Intel Core i7-980X Extreme 6-Core Processor Review

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Although they are not due to hit store shelves for a few more weeks, Intel is using the always exciting Game Developers Conference currently being held in San Francisco to officially unveil the new Core i7-980X Extreme processor. Intel's Extreme Edition processors have always been targeted at enthusiasts and hardcore-gamers, so what better place to show off the fastest desktop processor for the PC to date?  Unless of course you're catching it here on the pages of HotHardware, that is.

The new Core i7-980X Extreme is an interesting animal, however, that requires a detailed look. Although its branding implies that it may be just a simple speed-bump over the previous flagship Core i7-975 Extreme, the 980X is actually a totally different beast. And what a beast it is. While the Core i7-975 is based on the 45nm Bloomfield core and features quad execution cores, the new Core i7-980X Extreme is based on the 32nm Gulftown core and sports six execution cores.  That's right folks, quad-cores are no longer king of the hill.

There is much more to talk about with regards to Gulftown and the Core i7-980X Extreme specifically, but we're not about to cram it all into a pithy intro. Check out the specs immediately below and perhaps take a few moments to peruse some other recent Intel processor coverage a bit further down the page.  Then strap yourself in as we take the killer Intel Core i7-980X Extreme 6-Core processor for a spin...


Intel Gulftown CPU Die: 50% More Cores, 50% More Cache ~ Same Power Consumption

Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Processor
Specifications & Features

  • Core Frequency: 3.33GHz (Up To 3.6GHz w/ Turbo)
  • QPI Speed - 6.4GT/s
  • TDP (Thermal Design Power) - 130W
  • Stepping - 2
  • Number of CPU Cores - 6 (12 Threads w/ HT)
  • Intel SmarCache - 12MB
  • L2 Cache - 1.5MB (256K x 6)
  • Processor input voltage (VID) - .95v
  • .032-micron manufacturing process
  • Shared Smart Cache Technology
  • PECI Enabled
  • Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology (EIST)
  • Extended HALT State (C1E) Enabled
  • Execute Disable Bit (XD) Enabled
  • Intel 64 Technology
  • AES-NI: 12 new processor instructions

 

  • Intel Virtualization Technology (VT)
  • Packaging -  Flip Chip LGA1366
  • Total Die Size: Approximately 248mm2
  • Approximately 1.17B Transistors
  • MSRP - $999


32nm Gulftown 6-Core Wafer


The new Core i7-980X Extreme is based on the 32nm Gulftown core, which is derived from the 45nm Nehalem architecture that debuted with the original Core i7s. We've already posted a number of articles in the past detailing Nehalem in which we cover all its main features and specifications, and have even covered Gulftown a bit here and there. Due to the similarities between Gulftown and Nehalem, the two share many of the same capabilities.  We have written about Nehalem's features in depth in our coverage of the original Core i7 launch, we've posted information on overclocking Nehalem, even under extreme conditions, and have covered other 32nm derivatives as well...

We're going to summarize Gulftown's main features as they relate to the Core i7-980X Extreme again here, but if you'd like to check out our complete coverage of the Core i7 family and the X58 Express chipset which supports it, the list of articles above offers up just about all there is to know.

Article Index:

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While I would love to have this CPU in my system, I honestly don't see a point. The i7 920 delivers more than enough than the average consumer even needs. Even with demanding video and 3D editing/rendering the 920 still handles like a champ, when it's paired up with a good card at least. 

Speaking of which, does anyone know what processors Post Production Render (for movies and animations like UP) companies use? I need to get a good comparison. 

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Marius Malek:
does anyone know what processors Post Production Render (for movies and animations like UP) companies use?

 

My friend in California uses an 8-Core Mac Pro with a shitload of FireWire 800 External storage drives.

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Still dont understand why we keep getting things like the 6 Cores and 8 cores without increasing speed. If that is the case I would rather have 6 or 8 different CPU's that when combined would generate 18 to 24GHz!
 
I guess when it comes to gaming that doesn't really benefit from anything faster. Yet when it comes to DCC we could really use processors that are 8 times faster with eight cores each processing in the Teraflop range.
 
I just hope others at the GDC are expressing these concerns to the chip manufacturers, and not just building up their ego by thinking these slight steps forward are what is demanded? It would be a really great day when we can have a processor that can churn out theatre size renders from Maya or Avid in the blink of an eye!

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i cant believe all of these processor sold out so fast 0.o

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Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition Gulftown 3.33GHz LGA 1366 130W Six-Core Desktop Processor Model BX80613I7980X - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115223

Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition Gulftown 3.33GHz LGA 1366 130W Six-Core Desktop Processor Model AT80613003543AE - OEM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115226

Still In stock on newegg

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I'm more surprised Intel has been able to keep production up so well, considering they have ONE fab running 32nm right now, and it has to produce high end server chips too.

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What's the difference in models, anything? Noticing they are sporting different model numbers.

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One is OEM without the heat-sink and a lesser warranty, the other is a retail box with the heat-sink and longer warranty.

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animatortom:

Still dont understand why we keep getting things like the 6 Cores and 8 cores without increasing speed. If that is the case I would rather have 6 or 8 different CPU's that when combined would generate 18 to 24GHz!
 
I guess when it comes to gaming that doesn't really benefit from anything faster. Yet when it comes to DCC we could really use processors that are 8 times faster with eight cores each processing in the Teraflop range.
 
I just hope others at the GDC are expressing these concerns to the chip manufacturers, and not just building up their ego by thinking these slight steps forward are what is demanded? It would be a really great day when we can have a processor that can churn out theatre size renders from Maya or Avid in the blink of an eye!

 

I don't want to go back to the days of Pentium when it was all about speed increases. They aren't just increasing the core count; each architecture improves performance that isn't at a visible level like GHz. If you compare dual cores and quad cores of different generations at the same speed, you will see that there is a performance increase.

 

GDC will not be expressing any concerns to the chip manufacturers. Instead they are trying to get developers to create more efficient games that are multithreaded. This does NOT mean separating different tasks and assigning them to a particular core. Cores get under-utilized that way.

 

That is what I'm waiting for. Efficiently threaded games.

 

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The best way to explain this (without going into heavy electrical theory) is from an old Intel dev. presentation I went to back in the P4's launch era.


If you increase the voltage/clockspeed to a CPU 150%, you can get ~14% more performance (not clock speed) from the chip. If you downvolt a chip 50%, you expect to lose ~14% performance (again, separate from clockspeed).

So, for the same power and TDP as a full clock single chip, you can put two chips each at ~86 percent performance, for a total of ~172% performance over a single core using the same voltage.

If they wanted 172% the performance from a single core, it would've required ~250% power, not to mention stability loss and heat, whereas multicore requires no voltage increase and is thus much more efficient in terms of voltage/performance.

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