Hey look! An upgrade!


Big thumbs up to Intel.  As a certified “old timer” I vividly remember the early days of PC building.  Once the ecosystem really kicked into high gear, and “computer shows” started to pop up as actual interesting marketplace events, it seemed like everyone was slapping together a PC out of an assortment of hand picked parts.  In those days, you could usually get a few iterations out of certain components: case, power supply, RAM and even motherboard would often last an upgrade cycle or two.  As time marched on, and the pace of innovation increased, and the manufacturers got hungrier for revenue, this trend seemed to sputter… When I found myself buying a new case because ATX switched from ATX to ATX 1.0, I knew that the glory days had probably come to an end.  A rapid fire succession of new sockets from both Intel and AMD, and corresponding new RAM standards, meant that pretty much an upgrade was a full new build.  As USB becomes USB 2 becomes USB3, even the once humble case, the stalwart soldier of the build, needs fairly regular refresh if you want something clean and well integrated.

So imagine my surprise at the release of the i980x!  Im a really good customer of Intel, AMD/ATI and NVidia (lately Intel and NVidia mainly) in that I refresh my main machine pretty much every 18 months and my main machine is, excuse the boast, a beast.  A fire breathing, Lian Li encased, Tri-Sli 3D surround equipped monster.  I can say with no hesitation that its i965 brain was not in any way showing its age.  The original Core i7 extreme remains a great proc.  But the economics of the Intel extreme parts are such that they are basically always around $1000.  There are always used parts to be had for a great deal (like the one I just sold or the QX6700 I gifted away!), but for the most part, full boxed retail on the new parts is $1000 until the part goes away and is replaced by the new $1000.

The above is how I justify closing my eyes and taking the plunge on the current Extreme: the i7 980x 6 Core.  I mean if Intel was nice enough to actually provide such a monstrous upgrade as a drop-in, who am I to resist!

All wasnt entirely smooth sailing, but it was pretty great.  Gigabyte claimed that the F9 revision of the BIOS on my EX58-UD5 mobo was 6 core ready.  Unfortunately, first boot with the 980x was a non event.  Blinky lights and black screen.  Soooo out she came and back in went the 965.  Not wanting to walk through BIOS revs for 5 hrs, I went for the F13j beta BIOS, crossed my fingers and swapped the procs back.  Lo and behold she booted!  It was A LIVE!

And boy is that monster analogy appropriate.  If the 965 was a beast, the 980 is that thing from Cloverfield.  Im still amazed that this part was just a drop in and BIOS upgrade on my existing DDR3, socket 1366, x58 board.  This is like the old days!!! (at least for this one upgrade cycle… the cynic in me tells me to not get used to it 😉 )

Some numbers… at idle using the Corsair H50 sealed water system at an ambient temp of 25C, she is idling at 26C.  Under Prime95 Small FFT after 15 minutes she capped at 59C and pretty much stayed there until I killed Prime (half hour or so)

Performance gains are noticeable “seat of the pants”.  Of course the heavier your workload, the more you notice.  A tri-SLI, 12GB RAM, 6 Core 4Ghz system guzzling 1150W of power at peak load isnt really a requirement for surfing the web and checking email! (caveat being if you like Flash sites! zing!)

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