Feature Articles

A Small Step Forward

A Small Step Forward

The past few months have seen AMD restore some semblance of competition in the mainstream and even performance
enthusiast CPU segments. The Phenom II has undoubtedly been a major reason for this, with the latest X4 955 Black Edition rivaling the performance of almost all of Intel's older Core 2 quad-cores and even venturing into Core i7-920 territory.

Intel of course, has no reason to be overly concerned when it comes to the performance crown, since its highest end Core i7 processors remain untouchable. Hence, for all of AMD's newfound competitiveness, the chip giant has only responded with price revisions for its older quad-core processors, while bidding time for the launch of its Core i5 (Lynnfield) chips now expected in September.

Despite the apparent lack of competition in the high-end segment however, Intel has not stopped tweaking the Core i7 processors and today sees the official introduction of two new, revised Core i7 models, the i7-975 Extreme Edition and the i7-950. Reported to eventually replace the existing i7-965 Extreme Edition and i7-940 respectively, these new models have the same specifications as the existing models, bar a slight bump in clock speeds.

The New Core i7 Models
New Core i7 Processors
Processor Model Clock Speed L2 Cache L3 Cache QuickPath Interconnect Max TDP (W) Suggested Retail Price (US$) Current Retail Price (US$) Availability
Core i7-975 Extreme Edition 3.3GHz 256KB x 4 8MB 6.4QT/s 130 $999 ~$1100 Now
Core i7-950 3.06GHz 256KB x 4 8MB 4.8QT/s 130 $562 ~$649 Now

While we have mentioned that today is the 'official' date for the release of these two models, some of these chips have recently made their way into retail channels and some consumers have already been using it. There are no price cuts for these chips (Intel has no competition in this segment after all), with the Core i7-975 Extreme Edition costing around US$1000 for orders of a thousand or more. A more likely figure for the consumer is around the US$1100 mark, according to online retailers. In short, these chips look as expensive as the models they are expected to replace. Since they are rather new and are short in supply, this further inflates the retail price from the recommended price set by Intel.

The clock speed for the Core i7-975 Extreme Edition at 3.3GHz is marginally higher than the 3.2GHz on the current Core i7-965 Extreme Edition. With Turbo Boost enabled, this brings the load desktop clock up to the 3.48GHz mark. The same goes for the Core i7-950, which at 3.06GHz is one multiplier (133MHz) faster than the i7-940 model, excluding Turbo Boost.

These new processors come with a new D0 stepping that's said to have improved power efficiency and thermal dissipation, leading to higher overclocks and improved power consumption. Whether that is intended to retake the overclocking momentum (based solely on raw clock speed, not overall performance) surrounding AMD's newer Phenom II chips is up for speculation, though the internet is rife with reports of the i7-975 Extreme Edition reaching more than 5GHz.

But before we take a look ourselves at its overclocking potential, we'll be running the Core i7-975 Extreme Edition through our usual benchmarks. Using the unlocked i7-975, we'll also be simulating the results for a i7-950 by changing the multipliers accordingly (since both of these are based on the new D0 stepping).