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Intel Core i7-990X Gulftown Processor and DX58SO2 Motherboard Review

Manufacturer: Intel

The fast get faster


With all the news and excitement about the Sandy Bridge architecture, platform and processors from Intel since their launch in January, it is easy to overlook the Nehalem architecture that continues to sell and be integrated into the fastest consumer PCs available. Remember Nehalem and its three digit model numbers? You really have to stretch that memory as it was before the CPU/GPU combo of Sandy Bridge and even before the Clarkdale / Lynnfield processors that began the move towards lower cost dual-channel memory based processors.

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It seems odd to think that today we are taking a step BACK in time to review the new Core i7-990X processor and a very nicely upgraded X58 motherboard from Intel in the form of the DX58SO2. The Core i7-990X is a Gulftown (6-core) processor that in many cases becomes the fastest consumer processor on the market and flagship CPU for Nehalem and the “Extreme Edition” suffix. Replacing the i7-980X, the 990X will fill that $999 processor segment for extreme enthusiasts and high end system builders.

For a quick refresher on the specifications of the Nehalem-based Gulftown processors, let’s look at what the Core i7-990X offers:

  • Core i7-990X
  • 6 cores / 12 threads
  • Clock speed: 3.46 GHz
  • Max Turbo Frequency: 3.73 GHz
  • Cache: 12MB
  • 3 channel DDR3 memory controller
  • 32nm process
  • 130W TDP

Basically, we are moving a single clock speed step higher with the 990X over the 980X: 3.73 GHz maximum frequency versus the 3.60 GHz of the previous EE option. This remains one of the few processors taking advantage of the triple-channel memory controller that was so popular at Nehalem’s launch. While much of the world has moved on to newer things, they really haven’t moved on to FASTER things though and the 6-core Core i7-990X will demonstrate some truly impressive performance in our testing.

Before we dive into the world of benchmarks though we need to spend some time with another product that Intel sent along: the Extreme Series DX58SO2 motherboard that offers a lot more in the way of features that you might initially expect.

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Video News

May 19, 2011 | 12:24 PM - Posted by Anthony (not verified)

You guys are still using handbrake 0.9.2 to test? Do you have any idea how many SSE optimizations have gone into x264 (the main component of HB) since then? There are even a few AVX instructions in the newest x264. Some encoding work functions have increased in speed by as much as 50% for Nehalem and more recent processors. Please consider updating your test platform.

May 19, 2011 | 01:12 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Use your head Anthony, fact is I am sure most of these benches were done when 9.2 was the current version of handbrake. I would hate to see half of these benches done on 9.2 and half on 9.5. Those results would be rather inaccurate.
I am sure that at a point PCPER will update the version and re evaluate the processors accordingly.

May 20, 2011 | 09:17 PM - Posted by Anthony (not verified)

Yeah last I checked, other sites do that on an annual basis. Anand does it every year for his storage bench. Do you know how old 0.9.2 is? Try February 2008, over three years ago. Time to give up the ghost and rebenchmark a set of CPUs on 0.9.5 with the new defaults for HB to give users an idea of what the difference is today in terms of performance, not with ancient code from 3 years ago.

May 26, 2011 | 04:12 PM - Posted by Alex Botts (not verified)

I have a system with an Intel DX58SO2 mother board.

Once I'm in the BIOS setup menu, how can I change the
"Boot Drive Priority"?

May 27, 2011 | 10:56 AM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

It looks like you use F10 during boot to bring up the boot menu, not having seen it I can't say for sure, but that menu is probably a bit more complex than just choosing a temporary boot device.

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