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Intel Targets High-End PC Market with New Six-Core Sandy Bridge Processor

With its release of two new six-core Sandy Bridge processors, Intel eyes the high-end gaming and PC enthusiast market.

The Core i7-3960X and Core i7-3930K run at base speeds of 3.3 and 3.2 GHz with 15 MB and 12 MB of L3 cache, respectively. The processors are fully unlocked for overclocking, and are the first Intel client processors to support quad-channel memory.

"We are excited to deliver the ultimate desktop platform to enthusiast PC users," said Zane Ball, general manager for Intel’s Desktop Client Platforms Group. "With uncompromised performance, quad channel memory, amazing Turbo headroom and more robust PCI Express capabilities, this platform is sure to create a lot of excitement for our customers and the industry."

According to CRN's Test Center review of the the Core i7-3960X, the new processor lives up to its "Extreme" title.

With the processor set at its default clock rate of 3.3 GHz, 32-bit Windows 7 Pro configured for maximum performance, and all Windows notifications disabled, it returned a high score of 14,669, based on Geekbench standards. This means that the new CPU is about 9 percent faster than its predecessor the 980X, which held a maximum score of 13,385.

While the Core i7-3960X boasts some of the highest-end performance the industry has seen to date, its specs appeal almost exclusively to the PC enthusiast and gaming market.

Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at Nor-Tech, a Burnsville, Minn.-based systems integrator and reseller, told CRN that although the new CPU has potential to give resellers a leg-up in this niche space, it won’t necessarily be a game-changer for VARs.

"Evolutionary-wise, it’s a great processor. Power-wise, it’s very efficient. It’s definitely one of the best CPUs ever created," Swank said. "But with the price point, and lack of revolutionary capability, it’s still delegated to that high-end user niche. Most business users and casual users are just not going to use a CPU like this."

In addition to the new processors, Intel has unveiled a liquid-cooled CPU thermal solution, co-developed with Asetek. The solution is intended to provide thorough system cooling while requiring "zero" maintenance.

Intel’s launch of this thermal solution alongside that of the "Extreme" processor suggests the firm is really honing in on the high-end market, Swank noted.

"Intel likes to do this kind of stuff. They like to position themselves as the best PCs on the planet so they will continue to produce products like this," he said. "It just goes to show that Intel is really laser-focused on this space in the marketplace."

The Sandy Bridge-based processors are available now, with the Intel Core i7-3960X at 1KU prices of $990 and the Intel Core i7-3930K at 1KU prices of $555.

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