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

Introduction, Specs and Details

There's little question, like the sun rising and setting each day, that when Intel launches their latest top-of-the-line processor, a stinging four-figure price point awaits.  It seems like forever that Intel's latest flagship desktop chips drop into the market at anywhere from $999 - $1100 or so at their time of launch.  Obviously, for many mainstream users, that's the price of an entire system and monitor and they just don't need all that much CPU horsepower.  But for others, the need for speed is insatiable. Either that or their productivity and ultimately profitability, is directly proportional to processor throughput; as is often times the case with folks in the video production or professional design and animation business, for example.  Either way you slice it, it's hard to argue, when you've got the fastest desktop chip on the planet, you get to command a hefty premium. 

And to play devil's advocate for just a moment, how else should we expect Intel to recoup the R&D expenditures they put forth to design a killer chip like the Core i7, to say nothing of having to pay for the billion dollar fab plants they have to build in order to manufacturer these things?  Okay, we'll stop there, for fear that we'll incite a riot on the subject, but you get the drift.  Bleeding-edge semiconductors are a high stakes game. And when the stakes are high, so are the price pain points. 

That said, Intel decided they'd ease your pain just a little bit today, if you've got an interest for one of their new 32nm six-core Core i7 processors.  The Core i7-980X Extreme 6-core processor that debuted in March of this year, still currently retails for anywhere from $1,000 - $1200.  Until now, if you wanted something in a six-core from Intel, the 980X was the only flavor of the day.  However, we just got in a sample of a new 32nm Gulftown-based Core i7 six-core that is slotted for a somewhat more palatable price point of $885.  Clocked at 3.2GHz, the new Core i7 970 will afford you a bit more financial breathing room, if you're hankering for that step up to what is arguably (or perhaps not arguably) the fastest X86 desktop chip architecture around currently.  We've got the rest of the speeds, feeds and performance details laid out for you here on the following pages.  You want Core i7 six-core goodness?  Intel is sweetening the pot just a little more for you.

Intel Gulftown CPU 6-Core Die - The Heart of The Core i7-970

Intel Core i7-970 6-Core Processor
Specifications & Features

  • Core Frequency: 3.2GHz (Up To 3.46GHz w/ Turbo)
  • QPI Speed - 4.8GT/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
  • Price - $885  (1K quantities)

32nm Gulftown 6-Core Wafer

The new Core i7-970, as we noted quickly above, 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 also posted information on overclocking Nehalem, even under extreme conditions, and have covered other 32nm derivatives, as well as well as the new Core i7 980X Extreme Edition six-core chip.  Here's a list of those related stories if you'd like some additional backdrop.

And just to complete the picture in a little more detail for you, here's a current list of all Intel Core i7 9-series chips, of both six-core and quad-core variants.

CPU Model #
Core Clock Cores / Threads L3 Cache Max Turbo Boost Speed CPU Code Name Process
Intel Core i7 980X 3.33GHz 6 / 12 12MB 3.60GHz Gulftown 32nm
Intel Core i7 975 3.33GHz 4 / 8 8MB 3.60GHz Bloomfield 45nm
Intel Core i7 970 3.20GHz 6 / 12 12MB 3.46GHz Gulftown 32nm
Intel Core i7 960 3.20GHz 4 / 8 8MB 3.46GHz Bloomfield 45nm
Intel Core i7 930 2.80GHz 4 / 8 8MB 3.06GHz Bloomfield 45nm

As you can see, from a model numbering standpoint, Intel is branding the new Core i7 970 to drop in just below the Core i7 975,  which might be a little confusing for some consumers, but look more closely.  In real-world, lightly threaded performance, the Core i7 970 should step in just behind the Core i7 975 due to its slightly lower base clock and slightly lower Turbo Boost speed.  However, this shouldn't be the case in heavily threaded applications, where the 970's two extra cores should offer significantly more processing power, as well as perhaps applications that make use of the 970's extra 4MB of shared L3 cache.  We'll look at these theories and prove them out for you shortly in our benchmark test runs.  Stay with us...

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