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Intel Core i7-980X review

Seth Barton
16 Mar 2010
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
841
inc VAT

Yes it's ridiculously expensive, but you are getting a processor that's way ahead of anything else available at the present time.

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Intel has used the Extreme Edition for some of its fastest processors since 2003. It's never been that impressive though, with small speeds gains often accompanied by massive price hikes. Finally though, the company has really something truly worthy of the moniker: the Intel Core i7-980X.

Previously codenamed as Gulftown, it's the first processor to have six separate processing cores, forget dual- or quad-, the hexa-core chip is here. Each processing core is also Hyper-Threaded, so your operating system can see and execute 12 instructions simultaneously. We're not benchmark fetishists here at Expert Reviews, but an overall score of 183 in our benchmarks make this a truly astounding feat of engineering.

It's all possible thanks to a marriage between Intel's new 32nm manufacturing process – used in all its latest LGA1156 Core i3, i5 and i7 processors – and the i7-980X larger LGA1366 socket – used in the original Core i7 range. This gives it the best features of both architectures all rolled into one package.

Like the LGA1156 Clarkdale processors, the 32nm process helps keep heat production to a minimum. Intel has taken advantage of this by adding its own overclocking technology, called Turbo Boost. This dynamically overclocks the processor cores based on workload and heat produced, letting the clock speed rise up from 3.33GHz to 3.6GHz when required. While thanks to the LGA1336 architecture, , there's access to triple-channel DDR3, via the fast QPI bus, for a mximum memory bandwidth of 25.6GB/s. The TDP of the i7-980X is a very reasonable 130W, it's a lot compared to most desktop processors, but no more than any of the current quad-core LGA1336 range.

The boxed version we're reviewing here comes with a large heat sink. It's a tower style cooler with six heat pipes running up through it. The large fan on the front has two settings: Q we're guessing is for quiet and it's a fair description for such a big fan, turn it to P (performance) though and it's like having a hair-dryer in your PC. Fortunately you'll only need the latter if you plan on overclocking the i7-980X further still.

With six cores to feed with data and instructions, Intel hasn't scrimped on the cache. Each core has its own 256K L2 cache, plus there's a huge 12MB shared cache. It certainly does the trick, with an impressive score of 157 in our tough multitasking test, and an incredible 209 when all six cores were unleashed on our video encoding test. That makes this processor more than twice as fast as our reference PC.

Even taking into account the great big fan in the box, the price of £841 seems completely ludicrous. After all, you can get a whole quad-core PC with a great specification and a monitor for less money. Then again, if you're working on serious number-crunching for engineering, or media tasks like HD video editing, and you often find your PC is holding up your workflow, or worse still, delaying you getting the results to a client, then you may be able to justify such a purchase. For the rest of us, we can just sit back in the confident knowledge that one day soon, Intel will release a more reasonably priced version for the rest of us.

Basic Specifications

Processor coreGulftown
Rating*****
Processor clock speed3.33GHz
Processor socketLGA1366
Processor process32nm
Processor number of coressix
Processor supported instructionsMMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSE4A, EM64T
Processor multiplierx25
Processor external bus133MHz (3.2GHz QuickPath Interconnect)
Level 1 cache6x 64KB
Level 2 cache6x 256KB
Processor level 3 cache12MB
Supported memory typeDDR3 1066
Processor power rating (TDP)130W
Price£841
Supplierhttp://www.cclonline.com
Detailswww.intel.com

Performance

Shopper 2.0 Image-Editing160
Shopper 2.0 Video-Editing209
Shopper 2.0 Multitasking157
Shopper 2.0 Overall183
Call of Duty 4 1680 4xAA56.1fps

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