below.  Ours is an engineering sample however, so the traditional retail model number markings are not listed here.

The Core i7-970 6-Core 3.2GHz Processor

The top half of the CPU is outfitted with the same basic heat-spreader design as every other Socket 1366 Core i7 processor and the chips use the same packaging.  Internally, the new Core i7-970 is based on an updated core manufactured on a more advanced 32nm (nanometer) process versus early 45nm Nehalem-based Core i7 processors, but the individual execution cores are essentially identical. With the exception of support for some new instructions dubbed AES-NI (Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions), which accelerate AES encryption and decryption algorithms in hardware, the Gulftown core in the Core i7-970 has the same features as Intel's Bloomfield (quad-core), the core used in previous Core i7 processors. As we noted earlier however, Gulftown, does feature a larger shared L3 cache--12MB versus Bloomfield's 8MB.

Other specifics regarding the Core i7-970 Extreme are listed in the CPU-Z screenshot below. The chip sports a 3.2GHz stock frequency, that can jump up to 3.46GHz in Turbo mode.


The QPI link for the Core i7-970 however, runs at 4.8GT/s (2.8GHz DDR).  This is one notch down from the Core i7-980X Extreme process which runs a 6.4GT/s QPI (Intel Quick Path Interconnect) link.  This speed difference quite frankly shouldn't amount to much variance in terms of performance clock-for-clock, however.  The 970's base clock (listed incorrectly as bus speed by CPU-Z) runs at 133MHz. Not listed is the chip's max TDP, which happens to be 130W--the same as previous Core i7s and the Core i7-980X Extreme as well.

Overclocking The Core i7-970
Pedal To The Metal

We also spent some time overclocking the new Core i7-970, as we do with virtually all new processors that come into our lab, in order to see what kind of frequency headroom it has available beyond just what Intel offers in its Turbo Boost settings. Using Intel's stock, retail cooler and with only the motherboard's Vdroop (CPU load line calibration) set to "enabled", we raised the chips reference frequency until our test system was no longer stable and then backed it down until we reached stability.  Overclocking with the reference frequency, versus the chip's multiplier, for Intel non-Extreme Edition CPUs, is more of a real-world scenario that end users will have to attempt, since the Core i7 970 is multiplier locked above its stock 24X multiplier.

Intel Core i7-970 Overclocked To 4.1GHz and Stable - Stock Retail Intel Cooler

We were easily able to boot into Windows at 4.1GHz and could maintain stability while benchmarking.  We achieved this at a 171MHz base reference frequency with the chip's stock multiplier.  As always, depending on both the specific CPU you get as well as your motherboard, you may achieve decidedly different results.

Left: Core i7 970 At Idle 4.1GHz  -  Right: Core i7 970 Full Load 4.1GHz.

At those speeds, the stock Intel cooler kept the chip humming along at a cool low-40ºc temperature while idling, though temperatures peaked into the high 80ºC mark under load.  Frankly, this is a little on the warm side for our comfort zone but then again, we were heavily overclocking this chip with standard air cooling.  If you're the more exotic type when it comes to cooling, 4.1GHz should be easily achieved with water or certainly with some sort of refrigerant, should you go that route.

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Weak sauce... no X, no play.

Seriously though, I wish this had been out when I upgraded my desktop.  Would have saved me a hunny.

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 I don't know about the justification here of Intel's R&D as making the prices on this chip justifiable. It seems to me that while performance wise AMD's 6 core is under the Intel variant  score wise, that I could probably afford a dual 6 core CPU and board for the same or lower price. Then on top of that 8 core is already out in the commercial market, and will soon be so on the consumer market.

I do not know exactly where AMD is going with there Bulldozer architecture either, but imagine it will be above the current processor's performance range as well as energy usage and heat wise as well.  So if I could buy 2 of AMD's corporate 4 or 6 cores, and afford a board for either as well as at least double the general memory capacity at the same or relatively close price line why would I not? I imagine either would outperform a single Intel 6 core with either 8 or 12 at most likely a lower price.

Either way just as I have previously pointed out many times almost none of the software currently makes use of even a quad core processor completely now either. Yes a network can utilize multiple cores, some art, architecture, and accounting software can too. But really most software  besides an OS can barely make use of 2 cores very well. Believe me I am not saying advancement in technology is pointless I am just saying I think Intel is over capitalizing there 6 core chips, where is the 650 dollar six core 920 variant???



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where is the 650 dollar six core 920 variant?

It's in "too high of a price still" land.

AMD makes a Hex-Core for a decent price,.............good enough for me too.

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on the cinibench r11.5 bench graph, it says lower scores = better performance, listing the phenomm II 965 with the lowest score and the 980X with the highest.  this is a typo, no?

I would love to have one of these CPU's, but if I saved 800 for one, I would probably just go all out and get the 980X

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That was a typo---good catch. Thanks.   Fixed.

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Nice CPU, but still not affordable enough for allot of us. Intel's less costly Quad-Cores seem to provide plenty of goodness for enthusiasts living on a budget.

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