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Meet the world’s fastest CPU. OK, so we just gave away the big reveal to our report before you even flipped one page, and without so much as the common courtesy of a spoiler alert. For that, we do not apologize, because it’s not like you couldn’t have guessed how this one would end up. After all, Intel’s new 3.33GHz Core i7-980X builds on all the goodness of the ass-kicking quad-core 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition, but is smaller, cooler, and has an additional two cores under its heat spreader. With Hyper-Threading enabled, that’s a cool 12 threads at the ready. How could anyone screw that one up?
In fact, Intel’s Core i7-980X seems to be one of the most flawless launches we’ve seen from the company in some time. By flawless, we mean there are no contortionist acts, such as explaining to consumers that a new socket (LGA1156) will have the same CPU branding as an incompatible existing socket. Nor is there the head-scratcher of a very novel, yet very limp, integrated graphics chip in a CPU (Clarkdale), which, by the way, won’t work in boards that lack graphics output ports.
With Core i7-980X, you update your BIOS, drop the chip in, and—voilà—you spend hours rocking a six-core high. Put simply, Core i7-980X is 24-ounces of prime-rib red meat for performance enthusiasts who really haven’t had much to gnaw on since the original 3.2GHz Core i7-965 Extreme Edition came out two years ago.
So we’re done, right? You don’t need to read on? Sorry, there’s still more to learn. If you want to know if your motherboard works with the new chip, what applications can really exploit the six cores, and how this bad boy performs, you’ll have to keep reading.
Intel's Top Procs Compared
||Core i7-975 Extreme Edition
|Clock Speed (on Turbo)||3.33GHz (3.6GHz)||3.33GHz (3.6GHz)||2.93GHz (3.6GHz)|
|Cores / Threads
|RAM Support||Tri-channel DDR3/1066||Tri-channel DDR3/1066||Dual channel DDR3/1333|
|TDP||130 watts||130 watts||95 watts|
|Transistor Count||1.17 billion||731 million||774 million|
We know that, by now, enthusiasts should be immune to Intel’s confusing model numbers, but there’s one thing that sticks in our craw about the Core i7-980X: Despite it being the world’s first consumer x86 hexa-core, and despite it using the latest 32nm process, it’s label is a mere five notches greater than the quad-core Core i7-975 Extreme Edition part it ostensibly replaces.
Surely, all the goodness of two more cores and a total 12 threads of computing would warrant a Core i9 designation, or at the very least, a much higher model number, right? No, Intel officials told us. The company said that, despite previous reports that it would call its hexa-core Core i9, Intel backed off when retailers and vendors complained of too many blasted brands. And as to why it isn’t a 999X or 9900X, Intel said such gestures are unnecessary. The part is designed for enthusiasts and the folks who buy it will know that it’s not a mere five clicks more than a Core i7-975.