The Core i7-980X will supplant the four cores, 45 nm Core i7-975 Extreme Edition as Intel’s strongest CPU, at the same price ($999). But how much better is it?
The Core i7-975 and the Core i7-980X look identical, both have a base clock speed of 3.33GHz, TDP cooling rated at 130 watts, and three channels of DDR3-1066 RAM. But the i7-980X’s six cores give apps 12 threads to work with, versus the i7-975’s 8 threads. Also whereas the i7-975 shares 8 MB L3 cache across its cores, the new CPU has a 12 MB cache.
Each processor in a PC running Windows 7 Ultimate Edition (64 bit), with 6GB RAM, a 1TB hard drive and an ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics card.
Though Intel aims the Core i7-980X at games, the new CPU outperformed the Core i7-975 only marginally in our tests. In Unreal Tournament 3 (at 1920 by 1200 resolution and high settings) the Core i7-980X cranked out 159.9 frames per second versus the Core i7-975’s 155.4 fps. In Dirt 2 the Core i7-980X managed 73.3 fps, as against the Core i7-975’s 71.7 fps.
Those results aren’t surprising, since many modern video games don’t take full advantage of multithreading. But if you work with multithreaded apps such as Adobe Photoshop, Blender and Sony Vegas Pro spending $1000 for a Core i7-980X processor may make improvement will be in apps that sprawl across as many cores as possible, like Maxon’s Cinema 4D animation software.
Though the i7-980X may not blow the i7-975 out of the water now, the performance bottleneck for gamers lies in the paucity of multithreaded offerings and that situation is changing. If you can afford this $1000 chip, it may be worth the cost of entry. As multicore CPU’s and multicore optimized applications grow more and more common, you’ll be able to put all six of its cores to good use.