Although there were a lot of processor models participating in our today’s test session, we hardly witnessed any cut-throat battles. Unlike mainstream and value segments, the high-end price range is extremely broad, so the CPUs that fall into it may have dramatically different prices and rarely compete directly against one another. In other words, the price is often the main criterion determining the CPU choice in this segment. The general rule, however, is the following: more expensive processors run faster.
However, like any other rule, this rule also has exceptions. Firstly, if you are looking to buy a processor priced beyond $200, then LGA775 shouldn’t be even considered. They are obviously outdated and cannot compete against newer models with dramatically higher performance.
Secondly, you should also be careful about expensive dual-core solutions in the Core i5 lineup. Most contemporary resource-hungry tasks, which may require a more expensive CPU, can be easily split into parallel threads. Therefore, quad-core processors are generally a better choice, so that even high clock rates don’t help the top Core i5-670 and Core i5-680 to win you over. So, these processors may only be appealing for two reasons: they may suit for some specific applications that do not utilize all the advantages of multi-core CPUs for some reason, or they may be appealing to those users who value energy-efficiency over performance.
In order to illustrate the correlation between the consumer qualities of the tested processors in the high-end price segment, we put together the following diagram showing the average performance vs. price.
As you can see, Core i7-950 appears to be one of the best processors in the upper price segment in terms of price-to-performance ratio. While its price is quite reasonable (for a high-end product), this quad-core processor is not only faster than many of its competitors. Its another indisputable advantage is that it is designed for LGA1366 platform. This platform not only has great future ahead, but also offers everything necessary for building high-speed graphics sub-systems of any potential.
However, LGA1366 mainboards are pretty expensive and a system with an LGA1366 processor will be far from energy-efficient, that’s for sure. If these aspects matter a lot to you, then you should check out Core i7-870. Its performance is quite competitive with that of Core i7-950, but at the same time it is much more energy-efficient and doesn’t require an expensive mainboard. Although you will have to put up with certain limitations when it comes to configuring your multi-card graphics sub-system, but I am sure not everyone needs them anyway.
Summing up everything we have just said, we would like to award Intel Core i7-950 and Core i7-870 processors with our Recommended Buy title:
Six-core processors are also worth your immediate attention. They are the low-cost Phenom II X6 and expensive Core i7-970 and Core i7-980X. Of course, we wouldn’t recommend them for regular high-performance home systems, their average price-to-performance ratio doesn’t look very appealing to the end-users. However, there are a lot of specific applications where six fully-fledged cores may become very handy. Among such tasks we could name high-definition video processing, final rendering and some other similar applications that require a lot of calculations. So, if you are going to use your computer for tasks like that, then you should definitely bet on one of the six-core products.