Intel Core i7 930 £240
8th May 2010 | 08:30
Can the latest bargain overclocker's X58 chip retire the venerable i7 920?
When the first Bloomfield Core i7 chips initially cropped up it was the usual, frighteningly expensive parts that hit the floor running. We were aghast at the sight of eight threads running on a single-CPU machine and the hole that it was going to leave in your pocket.
Then came the incredi-chip, the Core i7 920. At £200 it was the cheapest Core i7 around, but packed one hell of a wallop in its unassuming silicon innards, thanks to its impressive overclocking performance. The next stepping of the chip, the 920 D0, only served to further improve its prospects.
But now there's the Core i7 930, a chip charged with being the best value X58 i7 CPU around. So, what's different with this new pretender then?
Well the first thing to notice is the stock speed: at 2.8GHz it's clocked slightly higher than its elder brethren, giving superior performance straight out of the box. The real key to this new chip though, is the higher CPU multiplier that the 930 is sporting under the hood. It's only slightly bigger than the 920's 21x at 22x, but that extra should make all the difference when tweaking the clocks.
And that's exactly what this CPU, like the i7 920 before it, is for. This is a cheap(er) chip for the overclockers that want the sort of performance you get from significantly more expensive CPUs. With the upped multiplier, and the stability that comes from an already established design and manufacturing process, this chip is all set to top the incredible overclocking performance that the 920 achieves.
To this end, we plumbed the 930 into our test bench with the new Rampage III Extreme (R3E) overclocker's board from Asus. At stock speeds it rolls much as you would expect from a slightly speedier version of the 920. It's several seconds faster in the Cinebench rendering test and only a little faster in World in Conflict (WiC) and the X264 encoding test.
Clock it up
So, to the overclock. And here, typically, it's a little more complex. The R3E board is already best buds with the 920, and as such unlocks all its chip-chomping options in the BIOS, including the CPU level up – and the auto-voltage settings that entails. Because of this, we could hit a rock-solid 4.1GHz on air-cooling without turning the chip into bubbling molten slag.
Unfortunately the 930 isn't so well recognised on the Asus board, which meant that we had to do the overclocking the hard way: by ourselves. Still, it shows just what an overclockable chip this is by virtue of the fact that without any voltage tweaks on our behalf, and still on air-cooling alone, we managed to hit a stable 4.23GHz clockspeed with our i7 930.
Only in WiC though did this translate into serious performance gains over the 920, being only a second faster in Cinebench and hitting parity in the X264 encode. But is it worth the extra £40- odd you'll be dropping on the 930 over the i7 920?
In real-world terms you'll hardly notice the performance difference between them, but the extreme tweakers out there will be able to post superior numbers with some judicious voltage management. For the rest of us mortals though, the 920 is still the X58 bargain chip of choice.
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