IntroductionWhen Intel launched a triumvirate of Core i7 processors back in November 2008 we commented that the architecture was potent enough to ensure that the company would lead in the performance desktop space for some time to come. Core i7 took the guts of Core 2 Quad and made it better in practically every way, adding in hyperthreading, L3 cache, Turbo Boost, and a tri-channel memory setup. Trouble was, users looking to buy into Core i7 goodness needed an X58 motherboard (£200) and some costly DDR3 memory.
At launch the three CPUs were differentiated by clock-speed and scant little else. The Core i7 920 (2.67GHz) was cleverly priced at £250, to keep AMD's own quad-core pricing in check. Core i7 940 (2.93GHz) came in at £450, and the range-topping Core i7 965 Extreme (3.20GHz) at £800 or so. AMD's since launched numerous Phenom II quad-core chips that, whilst faster than the first-generation models, haven't been able to beat out the Core i7 920. That's why the trio of Core i7 chips' pricing has barely changed in over six months; Intel has no real competition in this sector: your choice for a high-end performance PC is Core i7 or, well, Core i7.
The clear choice for the value-conscious enthusiast lies with the Core i7 920, as it overclocks, with basic air-cooling, to 3.6GHz-plus, intimating that the underlying Nehalem architecture has plenty of headroom. Knowing all this, Intel has taken its time to bolster the line-up with another chip, this time running at 3.33GHz. Brought to market as the CPU for the no-holds-barred PC, let's see how fast the Core i7 975 Extreme Edition really is.