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

Core i7-980X Processor Vital Signs

On the surface, the new Core i7-980X Extreme looks just like its socket 1366-based predecessors, as you can see in the two images below...

The Core i7-980X Extreme Edition

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. The surface mounted components on the underside of the chip are different than previous Core i7 processors, however.


Internally, the new Core i7-980X Extreme is based on an updated core manufactured on a more advanced process than early 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 i7-980X Extreme has the same features as Bloomfield, the core used in previous Core i7 processors. Gulftown, does however, feature a larger shared cache--12MB to be exact. Bloomfield has 8MB.

Other specifics regarding the Core i7-980X Extreme are listed in the CPU-Z screenshots above. The chip sports a 3.33GHz "stock" frequency, that can jump up to 3.6GHz in Turbo mode. The QPI link runs at a full 6.4GT/s (3.2 DDR), and the base clock (listed incorrectly as bus speed by CPU-Z) runs at 133MHz. Not listed in the chip's max TDP, which happens to be 130W--the same as previous Core i7s.

The Gulftown core used in the Core i7-980X Extreme features a monolithic die comprised of all six execution cores. The queue engine and uncore elements reside in the center of the chip, flanked on either side by three execution cores and 1/2 of the shared L3 cache. The memory controller, miscellaneous I/O and QPI links are situated around the edges. In total, the chip is comprised of roughly 1.17B (that's billion) transistors and has a die size of about 248mm2. We should point out that despite having nearly double the number of transistors, because it is produced using Intel's advanced 32nm manufacturing process, the Gulftown die is smaller than Bloomfield's 263mm2.


Also debuting with the Core i7-980X Extreme is a new cooler dubbed the DBX-B Thermal Solution. This tower-type cooler will be included with all Core i7-980X Extreme processors sold in retail trim. It features a copper base and aluminum fins with four heat-pipes. A switch in the center acts as a fan speed controller. At the low setting, the fan spins at 800RPM and generates about 20dBa and in the high speed setting the fan spins at 1800RPM and generates about 35dBa. We found the cooler to work really well.  It is a HUGE step up from the older, round coolers previously included with boxed Intel processors.

Overclocking The Core i7-980X Extreme
Pedal To The Metal

Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Overclocked To 3.9GHz

We also spent some time overclocking the new Core i7-980X Extreme Edition to see what kind of frequency headroom it had left lurking under its heatspreader. Using the stock cooler, with a .1v bump in voltage, we raised the chips multiplier until our test system was no longer stable. We were easily able to boot into Windows at 4.1GHz, but could not maintain stability while benchmarking. We had to back things off a bit an ultimately settled on a speedy 3.9GHz. At those speeds, the stock cooler kept the chip humming along at a cool mid-40c temperature while idling and temperatures peaked at right around the 70 degree mark under load. Not bad for a beefy, 1.17B transistor chip with stock cooling.

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