Intel Core i7-975 Extreme And i7-950 Reviewed

Intel doesn’t need to launch a pair of new CPUs today. Its thousand dollar Core i7-965 Extreme is already the fastest chip out there by a comfortable margin. Its five hundred-something dollar Core i7-940 slides into second place without an issue. And the company’s entry-level Core i7, the 920, is reasonably priced to the point where it fits into our $1,300 System Builder Marathon parts list (and of course, it also helps that the 2.66 GHz chip approaches 4 GHz with some regularity).

Nevertheless, the company is taking advantage of Computex to launch a pair of fresh Core i7s—the 975 Extreme and the 950. Given their names, you’d think that these newcomers would fall into place on either side of the i7-965. But that’s not the plan at all. Instead, Intel says the i7-975 Extreme will replace the 965 at its exorbitant $1,000 price point and the i7-950 will replace the 940 at $562.

For the time being, 940s will probably float around in the channel at reduced prices. But with i7-920s still the overclocking darlings for less than $300, even a discounted i7-940 would still cost more than we’d be otherwise willing to pay for it.

Things Change / Stay The Same

The last time we reviewed a Core i7 processor was the Nehalem architecture’s launch in November of last year. Back then, the infrastructure supporting i7 was decidedly high-end. A handful of $300-$400 motherboards were pretty much it, and 1.65V DDR3 triple-channel memory kits were still brand new.

Fortunately, much has changed. There are at least four X58-based motherboards selling for less than $200. Six gigabyte DDR3 memory kits are selling for well under $100 now. And even the entry-level (for the i7 family, that is) 920 has dropped a bit down to $279. Of course, those price points only matter if you’re in the market for Core i7 as cheap as you can find it.

Core i7-975 Extreme and Core i7-950 are not in the same category. The i7-975, specifically, is for the enthusiast who wants a guaranteed 3.3 GHz+ clock rate, to know he’s getting the D0 stepping, and doesn’t mind shelling out the same $999 that, yesterday, would have bought a 3.2 GHz i7-965 Extreme.

The i7-950 puts 133 MHz on its predecessor, but still remains the middle-child. At $562, the i7-950 costs $280 more than the i7-920 and runs well within reach of every 920 overclock we’ve ever seen—even the retail chips that have come through our lab. Thus, we’re not going to spend a ton of time on the i7-950 (though you will see it in all of the benchmark charts).