Not much is sure in this life, but fortunately there are a small number of things you can always rely on. The sun comes up in the morning, we all have to pay taxes and last but not least, the most expensive consumer Intel processors have always costed around $1,000. That's been the case ever since Intel left AMD in the dust, in terms of raw processing power.
Intel recently introduced its latest '$1,000' chip, the Core i7 4960X from the Ivy Bridge-E generation. It can safely be said that the 4960X is without a doubt the fastest consumer CPU in the world. However, the performance increase over its predecessor, the Core i7 3970X, is a bit disappointing. Have Intel's top-of-the-line CPUs always nudged the boundaries in such a limited way, or were there bigger jumps before?
Intel's first Extreme Edition processor and the first consumer processor, as far as we can tell, with a pricetag of around $1,000 came out in 2003. It was the Pentium 4 3.2GHz Extreme Edition, a Socket 478 processor. Intel equipped the Pentium 4 chip with 2MB of L3 cache. It wasn't enough to beat the AMD FX processors at the time, but it at least left Intel in a more competitive position. In 2004 two new $1,000 flagship processors were released based on the same Gallatin chip: the Pentium 4 3.4GHz EE and 3.46GHz EE. Both used the new Socket 775 socket and were slightly faster than the standard versions due to the higher clock frequencies.
In 2005, Intel switched to smaller transistors, which would form the tick in Intel's tick-tock development strategy for it processors. The new 90nm transistors made it possible for Intel to further increase the clock frequency, so the Prescott-based Pentium 4 3.73GHz Extreme Edition was again faster than its predecessor. A bigger improvement came later in 2005 with the first dual-core versions of the Pentium 4, also using 90nm transistors. You can read the rest of A look back: 10 years of $1,000 Intel processors on Hardware.info.