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Intel’s Core i7-980X Extreme Edition – Ready for Sick Scores?
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by Rob Williams on March 10, 2010 in Intel Processors

It’s official. We’re now entering the six-core realm, thanks to Intel’s Gulftown. The first model, Core i7-980X, is more than capable of delivering the sick scores that our title suggests, and along with it, we can begin to see some major benefits of the 32nm process. To sweeten the deal further, Intel even includes an effective new CPU cooler.

System: Sandra Memory, Multi-Core Efficiency

Generally speaking, the faster the processor, the higher the system-wide bandwidth and the lower the latency. As is always the case, faster is better when it comes to processors, as we’ll see below. But with Core i7, the game changes up a bit.

Whereas previous memory controllers utilized a dual-channel operation, Intel threw that out the window to introduce triple-channel, which we talked a lot about at August’s IDF. Further, since Intel integrates the IMC onto the die of the new CPUs, benefits are going to be seen all-around.

Before jumping into the results, we already had an idea of what to expect, and just as we did, the results seen are nothing short of staggering.

Here’s something I wasn’t expecting. For some reason, the bandwidth we saw on the i7-980X was much less than the i7-975, despite using the same memory speeds. Given what Intel told me, I’m willing to bet this could be an issue with our motherboard, but I hope to find out for sure soon. Up until just yesterday, our board was unable to handle DDR3-1600 speeds, but a beta BIOS fixed that. So it can be assumed that just maybe, an issue related to memory still exists. So take the results above with a grain of salt for the time-being.

While the memory bandwidth was a little strange, the cache bandwidth is just about where we’d expect it to be. It’s also interesting to note that the latency is a bit lower on the i7-980X, but it’s again tough to know at this point whether that’s due to the motherboard or the architecture.

Sandra 2009 Multi-Core Efficiency

How fast can one core swap data with another? It might not seem that important, but it definitely is if you are dealing with a true multi-threaded application. The faster data can be swapped around, the faster it’s going to be finished, so overall, inter-core speeds are important in every regard.

Even without looking at the data, we know that Core i7 is going to excel here, for a few different reasons. The main is the fact that this is Intel’s first native Quad-Core. Rather than have two Dual-Core dies placed beside each other, i7 was built to place four cores together, so that in itself improves things. Past that, the ultra-fast QPI bus likely also has something to do with speed increases.

Our core latency hasn’t changed much from the i7-980X, and it even decreased by 1ns. This is understandable given the different layout of the cores compared to the Bloomfield’s. Core bandwidth has seen an obvious boost, though.