Intel has launched a new range topping six-core, twelve threads processor today in the form of the Core i7 990X Extreme Edition. Based on the 32nm Westmere silicon, the 990X displaces the existing i7 980X Extreme Edition from its $999 price-point (in 1000-unit bulk quantities) while also offering an unlocked multiplier and bringing slightly higher clock speeds: 3.4GHz base and a maximum of 3.73GHz when Turbo Boost kicks in, up from 3.33GHz and 3.6GHz for the 980X.

Like its hexacore siblings the 990X comes with 12MB of L3 cache, sports a 130W TDP, and requires a socket LGA1366 motherboard. This is expected to be Intel's last chip in its codenamed Gulftown range, which will be replaced by the Sandy Bridge 'E' platform (codenamed Patsburg), and will use the new LGA2011 socket when it's released in late 2011.

PC enthusiasts not interested in the bragging rights that come with Intel's top of the line processor might be happy to know that the non-Extreme Edition Core i7 970 has received a welcome price cut to a more palatable $583, down from its previous $880, making it Intel's cheapest six-core processor to date. And last but not least, the quad-core i7 960, which is clocked at 3.20GHz, has gone down from $562 to $294.