updated 08:00 am EST, Mon November 14, 2011
Intel Core i7-3960X debuts in updated Maingear PCs
Intel brought out a swan song for its second-generation Core processors Monday by launching a new flagship mainstream processor. The Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition clocks at 3.3GHz, even with six cores, and can Turbo Boost to 3.9GHz when fewer cores are needed; as an Extreme Edition, it's designed to allow for overclocks. It sits as one of the few Sandy Bridge-E processors and adds support for quad-channel memory, giving it very high bandwidth when paired with four sticks of RAM.
The chip carries 15MB of Level 3 cache and is relatively demanding, at 130W of peak power. By itself the processor costs $1,050 at retail and doesn't include a cooling fan, instead relying on the addition of a third-party system.
Maingear has signed on as the first PC builder to use the Core i7-3960X in a shipping system and has updated its Shift and F131 systems to use the faster processor. Combining it with the company's liquid cooling system and uncommon vertically-oriented airflow helps the chip get up to 5.2GHz, which should get roughly a 25 percent boost in gaming and video.
The F131 is the lowest-cost option for the processor and costs $2,712 before a $100 discount with 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and a modest GeForce GT 440 that like most parts can be upgraded. Shift systems start at $3,576 with a faster GeForce GTX 560, a 128GB solid-state boot drive, a 1TB storage drive, and an Aphex-developed Epic Audio Engine that's claimed to bring better headphone and microphone quality regardless of the sound card that's used.
Other vendors are expected to line up for the new Core i7, although Intel hasn't named others. Those who buy the Maingear systems can expect theirs to ship by the end of November.