Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition Review

What makes Gulftown tick

Intel has managed to squeeze six cores into the same LGA1366 packaging as the other models of the Core i7 series by making the i7-980X from 32nm rather than 45nm transistors.

Smaller transistors are crucial, as they're more power-efficient due to reduced leakage; they also switch faster and can therefore be clocked higher. Plus, more of these can be squeezed onto a wafer, reducing the size of each CPU die and lowering the cost of manufacturing for each CPU.

The i7-980X isn't the first 32nm CPU - that honour goes to the Clarkdale dual-core Core i3 and Core i5s launched in January.

However, the i7-980X has been in development for far longer, as we've played with three different steppings of pre-production prototypes over the past five months.

*Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition Review What makes Gulftown tick

Gulftown has a very similar physical layout to Bloomfield to retain socket compatibility

*Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition Review What makes Gulftown tickThis is far earlier than we'd usually be able to test a CPU before its public release, and shows just how focused Intel was on perfecting the i7-980X. For example, despite having two more cores, the i7-980X barely consumes any more power than the i7-975 in both idle and load states.

As the i7-980X has two more physical cores than the i7-975, Intel has increased the shared Level 3 cache from 8MB to 12MB. The Level 1 and Level 2 caches remain unchanged at 64KB (half for data, and half for instructions) and 256KB respectively per core.

The i7-980X also has the same triple-channel DDR3 memory controller as other LGA1366 Core i7s, and as a result, the i7-980X should work in any LGA1366 motherboard, although you'll need to check for a BIOS update before installing it.

Right: an extremely expensive wafer full of 32nm Gulftown cores ready to be made into Core i7-980X Extreme Editions