Price / Performance, Overclocking, Conclusions and Final Thoughts
Performance per Dollar Measurements

To gauge performance per dollar, I decided I would use the same benchmarks in our “performance per watt” comparison and see how things looked with prices placed into the game.  Keep in mind that these are also invented metrics, so while the numbers don’t mean anything directly (1.71 Hz/$ or 0.22 FPS/$) it is their relative value to other scores that is important.  I have marked the best scores for each benchmark in red:

Intel Core i7-980X Gulftown Hexa-core Processor Review - Processors 83
(Based on prices of $999, $113, $196, $555, $285, $199, $999, $279, $319, $189, $239)

Well this result was kind of expected: at $999 we can’t really claim the Intel Core i7-980X to be a bargain of value for anyone really.  Great performer?  Without a doubt.  Easy on your wallet?  Not so much.  In fact, in terms of performance per dollar, the only processor that the newcomer really can brag to is the Core i7-975 that will apparently still sell for the identical $999 with 2 few cores and the exact same clock frequencies. 

Overclocking Results

Our overclocking experience with Gulftown was pretty quick and painless though not as interesting as the Clarkdale parts we tested earlier in the year.  With a starting frequency of 3.33 GHz (and really it is 3.60 GHz) the amount of headroom on the 6-core processor is a bit lower than on the dual-core 32nm derivatives.  We expected to get near 4.0 GHz and that wasn’t really a problem on the air cooling provided by the new Intel cooler (which is huge, as you saw).

I will be spending some more time with the Core i7-980X next week and am looking forward to pushing it further!

Overall Performance

It should be fairly straight forward here: if you want the fastest desktop processor available, you have to own the Intel Core i7-980X.  It is far and away the highest performing processor we have tested if we only look at stock/standard clock speeds and don’t dive into the world of overclocking. 

In terms of what applications performed best, the obvious ones are those that are most easily threaded.  Take the Euler3D and POV-Ray for example; those programs and benchmarks saw nearly linear scaling of 50% or more in the move from the quad-core Core i7-975 to the hexa-core Core i7-980X and should spike a huge interest from anyone that works with rendering applications for scientific computing.  Even those programs that didn’t scale QUITE as well saw some notable performance gains.  The Cinema 4D benchmark, CineBench 10, Handbrake and even 7zip compression tests all saw 25% gains too.

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There were some instances that didn’t see enough change to warrant mention and they would be the usual suspects plus some new guys.  The Lame MP3 encoder, for example, saw basically no benefit from the 6-core processor and surprisingly neither did the DivX-based encoder in our VirtualDub testing.  Windows Media Encoder x64 also seems stuck at the performance levels of the Core i-975.

As for gaming, as you can see in our real-world testing, the benefits of 6-core processors, or really even quad-core HyperThreaded processors, are muted.  Though our “theoretical” results with things like 3DMark Vantage and the Valve particle simulation show some great potential for multi-processor systems the truth is today that in modern games you won’t see noticeable gains at just about any resolution. 

Applications and their developers have come a long way since the introduction of HyperThreading and the first native multi-core processors but as companies like Intel (and AMD as well) push up thread and core count it continues to be obvious that software will need quite a bit of time to play catch up. 

Pricing and Availability

As you might expect, the new Core i7-980X is going to be an expensive processor.  As we have seen for years and years Intel is releasing the latest Extreme Edition processor at the $999 price point.  While that is high, we have almost come to expect it and in reality if you are in need of the top-of-the-line components like this CPU then you are likely going to be willing to pay for it.  And even more so in this case as I mentioned before: while with other Extreme Edition processors you might have the option to simply overclock a cheaper CPU to reach the same frequency, you simply can’t overclock a quad-core processor to a dual-core. 

Intel Core i7-980X Gulftown Hexa-core Processor Review - Processors 85

As for availability – expect to see the Core i7-980X in retail in the next 2-3 weeks.

Interestingly, Intel still claims that the Core i7-975 will sell for $999 as well!  If that is the case, I see no reason why a user would want to purchase it rather than the 980X.  They use the same platform, sockets and the 980X actually uses LESS power to get the work done.  Odd, but we’ll see how long Intel keeps that up.

Final Thoughts

Intel continues to prove its dominance in the CPU world with the release of the Core i7-980X hexa-core processor.  With 12 threads of computing power behind it the new Extreme Edition part offers computing power unrivaled by other desktop processors especially when looking at heavily threaded workloads and applications.  Gaming doesn’t see a big performance boost yet, though Intel assures us that more and more game engines being written are going to push multi-threaded performance benefits very soon.  We are eagerly awaiting that, but while we do, we’ll take solace in all the other work this processor can handle with ease. 

If you have questions or comments about this article, please head into this thread of the PC Perspective Forums to discuss!!!

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