Intel has released its first six-core processor, the Core i7-980X Extreme Edition, that is aimed at the consumer market and will be a direct replacement of the Core i7-975 Extreme Edition.
Apart from the fact that it comes with six cores rather than four cores, it also cements Intel's crushing domination at the very high end of the processor spectrum, far ahead of archrival AMD.
The processor is built using a more advanced 32nm manufacturing process, runs at 3.33GHz, is capable of running 12 threads simultaneously and 12MB L3 cache.
The chip formerly known as Gulftown - based on the current Westmere architecture - will also feature Intel's dynamic clocking capabilities that can overclock it to 3.6GHz.
Like its predecessor, it has a TDP rated at 130W, boosts support for three DDR3-1066 memory modules and should be a drop-in upgrade for motherboard based on the existing X58 chipsets (ed : may require a firmware upgrade though).
All the reviewers agree that the Core i7-980x Extreme Edition is a pretty powerful piece of silicon and may actually provide with a compelling alternative to dual-socket quad-core Xeon processors in some scenarios.
Note that this is not Intel's first 6-core processor. The first one was the X7460 which was launched back in 2008 and had 6-cores but could only manage six threads. Still, it cost $2729 back then, almost three times the price of the i7-980x which is more powerful than it is.
This leaves us with one unknown. How will AMD react? We know that it has a 12-core Magnycours processor in the wings and will launch a six-core processor under the branding Phenom II X6. Will these be enough though? We don't think so but it might be just enough to keep it afloat.