Intel showed off its first six core processor for desktops, the Core i7-980X Extreme Edition, which will go into workstations and enthusiast PCs targeted at gamers.

The company said that the new chip will be faster and more power efficient compared to its past gaming processors. Based on a new architecture, the processor includes more cores and will be capable of running 12 threads simultaneously for faster processing, the company said in a statement. Intel previously sold primarily quad core chips for gaming PCs. An Intel spokesman said the chip will run at 3.33GHz, but declined to comment on when the chip will reach systems. The processor, codenamed Gulftown, is on display at the Game Developers Conference.

However, online retailers are already taking orders for the processor, indicating its release could be close. Late last month European retailer Alternate started selling the processor at a price of €1,099. The retailer also listed the chip as having 12MB of L3 cache with the capability to scale the clock speed to 3.6GHz.

The Core-i7 980X "is an absolute beast," said Kelt Reeves, CEO of Falcon Northwest, a PC maker. The processor will benefit users that need serious processing power, including gamers, 3D artists and video content creators. "It's so fast it's actually pushing the new graphics cards to process 3D graphics even faster," Reeves said. "It's the best CPU I've ever seen."

The Gulftown processor are based on the Westmere architecture and will be made using the 32nm process, which will be an upgrade over existing Nehalem chips made using the 45nm process that it ships for gaming desktops. The chips will work faster and draw less power. The company is also expected to launch six core Westmere processors for servers later this month.

Intel will compete with rival Advanced Micro Devices, which will soon launch six core chips under the Phenom II X6 brand, which will also be targeted at gamers.