Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition review

Six cores, 12MB of cache and a whole lotta money

Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition
The Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition has up to twelve cores, six of which are virtualised through HyperThreading

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But that isn't the point of the 980X. The point is multi-threaded mastery. It delivers. In our HD video encoding benchmark, for example, it's very nearly 50 per cent faster than the 975.

Professional rendering is another showcase application for the 980X's multi-threading talents with the 980X shaving fully 50 per cent off the 975's 43 second time-to-complete for CineBench R10.

32nm core structure

Of course, you won't always see performance balloon in line with the core count, even in multi-threaded applications. Not all applications are coded to scale in an efficient and linear fashion as cores are added.

Moreover, some are limited by factors such as data bandwidth, a metric by which the 980X does nothing to move the game on. It supports precisely the same 1,066MHz DDR3 memory in triple-channel configuration as existing high-end Core i7 processors.

Still, just as impressive as the increased performance is the fact that the 980X does it while consuming less power than the old 975 quad-core processor. And not just a little less. Our test system peaks at 275 watts with the 975 installed but just 245 watts courtesy of the new 980X. More performance for less power in other words.

Punitive pricing

Regarding downsides, there are few. As we have come to expect, Turbo Mode disappoints. Whether the workload is single or multi-threaded, the 980X runs at 3.45GHz. Frankly, the whole Turbo Mode thing feels more and more like a gimmick. Note to Intel: decide what speed the thing runs at and stick that on the label, umm-kay.

That said, the real killer is pricing. £800 makes this a luxurious irrelevancy for all but a few well-heeled enthusiasts. In the context of chips like the new Core i7 930, a 2.8GHz quad-core processor that sells for about £220, making a business case for the 980X is basically impossible. It doesn't come close to delivering four times the performance.


The PC industry has bet all its chips on multi-core. Hence, the full potential of this new six-core specimen from Intel will surely be unleashed in time. But for now, and at this price point, it doesn't add up for a typical PC user.

However, the knowledge that cheaper versions of Intel's new hexa-core architecture are on the way gives us something to look forward to. Until then, that quad you're currently running will do just fine.

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