updated 03:20 pm EST, Thu March 11, 2010
Core i7-980X bench favors art over games
New tests of Intel's just-launched Core i7-980X is potentially much faster than existing chips but also faces noticeable limits. The first mainstream six-core processor is fastest in creative tasks such as 3D modeling, Photoshop filters and video encoding, many of which are aware of multithreaded code and can use six cores. The performance gap over a quad-core i7 at the same 3.33GHz speed is usually at least 20 percent higher and as much as 70 percent higher.
Further tests by AnandTech show mixed results. While the 980X is usually faster by at least a few percentage points due to its larger Level 3 cache, it sometimes draws even or trails very slightly behind its predecessor. The losses are attributed to the greater lag introduced by the same cache but mostly occur in games and other titles where real-time access is more important than parallel processing.
Little room exists for overclocking, although Turbo Boost can bring the new Core i7 up to 3.6GHz when enough cores can go unused.
The processor will be expensive for mainstream users, at about $1,000, but will potentially be less expensive for workstations where Xeon processors' support for multiple processors and error-correcting memory are out weighed by the need for higher clock speeds. A questionable but persistent rumor has circulated that Apple may release a Core i7 Mac Pro next week in part to lower the price of its pro desktops.