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Intel Core i7 980X Review

ccokeman    -   March 10, 2010
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Conclusion:

When it comes down to raw computing power the Core i7 980X is the hands down winner. But really is there any other expectation with its six cores, 12 threads and 12mb of shared L3 cache when compared to the four cores, 8 threads and 8MB of cache on the Core i7 965 and the best AMD currently has to offer in the form of the PII 965? In the multi threaded benchmarks such as WinRar, Bibble 5, POV Ray and Cinebench there really is no doubting the performance advantage of having two additional processor cores as the performance just scales upwards. This means that any program you use that is highly threaded, you are going to see a massive increase in performance via a speedup of the workload. From a productivity standpoint, this means you can get more work done in the allotted time you have. As a cut and dry example you can look at the WinRar, Bibble 5 and the Excel testing where the 980X completed the work in a third less time or better. What could you do with at least 30% more time? When it came to gaming I did not see a real gain in performance but there are games that do allow the 980X to take advantage of the additional cores it carries with more coming down the pike. Current titles include Resident Evil 5, GRID and Company of Heroes. Software titles have been optimized for use with the i7 980X as well and the list is continuously growing, but some current titles include Sony Vegas, Autodesk Maya, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom as well as Maxon's Cinema 4D. Overclocking the 980X opened up a whole new level of performance. I was able to gain almost a 1GHz improvement in clock speed over the 3.33GHz factory speed by overclocking the 980X to 4.3GHz using the same overclocking techniques used to overclock its quad core family members. I was able to reach a bclock of 213 and run 205MHz stable for my testing. A stout clock for what is a new player in the game, even though they have been out in the hands of the Extreme overclocking set for months. The potential is there with better cooling!

One thing I found surprising was the fact that this processor ran relatively cool for having six processing cores when air cooled and even more so when put under water. The DBX-B cooling solution from Intel is a radical step away from what has been done in the past when it comes to OEM solutions. Its copper/aluminum construction is similar to many higher end tower style heatsinks on the market and performs quite well by comparison. With four heatpipes there is no shortage of thermal capacity. Even when pushing up to 4.05GHz the temperatures stayed for the most part in the high 60°C range. However I did notice some throttling of the core clock speed once temperatures reached 70°C. At stock speeds the DBX-B kept the temperatures at a chilly (Ok in relative terms) 60°C using the Q setting and a massive 54°C when the P or performance setting is enabled. Either way you get great cooling. On the other hand the cooler does get a bit noisy when you hit the performance switch. Intel states a "Less than 35 dBA" all out sound level and it is most likely close to that when compared to the noise from some of the fans I have tested with the same dBA rating. The cooling solution takes a step away from the norm in another way, how it mounts to the motherboard. In the past you had push pin mounting from Intel and not much in the way of putting something better together. With the DBX-B you no longer have to worry about making sure the pins lock in place. Oh no, Intel has something better. The DBX-B is a bolt on solution that is easy to install with four thumbscrews as well as the ability to use a screwdriver to tighten the screws into the back plate. This one's a winner!

While pricing may be at the high end of the scale for the majority, the price for this Extreme series processor comes in at the same price point as the Core i7 975 at $999. Sure its a steep price tag, but you are guaranteed a certain level of performance for this price. On the other hand you are getting an additional two cores for the price of four when you look at it so there is at least a silver lining to this cloud. I think Intel did the right thing with CPU by not introducing another chipset with the 980X. What this allows you to do is have and upgrade path without the expense of a new set of memory or the cost of another motherboard dropping your overall cost down to a respectable level if you are currently running an X58 based system. That alone is $500 you don't have to spend. To use the 980X on any of the X58 motherboards on the market including Intels own DX58SO you will need to flash the BIOS before installing the 980X but thats a small price to pay for the performance trade off you recieve. When it comes down to it Intel has a great product in the six Core i7 980X. Intel kept the same power profile, increased the amount of cores and L3 cache, and upped the performance factor substantially. Wins all the way around! This CPU will not be for sale right away, but expect it to hit shelves over the next month or so.

 

Pros:

  • Excellent Performance
  • Cool Running
  • Overclocking
  • 32nm construction
  • New instruction sets
  • Drop in compatible with Current chipsets
  • Stock Cooling solution Works great
  • Pricing (Same as 4 Core Extreme CPU)
  • Real world benefits

 

Cons:

  • Cooling fan on P setting noisy
  • Pricing


 

OCC Gold



  1. Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Specifications & Features
  3. Testing: Setup and Overclocking
  4. Testing: Apophysis, WinRar, Bibble 5
  5. Testing: Office 2007, POV Ray, PCMark Vantage
  6. Testing: SiSoft Sandra
  7. Testing: Sciencemark, Cinebench, HD Tune
  8. Testing: Far Cry 2
  9. Testing: Crysis Warhead
  10. Testing: Bioshock
  11. Testing: Call of Duty World at War
  12. Testing: Dead Space
  13. Testing: Fallout 3
  14. Testing: Left 4 Dead
  15. Testing: 3DMark 06
  16. Testing: 3DMark Vantage
  17. Conclusion
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