Intel Core i7 970 £700
8th Sep 2010 | 11:51
Intel makes its six-core masterpiece more affordable. But only a little
Intel Core i7 970: Overview
Six cores, 12 threads, one billion transistors and a whole lotta processing power. That's the Intel Core i7 970. It's a fabulous technological achievement. But can it really be worth nearly £700?
Admittedly, the Core i7 970 is a bit cheaper than Intel's top six-core chip, the Core i7 980X. But it's still a tough ask given that AMD will sell you its own six-core Phenom II X6 1055T CPU for around one third the price. What the AMD chip doesn't give you, however, is the very latest technology. The Core i7 970 sports literally the most advanced PC processor die on the planet.
Part of the 970's advantage comes down to microprocessor architecture. Known as Nehalem, it's as good as it currently gets thanks to features such as HyperThreading, a triple-channel memory controller and the super-fast QPI interconnect.
The Core i7 970 is also hewn from Intel's latest 32nm silicon. That means the chip itself is physically smaller than most current quad-core processors including Intel's own Core i7 870 and AMD's Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition. In theory that means it should be cheaper to manufacture. For now, Intel isn't passing on those cost savings to customers.
Intel Core i7 970: Verdict
There's no doubting the sheer power of the Intel Core i7 970. Try this for starters. In our HD video encoding benchmark it bangs out nearly 42 frames per second. That absolutely blows away both the quad-core Intel Core i7 875K (27 frames per second) and the six-core AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE (26 frames per second).
It's a similar story in the professional 3D rendering test. The 970 is miles ahead. Arguably even more impressive are the game and file decompression results - benchmarks that do not normally favour CPU parallelism. The Core i7 970 is usefully ahead of the Core i7 870 and more than 50 per cent faster than the Phenom II X6 1090T.
In performance terms, therefore, no compromises are required. That's because the 970 backs up its hefty parallelism (six cores and 12 threads) with a 3.2GHz clockspeed. Whatever the workload, it's damn quick. In fact, the only CPU that operates in the same ballpark is the Intel Core i7 980X, which is of course a slightly higher clocked version of the same six-core processor die.
The one area where you might expect all those cores and threads to cause a problem is overclocking. But even here the Core i7 970 puts on a decent show, ramping up to 4GHz courtesy of nothing more than an air cooler and some voltage tweaks. It's all very impressive until you remember the price. It's possible to buy a very nice desktop PC, complete with processor, graphics and screen, for the cost of this CPU.
In a word, performance. Whether it's games, media encoding or just multi-tasking, the Core i7 970 has delivers rude amounts of it. But what else did you expect from six of the most advanced processor cores money can buy. The damn thing even overclocks well.
In a word, price. Awesome as the Intel Core i7 970 is, it's also awesomely expensive and simply poor value compared to quad-core processors costing one third the price. In fact, if you're willing to spend this much, you may as well go all the way with the Core i7 980X.
A six-core masterpiece in 32nm silicon. Shame about the grand-master pricing, though.