Six cores. Twelve threads. A new flagship processor in Intel's stable. Here at GDC in San Francisco, the world's most widely recognized chip maker is dishing out its latest desktop CPU, and to say it's a niche device would be greatly understating things. We spoke to a number of Intel bigwigs at tonight's media event, and everyone confessed that the Core i7-980X Extreme Edition was a low quantity, high performance device aimed specifically at gamers and content editors that simply refuse to live anywhere other than on the cutting edge. Intel's planning on selling these in retail, standalone form for $999 (MSRP), while they'll soon be available in a variety of gaming rigs from the likes of Dell, Alienware and whoever else wishes to keep with the times. As for Apple? The company stated that Steve and Company "sort of call their own shots," and that we'd have to dig at Apple if we really wanted to know what their refreshed Mac Pro would hold. We chuckled, nodded in understanding, and then learned that this here slab of silicon is a bit ahead of the software out there, with Intel noting that only games optimized for 12-thread use and benchmarking utilities that did likewise would really demonstrate the performance boost. 'Course, anyone who spends a great deal of time multitasking will appreciate the extra headroom, and power users can always find ways to make use of more horsepower. Oh, and for what it's worth, the company stated that this will be its lead desktop chip for some time to come, and if you're looking for a mobile version in the near future, you can keep dreaming.

As for the critics? Just about everyone with a benchmarking license managed to get one of these in-house, and everyone seems to feel (mostly) the same way. There's no denying that this is Intel's speediest consumer chip ever, but you won't find 50 percent boosts just anywhere. Yet. When the software catches up, though, there's no doubt that this chip will make even the other Core i7s look downright sluggish. 50 percent more cores and 50 percent more threads than the prior kings of the line leads to fantastic gains when serious number crunching is involved (audio and video editors, we're staring at you), with some tests showing upticks in the 30 to 50 percent range. As a bonus, the power consumption here is also extremely reasonable, with the shift to 32nm enabling it to even use less power in some circumstances when compared to the Core i7-975 Extreme Edition. Dig into the glut of reviews below if you've got a cool grand with "chip upgrade" written on it -- you'll be glad you did.

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