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

Article Index:   
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.

Image gallery

Related content

Comments

Comments
bob_on_the_cob 4 years ago

I guess Intel and AMD have given up totally on trying to raise clock speeds. In 2000 we hit the 1GHz mark. In 2004 we made it to 3.8GHz. Now 6 years later down to 3.33GHz. Random though, but I wonder if we will ever see CPUs faster than 3GHz no mater the number of cores.

Over my random rant. This is a pretty awesome CPU. The thermals look pretty cool all things considered.

gibbersome 4 years ago

[quote user="bob_on_the_cob"]

I guess Intel and AMD have given up totally on trying to raise clock speeds. In 2000 we hit the 1GHz mark. In 2004 we made it to 3.8GHz. Now 6 years later down to 3.33GHz. Random though, but I wonder if we will ever see CPUs faster than 3GHz no mater the number of cores.

Over my random rant. This is a pretty awesome CPU. The thermals look pretty cool all things considered.

[/quote]

 

Indeed. O AMD, AMD, where art thou AMD?  Intel has created the ultimate chip, far ahead of the competition and their own processors.  The biggest surprise for me is the 980X is the fastest chip, whether you're using single thread or multi-thread applications. Core performance quality was not sacrificed for quantity. And the $999 price tag is high, but in line with past Intel Extreme processor offerings. The Phenom II X6 is slated for release later this year, but judging the way Intel is going, they might as well not bother.

Furthermore it looks like the Thuban is set to replace the current quad core offerings, it will essentially be a X6 with two disabled cores. Lots of unlocking potential there as we've seen with the X2 550, and the X3 720. AMD continues to offer value to the consumer, but is yet to challenge Intel at the top end of the market.

 

realneil 4 years ago

[quote user="gibbersome"]AMD, AMD, where art thou AMD?[/quote]

By the way, how fast have you got your wazoo Incredi-Chip up to so far?

slugbug 4 years ago

Ouch...$1200 in Canada Tongue Tied

sp12 4 years ago

Yeah, looks great.

 

Except for the price.

dlim783 4 years ago

Too expensive, but extremely fast!

acarzt 4 years ago

Well that was fast lol

Hey why no OC'd benchmarks?

Also how about loading up Batman: AA w/a single GPU and turning on Phsyx. Let's see how the extra cores handles Physx calculation! :-D

Super Dave 4 years ago

realneil 4 years ago

[quote user="Super Dave"]

[/quote]

$1,000.00 is right Super Dave,....It's the usual Extreme performance tax.

It does look like a solid performer though and it's only natural to want one or two of them.

I just can't see me spending this kind of money for a CPU unless I win the friggin' lottery or something.

Another thing,....is it just me or did anyone else notice that there is very little performance difference between the current Intel flagship 'Extreme' Core i7-975 and the Core i7-870? They run real close to one another. The Core i5-750 is lagging, but still 'in the same ballpark' as well.

After I got my i5-750 and have played with it a little, my opinion of it keeps growing.

This is Intel's hidden gem. It is a sweet CPU and delivers the most 'Bang-For-The-Buck' of any of their CPU's to date.

Super Dave 4 years ago

The sales tax alone would cost me $87.50! Could it be that this thing was made to help pay for the AMD settlement?

realneil 4 years ago

[quote user="Super Dave"]made to help pay for the AMD settlement[/quote]

We paid for THAT years ago!

Nethersprite 4 years ago

"After I got my i5-750 and have played with it a little, my opinion of it keeps growing. This is Intel's hidden gem. It is a sweet CPU and delivers the most 'Bang-For-The-Buck' of any of their CPU's to date."

Agreed, from what I've heard. If I were building an Intel system, I'd definitely use the i5. As it is, I'm an AMD fan...

Anyway, on to this hexacore monstrosity...wasn't it supposed to be called the i9? Makes sense if all the other i7's are quad-core.

realneil 4 years ago

[quote user="Nethersprite"]As it is, I'm an AMD fan...[/quote]

I've been building AMD for years, mostly because I could get solid performance for less money. Then I won a Core i7 870 system here on this site,.......AND a few months later, I won the Core i5 system components for another complete system from Intel, and built it myself.

So my AMD point of view has been vastly modified and it all happened for free. I gave away my Phenom-II 940 system when I won the first Intel box, and then gave away my X3-720 system after I won the second Intel box. (my kids are happy campers now) Both systems came with vastly superior Video cards too.

Someone, somewhere, is gonna have just the job for this new monster CPU that Intel just revealed. To them, the computing power will be worth the WAZOO price tag it carries.

rapid1 4 years ago

Thats all true realneil, but this just foreshadows the coming of the rest of the line usually just as in the I7 920. I also though AMD had already said there next move up was going to be an 8 core, and sometime this spring/summer, Or am I wrong?

Nethersprite 4 years ago

[quote user="rapid1"]

Thats all true realneil, but this just foreshadows the coming of the rest of the line usually just as in the I7 920. I also though AMD had already said there next move up was going to be an 8 core, and sometime this spring/summer, Or am I wrong?

[/quote]

If that is their next move, they've been pretty quiet about it, at least as far as I've been following things. Their move of releasing a six-core CPU to "compete" with the six-core i7 is predictable, especially as it also will be compatible with an existing socket, but from what I know the next one after that will be in Q2 2011, the Bulldozer platform. I could also be wrong: do you have a link to any rumors about AMD releasing an 8-core so soon?

Marius Malek 4 years ago

So, I take it this is the piece of beauty going into HH's new giveaway? 

 

Whoever gets this will be spoooooooiled. =D

rapid1 4 years ago

I see some really interesting things here. The first being to me is the automatic 50% improvement with that much more core than a current 1366 chip socket processor. Then you compare that to a current I7 920 (which by the way fits in the same socket), and realize this one with a stock cooler (nice job Intel on the factory tower cooler) can clock to just under 4.0ghz as well. Then think about putting a big tower on it if not liquid and popping this up as many do with the 920 to 4.0Ghz and think about that +50% on top of that. Then realize it runs cool and uses less energy than anything else while still having an auto 50% additional power out of the box. I am getting goose bumps!

mike coyne 4 years ago

I did read the Intel I7 Extreme Edition 980X . WOW, I was very impressed with it. I think it will be super powerful PC system to get it done and play the game hard.

InfinityzeN 4 years ago

Eh, until this came out I had my i7-920 clocked out at 4Ghz so saw no reason to get anything faster.  I don't think this thing would clock any higher with my cooling rig, so it would only get an advantage in things that needed more threads then mine could handle or that took advantage of the extra cache.

So even though it does give you more than the last several EE's, I still say that your best chip for this socket is the 920.  Hell of a lot cheaper too.

la_guy_10 4 years ago

Looks pretty sweet.also good to see more cores being utilized. Again having that large L3 Cache helps feed those cores.

Marius Malek 4 years ago

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. 

realneil 4 years ago

[quote user="Marius Malek"]does anyone know what processors Post Production Render (for movies and animations like UP) companies use?[/quote]

 

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

animatortom 4 years ago
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!
greyad 4 years ago

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

twistedfate 4 years ago

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

sp12 4 years ago

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.

barmmer 4 years ago

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

realneil 4 years ago

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

RyuGTX 4 years ago

[quote user="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!

[/quote]

 

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.

 

sp12 4 years ago

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.

Post a Comment
or Register to comment