Intel's Core i7-3960X processor
Truly high-end desktop PCs have been in a curious position for nearly a year now. Intel's X58 platform and the corresponding Core i7-900-series processors have reigned supreme in their segment for three successive years, with little real competition from AMD. Yet in the 11 months since the debut of Intel's Sandy Bridge processors, this high-end platform hasn't been unequivocally faster than the more affordable mid-range options. The source of the trouble is pretty simple: newer technology. The Core i7-900 series is based on the older Nehalem CPU microarchitecture, and the newer Sandy Bridge architecture delivers substantially more performance in every clock cycle. Even the thousand-dollar Core i7-990X, with six cores and three memory channels, can't distance itself too much from its quad-core Sandy Bridge cousin, the Core i7-2600K.
Thus, the X58's raison d'etre has largely been reduced to its utility as a vehicle for multi-GPU solutions. Since quad-core Sandy Bridge chips can only support dual eight-lane PCIe connections, the X58's more ample PCIe connectivity has been prized in certain circles. We can't say we've been part of those circles, though, ...