Intel Core i7-6950X Extreme Edition

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Intel Core i7-6950X Extreme Edition

MSRP
$1723.00

  • Pros

    Insanely powerful, particularly with multithreaded applications.

  • Cons

    Ridiculously expensive. Lower clock speed may reduce utility with single- or lightly threaded workloads.

  • Bottom Line

    Desktop processors don't get beefier—or more expensive—than the Intel Core i7-6950X. But not every user will find all its enhancements worth the money.

By

Matthew Murray

For anyone who wants to buy or build the most powerful consumer-oriented desktop computer possible, at present there's no question what its CPU must be: the new Intel Core i7-6950X Extreme Edition ($1,723). The first chip released in Intel's new top-of-the-line Broadwell-E series, it maxes out every technology possible to deliver the speediest performance on both single- and multithreaded workloads.

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The 6950X, which is based on the 5th-Generation Core ("Broadwell") microarchitecture (rather than the newer 6th-Generation Core microarchitecture behind the "Skylake" chips Intel debuted last year) has 10 processing cores, which, combined with Intel's Hyper-Threading technology, means you have access to as many as 20 threads. Its other specs are impressive, too: 25MB of cache and support for 40 PCI Express (PCIe) 3.0 lanes.

This chip shares a number of characteristics with others in the Broadwell-E family. It has support for four channels of DDR4-2400 memory. It is fully unlocked for ease of overclocking. It has a Thermal Design Power (TDP) of 140 watts. And it uses the LGA 2011-v3 socket, which means you may have to upgrade your motherboard if you're planning to use this as the center of a build. (If you already have an LGA 2011-v3 motherboard, a BIOS update should suffice.)

But if ultra-hard-core gamers, intense content creators, and other bleeding-edge types will love what it offers, there are two potential drawbacks to the 6950X. First is the sky-high price of $1,729, which will put it and systems using it outside the grasp of all but the wealthiest or most financially adventurous buyers.

Second is that the chip's lower clock speed (3GHz) makes the most sense for heavy use with highly multithreaded applications, where the number of threads crunching away at once compensates for the lower speed. There are some ways of mitigating this: Turbo Boost 2.0 can dynamically raise that speed to as much as 3.5GHz, and Turbo Boost Max 3.0 lets the chip decide for itself which of its cores is best suited for boosting performance on lightly threaded workloads.

For these reasons, gamers and those who don't use software that can take full advantage of the Intel Core i7-6950X are probably better off waiting for one of the other Broadwell-E chips that has fewer cores and threads, but is clocked faster. (The next-nearest sibling down the ladder, for example, is the Core i7-6900K, which is clocked at 3.2GHz with a 3.7GHz Turbo Boost rate and still supports 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes, but has only eight cores and 16 threads, and 20MB of cache.)

If you have the money and you just can't wait, however, the 6950X will make a stunning starting point for your next super-fast desktop PC.

For more details, check out the Intel Core i7-6950X Extreme Edition review on our sister site, ComputerShopper.com.

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Matt Murray

By Matthew Murray
Managing Editor, Hardware

Matthew Murray got his humble start leading a technology-sensitive life in elementary school, where he struggled to satisfy his ravenous hunger for computers, computer games, and writing book reports in Integer BASIC. He earned his B.A. in Dramatic Writing at Western Washington University, where he also minored in Web design and German. He has been building computers for himself and others for more than 20 years, and he spent several years working in IT and helpdesk capacities before escaping into the far more exciting world…
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