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Closer Look at Core i7-980X Extreme Edition

Although I have introduced the Core i7-980X as a revolutionary product, I have nothing sensational to tell about its microarchitecture. Intel’s engineers simply put together a six-core CPU out of their Nehalem building blocks: computing cores, L3 cache, memory controller and QPI bus controller. But now there are six cores and 12 megabytes of L3 cache memory. All of these parts fitted into a single die thanks to the new 32nm tech process. As a result, although a Gulftown die consists of 1170 million transistors, which is about 1.6 times the transistor count of the Bloomfield die, it has an area of 248 sq. mm compared to the Bloomfield’s 263 sq. mm.

Judging by the photo of a Gulftown die and the placement of subunits, the new processor is just the result of the older model’s transitioning to the new tech process with minor corrections.

The two additional cores put aside, this is indeed so. The computing cores and the memory controller of the Core i7-980X are absolutely the same as those of the Core i7-900 series processors that have been produced for over one year already. The difference is in the manufacturing technology. The single innovation is the introduction of seven AES-NI instructions that accelerate cryptographic algorithms but we already know this instruction set by Clarkdale CPUs.

Let’s compare the key specifications of the new model in comparison with the Core i7-975, the senior model of the Bloomfield generation the new six-core flagship has come to replace.

The memory and QPI controllers of the Gulftown have the same specs as those of the Bloomfield, meaning that these CPUs can be used on the same platforms. The Gulftown does not have a PCI Express controller. The graphics subsystem is supported by the well-known Intel X58 Express chipset.

Thus, the Core i7-980X comes in LGA1366 packaging and is perfectly compatible with LGA1366 mainboards. A BIOS update is the only thing necessary for such mainboards to identify the new CPU.

Notwithstanding its extra cores, the Core i7-980X has the same TDP as its four-core predecessors. The transition to the more progressive tech process is not accompanied with a reduction in CPU voltage as the CPU-Z screenshot shows.

However, Intel has equipped its 6-core processor with a new tower-like cooler that has four 6mm heat pipes and a 2-speed 100mm fan.

This is a step towards enthusiasts who don’t have to use a third-party cooler now. The boxed cooler is quite efficient.

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