What's new in the CPU
We all know the big thing that the new Gulftown CPU brings to the table. This is the introduction of six cores on the same die combined with Hyper Threading for an impressive 12 threads per cycle from a single CPU. But as they say on the late night TV ads, "But wait, there's more".
Gulftown also arrives on a new 32nm process. This allows the CPU to increase transistor count while maintaining roughly the same size as a 45nm one. In fact, Gulftown has increased the transistor count by 439 million while reducing the actual size of the die.
Gulftown is 248mm^2 with 1.17 billion transistors, while Bloomfield is 263mm^2 with 731 million transistors. It also allows the new Core i7 980X to use less power and generate a little less heat than other CPUs in the 9xx line-up. But aside from the size and transistor count differences, there are some other new additions to the 980X.
As with the Clarkdale CPU, we see Intel dropping in a new set of AES [Advanced Encryption Standard] instructions. In a fit of non-inspiration, this is called AES-NI. The NI stands for New Instructions. This is a set of 12 new instructions that are executed in the CPU to improve encryption/decryption performance.
Gulftown also brings about an increase in the Intel Smart cache, as we get a nice jump from 8MB to 12MB to coincide with the number of threads active on the CPU. The rest of the features on Gulftown are what you have come to expect from the new Core iX CPUs such as Turbo Boost, High-K metal gate [no lead in the CPU], Triple Channel memory support for up to 1066MHz and so on.
So, while we do get some great new stuff; we are not seeing an amazing revolution in terms of CPU design. But then again, as Gulftown is the 'Tick' part of Intel's 'Tick-Tock' roadmap, it is not really meant as one. That will be the next in line when Sandy Bridge comes around.