Computer enthusiasts who have preferred traditional desktop systems to the new fancy gadgets and mobile computers may have felt pretty forgotten lately. Desktop processors are slowly stepping back into secondary positions for AMD and Intel, while the companies’ primary efforts are directed towards adoption of the existing solutions for all sorts of compact systems, such as micro-servers, nettops, ultra-portable notebooks, tablets and smartphones. High performance hasn’t been the ultimate goal for the new generations of microarchitectures for a while now, with low power consumption and functional integrated graphics turning into the major determinative factors.
In this situation new desktop processors started to come out less frequently, and their performance growth slowed down substantially. Moreover, there have even been some rumors that Intel wanted to make a bold move against the untouchable feature – the possibility to upgrade by replacing the CPU in the mainboard. Does it mean that desktops are slowly dying? I don’t think so: high-performance computers will always be needed, especially since many users are eager to pay for high performance like that. We can imagine that Intel may want to introduce fully integrated non-upgradable platforms in the lower price segment, but the elite enthusiast systems will most likely still stay in their current form for a very long time.
Take, for example, the top desktop LGA 2011 platform. It has no competitors, AMD has long left this niche for good. Nevertheless, Intel continues to actively support the existing infrastructure and not only for the reasons of corporate prestige. There are most likely some good financial reasons there, too. On the one hand, the development of desktop LGA 2011 systems doesn’t require big investments: this desktop platform has the same unified design as server and workstation solutions. On the other hand, all these components are considered premium products with high revenue margins.
Intel is clearly interested in continuing with LGA 2011. This platform doesn’t just exist, but evolves rapidly. For instance, they continuously launch new processors for it, and not only when the new microarchitecture comes out. Even mainstream systems cannot boast frequent line-up refreshes like that these days, and LGA 2011 has it all. They purposefully maintain the same traditional system of values, requiring the manufacturer to show love for their users from time to time.
One of the refreshes like that is the reason for our today’s review. Intel decided to reward their enthusiastic fans favor high-performance systems and launched a new LGA 2011 processor – Core i7-3970X Extreme Edition that replaces the previous flagship CPU – Core i7-3960X, which latest in this leading role for a year. However, the new Core i7-3970X launched in a very old-fashioned manner, because in reality it is none other but a legally overclocked previous CPU model. This “new” CPU has not only the same core microarchitecture and manufacturing process, but also the same processor revision of the semiconductor die. In fact, there is no way to really increase the frequency potential of this processor that is why higher clock speed leads to higher heat dissipation and higher TDP. However, the major target group for this type of products, which typically utilizes high-end cooling solutions, will hardly be upset about it. They will be much more excited about a different aspect: how big of a performance boost it will produce and how much better the new processor will overclock. So, we will try to answer these questions to the best of our ability in the today’s review.