More details on Intel's six-core Gulftown chip

More details on Intel's six-core Gulftown chip

Summary: The performance gulf between Intel and AMD (pun intended) just got a little bit bigger.At a conference for game developers this week, Intel announced its first six-core desktop processor, the Core i7- 980X Extreme Edition (my colleague, Sean Portnoy, wrote about this earlier).

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The performance gulf between Intel and AMD (pun intended) just got a little bit bigger.

At a conference for game developers this week, Intel announced its first six-core desktop processor, the Core i7- 980X Extreme Edition (my colleague, Sean Portnoy, wrote about this earlier). Intel discussed the processor--better-known by its code-name Gulftown--at the ISSCC a chip conference in February, but details such as the name, frequency, pricing and availability were previously not confirmed.

The Core i7- 980X Extreme Edition operates at 3.33GHz, supports 12 simultaneous threads (two per core) and has 12MB of cache. By comparison, the current Extreme Edition processor, the Core i7-975, runs at the same clock speed, but it has four cores (eight threads) and 8MB of Level 3 cache. Because Intel manufactures the Core i7- 980X with the 32nm Westmere process, the chip is about the same size as the 45nm quad-core Core i7-975 and draws about the same maximum power.

It's also the same price as its predecessor--a whopping $999 list. Clearly this is a high-end processor intended for a small number of enthusiasts willing to pay a premium for the best possible performance. The Core i7- 980X Extreme Edition will be available in high-end gaming and entertainment desktops (there's speculation it could show up as an option in a refreshed Mac Pro). It will also be sold as a boxed upgrade since it uses the same socket (LGA 1366) as the current Core i7 processors found on high-end motherboards based on Intel's X58 Express chipset, though it does require a BIOS update beforehand. Newegg currently sells the Core i7-975 Extreme Edition for $970.

CNET's Rich Brown has posted a review of the Falcon Northwest Mach V, one of the first systems available with the Core i7-980X. Computer Shopper and PC Magazine also reviewed this gaming desktop. Several hardware enthusiast sites have taken an in-depth look at the processor itself (Engadget links to many of them here). With applications that can take advantage of all of these cores and threads, the performance is very good--as much as 50 percent faster than the Core i7-975--making it the ultimate desktop processor for workloads such as video encoding or complex Excel spreadsheets. The catch is that many consumer applications don't really take advantage of all these cores and threads. And even gamers will generally get more benefit from a fast dual- or quad-core CPU paired with more powerful GPUs, which is why the desktop processor is for only a select audience.

The case for these many-core CPUs is more straightforward with servers. Intel also plans to sell a server version, which is known as Westmere-EP but will be branded the Xeon 5600 series. By the end of this month, it is scheduled to release the eight-core Nehalem-EX as well. AMD already sells a six-core server processor, the Opteron 2400 series, and it recently began shipping a small number of its eight- and 12-core Opteron 6100s, also known as Magny-Cours. Later this year, it will release a desktop version branded logically enough as the Phenom II X6 (code-named Thuban). This will be paired with AMD's just-announced 890GX, a high-end chipset that supports new technologies such as SATA 3.0 and USB 3.0, on high-end desktops.

Topics: Intel, Hardware, Processors

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14 comments
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  • RE: More details on Intel's six-core Gulftown chip

    Interesting... does Intel's chip perform better than AMD's?
    Andylb
  • Wider?

    Well, Intel issues a 6-core desktop processor, which will be followed by a server version.
    As they always do: desktop first, server second.
    AMD did a six-core Opteron, and will soon release a six-core Phenom.
    As they always do: server first, desktop second.
    Mitch 74
    • Actually, that makes sense.

      Buyers of consumer good buy based upon brand recognition. The sooner Intel releases a new high-end processor, the sooner the high-volume consumer market starts clamouring for it.

      Buyers of machine-room based servers are more interested in price-performance and less impressed by brand name, the sooner AMD can get processors in the hands of people buying for lucrative server markets, the better for them.
      M Wagner
  • RE: More details on Intel's six-core Gulftown chip

    When will the programmers catch up? What would a 100 or a 1000 of these in parallel do? Withe proper programming of course. Would it think, or perhaps have self awareness. SiFi for sure!!
    ValFitzAndrew
  • AMD doesn't want to compete on top end...

    AMD said long long ago that they will not compete with Intel on the top end of the processor market. AMD does a fantastic job of competing on the middle and low end however.
    Narg
    • How top do you want?

      I call top 50 power for 1/6 the price competing on the
      top end.
      WizWom_z
  • What about business and workstation use????

    Dang John, you are out of touch with business needs these days aren't you? I run a workstation with a lot of virtualization needs, and this processor would be a perfect fit for my needs in this business situation.
    Narg
  • Ok bua as askes WHEN.....

    ...are the application/software developers going to get their A into Gear.
    It would seem that they cannot even get 64bit going (ADBOE) in also MS its self comes to mind let alone multi processor working.

    It would seem from my point of view that software is way behing the eight ball.
    carlsf@...
    • Software ALWAYS LAGS hardware

      Unfortunately, there are still not enough top-notch programmers to keep up with demand.

      Those that are out there command high salaries, driving software prices beyond the reach of many people.

      It's the nature of the beast.
      M Wagner
  • Now, if they could only

    make a faster processor for mainstream stuff rather than people that need a bunch of cores...
    guiri
    • There are plenty

      You can get an AMD Phenom II x4 for around $160,
      x2 for around $80, so I'm not sure what you are
      getting at. That's a lot of speed for a little
      money. There are plenty of options for all ranges
      from both AMD and Intel.
      baboddonggae
  • RE: Intel's six-core Gulftown chip

    Um... the six-core Opteron series has been out for a bit
    already.
    CPUBenchmarks has the 2431, 2.4GHz at 4586; the current
    fastest is 2.8GHz, so you can expect it to hit 5350. And
    that's for $899.
    But the real price performance winner is the Phenom II X4
    series, still. A 4288 score for just $184, about 1/2
    what they are claiming Intel will charge. Toss 2 in for
    1/3 the price, and get the same performance.
    WizWom_z
  • RE: More details on Intel's six-core Gulftown chip

    Ah, nice
    but I think I'll wait for the Octo-Core Xeons
    and then build a dual socket, dual Octo
    with 48GB of RAM and that should run a 64bit OS quite nicely
    Who Am I Really
  • OVERKILL

    Such CPU is WAY OVERKILL for today's needs unless you do heavy video encoding or other very CPU intensive tasks (you will also need applications with multi core CPU support for this).
    For gaming (for which Video Card matters more than the CPU) and other normal PC activities, current generation CPUs are more than enough.
    DDSCentral