Intel Core i7 980X Roundup

Intel’s much awaited flagship, Core i7 980X, previously codenamed Gulftown, is finally here. And it is as good as anyone anticipated. 6 cores, 12 threads, 12MB L3 cache, 3.33 GHz are some of the numbers we have known for a while. Some massive numbers too, and the i7 980X lives up to them.

In the past, adding extra cores meant compromise on clock speeds or power consumption. In the past, you would end up with a more expensive quad core CPU that would be outperformed by a fast (and cheaper) dual core in several applications. Thanks to the new 32nm process, the Core i7 980X has the same clock speed (and turbo boost) and power consumption characteristics as its predecessor – the Core i7 975.

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Intel’s much awaited flagship, Core i7 980X, previously codenamed
Gulftown, is finally here. And it is as good as anyone anticipated. 6
cores, 12 threads, 12MB L3 cache, 3.33 GHz are some of the numbers we
have known for a while. Some massive numbers too, and the i7 980X lives
up to them.

In the past, adding extra cores meant compromise on clock speeds or
power consumption. In the past, you would end up with a more expensive
quad core CPU that would be outperformed by a fast (and cheaper) dual
core in several applications. Thanks to the new 32nm process, the Core
i7 980X has the same clock speed (and turbo boost) and power consumption
characteristics as its predecessor – the Core i7 975.

Even if an application only used two or four threads, at most, the Core i7 980X would at best perform about the same or better than the Core i7 975. The 980X does boast of 50% higher L3 cache (12MB vs 8MB), albeit at a 15% higher latency. This does see the 980X just fall behind the 975 in some single/dual-threaded applications. However, multithreading is now supported by a vast number of applications, and in these, the 980X is monsterful, beating the 975 by as much as 50%.

Unlike in the past, where the $999 Extreme processors would only buy you an unlocked multiplier and a relatively modest clock speed boost over a $300/$500 variant of the same, the i7 980X features 50% more cores, 50% more cache, a clock boost, in addition to all the Extreme Edition benefits!

In the end, however, the 980X remains an exclusive CPU at $999, though it might be the first $999 CPU which just about makes sense. At least until a cheaper variant comes along. Choosing the 980X depends largely on the applications you use. If gaming is your main use, then the 980X is clearly not worth it. It will perform right up there at the top, but the cheaper ~$200-$300 products will not be far behind. Especially, if you already own a Core i7 CPU, it wouldn’t make much sense upgrading to the 980X.

However, if you are into Multimedia and Video Editing, 3D Modelling, or any of the numerous applications designed for multithreaded use, the Core i7 980X gives upto a monumental 50% performance incerase over the previous fastest CPU with no apparent drawbacks. If one is building a high end system investing thousands of dollars, the extra $500 spent on the CPU over a Core i7 960, for example, suddenly becomes a no-brainer. It is bound to be a good investment as well. The next significantly fastest CPU is expected to release some time in 2011, with Intel’s 6-core version of Sandy Bridge or AMD’s 8-core Zambezi.

The next 6-core CPU on the horizon is AMD’s Phenom II X6 1000T series. It will play in a different performance segment, however.

Perhaps the biggest weakness of the 980X, apart from the non-multithreaded applications, is the brand name. With such a massive performance boost, Core i9 would be a more apt nomenclature. But then, the rather confusing Core i7 980X is in sync with the rest of Intel’s rather odd Core i3/i5/i7 range branding.

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