Intel 980x Gulftown
Published: 12th March 2010 | Source: Intel | Price: £850 - estimated |
Normally this is the part of CPU reviews that we dread. We all love a great picture of some sexy hardware but unlike every other hardware item, except perhaps storage, CPUs are as photogenic as Courtney Love? Thankfully in surprising twist we actually do have something great to show you because Intel have finally dispensed with the useless stock cooler that we've all been plagued with for years and moved into the Heatpipe Tower style of cooling that we all use anyway.
The CPU itself is a CPU. Very little to say. Externally it's identical to any other of the i7 family.
The New Cooler
Fortunately the new stock heatsink is vastly different. Although tower designs are very similar we were put in mind of the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7, which was a great little cooler so hopefully this one will perform well. I'm sure most of us who've brought a retail CPU have a box with an untouched stock cooler in it, so having one we'd actually consider using is a vast improvement.
The fan placement is slightly strange. Most, if not all, of the coolers we come across tunnel the air through the fins. Intel have decided to leave the fan exposed and have some of it pumping air across the heatpipes themselves. So it's a start, but not perfect.
On the left we can see a fairly robust mounting bracket which should provide more pressure than the standard push-pin style of former coolers.
On the right you can see the toggle switch that changes the fan from quiet to performance.
One thing that hugely impressed us was the quality of the finish on the copper base. Very shiny indeed and it's not a fake "plated to look good" shine either but rather a very good smoothness. Without an electron microscope of course it's difficult to be precise, but we've seen many in our time and this is one of the finer ones.
The cooler actually performed very well especially considering it is still a stock cooler and only 92mm in size. As you can see below on the high settings it takes the edge nicely off the temperatures. However the primary difference does seem to be noise. WOW this thing is loud on high settings. Insanely so. Anyone who thinks the original 4870 or 8800 cooler was loud hasn't seen anything yet.
A tweak to the design to a shrouded fan that fully blows across the fins and not underneath will allow much lower RPM and hopefully noise.
So the old stock coolers used to be loud and useless. This is a good cooler and still loud. Slowly but surely we're getting there. Unfortunately at the price point of this CPU I'd want Mr Otellini himself to install an all copper cooler personally so it's not without fault.
I'm sure you're all as eager as we are to put this through its paces, so let's get down to some testing.