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

Article Index

Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: There are generally only a few areas of concern for performance, with respect to virtually any multi-core processor you're considering, no matter what the platform or manufacturer.  There's single-threaded performance, multi-threaded performance and also varying degrees in between, where applications can be considered "lightly threaded."  The last case, these days, for all intents and purposes with desktop processors, should be lumped in with single-threaded workload performance.  At a bare minimum, dual-core processors are now considered entry-level, quad-cores are prevalent and six-cores are coming of age. 

In this respect, the new Core i7-970's performance profile lines up right where you'd expect it to be.  In lightly threaded or single-threaded workloads, it slides in just under the wire behind a quad-core Core i7-975 processor, due to its slightly lower base clock and Turbo Boost overclock.  However, in heavily threaded applications like our Cinebench and POVRay tests, the Core i7-970 sails past its quad-core counterparts (the 975) and keeps pace within 5 - 7% or so of the Core i7-980X.  In other words, looking at things literally, for roughly a 12% discount (the 970's price is $885 in 1Ku quantities), you only take a 5% hit in top-end performance. 

Conversely, if you're the kind that likes to overclock your CPUs, the new Core i7-970 represents a better value and will allow you to pocket some extra green and along with that will likely come much of the extra overclocking headroom that you'd realize by taking a Core i7-980X up a few notches.  There are only two caveats to consider here, however.  First, the Core i7-970 is multiplier locked above its stock 24X and Turbo Boost speed (3.46GHz).  As a result, you'll have to work with turning up its 133MHz base reference frequency, which offers less flexibility and might require you to adjust system memory and QPI multipliers to keep other interface speeds within stability range.  This is the basic advantage of the premium you pay for an "Extreme Edition" processor from Intel.  You'll have to decide for yourself, but we'd offer, with the lofty price point of the 980X, the Core i7-970 is a more attractive option, especially considering you're already working with what is by far and away the fastest desktop X86 six-core CPU architecture on the market currently.  It's all good, as they say.

Just about the only knock against Intel's six-core Core i7 processors currently is pricing.  Let's face it, Intel's 32nm Core i7 six-core, as well as the new Core i7-970, run circles around anything AMD has to offer these days, even their most recent generation of Phenom II X6 chips.  Then again, AMD's 3.2GHz Phenom II X6 1090T is literally one-third of the price of Intel's six-core chips.  That's an amazing price delta actually, but again, when you've got something special, as Intel obviously does, you can command a premium.  How much of that premium is warranted is up for you to decide.  Again, it all depends on your personal need for speed.

The good news is, Intel is obviously tipping its hand that it's willing to limbo a little bit with the price bar and offer end users and system builders more cost-effective options getting into one of their new six-core Core i7 chips.  That's always a good thing and we expect more good things from Intel coming down the pipe in the months ahead, as faster six-core Core i7's are unveiled pushing previous generation high-end chips down the price curve even more.


  • Killer Performance
  • Great Overclocker
  • 6-Cores, Yay
  • Compatible With Existing Mobos
  • Still Very Pricey
  • 6-Core Resources Wasted With Some Workloads

Related content