Intel Core i7 980X 6-Core 32nm Gulftown Processor Review

Raise your hand if you like to get more, while actually getting it in a smaller package. Funny but true - with certain things you can actually get more and benefit from it being smaller than a previous version. This is very common with computer components where going smaller as technology advances actually increases the amount you receive. For instance, we have recently seen video card processors decrease in size, while seeing an increase in the streaming processors, which is a perfect example of less equaling more. Decreases in die size, due to technological advances, have made it possible.

 

It’s been a while since we have seen advances in CPUs; quad core processors have been common amongst the mainstream for over three years. Sure, there have been some architectural changes, as well as increases in speed, but we have not seen more in the way of cores - it’s been four and there it has stayed for quite some time. Well my friends, those of you who crave more, but wish it were smaller too, your wait is over.

 

Intel has announced a new processor which will be the Core i7 – 900 Desktop Extreme Edition Series on a 32nm process. The new Core i7 900 series refers to the new Core i7 980X extreme edition desktop processor, which will be comprised of six cores, a new 32nm process, integrated memory controller, a point to point QPI (Quick Path Interconnect) link capable of 6.4GT/s and a new larger L3 Cache which is 12MB.

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Technologies" class="system-pagebreak" title="Technologies" />

Technologies

Technologies

What's new?

Intel’s first six core (Codename; Gulftown), 12 threaded 32nm processor on the Westmere architecture. The Intel 980X Extreme Edition includes some of Intel’s now familiar technologies as well, such as Turbo Boost, Hyper-Threading, Smart Cache, Integrated Memory Controller and compatibility with the Intel X58 Chipset.

 

Product Features

 

 

Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology

 "Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology (Intel® HT Technology) enables each physical core to run multiple threads dynamically. This results in Dodeca (Twelve)  processing with six physical processor cores. This capability is essential in today‘s multi-threaded software environments helping to improve overall system responsiveness thus enhancing user experience. Applications that are programmed to run on more than two threads will trigger the CPU to enable up to twelve threads to run on a hexa core Gulftown processor. Some of the threaded applications that benefit from this technology are Adobe Premiere Elements* 8, Microsoft Office Excel* and Microsoft Windows Live Movie Maker*."

 

Intel® Turbo Boost Technology

"Intel® Turbo Boost Technology intelligently delivers higher performance when there is available headroom available to the processor. This technology dynamically increases the frequency of the active cores if the processor is operating below the rated power, current and temperature specification limits. The maximum frequency of Intel® Turbo Boost Technology is dependent upon the number of active cores. The amount of time the processor spends in the Intel® Turbo Boost Technology state depends on the workload and operating environment, providing the performance you need, when and where you need it. Applications that are lightly threaded can experience up to 3.46 GHz of CPU frequency on a 3.33 GHz part. Some of the lightly threaded applications that benefit from this technology are Apple iTunes*, Microsoft Windows Live Photo Gallery*, Adobe Premiere Elements* and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom*."

 

 

Intel® Smart Cache

"Intel® Smart Cache enables dynamic and efficient allocation of cache to match the needs of each core. The 12 MB cache is not restricted to a dedicated core but rather shared between the cores and based on the cache requirements of the core the cache is allocated dynamically. Applications like Microsoft Excel* that need to import a lot of data into the cache to operate on show benefits using this technology."

 

Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (AESNI)

"Advanced Encryption Standard (AESNI) instructions are a new set of six processor instructions that offer full hardware support for AES algorithms. These instructions accelerate data encryption and decryption, using AES algorithms. Since AES is deployed in various protocols, the new instructions will be valuable for a wide range of applications and offer an increase in performance compared to pure software implementations. Beyond improving performance, the AES new instructions provide important security benefits by reducing side-band attacks. Application like WinZip* 14 that use encryption/decryption while compressing/decompressing benefit from these new instructions."

 

Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (Intel® QPI)

Intel QPI is a cache-coherent, point-to-point link based electrical interconnect specification for Intel processors and chipsets.

 

Intel® QuickPath Technology Memory Controller

A memory controller that is integrated into the processor die.

 

Execute Disable Bit

Execute Disable allows memory to be marked asexecutable or non-executable, when combined with a supporting operating system. If code attempts to run in non-executable memory the processor raises an error to the operating system. This feature can prevent some classes of viruses or worms that exploit buffer overrun vulnerabilities and can thus help improve the overall security of the system. See the Intel® Architecture Software Developer's Manual for more detailed information. Refer to http://developer.intel.com/ for future reference on up to date nomenclatures.

 

Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology

Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology allows the operating system to reduce power consumption when performance is not needed.

 

Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT)

A set of hardware enhancements to Intel server and client platforms that can improve virtualization solutions. Intel® VT provides a foundation for widely-deployed virtualization solutions and enables a more robust hardware assisted virtualization solution. More information can be found at: http://www.intel.com/technology/virtualization/

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Technologies (Continued)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Technologies (Continued)" />

Technologies (Continued)

Included with the new Core i7 980X Series is a Heatsink and Fan combination made to cool the processor efficiently. It is the DBX-B Thermal Solution; the DBX-B is made to provide a quiet, yet cool, environment for the 980X processor. There are two modes that are available, quiet and performance. On quiet mode, the fan only rotates at 800 RPM, with a max of 20dBA, and on performance, max of 35dBA. (1800 RPM).

This fan is relatively quiet when set to Q on the switch; I was quite impressed. I am used to Intel stock fans being quite annoying, with their patented whine. Even on performance, the fan, although audible, was not extremely loud. As per cooling, not bad!

Temperatures: Room 22C

  • Idle Stock: 29C
  • Idle Load: 47C
  • Idle Overclocked: 33C
  • Load Overclocked: 68C

 

 

 

Chipset, Wafer and Die Pictures

 

Multi-Threaded Applications

These applications will take full advantage or the Intel Core i7 Gulftown Processors six cores and 12X Hyper-Threading.

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Review Philosophy" class="system-pagebreak" title="Review Philosophy" />

Review Philosophy

 

In this review, Hi Tech Legion will evaluate the new Intel Core i7 980X 32nm Six Core LGA 1366 Gulftown processor.

  • Evaluate processor with World Bench (Real World Benchmark) to calculate times and productivity with common applications.
  • Evaluate processor with PCMark Vantage, which will encompass productivity, music, video and communications.
  • Evaluate processor with SiSoftware Sandra to determine latencies, bandwidth and processor multimedia.
  • Evaluate processor with Everest to record both cache and memory, read, write, copy and latencies.
  • Evaluate processor with Cinebench R10 and R11 to determine the processor's rendering capabilities.
  • Evaluate HD Gaming using the Hi Tech Legion suite of both synthetic and real world games.

 

The purpose of these benchmarks are to evaluate the platform as a whole. These benchmarks will provide statistical numbers to give an overall idea of what you can expect, if you choose to upgrade to this new platform. Factors to observe are the benefits of the technologies that are included with the new Intel Core Series Processors, which include Hyper-Threading, Turbo Boost, Smart Cache and the Advantage of two extra cores (over a quad core). In the end, it will always be the overall computing experience the end user receives when using the platform.

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Specifications and Features" class="system-pagebreak" title="Specifications and Features" />

Specifications

Pricing

 

Features

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Testing Methods" class="system-pagebreak" title="Testing Methods" />

Testing

 

Benchmarking

To test all systems, processors, and motherboards, Hi Tech Legion has compiled a list of popular programs to test performance; these benchmarks are taken from programs that are available to the public. We have compiled these to create the Hi Tech Legion Benchmark Suite, which includes system, graphics, processor, rendering, compression, and word processing. All scores will be graphed for each specific test under its category: video benchmarks (gaming will be rated in FPS: Frames per second), system scores will be graded by numbers which are given as results by their respective programs, higher will be better unless otherwise specified. If file compression is chosen, then all times will be in seconds. All temperatures will be measured in Celsius. For the gaming benchmarks, only the resolution of 1024 x 768 will be utilized when using on-die or on-board graphics.

Systems

Test System

  • Processor: Intel Core i7 980X, Core i7 965X, Core i7 920
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte X58A-UD5, EVGA X58-Classified (965),Gigabyte X58-UD3 (920)
  • Memory: 6GB Patriot Viper II 1600MHz Triple Channel
  • Video Card: Sapphire HD 5970, Sapphire HD 4890
  • Hard Drive: Patriot Torqx 128GB SSD, Seagate 1TB Barracuda 7200.11
  • Power Supply: Cooler Master GX 750W 80+
  • Media: LG Blu-Ray DVD
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

 

 

 

Benchmarks

System Benchmarks

  • World Bench
  • PCMark Vantage
  • SiSandra (CPU)
  • Everest (Cache and Memory)
  • Cinebench 10 (CPU Rendering)

Gaming Benchmarks

  • 3DMark Vantage
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Batman Arkham Asylum
  • Battle Forge
  • STALKER: Call of Pripyat

 

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="System Benchmark (World Bench)" class="system-pagebreak" title="System Benchmark (World Bench)" />

World Bench

 

World Bench is a system benchmark that tests the rendering, DirectX, video encoding, file compression, data entry, and overall performance of your system. World Bench 6 Beta (stable) gives a base score of 100 for a baseline comparison when different systems are chosen. For our tests, these scores will not be valid; all benchmarks are run individually and will reflect times in seconds as given by the program. If you would like more information here is a link. World Bench 6

 

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="System Benchmark (PCMark Vantage)" class="system-pagebreak" title="System Benchmark (PCMark Vantage)" />

PCMark Vantage

Designed for Windows Vista, PCMark Vantage benchmarks your system with a variety of tests including video, photo editing, gaming, and communications. For results, a total PCMark score will be given (default setting) and individual scores for the tasks that are tested. To learn more about PCMark Vantage visit Futuremarks website.

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="System Benchmark (Si Sandra)" class="system-pagebreak" title="System Benchmark (Si Sandra)" />

SiSandra

One of our favorites, Sandra from SiSoftware is a system benchmark that individually tests all components of your system. For our benchmarking purpose, we will use the processor section which includes Processor Arithmetic, Multicore Efficiency, and Multimedia. All scores will be listed as given by benchmark, higher will be better unless otherwise stated. SiSandra

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="System Benchmark (Everest)" class="system-pagebreak" title="System Benchmark (Everest)" />

Everest

Everest is a diagnostic and benchmarking tool. Everest will be used for its Cache and Memory benchmark. System memory, L1 cache, L2 cache, and L3 cache will be benchmarked for latency, read, write, and copy. Lavalys is the producer of this software.

 

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="System Benchmark (Cinebench 10 and 11)" class="system-pagebreak" title="System Benchmark (Cinebench 10 and 11)" />

Cinebench R10 and R11

Created by Maxon, Cinebench R10 tests rendering of your CPU and GPU and scores their performance individually. We will be using the CPU rendering portion of the program and benchmark single CPU and Multiple CPU performance.

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Gaming Benchmark (3DMark Vantage)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Gaming Benchmark (3DMark Vantage)" />

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is a gaming benchmark used to test the DirectX performance of your graphics card. There are four tests plus a custom setting that can be run: Entry (1024x768), Performance (1280x1024), which is the default setting, High (1680x1050), and Extreme (1920x1200). In each resolution, a total score, a CPU, and GPU are generated. Futuremark

 

 

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Gaming Benchmark (Left 4 Dead)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Gaming Benchmark (Left 4 Dead)" />

Gaming Benchmark (Left 4 Dead)

Left 4 Dead is an FPS where four uninfected people are left in a city where everyone else has turned into zombies. The action in this game is intense - zombies come at you from all angles. You can play Left 4 Dead via Stream and can choose whether to play your own campaign or play with others.

 

Settings:

  • AA: 4x MSAA
  • Ansi: Trilinear

SLI Settings:

  • 16x CSSA
  • ANSI: 16x

Comparison

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Gaming Benchmark (Battle Forge)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Gaming Benchmark (Battle Forge)" />

Gaming Benchmark (Battle Forge)

Battle Forge is an MMORPG that is free to play with its download. You choose from mythical characters and battle until your opponents are conquered. Battle Forge is the first game to support Direct X 11.

 

Settings

  • AA x4
  • Default High

 

Comparison

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Gaming Benchmark (Resident Evil 5)" class="system-pagebreak" title=" Gaming Benchmark (Resident Evil 5)" />

Gaming Benchmark (Resident Evil 5)

The fifth installation of the Resident Evil Series, which is a first person shooter. You are a member of the World Bioterrorism Team and are sent out to stop a new infestation of the virus created by the Umbrella Corporation.

 

Settings

  • AA 2x
  • Levels: High

 

 

Comparison

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Gaming Benchmark (Batman Arkham Asylum)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Gaming Benchmark (Batman Arkham Asylum)" />

Gaming Benchmark (Batman Arkham Asylum)

Batman Arkham Asylum is the newest of the Batman series of video games. The Joker has escaped and is holding the Asylum hostage. It is up to you (Batman) to stop the Joker's evil plot and bring order back to the Asylum.

 

Settings

  • No AA
  • No Physics

 

 

Comparison

 

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Gaming Benchmark (S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Gaming Benchmark (S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat)" />

Gaming Benchmark (S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat)

 

 

 

Settings

  • Ultra
  • Tessilation

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

 

Comparison

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Performance Tuning (Overclocking)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Performance Tuning (Overclocking)" />

Performance Tuning (Overclocking)

Since the Intel Core i7 980X Six Core processor is an Extreme Edition, you will have a few different options to try when performance tuning. Intel Extreme Editions have unlocked processor multipliers, which, unlike processors with locked multipliers, gives you three options when performance tuning your system. One of the most common options when performance tuning is to raise your base clock. By raising your base clock, you increase the speed of the processor. For example, a base clock of 133 raised to 150, with a multiplier of 25, will give you a 425 MHz increase in performance. (133x25=3325/150x25=3750) Having an unlocked multiplier gives you the option to raise the multiplier, which in turn will yield the same results without having to raise the base clock. (133x25=3325/133x28=3724) The major benefit of the unlocked multiplier is the ability to raise both the base clock and multiplier to achieve these results, which is the third option. (150x25=3750/145x26=3770) These are options and, by having these options, you will be able to performance tune your system using the best combination of the three for maximum stability and performance.

 

Using those options above is how we at Hi Tech Legion went about performance tuning our system. Using all of the combinations, it was found that the most stable and maximum overclock achieved was 4.15 GHz and that was raising the base clock to 166 from 133. Surprisingly, there was no need to increase any other voltages at those numbers. (CPU voltage=auto/1.39V) Yes, we did try to manipulate voltages, memory timings, QPI etc., and hit a wall - it was a no go on all fronts. Captain, we gave it all she got and just couldn’t give it anymore.  All in all, 800Mhz on a processor that has 6 cores and 12X Multi-threading wasn’t that shameful.

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Putting it all Together" class="system-pagebreak" title="Putting it all Together" />

Putting It All Together

It wasn’t hard deciding what components needed to be used to accompany the Intel Core i7 980X, it needed to be shown with an SSD and the latest and greatest video card. It was the Corei7 965X and 920 that was the question. If you are upgrading from either of those two processors, there is a distinct possibility that your video card and hard drive will be older and you would probably upgrade from there also. So, with that in mind, the other two processors will be shown as they were when they were launched over a year ago.

Video benchmarks were not shown for comparison due to one difference; the 4890s used with the other systems are DirectX 10 video cards, where the Sapphire HD 5970 is DirectX 11. The purpose of this review is to show the reader what to expect when purchasing an Intel Core i7 980X, which is a processor. With this in mind, remember whatever components are added around the core (CPU) of the system will affect its performance. Use this as a guide to make your decision on what components you will use when building and or purchasing Intel Core i7 980X Gulftown processor or system.

 

System Benchmarks

World Bench: World Bench (“The Real World Benchmark”), tests the processor using productivity, communications and video encoding applications to test the CPU’s ability. The numbers generated are seconds taken to complete the predetermined tasks.

You may have noticed that the Intel Core i7 980, in many cases, produced better numbers than the i7 965X and i7 920, or came very close. This is due to the Intel Core i7 980x’s ability to use its two extra cores and higher  base speed. Hyper- Threading Technology (run multiple threads (12) with multithreaded applications) and its shared Smart Cache (providing allocated Data to the core that requires it most dynamically). The other two processors do not possess these qualities (12X Hyper Threading or two extra cores), so they are not able to process the data as quickly and get an extra boost of power when needed. I also took a close look at WinZip for the processor's use of Intel's new AES-NI - does it work? There was over a 50 second time difference in converting the files in the benchmark. (Two extra cores may have made some difference but....., AES-NI works.)

PCMark Vantage: Here you will notice some differences. The Intel Core i7 980X system tested utilized a Solid State Drive, while the i7 965X and i7 920 both had 1TB Hard Drives at 7200 RPM and a 32MB cache. Some applications in the PCMark suite utilize the hard drive more than others and this is reflected in HDD scores. With the combination of the SSD and the Intel technologies, there is a significant increase in performance. Productivity score increased due to three factors CPU,SSD and Video*. The i7 965X and i7 920 used an ATI 4890 for a video card, where an ATI DirectX 11 HD 5970 was used with the i7 980X gaming also received a hefty increase.

SiSoftware Sandra: Here we looked at how well the processor computes equations, memory bandwidth and multimedia. You will notice that the Core i7 980X processes its equations more quickly and its latencies between the memory and its onboard memory controller are more efficient, due to the extra two cores. I recently decided to add some memory benchmarks - this is a test to see if there will be a demand for these types of benchmarks as future comparisons. (please give us your input)

Everest: Everest calculates the time it takes to process data (Cache and Memory). Looking at the benchmarks, you notice that latencies were quite close between all processors and, for the most part, each cache was about equal, with the Core i7 980x "Gulftown" having a slight edge in L1 and L2.  With the L3 cache there was a slight difference at stock speeds -it actually produced lower numbers. I did contact Everest about this and it is a benchmark problem, due to the extra cores.

Cinebench: How well does your CPU render a specified image? Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost make a difference. With Hyper-Threading, the Six Core i7 980X walloped its predecessors. More cores and more threads make a difference.

Gaming: The Core i7 980X Gulftown is a powerful multi-core, multi threaded processor. When combined with a powerful video card and a quality SSD, nothing should come close to its performance. At resolutions of 1920 x 1200, frame rates were exceptionally high, even when the CPU is less of a factor. With lower resolutions, where the CPU does play into the factor, frame rates exceeded my expectations. The extra two cores and Hyper-Threading will also give you an advantage when playing mulit-threaded games like Resident Evil 5.

*PCMark Productivity

Productivity 1: (Text) 60% CPU, 35% Video, 0% HDD

Productivity 2: (Simultaneous Tasks) 48% CPU, 10% Video, 35% HDD

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Conclusion" class="system-pagebreak" title="Conclusion" />

Conclusion

 

Provided by: Intel

No compensation was received for review of this product.

 

 

Price Point

 

Price: $999.00 USD

 

Class: Enthusiast

 

At a price of $999.00 USD, the Intel Core i7 980 Extreme Edition Processor is an Enthusiast level or High Performance Processor.

 

Performance

 

If performance is what you crave, and are willing to go the extra mile (budget wise) to obtain it, the Intel Core i7 980X six core, 32nm Gulftown processor is made to do what you crave. Since we are seeing more multi-threaded applications and there are still more in development, owning an Intel 980X with its six cores and 12X Hyper-Threading, you will have an unfair advantage.

 

Reviewer's Opinion

 

Given the price of the Intel Core i7 980X, it may not be affordable to some, which is its only pitfall. I’m sure in time there will be more affordable six core Intel processors. This will open the door to many mainstream users who are looking to take advantage of its abilities.

 

If you’re like me, you probably have two or three aftermarket heatsinks stored somewhere, which you probably keep to use on a new build before purchasing another.  I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of the new Intel DBX-B Thermal Solution. Unlike other stock coolers, which I have thrown in the emergency pile, I would use this one. It is quiet and cools well. Being an Extreme Edition is a nice fit for those who (as I’d like to put it) enjoy tweaking their system, as it opens the options of performance tuning without having to be committed to the base clock.

 

What you will receive from the Intel Core i7 980 Extreme Edition Gulftown Processor is performance right out of the box. No other processor to date (other than a server based) has six cores or 12X Hyper-Threading, which makes the 980X the most powerful processor available for home use.

 

Pros:

  • Six Core Performance with Hyper-Threading
  • Turbo Boost Technology
  • Optimized for Windows 7
  • 12MB (Shared) L3 Cache
  • Much Improved Thermal Solution (DBX-B)
  • 32nm Processor

Cons:

  • Not for the Budget Minded

 

 

gold

 

 

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