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Intel added a new six-core processor to its lineup over the weekend with another silent update to its official price list. The Core i7-980 replaces the nearly year-old i7-970 at the same $583 price point and features a slight bump in clock speed from 3.2HGz to 3.33GHz. Otherwise, the new chip is identical to its hexacore sibling: it can execute 12 threads simultaneously, has 12 MB L3 cache, supports SSE4 and AES instructions, and works with socket 1366 motherboards.
It's also very similar to the $1,050 extreme edition Intel Core i7-980X, with the exception that the Core i7-980 comes with a locked multiplier and a reduced QPI clock of 4.8 GT/s in exchange for a ~45% lower price tag.
Obviously Intel's latest six-core is aimed at enthusiasts, but even if you are willing to spend that kind of money on a processor, you would be better off waiting for the Sandy Bridge E and the new X79 chipset that is set to launch sometime in Q4 2011. Not to mention that unless you use applications that actually take advantage of all six cores, the current high-end Sandy Bridge offerings provide similar or even superior performance for less money.
With no other socket 1366 processors on Intel's roadmap, the Core i7-980 could be the last model for the socket. The LGA2011 is set to arrive this fall, so that's roughly a 3-year release cycle for Intel's enthusiast platform.
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