Power Consumption and Final Thoughts

The idle power consumption shows that Core i7-990X falling in just a handful of watts higher then our Sandy Bridge results thanks to the continued tweaking of the X58 platform on Intel’s motherboard side.  If you look at our 980X results, which were run on an older BIOS and older X58 motherboard from ASUS, the idle power consumption is much higher.

Under a full load, the 990X uses a lot of juice still – all of that performance and triple-channel memory goodness does come at some cost.  To be honest though, if you are considering a $999 processor for your gaming or encoding system then you obviously aren’t going to be concerned about the wattage differences we are seeing here. 

The Core i7-990X Gulftown 6-core Processor

Despite being based on an older architecture when compared to the new hotness that is Sandy Bridge, the Core i7-990X is arguably the fastest processor that Intel offers to consumers with a fat wallet. In cases where applications were highly threaded and could take advantage of the 6-cores / 12 threads of the Gulftown CPU, examples of which are Handbrake and POV-Ray, the 990X ran away with the performance advantage followed closely by the Core i7-980X. Even though the processor runs at 3.46 GHz as the default clock speed (and that the i7-2600K can reach much higher than that) the power of 6-cores is hard to get away from when it comes to processor-bound computing.

In areas where single threaded (or dual for that matter) performance was more important, the Core i7-2600K came out ahead in our testing. Take a look at the LAME MP3 encoder results, the Microsoft Image Compositing Engine or even the single threaded results of Euler3D, Cinebench and more; you’ll find the much less expensive Core i7-2600K at the front of the pack beating out what Intel is selling you here with the 990X. The scalability of the Sandy Bridge design is one of its key selling points and this is no more obvious than here where it can compete with the brute force of Nehalem head on.

For those of you with a limitless budget, the Core i7-990X is still going to offer great single and dual-threaded performance while bringing the absolute best in terms of multi-threaded capability. Users that are looking for the best encoding times for video editing and processing or any number of other use cases will find the Core i7-990X to be their best option. However if you are willing to sacrifice and go for the quad-core Sandy Bridge options then you can save a lot of cash in the process.

The Intel DX58SO2 Extreme Series Motherboard

My outlook on the $999 Core i7-990X processor is pretty specific – only get it if you want the absolute fastest processor for multi-threaded applications and can afford it. For the Intel DX58SO2 motherboard though the story is pretty different – it offers a great combination of features, connectivity and overclocking options in a package that is pretty much complete from opening the box to installation. With the inclusion of SATA 6G and USB 3.0 in addition to Bluetooth and WiFi as well, this Intel Extreme Series motherboard isn’t going to be left lacking when placed up against any competition.

This still isn’t a budget motherboard though – coming in at $260 you are going to pay a hefty price for it. Compared to some other brands top offerings like the ASUS ROG and MSI Big Bang Series, the DX58SO2 is pretty much in line with the competition. If you are building an LGA1366 system anytime soon then I would highly recommend putting this board on your consideration list. I think it will impress most consumers, much as it did me.

Final Thoughts

It should be obvious that the LGA1366 processor socket and platform is nearing the end of its life cycle. In all honesty, it lasted quite a bit longer than most of us thought after the release of Lynnfield and now Sandy Bridge into the same enthusiast market. What can I say, some people just love their Core i7-920 processors to no end – we have a couple of them running in various outposts here still as well. If you are looking to build one of the fastest computers in the world and can deal with the fact that the Core i7-990X might be the top-out point for the platform, then Nehalem will fit the bill and I don’t think you will ever regret the design while using it. The Intel Extreme Series DX58SO2 motherboard makes a great choice for buyers of the lowest end or highest priced LGA1366 processors.

If you are one of our normal readers though and need to balance your performance and budget, then you will still be better off looking to Intel’s Core i7-2000 series of processors and maybe even a new Z68-based motherboard that finally unlocks all that platform’s capabilities.

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