These were the first of the Intel Core i series CPUs to hit the market in Q4 2008. But just because they’ve been around the longest by no means diminishes their value or performance. In fact in the nearly two years since their arrival, there hasn’t been a single reason to consider anything else for a high end gaming rig. And considering the reasonable prices for these systems, it’s tough to consider anything higher or lower for a powerful workstation. This platform has all around superb performance.
You might notice it looks very similar to Lynnfield, that’s because they are very similar. Same cache arrangement, 256KB per core, and 8MB L3 shared for all cores. It also has the memory controller built in, but that’s where things get different, this one has a triple channel memory controller. Although it’s been shown time and time again that Bloomfield works very well in dual channel mode, and that any performance benefit of triple channel is not noticeable in the majority of applications. The other thing you may notice missing the PCIe controller, that’s because it’s located on the motherboard in the X58 chipset. All Bloomfield CPU’s include Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology and Intel® Turbo Boost Technology.
The only thing differentiating the Bloomfield CPUs is their final clockspeed with the exception of the top end Extreme Edition 965 and 975 which have unlocked multipliers for maximum freedom while overclocking.
Gulftown has provided the much anticipated follow up for Bloomfield, and the performance does not disappoint. As you can see in the die map below, it’s very similar to Bloomfield, but has six, instead of four cores. Gulftown still has 256KB of L2 cache per die, and now shares 12MB of L3 cache for all cores. Nothing else has fundamentally changed here…the biggest improvement is what you don’t see, that is the transition to the 32nm process technology. This allowed them build this new CPU with two extra cores and extra L3 cache on a smaller piece of silicon.
What’s the result? Lower power consumption and less heat, all while being more powerful! For an overclocker this mean a little more overclocking headroom! Now the bad part…..the price.
There are only two desktop Gulftown CPU’s currently available, the 970 is slightly less expensive and has a locked multiplier. It is a fine choice for someone wanting six cores or power, but trying to cut costs where possible. The 980X has an unlocked multiplier for maximum freedom while overclocking, the 990X is set to release next month and will replace the 980X at the top.
Considering that most all Bloomfield CPU’s are capable of reaching 4GHz I don’t see much point to buy Gulftown unless you are using an app which will use all 6 cores (12 threads HT). Most games show little benefit from four cores over two, six core gaming is still a ways away. Still if you want the best, this is currently the only choice!
My commentary above was fairly brief, there are tons of resources around the net, and I encourage all of you to examine the choices based on your individual needs. For instance, I wanted a small portable gaming rig for LAN parties, so I built a Clarkdale based system which I’ve been very happy with! You can read more about it here. You may have other specific needs to consider, like power requirements, or specific apps that need lots of memory, etc… My recommendations are very generalized here.
For a budget system, I would definitely recommend a Clarkdale base system. They overclock very well, they’re very affordable, and you can get very good performance for your dollar. You don’t need to splurge on memory, cooling, or graphics. Most Core i3 CPU’s will easily hit 4GHz and many don’t have any trouble hitting 4.5GHz with air cooling. In the LAN party rig I mentioned above I’m running at 4.6GHz with air cooling. Since the memory controller isn’t capable of very impressive speeds, it takes away the urge to splurge on high end memory, just some budget DDR3-2000 will allow you to maximize the potential of the memory controller. In the same way, Clarkdale has optimized performance for a single graphics card, removing some of the desire to upgrade to multiples. Overall it makes for a very powerful budget rig. My only real caveat here would be for a workstation/power user, someone who does A LOT of multi-tasking, then you might want to consider Bloomfield for the quad core power.
Hands down, Bloomfield is the only real choice here. I don’t see many arguments for Lynnfield here, the one I hear most is the cost of triple channel memory. But as I mentioned before, Bloomfield runs beautifully with dual channel memory, look at the third channel as potential for a future upgrade. Again, Bloomfield overclocks very well, and can usually hit 4GHz on air cooling, and if you want to push further it’s usually possible with better cooling.
Most other guide will probably tell you to go Gulftown here, but my recommendation sticks with Bloomfield for a gamer. I’d only recommend Gulftown for a high end workstation, especially if you know your app will make good use of all twelve threads. For a high end gaming machine, I’d stick with Bloomfield until lower priced Gulftowns become available. If you’ve got the extra cash, spend it on graphics cards and displays, it’ll be put to much better use there. If you want to push further on the CPU, I’d suggest investing in good cooling; high end water cooling or phase change cooling can go a long way for higher clock speeds.
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