Intel Core i7 980X review
Posted by Hilbert Hagedoorn on: 03/10/2010 02:00 PM [ 0 comment(s) ]
Final Words & Conclusion
Well, Intel has done it again. The Core i7 980X is grand and majestic - It's their USS Enterprise, big and powerful. I quite honestly did not expect the processor to be this good. Now before we continue, I must state this, roughly a year or two ago we changed our benchmark suite drastically. Pretty much all our tests have been picked because they can measure multi-core performance. Our tests results are comprised by accumulated performance per core. As such the benchmark results can be a little clouded. See, the majority of software applications used maybe two and at best four threads. So while our tests show massive gains, the reality is that with say a Core i7 975 processor, in almost any scenario you'd not notice the performance difference unless the application is very suited for multi-core processors and thus heavily threaded.
That's the sheer reality. So where does the Core i7 980X shine then? Well in several segments. Content creation, in video transcoding, 3D CPU rendering and object design with software like Maxon's Cinema 4D, virtualisation, file compression/decompression software, some games are starting to get massively multi-threaded and of course for enthusiast overclockers the 980X is the bulls balls alright.
Though, by stating the fact that we can't justify 6-cores unless you match the above specified requirements or needs, we also need to admit that this processor is God's gift to the true computer enthusiast. Seriously during every single step of our tests I had a smile on my face the size of the Sun. This processor has the x-factor somehow, it is really horribly fast and downright intriguing.
Intel did it's homework, they did not skimp on the clock frequency and the extra L3 cache speeds up even single threaded applications a little, the 999 USD processor comes clocked at 3.33 GHz at stock. Now I don't know about you guys, but last year when we first heard rumors about Gulftown, they were still clocked at 2.40 GHz. A new revision/stepping and that 32nm fabrication node apparently did wonders. The fact that we have six physical processor cores clocked at 3.33 MHz, and with Turbo mode pushing all six of them to 3.4 GHz yet still managing to remain at a 130W TDP is absolutely impressive as well. I mean seriously, a Core i7 920 has the very same TDP.
Here's a thought, subjective as heck but if we go back to the year 2003 and look up the stats of a much slower (one core) Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.2 GHz (Socket 478) then that processor would consume 92W. My point? Well, that's 552 Watts if you take six of them. Now in 2010 we consume 130W and have six cores, HyperThreaded to 12 with a processor that is per core so much faster than that single core Pentium 4.
Is there anything negative? Well yes, pricing puts it out of reach for the most of us. And then the one thing that might disappoint a little bit are the memory dividers. The processor comes advertised as supporting only 1066 MHz DDR3 mode, that might be triple channel but yeah we feel that lacks a little. My hint there, overclock on the base clock and your memory frequency will rise along with it, should you yearn a little more memory bandwidth.
Overclocking itself then. First off this, we really didn't put in any serious effort. We fooled around with voltages and the unlocked multiplier for 10 minutes and got the processor stable at 4400 MHz. Now -- we did use liquid cooling, BUT it's a semi-passive cooled Zalman XT reserator unit which offers as much cooling performance as a quality air cooler offers. As such we can already say that the Core i7 980X is a grand processor to overclock with as well.
Well, it's time to wrap things up. You get the idea. The Core i7 980X is obviously intended for the professional user, the guy that needs his videos transcoded faster or even some of you guys, our audience, the mainstream to extreme hardware aficionados. Normally I could never justify a processor in this price range, neither could I justify a processor with six physical cores, but the Core i7 980X makes sense somehow and we all know and understand that multi-core processors are the future. Expensive, heck yeah... but that's the high-end game. Luckily you do not have to purchase a new motherboard, you only have to upgrade your X58 motherboard firmware, pop in this processor and you are good to go. So if you can, and are willing to afford it... you won't regret this purchase for even a single second. It's an utter gem of a processor.
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We test the Gulftown based Core i7 980X. Intel launches the Core i7 980X processor today priced at US$ 999 in thousand-unit tray quantities. It's scrumptious, it's delicious. Really it overclocks brilliantly as well; it's dark demonic matter my man. Head on over to the next page where we'll start up a technical overview and then head onwards to an extensive benchmark session, and sure... we'll throw in an overclocking session as well. We've got a lot of ground to cover.
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