6 cores, 12 threads, Core i7-980X - useful or exaggerated?

Core i7-980X aka Core i9: Review of the six-core Gulftown

With the Core i7-980X and the Westmere architecture Intel introduces the first 6-core processor for desktop PCs. PC Games Hardware checks the capabilities and performance of the chip.

Intel Gulftown reviewed
Intel Gulftown reviewed

Intel Gulftown Core i7-980X reviewed: Introduction
In January Intel introduced the first 32 nanometer processors in form of the Clarkdale CPUs which are based on the Westmere architecture. The up to now fastest Nehalem CPU, the Core i7-975 XE, is still produced in 45 nanometers and delivers four cores plus SMT. Now Intel makes full use of the modern production process and offers the first 32 nanometer 6-core processor: The Core i7-980X, codename Gulftown.

Intel Core i7-980X Gulftown reviewed
Intel Core i7-980X Gulftown reviewed [Source: view picture gallery]
Intel Gulftown Core i7-980X reviewed: Architecture
Actually the Westmere processors are, like the Clarkdales and the i7-980X, part of the Nehalem family and according to the recently released pdf file even Intel thinks this way. Following the Tick Tock model the Gulftown is produced at a smaller architecture than the other Nehalem CPUs and it also supports new commands, the AES-NI (Advanced Encryption Standard, New Instructions). The other important specifications of the Uncore section stay the same: Gulftown utilizes three memory channels and a QPI Link to additional processors and the chipset. Officially only DDR3-1066 memory is supported, but tests were running stable up to 1790 MHz.

Due to the smaller production process there is space for additional transistors. Intel adds two more cores and a lot more Level 3 cache. Thus the Core i7-980X has six cores and with active SMT twelve logical threads. The L3 cache is 12 MiByte big (Bloomfield: 8 MiByte). The amount of Level 1 and Level 2 cache is not changed: L1 stays at 64 KiByte per core and L2 at 256 KiByte 256 KiByte.

The Engineering Sample PC games Hardware has received carries the CPU ID Q4EG, which indicates a B1 stepping. The default frequency of the Core i7-980X is 3.33 GHz with a multiplier of 25 at 133 MHz reference clock. As usual the multiplier of the Extreme Edition is not locked.

Intel Core i7-980X Gulftown reviewed
Intel Core i7-980X Gulftown reviewed [Source: view picture gallery]
Intel Gulftown Core i7-980X reviewed: Infrastructure
With an updated BIOS the Core i7-980X runs on most modern motherboard with an Intel X58 chipset. For ur tests we used the Asus P6T and an EVGA Classified 4-Way SLI. The new Boxed Cooler is also interesting. Intel uses a backplate system for the tower cooler, which has four heatpipes and a 100 millimeter fan. From a technical point of view this is a big step into the right direction, but users who want to have a silent system or want to overclock the CPU should look for another cooler.

Author: Andreas Link (Mar 11, 2010)

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