Intel Core i7 980X CPU
The Intel Core i7 980X is Intel's latest six-core, 3.33GHz processor. It's also the fastest processor available to consumers.
- Fast, six cores
- Software needs to catch up with its capabilities
The Intel Core i7 980X is simply the fastest processor available to consumers. It is the unchallenged performance king, on just about any test. However, the margin of difference in performance, between this six-core and the older four-core processors is the sticking point. It is understandably positioned at the top commanding flagship prices, targeted at those who will build the rest of their desktop using similarly top-end components to prevent bottlenecks. But until software catches up with being able to utilise that much computing power, only the extreme desktop computing enthusiasts would be able to justify purchasing this processor.
The six-core Intel Core i7 980X processor is manufactured on a 32nm fabrication process, runs at a frequency of 3.33GHz with a TurboBoost speed of 3.6 GHz, and has 12MB of L2 cache. It is rated at a TDP of 130W (power consumption on average).
As with all their current processors, the Intel Core i7 980X supports TurboBoost, to run at a higher speed by disabling half the number of cores. HyperThreading whereby each core simultaneously runs two threads, is also present, thus presenting itself to the operating system as being capable of running 12 threads.
Intel deserves credit for making the top-end Intel Core i7 980X processor compatible with the X58 motherboards that are already widely available. You might have to wait for your motherboard manufacturer to release a new BIOS, to support six-core processors. Notably, unlike Intel's recent spree of releasing mainstream 32nm processors with graphics integrated onto the processor itself, this top-end unit steers clear of graphics.
Seeing the Windows task manager was a joy indeed, when we ran a number of processor-intensive applications all at once, yet all of them were running just fine and could not bring the system to its knees. Such stress tests did raise its maximum temperature at load to higher levels than the non-six-core processors (from 65C to 70C), atleast with normal cooling.
Precisely for this reason, a much better CPU cooler than usual is bundled with the Intel Core i7 980X branded the Intel DBX-B Thermal Solution. We did not have to resort to using a high-end cooler from CoolerMaster or ThermalTake, and managed to over-clock to a stable 3.96 GHz (22x180MHz). Going beyond that may need liquid-cooling to hold back the heat, but that speed was enough to turbo-charge benchmarks considering its number of cores. However, all performance numbers we mention here onwards are what we saw at stock speeds only.
To prevent bottlenecks, we tested the Intel Core i7 980X processor on a test rig with the most high-end components we could put together. It consisted of an Intel DX58SO motherboard, Intel's DBX-B cooler, 3GB of Kingston DDR3-2000MHz RAM in triple-channel mode, Radeon 4870X2 graphics card, Intel X25-M 80GB SSD, Tagan BZ-1300W PSU and Windows 7 Ultimate Edition. We shall use the quad-core Core i7 965 (which used to be the top Core i7 processor at 3.2GHz) as a reference point while interpreting the performance of the 980X, in order to understand where the two processors stand relatively.
In tests, storage input/output and USB speeds were on par with expectations (when compared with a Core i7 965 + X58 motherboard combo). However, memory tests showed the L3 cache and RAM read/write speeds to be a bit lower than seen on the older quad-core i7-965 processor. On CineBench, we saw a CPU benchmark of 21296 CB which is about 25 percent higher than the i7-965. On PC Mark Vantage, we saw a score of 13369 marks which is again 25 per cent higher than the i7-965.
Most encouraging was what we saw on 3D Mark Vantage - in Performance mode, the 980X garnered a CPU score of 29848, as against the i7-965's 15246. One of the most hardware-intensive games, Crysis did not benefit much - the 980X managed 65 fps (frames per second) as against 61 fps managed by the i7-965. The above benchmark of Crysis was seen with a screen resolution of 1024x768 at Ultra High graphics and anti-aliasing disabled. You can view the results of more synthetic benchmarks and real-world tests on the "Performance" tab of this review.
After seeing the numbers above, the take-away is that the increased number of cores does have a positive impact on performance. However, the performance improvement is not in line with what you might have expected. After all, this processor offers 50 percent more cores/threads, and is priced a fair bit more than the i7-965. Simply put, applications just are not (yet) capable of taking advantage of what this processor brings to the table. For now, it is useful if you'd like to run multiple stressful applications at once, or if you run multiple virtual machines for testing. Those whose line-of-business professional applications support massive parallel processing will benefit as well.
Join the newsletter!
Ballistix Sport AT
Apple iMac Pro
Samsung QLED 8K TV
Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB 3000
Cartier Calibre de Cartier Diver Watch
Bang and Olufsen Beoplay A9 Speaker
Toys for Boys
Little Bits DROID Inventor Kit
ESET Cyber Security Pro for Mac
ESET Smart Security Premium
Oregon Pro WMR500 Weather Station
Nix Pro Colour Sensor
Osmo Coding Awbie Game
ESET Internet Security
Tivoli PAL BT
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth Speaker
Naztech Xtra Drive Mini + 256GB microSD Card
Ikea RIGGAD work lamp with wireless charging
SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3
TimeFlip Magnet Simple Time Tracking Device
There are countless trends competing for attention in the gaming notebook and laptop space but not all of them are either useful or benefit the core gaming experience.
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Oppo R17 Pro review: Oppo's thriftiest flagship yet drives a hard bargain
- 2 Tenda Nova MW6 review: A gateway drug for mesh Wi-Fi
- 3 Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: Expensive, but probably the best phone you can buy right now
- 4 Apple iPhone XS review: Astonishment at a price
- 5 Huawei Nova 3i review: All Sell, No Soul
Latest News Articles
- AMD introduces 12nm Radeon RX 590 GPU
- Razer introduces the BlackWidow Lite
- PAX AUS 2018: HyperX branch into membrane keyboards with Alloy Core RGB
- ASUS introduces Prime X299-Deluxe II and ROG Dominus Extreme
- MSI announces custom GeForce RTX 2070 Series
PCW Evaluation Team
I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)
It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!
The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.
I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.
If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.
If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.
- PC World 2018 Editor's Choice Awards
- Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: Full, in-depth, Australian review
- Razer Phone 2 review: One for the fans
- Everything you need to know about Smart TVs
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?