There's no doubting the sheer power of the Intel Core i7 970. Try this for starters. In our HD video encoding benchmark it bangs out nearly 42 frames per second. That absolutely blows away both the quad-core Intel Core i7 875K (27 frames per second) and the six-core AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE (26 frames per second).
It's a similar story in the professional 3D rendering test. The 970 is miles ahead. Arguably even more impressive are the game and file decompression results - benchmarks that do not normally favour CPU parallelism. The Core i7 970 is usefully ahead of the Core i7 870 and more than 50 per cent faster than the Phenom II X6 1090T.
In performance terms, therefore, no compromises are required. That's because the 970 backs up its hefty parallelism (six cores and 12 threads) with a 3.2GHz clockspeed. Whatever the workload, it's damn quick. In fact, the only CPU that operates in the same ballpark is the Intel Core i7 980X, which is of course a slightly higher clocked version of the same six-core processor die.
The one area where you might expect all those cores and threads to cause a problem is overclocking. But even here the Core i7 970 puts on a decent show, ramping up to 4GHz courtesy of nothing more than an air cooler and some voltage tweaks. It's all very impressive until you remember the price. It's possible to buy a very nice desktop PC, complete with processor, graphics and screen, for the cost of this CPU.
In a word, performance. Whether it's games, media encoding or just multi-tasking, the Core i7 970 has delivers rude amounts of it. But what else did you expect from six of the most advanced processor cores money can buy. The damn thing even overclocks well.
In a word, price. Awesome as the Intel Core i7 970 is, it's also awesomely expensive and simply poor value compared to quad-core processors costing one third the price. In fact, if you're willing to spend this much, you may as well go all the way with the Core i7 980X.
A six-core masterpiece in 32nm silicon. Shame about the grand-master pricing, though.