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Intel Core i7 980X Review

ccokeman    -   March 10, 2010
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Testing:

The only way to know how a processor performs is to run it through a series of benchmarks, using both synthetic and real tasks to make a comparison as to how the processor performs against architectures from the same manufacturer as well as competing manufacturers. Really, this leaves Intel and AMD at this point. To test the Core i7 980X 3.33GHz six core processor, all of the energy saving features as well as performance boosting technologies have been disabled on the motherboard in order to gain repeatable results. Otherwise, the results would not be a valid form of comparison. Intel's Turbo Boost technology provides a serious clock increase on this CPU that allow it to deliver performance in excess of what is available when the technology is disabled. A comparison will be made against both AMD processors and both the Intel socket 1366 and socket 1156 processors. Once the stock testing is completed, I will overclock the Core i7 980X to see if it delivers any overclocking headroom. Both stock and overclocked testing will be accomplished on the test platforms listed below.

 

Testing Setup: Intel Core i7 Socket 1366

  

Testing Setup: Intel Core i5 Clarksdale Socket 1156

 

Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1156

  • Processor(s): Intel Core i5 750 133x20, Intel Core i7 870 133x22 socket 1156 CPU's
  • Motherboard: Intel DP55KG Extreme (Kingsberg)
  • Memory: Kingston HyperX KHX1600C*D3K2/4GX 2x2Gb 7-7-7-20 1333MHz
  • Video Card : NVIDIA GTX 260 (216)
  • Power Supply: Mushkin 800w Modular Power Supply
  • Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
  • Optical Drive: Lite-On 8x DVD+/-RW
  • OS: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition

 

Testing Setup AMD AM3 CPU's:

 

Comparison CPUs:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7 980X  205x21  4.3GHz

With six cores and 12 threads, I was not taking any chances on temperatures limiting the overclock even though the Intel solution is a gem. So for this round of of overclocking, I went straight for water cooling. What I found was that even with big volts, this chip did not really get as warm as the C0 stepping Core i7 965 I have, with a maximum temperature on one core of 72°C (Even with what was probably a bit to much vcore). To reach the 4.3 GHz clock speed I was initially a bit gentle with the voltages and found the system hitting a bclock wall at about 180MHz regardless of multiplier. At that point gentle went out the window and I started pushing voltages like I had with the Core i7 920 and 965 and found that the 980X responded well to these adjustments. 4.1GHz took about 1.375v set in the BIOS for stability but to move the bar higher meant a large increase in voltage to reach stability at 4.3GHz. I needed 1.435v set in BIOS to get this 980X stable. While that may seem like a lot, I have seen worse and better on other Nehalem architecture-based chips. Its really the luck of the draw. However the higher voltage is not worth the additional 200MHz for daily use. The bclock wall that finally stopped me cold was at 213Mhz on this chip. The unlocked multiplier can make for an interesting side to the whole bclock overclocking since you dont have to really lean on much other than the vcore. All in all, six cores of 4.3GHz madness is a sight I welcomed and am proud to show off. Of course your mileage may vary depending on your CPU.

 

So you say you are not an overclocker and do not want to risk burning up your nice new $1000, six core Extreme processor but want more performance. Well you bought the top of the line processor so what else is there? Intel incorporates Turbo Boost Technology in its Core series processors including the i3,i5 and i7 lineups. What this does is dynamically boost the clock speed to a higher level in situations where the load on the processor is light enough that it will not exceed the thermal or current limits set for the processor, in this case 130 watts. While testing this technology I witnessed clock speeds ranging from just over 3.6GHz during light loads such as surfing the net and a bump to almost 3.5Ghz during CPU intensive tasks. is there a clock speed bonus hence a performance increase with this technology is use? Most definitely but you need to leave all of the settings in BIOS at defaults to use it.

 

 

If the screen shots do not illustrate the concept, here is the slide from the Intel press deck that shows just how Turbo Boost technology works and under what circumstances it is employed.

 

Benchmarks:

  • Scientific & Data:
  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Bibble 5
  4. Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
  5. POV Ray 3.7
  6. PCMark Vantage Professional
  7. Sandra XII
  8. ScienceMark 2.02
  9. Cinebench 10 & 11.5
  10. HD Tune 3.50
  • Video:
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty World At War
  5. Dead Space 
  6. Fallout 3
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage



  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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