vacancies advertise contact news tip The Vault
facebook rss twitter

Intel Core i7 970 CPU review: six cores for £680

by Tarinder Sandhu on 5 August 2010, 08:39 3.0

Tags: Core i7 970, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qazgm

Add to My Vault: x

New six-core goliath

Once a machine that could cut through benchmarks like a hot knife through the yummiest of butter, you look at the four-year-old system underneath the desk and pine for a day that fortune smiles enough to enable you to discard the old warrior and replace it with a lovely, new PC.

Asking enthusiasts to author a kit wishlist is akin to discussing the best way from Dawlish to Falmouth with a bunch of middle-aged men - you'll get fervent, energetic debate and a myriad of suggestions from everyone who believes they know best.

What you cannot do without in any modern system is a CPU, however, and Intel and AMD have the consumer market pretty much sewn-up. Hoping that fortune shows largesse you'll look toward a six-core chip from either company.

The current king-of-the-hill is the Intel Core i7 980X EE - an £800 chip that possesses six cores and is able to provide a 12-thread computing punch. Up until last week it was Intel's only entry in the hexa-core ranks and remains severely undercut in price by AMD's Phenom II X6 range of chips that retail from £150-£225.

Intel has now brought a second six-core, 12-thread chip out to play for the well-heeled enthusiast. Known as Core i7 970, let's trot out the spec table and give it the once-over. Each colour represents a different family of processors, by the way.

Specifications

Model number Cores / threads GHz clock Turbo Boost (max)  Process Die size Cache Interface Memory controller
Official memory support
TDP
Socket Price (as of today)
Phenom II X4 965 BE 4/4 3.40 N/A 45nm (Deneb) 258mm² 2MB L2
6MB L3
HT Dual-channel DDR3-1,333+ 95W AM3 £145
Phenom II X6 1055T  6/6 2.80 3.30 45nm (Thuban) 346mm² 3MB L2
6MB L3
HT Dual-channel DDR3-1,600+ 125W
95W
AM3 £150
Phenom II X6 1090T 6/6 3.20 3.60 45nm (Thuban) 346mm² 3MB L2
6MB L3
HT Dual-channel DDR3-1,600+ 125W AM3 £225
Core i5 661 (IGP) 2/4 3.33 3.60 32nm (Clarkdale) 81mm² 512KB L2
4MB L3
DMI Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 87W LGA1156 £160
Core i5 750 4/4 2.67 3.20 45nm (Lynnfield) 296mm² 1MB L2
8MB L3
DMI Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1156 £150
Core i7 860 4/8 2.80 3.46 45nm (Lynnfield) 296mm² 1MB L2
8MB L3
DMI Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1156 £220
Core i7 870
4/8 2.93 3.60 45nm (Lynnfield) 296mm² 1MB L2
8MB L3
DMI Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1156 £230
Core i7 920 4/8 2.67 2.93 45nm (Bloomfield) 263mm² 1MB L2
8MB L3
QPI Triple-channel DDR3-1066 130W LGA1366 £190
Core i7 975 EE 4/8 3.33 3.60 45nm (Bloomfield) 263mm² 1MB L2
8MB L3
QPI Triple-channel DDR3-1066 130W LGA1366 £700
Core i7 970  6/12 3.20 3.46 32nm (Westmere) 248mm² 1.5MB L2
12MB L3
QPI Triple-channel DDR3-1066 130W LGA1366 £680
Core i7 980X EE 6/12 3.33 3.60 32nm (Westmere) 248mm² 1.5MB L2
12MB L3
QPI Triple-channel DDR3-1066 130W LGA1366 £795


Examination


The newest performance chip from manufacturing giant Intel is based on exactly the same technology as the 980X EE. The only meaningful difference is that the new CPU's multiplier is dropped from 25x to 24x, which results in a final clock-speed that's 133MHx slower than its bigger brother. Consequently, the maximum Turbo Boost speed also drops by one multiplier, as well. Intel also reduces the QPI speed - the link between the CPU and the chipset - from 6.4GT/s to 4.8GT/s.

Value expunged from the Intel high-end dictionary?

Intel six-core chips and value remain oxymoronic terms. The confusingly-named Core i7 970 - for there are four-core versions with similar nomenclature - postures with a £680 price-tag in tow. That is more than an Intel Core i7 920, AMD Phenom II X6 1055T and 1090T combined, with enough change left over to buy a half-decent graphics card.

The obvious downside for the consumer is that Intel is under no pressure to reduce the price of its flagship chips, because while AMD has made significant performance gains with its hexa-core CPUs, Intel's 12-thread duo guzzle through benchmarks faster than Mark 'Manx Missile' Cavendish sprints on the Champs-Élysées.