Call it extreme. Intel just took the covers off its first-ever eight-core desktop processor. Formerly code-named Haswell-E, the Intel Core i7-5960X processor Extreme Edition is aimed at power users who expect more than the status quo from their PCs.

Specifically, Intel is targeting three categories with its first client processor that supports 16 computing threads and new DDR4 memory that promises some of the fastest desktop systems hard core users -- enthusiasts, gamers and content creators -- can buy. What’s more, the new Intel X99 chipset lets users tune their systems to maximize performance.

Lisa Graff, Vice President and General Manager of Intel's Desktop Client Platform Group, called it the next phase of the company’s “reinvention of the desktop” announced earlier in 2014. "This product family is aimed squarely at those enthusiasts who push their systems further than anyone, and we're offering the speed, cores, overclocking and platform capabilities they have asked us for," she said.


Intel is showing off what the new processers can do at the PAX Prime gaming conference in Seattle. The company’s booth is stocked with PCs from various manufacturers that are leveraging the technology to run games like Lucky's Tale, Superhot with the Oculus Rift, Dark Souls 2 and Titan Fall.

Intel is also demonstrating gaming while streaming via Twitch on a new Intel Core processor Extreme Edition-based system. The idea is to show off how live streamers can maintain high-quality, high-definition streams with eight cores for gameplay without lags. The company has partnered with OEMs, memory and motherboard vendors, and graphics partners to make all this a reality.

"Using new overclocking and monitoring features in Alienware Command Center 4.0, we've been able to really push the processors to the fullest extent and are seeing impressive overclocking headroom,” said Frank Azor, Alienware general manager. "This new Intel processor lineup is the perfect choice for gamers who demand the absolute best performance from their systems."

According to Intel, many of the new platforms based on its X99 Chipset are also Thurderbolt-ready. That means when you pair a Thunderbolt 2 add-in card on the Haswell-E system you can get a 20 Gbps connection. What’s more, data-intensive tasks like 4K video editing, 3D rendering and game development benefit from Thunderbolt 2 performance. Thunderbolt is a hardware interface that makes it possible to connect external peripherals to a PC.

Extremely Compelling

We turned to Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, to get his take on the new Intel tech. He told us the Intel Core i7-5960X processor Extreme Edition looks like another terrific next-generation processor. As he sees it, many consumers aiming at high-performance desktops will welcome the combination of exceptional graphics and compute power.

“The portion of the market that’s focused on high-end graphics is going through quite a few changes right now,” King said. “Nvidia is pitching itself more and more as a full-service laptop and console vendor by mixing its own GPU technology typically with ARM-based silicon for the compute side of the equation.”

Meanwhile, AMD has done an admirable job of blending its own x86 architecture and the graphics technologies it bought a few years ago, he said. However, Intel has steadily increased the capabilities of its compute processing while also catching up on the graphics side.

“This new processor is probably going to deliver the most sophisticated graphics capabilities in a desktop system that Intel has offered to date,” King said. “I believe the combination of performance and price are going to be extremely compelling for many applications.”

Three new flavors of the processor will be available next week ranging from six to eight cores and priced from $389 to $999.