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

by MAC     |     March 10, 2010

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

Yes, it is finally here...well, almost. Although we have been given a green light to tease you with a review, actual availability of hexa- or six-core Core i7-980X processors is still a few weeks away. Nevertheless, now that the review embargo has ended - and it was another painful embargo for us since Gulftown and the Westmere-EP processors have been freely available in the enthusiast community (or eBay) for months - we can finally reveal (or least confirm) everything you have wanted to know about the soon to be available Core i7-980X Extreme Edition processor, codenamed Gulftown.

Although many had earlier suspected that Gulftown would sport the Core i9 moniker to distinguish it from the quad-core parts, Intel have stuck to the tried & true Core i7 brand. Being a Core i7 model, this processor supports both Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost, which are the two features that Intel is using to differentiate between their Core i3/i5/i7 product lines. As we all knew it would be, this is a Socket LGA1366 processor and it will work on any Intel X58-based motherboard. At worst, a new BIOS will be needed on some motherboards, but if you have updated your BIOS anytime in the last 1-2 months chances are that you are ready to go with regard to Gulftown support.

The condensed specifics of the Core i7-980X are as follows and they read like a litany of must-haves for enthusiasts: a 32nm manufacturing process, fully unlocked multipliers, 3.33Ghz core clock, Turbo Boost up to 3.6Ghz, six cores plus Hyper-Threading, 12MB of L3 cache, triple-channel DDR3-1066 memory interface, 130W TDP, and a $999 USD price tag. The retail Core i7-980X package will also come with an impressive new stock CPU cooler; the DBX-B Thermal Solution.

This chip isn't targeted at your average computer user, not even your average enthusiast, who can barely take full advantage of the current quad-core/eight-threaded Core i7's potential. With six cores and twelve threads this is part for those who take their multi-tasking or benchmarking seriously. To make full use of this processor's capabilities you need to have software that supports more than eight threads, and they are few and far between right now. As you will see in the coming pages, Gulftown will particularly appeal to those who are obsessed with multi-threading performance but are also very conscious about power consumption, Folding@home -bigadv crunchers come to mind.

Even if you can't fathom a thousand dollar piece of hardware in your future this is still a review worth reading since Gulftown models will trickle down to reasonable price points in due time.


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