Intel's 2.93GHz (with automatic overclocking to 3.6GHz) Core i7-870 processor earns second place in our rankings. The differences between this $564 processor and the Core i7-980X, though important, result in only a 14 percent decrease in performance from that of the Core i7-980X. The i7-870 drops its internal L3 cache to 8MB. In addition, it carries a 45-nanometer designation (the size of the space between transistors). The smaller this number, the smaller and more numerous the transistors that can be packed onto a processor.

Also, this midrange CPU eschews Intel's quickpath interconnect in favor of a direct media interface (DMI). You won't notice that change as much as you might the switch to a dual-channel memory controller, which limits you to four memory slots on your motherboard instead of six.

OUR VERDICT

A significant price drop with a minor performance loss against Intel's top-line CPU makes this 45-nanometer, quad-core model an excellent buy.