Intel clearly has brought the 3970X Extreme Edition to the table because they can and not because they needed to do so. The previous crop of Bulldozer CPUs from AMD competed mainly against the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge line of processors and not the higher end Sandy Bridge-E ones.
Jump forward to the newer AMD Piledriver based Vishera processors and you of course see an improvement over the Bulldozer line, but not one that puts them in contention with the flagship line of processors from Intel in any shape, way or form. After almost a year Intel thought they should clearly bring something new to the table, but at the same time knew they didn't have to do anything too crazy to get enthusiast consumers attention.
If you're the proud owner of a 3960X you should continue to be a proud owner of one. If you're looking at building a new system with the ultimate CPU for the holidays, you should be looking at the new 3970X EE. At $1079.99 I'm not too sure why you'd opt to save $50 on the $1029.99 3960X. If you're going to spend over $1,000 on a CPU today, you may as well spend that extra $50 to say you own the fastest chip.
You can throw a lot of words around when it comes to the Extreme Edition line of CPUs. One you can't throw around is "value", but I feel that "value" is very much in the eye of the beholder. For example, if you're going down the path of four HD 7970 GHz Edition video cards or GTX 680's, this CPU does hold value as it's going to allow you to get the absolute most out of that setup. This is about the only stretch we can use when it comes to that word.
Instead massive performance, insane performance and fantastic performance come to mind. Six cores for a total of 12 threads help bring insane performance to applications that can use them. Under stressful real-world situations like media encoding and image encoding you can see real-world performance differences between this and CPUs that are priced at a third of it. If three times the price is worth that extra performance... well, only you can really decide that.
If you're looking to build a system around the fastest processor on the market you can't deny that it has to be based on the Intel Core i7 3970X Extreme Edition. Just make sure if you're going to spend over $1,000 on a CPU that you make sure the parts around it are worthy of it including multiple GPU, RAID SSDs and a ton of RAM, and also a good power supply and CPU cooler.
Even if you think the price is too high, you have to admit, you wouldn't say no to it if you had your way.
PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.
United States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon's website.
Australia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at PLE Computer's website.
Canada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon Canada's website.