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Intel has released two new top-of-the-line, six-core "Sandy Bridge E" processors, the first to bring four-channel memory to the desktop.

Before this Monday, the high end of Intel's desktop line was capped by the four-core 3.5GHz i7-2700K. Now that spot has been taken over by the six-core 3.3GHz i7-3960X Extreme Edition, which turbo-boosts to 3.9GHz, with the 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K right behind, which boosts to 3.8GHz.

As might be guessed, these two-billion-plus-transistor parts are aimed squarely at gamers – and, for that matter, at game developers. To emphasize this point, Intel invited id Software's John Carmack to join in the new chips' coming-out party.

"To render our uniquely textured worlds," Carmack said in a prepared statement. "RAGE uses a very compute-intensive real-time process to transcode texture data from highly compressed form on disk to a compression format the GPU can use directly for rendering. With two more available cores, a six-core system can transcode over 50 percent more texture data per second during gameplay than a four-core system, bringing new surfaces to full resolution quicker."

Both 32nm, unlocked chips are on the pricey side, with the i7-3960X Extreme Edition and its 15MB L3 cache going for $990 in lots of 1,000, and the 12MB-cached i7-3930K priced at $555 in the same volumes.

Both pop into the new LGA 2011 socket, and are supported by Intel's X79 Express chipset, which provides 6Gb/sec SATA ports and a total of 40 PCIe 2.0 lanes.

Intel also announced a new LGA2011 socket, X79 Express motherboard, the Desktop Board DX79SI, along with a liquid CPU cooler co-developed with Asetek, the RTS2011LC .

With the first generation of AMD's eight, six, and four core "Bulldozer" FX chips having proven to be less than fully impressive, it appears that Intel will now have the high end of the enthusiast market all to itself – for a while, at least. ®

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