At this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Chipmaker Intel officially took the wraps off a new chip intentionally designed to make gamers drool. The Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition sports Intel’s latest 32nm manufacturing technology, 6 processing cores, and a full dozen computing threads. In theory, the new chip should offer up to 50 percent better performance than the Core i7 processors that preceded it…not if only software can catch up to leverage those capabilities.
As with existing Intel Core i-series processors, the Core i7-980X Extreme Edition features HyperThreading that can effectively double the number of threads a single processor core can handle, meaning the six-core system can handle up to 12 threads executing at once. The new chip also sports AES-NI for enhanced security and support for up to 12 MB of shared L3 processor cache. The 32nm technology also means the processor doesn’t consume mammoth amounts of power…in fact, in some instances it uses less power than the four-core Core i7-975 Extreme Edition that preceded it.
Intel is positioning the Core i7-980X Extreme Edition as the top end of its consumer processor line—and also believes it will be a niche product that appeals only to high-end gamers and computing enthusiasts. Intel’s pricing seems to bear that out: Intel plans to retail the chips for a suggested price of $999, and high-end gaming rig makers like Falcon Northwest and Alienware will be offering Core i7-980X Extreme Edition CPUs as options in their high-end gaming systems.