Core i7-980X Extreme Edition Specs
Unlike Intel's very first quad-core processor, their first 6-core chip has been designed to give up nothing to prior EE CPUs; the Core i7-980X runs at the same 3.33GHz clock speed as the Core i7-975 EE, and as we mentioned earlier, it boasts more L3 cache (which is shared amongst all cores) than the 975 also. Therefore at the very worst, it should perform pretty comparably to Intel's flagship 975 EE CPU.
The extra cache isn't the only perk you'll find with the Core i7-980X Extreme Edition though. This is also the first Intel CPU to ship with a cooler we actually respect, but more on that later. Let's look at the CPU's specs:
|Intel's Core i7 Lineup|
|Processor||Core i7-980X Extreme Edition||Core i7-975 Extreme Edition||Core i7-960||Core i7-930||Core i7-920||Core i7-870||Core i7-860|
|Base Clock Speed||3.33GHz||3.33GHz||3.2GHz||2.8GHz||2.66GHz||2.93GHz||2.8GHz|
|Max Turbo Speed||3.6GHz||3.6GHz||3.46GHz||3.06GHz||2.93GHz||3.6GHz||3.46GHz|
|# of CPU Cores/Max Threads||6/12||4/8||4/8||4/8||4/8||4/8||4/8|
|L3 Cache Size||12MB||8MB||8MB||8MB||8MB||8MB||8MB|
|Memory Support||3-Channel DDR3-1066||3-Channel DDR3-1066||3-Channel DDR3-1066||3-Channel DDR3-1066||3-Channel DDR3-1066||2-Channel DDR3-1333||2-Channel DDR3-1333|
|# of Transistors||1.17 Billion||731 Million||731 Million||731 Million||731 Million||774 Million||774 Million|
So how is Intel able to charge the same price for the Core i7-980X as the 975 EE? Simple, 32-nm. Thanks to the smaller manufacturing process, Intel is able to cram 1.17 billion transistors into a 248 square millimeter die. That's actually smaller than Lynnfield, which features a 296mm2 die. Thanks to its 32-nm process, the Core i7-980X also features the same 130W TDP as previous Bloomfield Core i7 CPUs.
As you can see in the chart above, Intel sticks with the same Turbo Mode speeds as the Core i7-975, and DDR3 speed is still officially limited to 1066MHz. However, as any enthusiast can tell you, Core i7 CPUs can be pushed to memory speeds much further than that, but 1066MHz is still the max speed of the spec.
One new feature Intel has added with their 32-nm Westmere family of CPUs, Gulftown included, is AES-NI (Advanced Encryption Standard-New Instructions). These are new instructions designed to improve the CPU's performance at handling AES encryption and decryption algorithms found in compression programs like WinRAR as well as Windows Vista/Windows 7's Bitlocker hard drive encryption. This feature first debuted earlier this year in Intel's Core i5 and Core i3 "Clarkdale" CPUs.
Bloomfield left, Gulftown right
Bloomfield and Gulftown sit next to Lynnfield
In terms of motherboard compatibility, the Core i7-980X Extreme Edition is a drop-in replacement for previous Bloomfield Core i7 CPUs. Simply update the BIOS on your existing X58 motherboard, and you're good to go. Most motherboard manufacturers have quietly offered Gulftown-ready BIOS' for a month or so now, so upgrading to six-core shouldn't be a problem.
New CPU Cooler
While they make great processors, one area Intel has historically neglected is CPU cooling. We've half joked in the past that their heatsink/fan units are nothing more than glorified paper weights that should be tossed away in favor of a real CPU cooler.
The joking stops with the Core i7-980X Extreme Edition though. This is the first Intel cooler that we'd actually keep.
Previous Intel coolers have relied on push pins to mount the heatsink to the CPU socket. This is great for inexperienced users who haven't built their own PC before, as it makes installation super simple, but as a result the heatsink doesn't make as good of contact with the surface of the CPU, hampering the cooler's performance.
In addition, Intel's stock coolers have historically been pretty wimpy. They've traditionally been made entirely from aluminum, with the hottest P4s and fastest Core CPUs getting a copper base (slug) to enhance heat transfer off the CPU. The heatsink itself hasn't been very large either.
Intel's stepped up their game for the Core i7-980X Extreme Edition. Retail boxed CPUs ship with Intel's DBX-B cooler.
Like the latest high-end CPU coolers, DBX-B features a tower design, and it's equipped with eight copper heatpipes, with an all-copper base. (Previous Intel coolers have used a copper slug surrounded by aluminum.) An aluminum heatsink then cools the heatpipe array.
DBX-B is also the first Intel cooler to utilize a retention mechanism that must be screwed down: push pins are a thing of the past. This makes installation tougher, but it's a tradeoff we'd gladly make for a CPU cooler that's actually pretty potent. The screws are large enough that you could even skip the screwdriver if you wanted, but because Intel's heatsink is so large, they can be incredibly tough to reach once everything's mounted inside your case, so we suggest you install your CPU and cooling beforehand.
Simply mount the included motherboard backplate on the underside of your board, drop in your EE CPU and cooler, and use the screw down retention mechanism to ensure a tight fit. Then mount everything inside your case. Intel says the cooler has been tested to “a 50x gravity shock force, equivalent to more than a 3 foot drop while integrated into a system", so the cooler shouldn't accidentally come loose once everything's installed properly.
Finally, Intel's DBX-B cooler ships with an adjustable fan. The fan can be run in two modes, a quiet mode, which Intel says spins at 800 RPM and generates less than 20dB of noise, and a performance mode which cranks up to 1800 RPM and generates no more than 35dB. Simply flip a switch at the top of the fan to switch fan modes.
Unfortunately, Intel says the DBX-B cooler will only be offered exclusively with the Core i7-980X Extreme Edition. In other words, the cooler won't be offered with any other Intel CPU, Extreme or not, and Intel has no plans to offer it as a standalone product you can buy at Newegg or anywhere else.
Considering its new 32-nm process, we were eager to see how far we could push Intel's latest Extreme Edition CPU. Would the extra cores hamper our OC, or would the new process usher in new clock speeds?
We were initially pretty satisfied when we started our OC'ing tests at stock voltage. We managed to get the chip to run stable at 3778MHz.
With more juice, we hit 4.3GHz with 100% stability:
We could even boot into Windows 7 and run many apps at speeds as high as 4.5GHz, but couldn't get everything to run stable. Even with 1.4V of juice. We didn't want to go any higher with a 32-nm CPU, especially since upping the voltage wasn't getting us anywhere closer to full stability.