Intel Core i7 990X Extreme

Written by Michael Larabel in Processors on 6 April 2011. Page 6 of 6. 8 Comments

Image resizing with GraphicsMagick narrowed the delta between the Sandy Bridge and Gulftown CPUs.

The Core i7 990X Extreme Edition was 94% faster than the Core i5 2500K and 18% faster than the Core i7 970.

The greater number of cores with the Gulftown CPUs was of more benefit to GCC 4.4.5 and the time it took to build the Linux kernel than the newer Sandy Bridge microarchitecture.

While the Intel Core i7 990X Extreme Edition is a Gulftown CPU on the Westmere architecture and not Sandy Bridge, its performance is superior to that of the newest Intel quad-cores in tests that are able to heavily leverage six to twelve threads in parallel. In those cases, the Core i7 990X was about ~90% faster than an Intel Core i5 2500K and 16~20% faster than the similar Core i7 970.

In other tests, such as OpenSSL and NPB IS.C, the Sandy Bridge processors offered superior performance even with just four cores and a base frequency and Turbo Boost slightly behind the i7-990X. It will be incredibly interesting to see how the six-core Sandy Bridge processors perform when they are introduced later in the year. There's also the Core i7 2600K CPU that's out right now and is a quad-core part but with Hyper Threading and clock speeds that exceed the i7-990X.

The benefit though of the i7-990X still being a Gulftown processor is that no motherboard upgrade is required so existing X58 LGA-1366 motherboards will work just fine, which also means that most of the motherboards out there already have mature Linux support. Additionally, out of the Core i7 990X overclocking enthusiasts have been able to squeeze an easy 1GHz overclock most of the time. We didn't conduct any overclocking in this article due to the ASRock motherboard used and our focus being more on the Linux support and performance more than anything else with overclocking results for this CPU already being widely available.

If you have a massively multi-threaded workload, the Intel Core i7 990X will fancy it and be your best match at this time for a single-processor solution. However, this is a $999 USD CPU at Amazon and NewEgg so if you're workload can't efficiently take advantage of six or more threads, you'd be better off with a Core i5 2500K (or Core i7 2600K) that cost a fraction of this Extreme Edition processor.

Thanks again to Intel for sending out these CPU samples so that Linux results can be provided to the public. There are also many more tests on from this result file and other Intel Core i7 X 990 matches.

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Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via