Man, does JVM love threads. Therefore Core i7-975 EE was faster than Xeon 5680 with HT disabled -- only a bit, but faster nevertheless. However, that wasn't the normal mode of operation, and with HT enabled Xeon X5680 became the leader again. This is yet another group of tests where its results exceed 200 points, i.e. where this CPU outpeforms our reference Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 by more than two times.
Once again Xeon X5680 catched up with the top extreme CPU, even with HT disabled. Once again it scored over 200 points in the normal mode. This was bound to happen. Having seen no improvements implemented by codec developers, we resorted to straightforward optimization and launched multiple encodings simultaneously. This can keep any number of cores occupied.
We feared that the single-threaded ProCoder would spoil the picture, but, fortunately, this didn't happen. And all other codecs were well optimized for multithreading.
Intel claims that the new CPUs are very good for gaming, but we just can't disagree more. We never expected anything else. If you buy a $1000 CPU, make sure you have at least a $1000 graphics card as well, the more expensive the better. Save on a graphics card and that's what you'll get. See the diagram. Mind you, GeForce GTX 275 isn't the worst graphics card out there. But, obviously, it's not enough. We have already examined this issue (review to be published soon, stay tuned), so we know that you may only benefit from such a CPU, if you have at least a Radeon HD 5970 or two. The LGA1366 platform seems perfect for this, but we suspect that even in this case a Core i7-960, or even a slower CPU, will be enough. In other words, you don't really need a new extreme processor for games. Besides, if you only have one single-GPU graphics card, all that available CPU power will be completely unused.
So, what can we say. The transition to the 32nm process technology let Intel painlessly increase the number of cores. The updated Xeon 5600 series is either better or at least not worse than the Xeon 5500. Even if you consider the "reduced" models with only four cores. The performance of dual-socket machines has been elevated to a new level, which is great. What's even better, the transition to new dice can solve another problem, i.e. reduce power consumption. See for yourself, L5530 (2.4 GHz, 60W TDP) has used to be the most power-efficient model. Now the same platform can host a couple of L5640 CPUs that have lower clock rates (2.26 GHz), but give you 12 actual cores and 24 threads. In other words, Gulftown-based processors look very nice in their primary field of use.
It's much harder to opine on the "reduced" models for single-socket machines -- Xeon W3680 and Core i7-980X Extreme Edition. Well, the former is simply a fine model for single-CPU workstations that easily outperforms the previous Xeon W3580. Of course, given you use software that has been nicely optimized for multicore configurations (which is normal for this market segment). Moreover, the rollout of such CPUs will allow saving on dual-CPU workstations in certain cases. For example, X5680-based machine completed our x264 encoding test in 3:58 (obviously, W3680 will provide the same result), while two Xeon X5570 CPUs finished the job in 3:52. 3Ds Max rendering results were 23.2 and 23.74 points, respectively. Yes, the dual-CPU machine was a bit faster, but don't forget that W3680 costs about a thousand bucks and can work in a relatively inexpensive motherboard inside a regular desktop enclosure. While two X5570 cost about three thousands, require an expensive dual-socket motherboard, at least two memory kits and, most likely, a special enclosure with a very special PSU. Not to mention that W3680 will consume 130W, while dual X5570 may consume up to 190W. Of course, you can simply buy faster X5670s instead of X5570s -- for the same money -- but for many people a single-socket machine performing like yesterday's dual-socket one will be quite enough.
And it's even harder to opine on Core i7-980X. While extreme, this CPU is aimed at regular desktop PCs, a field of use where badly optimized software is a common thing. For example, Intel is promoting the fantastic gaming capabilities of Core i7-980X, but the new version of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., while more beautiful, only supports two CPU cores. If only this game was an exception... As a result, users are still arguing if there's any sense in buying quadcore processors or if two or three cores are still enough. It's just not about hexacore solutions yet. Though, obviously, those can be useful in certain cases. Which are still rare and definitely not mainstream.
On the other hand, the rollout of Core i7-980X Extreme Edition is a beneficial indicative event. It puts a stop to the irritating policy of making extreme CPUs by speeding up regular products and throwing in unlocked multipliers. The novelty looks especially good on the background of the last-year transition from Core i7-965 EE to Core i7-975 EE, when buyers were only granted another 133 MHz of clock rate. That and the new stepping. So what? The same was made to the much cheaper Core i7-950 and Core i7-920 as well. So, clearly, replacing Core i7-975 EE with Core i7-980X is a much bigger step forward. Does it have much sense? You're the one to answer this question. At least now it's possible to bring it up at all.
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