Intel Sandy Bridge-E Debuts: Core i7-3960X Reviewed

By on November 14, 2011, 2:01 AM

With the Sandy Bridge processors hitting full stride, the recent release of AMD’s Bulldozer processors was not enough to slow sales. This was largely due to Bulldozer’s inability to compete well enough with the Core i5-2xxx series. Even worse than that, it's next to impossible to actually buy an AMD FX-8150 processor thanks to chip shortages. Meanwhile, Intel is preparing to strike back by bolstering their 2nd generation Core processors even further.

Today marks the arrival of Sandy Bridge-E and three new processors released initially, which include the Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition, Core i7-3930K and Core i7-3820. Powered by a new LGA2011 socket, these 32nm processors provide up to six cores with a dozen threads. Intel has also upgraded the integrated memory controller with four channels supporting DDR3-1600 memory, for a theoretical peak bandwidth of 51.2GB/s.

These processors will be explored in greater detail shortly, but for now it's worth mentioning they feature a total of 2.27 billion transistors in a die size of 20.8mm by 20.9mm, which are mind-boggling stats to say the least.

Read the complete review.




User Comments: 46

Got something to say? Post a comment
dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Thanks for the quick review. All pretty much as expected.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Nothing special as mentioned by the chief. I think this time around the case for an upgrade to 'enthusiast platform i.e. LGA 2011' is much less compelling unless well someone is planning to use some heavily multi-threaded applications most of the time + have more money then they can keep in bank, it is just my opinion nothing more .....

okrings said:

I'm real happy see that my i7-2600K still rocks the gaming charts. I always upgrade to the latest hots, but this time I have NO intention of filling Intel's pockets with my gold. I only care about the gaming performance, so I see no need to upgrade to a X79 system. Phew!

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

The same argument that highlighted the positives in Bulldozers launch apply here also.

If your main focus is content creation and productivity and you're in a time-is-money situation then the platform would stand you in good stead- it does more in most scenario's and never really does anything worse than the previous performance kings (2600K and 990X). I would definitely consider the 3930K for a less expensive (I'd be loath to use the word cheap) alternative (Xbit review of both SKU's)

The 3960X is going to be mainly aimed at benchmarking pr0n I suspect. Seeing some benchmarks with an SR-3 and 16 cores/32 threads of Xeon E5 should be a hoot.

Steve's overclock result is a little disappointing -although I would possibly attribute that to a limited time to familiarize with the board, since quite a few reviews are seeing up to 4.8G.

R3DP3NGUIN R3DP3NGUIN said:

+1 for the review, as usual these high-end * pricey* Intel chips are the best for the Design/editing crowds. I think you would be rather stupid to get a 3960X purely for gaming. Unless of-course you have money to burn.

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I still have no reason to upgrade from my i7 920, especially as this is yet another new platform.

If I were to build a new system from scratch right now, I think the 2500K/2600K would still be the best choices, considering the poor performance/price ratio and also the big difference in power consumption of the new i7 3xxx chips

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

The same argument that highlighted the positives in Bulldozers launch apply here also.

If your main focus is content creation and productivity and you're in a time-is-money situation then the platform would stand you in good stead- it does more in most scenario's and never really does anything worse than the previous performance kings (2600K and 990X). I would definitely consider the 3930K for a less expensive (I'd be loath to use the word cheap) alternative (Xbit review of both SKU's)

Well Chef, do ya suppose this is a preview in the range of mainstream IB chips? (power consumption aside that is?)

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

So my aim for a core i7 2600k for gaming is still the best choice? Awesome! don't need to change any of my plans then

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I'm still happy with my i7-2600k.

Leeky Leeky said:

I'm a little surprised to see it suffer when it came to gaming (Crysis 2 aside). I'd have thought it would have at least matched the i7 2600K, if not been a little ahead like most of the other benchmark results due to the higher cache and additional cores/threads.

I've still got my sights on the i7 3930K though, but will wait for prices to settle a little first as its currently sitting on Scan and available for pre-order at £479.00. Once it's settled down a little I'll order it up with an Asus Sabertooth or the MSI X79A-GD65. Should be a nice increase in performance over my long overdue for replacement Q6600.

dummybait said:

Good review, though i would have liked to see performance with BF3...

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

The comments about people needing to upgrade from a 2600k for gaming is comical, considering for gaming the Sandy Bridge CPU's don't offer ANY improvement from the X58 CPU's. Running games is easy, even a Phenom II X4 keeps up.

These 6 core's are for multi-tasking, encoding, things like that.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

amstech said:

The comments about people needing to upgrade from a 2600k for gaming is comical, considering for gaming the Sandy Bridge CPU's don't offer ANY improvement from the X58 CPU's. Running games is easy, even a Phenom II X4 keeps up.

These 6 core's are for multi-tasking, encoding, things like that.

Your right except for the Phenom II thing, I had a quad Phenom II overclocked to 3.8Ghz and it had nothing on my mates i7 2600K. Litterally lose 10fps in games like crysis. Which is alot. Even in L4D2 when theres alot of action the frames dipped slightly compared to the i7.

Although I agree completely that you DO NOT need to upgrade from a Sandy Bridge Core i7 to this if its for gaming purposes. I was actually shocked though to see the fps was lower using these newbies.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

dummybait said:

Good review, though i would have liked to see performance with BF3...

...A 2600K +/- a frame

A x4 980 */- a frame

A A8 3850 +/- a frame

Sarcasm Sarcasm said:

"The Excel, Photoshop and encoding gains over the Core i7-2600K were impressive, in the order of 20% or faster."

Yet it costs 300% more than an i7-2600K. Who are they targeting with this kind of processor? (serious question)

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

"The Excel, Photoshop and encoding gains over the Core i7-2600K were impressive, in the order of 20% or faster."

Yet it costs 300% more than an i7-2600K. Who are they targeting with this kind of processor? (serious question)

Professionals with that kind of workload and bench box boys. (serious answer)

Leeky Leeky said:

The comments about people needing to upgrade from a 2600k for gaming is comical

Unless I'm blind I don't see a single reply above that states people are?

In fact, everyone has stated they're quite happy with the performance of them.

Professionals with that kind of workload and bench box boys. (serious answer)

Can we have a third category that I can fit into.

Arris Arris said:

For me, I'm hoping my 2600K is the new Q6600. Hoping to run it for as long as possible

Leeky Leeky said:

For me, I'm hoping my 2600K is the new Q6600. Hoping to run it for as long as possible

I'm still running mine now, and while all the best stuff now would eat it alive, it still seems quite content running away in my setup. I'd definitely benefit from upgrading it but its a good workhorse and its always got me out of trouble when main systems have died for various reasons.

Guest said:

Wow, I've had the 2600k for almost a year now and it still making every other option look silly.

Best value processor I've ever seen.

Save the $700, buy a 2600k and put it towards a blazing SSD, you'll see much more bang for your buck.

Guest said:

I stopped reading at $990 so I don't know/care how powerful is this.

dedparrot said:

wondering how many more years my i7 920 will last before it starts feeling dated. this is for gaming i mean.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Well Chef, do ya suppose this is a preview in the range of mainstream IB chips? (power consumption aside that is?)

I'd expect IB to be somewhere in between SB and SB-E. Probably faster in gaming assuming IB gets a slight speed increase over 2700K, would still be slower than SB-E in productivity/content creation apps. There's no substitute for cores in the latter.

Ivy Bridge-E is likely a drop in replacement for SB-E on the X79 platform so that you should see the same performance delta with IB/IB-E as we are now seeing with SB/SB-E

I'm a little surprised to see it suffer when it came to gaming (Crysis 2 aside). I'd have thought it would have at least matched the i7 2600K, if not been a little ahead like most of the other benchmark results due to the higher cache and additional cores/threads.

Larger cache won't impact on many games at "standard" resolutions/single GPU. SB's smaller L3 isn't being fully utilised as it is, so you could in effect say that with most games not fully utilising 4C/8T (at 100% usage) the 3960X and 3930K are at a disadvantage to the 2600K/2700K as they run slightly slower (3.3/3.2G and 3.8/3.9G w/turbo versus 3.4G and 3.8G w/turbo for 2600K). Sandy Bridge 4-core also seems slightly better favoured in memory performance.

I would also factor in the fact that SB-E is likely throttling under load. Most reviews used the Intel branded Asetek all-in-one watercooler or a fairly standard air cooler, and this is a BIG CPU pushing a lot of wattage in comparison with the 2600K.

I would doubt that anyone would look at X79 primarily for gaming, and unless they were going multi-monitor, tri/quad-gpu, custom watercooling and SSD's in RAID 0 you aren't going to see anything significant over SB...they are after all exactly the same CPU, albeit that one has twice the number of cores and a little more than double the L3. For any significant increase over the 2600K you would have to find a situation where the gaming scenario saturated the ability of the SB CPU and the P67/Z68 chipset- and the only likelyhood of that would be saturating the PCI-E bus using quad-CrossfireX or tri-SLI (P67/Z68/X79) / quad-SLI (X79)

Zecias said:

Guest said:

Wow, I've had the 2600k for almost a year now and it still making every other option look silly.

Best value processor I've ever seen.

Save the $700, buy a 2600k and put it towards a blazing SSD, you'll see much more bang for your buck.

Correct me if i'm wrong, but i thought the i5 2500k had the best value. Little to no performance decreases at $100 less.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Correct me if i'm wrong, but i thought the i5 2500k had the best value. Little to no performance decreases at $100 less.

Best gaming value assuredly.

If your usage leans towards content creation and productivity as well as gaming then the 2600K would edge the 2500K in most metrics (performance/watt, time to complete, multitasking).

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Can we have a third category that I can fit into.

Insane PC 'I'm really from Liverpool' arsonist enthusiast....category...:p

...there...happy now!?

there is nothing wrong with bench box boys ya know. That is some folks thing.

Leeky Leeky said:

@DBZ,

So basically you're saying (among other things) that unless someone went for multiple HD displays, and multiple GPU's it will offer absolutely no advantage to any game at all over the current reining SB 2600K?

That said, why did Crysis 2 see an improvement but not the rest? Is there a logical explanation for that?

Insane PC 'I'm really from Liverpool' arsonist enthusiast....category...:p

...there...happy now!?

there is nothing wrong with bench box boys ya know. That is some folks thing.

Very. Except I was born in the West country - Gloucester to be exact.

But hey, any excuse - I just like the layout of the motherboard, the LGA775 is long overdue replacement, and an upgrade to a 6 core SB-E would last me a good while.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

@DBZ,

So basically you're saying (among other things) that unless someone went for multiple HD displays, and multiple GPU's it will offer absolutely no advantage to any game at all over the current reining SB 2600K?

That's about it...with a caveat:

1. P67/Z68 shares it's platform PCI/PCI-E bandwidth with I/O to the extent that not all features can be run concurrently on most budget/mainstream boards- PCI-E slots sharing bandwidth with I/O controllers (SATA 6GB, eSATA and USB 3.0), so some ports may be not available if the bandwidth is already allocated

P67/Z68 is limited to 16 lanes of PCI-E 2.0/3.0 -which generally means two graphics cards only at x8 speeds, and unless the board has an integrated bridge chip (PLX or NF200 lane extender) most of the other slots become non-functional or downgraded -usually a PCIe x16 running at x4 or a PCIex4 (this third slot often shares bandwidth with a PCIe x1 slot)

That said, why did Crysis 2 see an improvement but not the rest? Is there a logical explanation for that?

It may be a case where the game has an L3 dependency- I stress may, as I do not know for sure and unlike testing an AMD L3/ no L3 situation it could be hard to pin down*. If the game code is asking the CPU to switch data at a very fast rate then a CPU with a lower amount of L3 cache may reach a point where it would need to offload to the much slower use of system memory (RAM)- having a larger third-level cache may mitigate that need.

You would probably need to evaluate on a game by game basis and target games where the CPU workload is high (i.e. using CPU physics engines) such as BF3

But hey, any excuse - I just like the layout of the motherboard, the LGA775 is long overdue replacement, and an upgrade to a 6 core SB-E would last me a good while.

I was thinking along the same lines:

1. That level of performance will stay competitive for some time

2. If you select a good quality board then an "upgrade" to the non-neutered 8-core Xeon E5 is an option in future, or...

2A. Ivy Bridge-E (rumoured to be 8 and 10 core) will likely be a drop-in replacement for SB-E if anyone finds that the latter becomes too "underpowered"

EDIT: I'm an idi0t. If you look at reviews of the 3960X and 3930K at the same clockspeed then the only difference between the two is the 3930K's lower L3 cache (12MB instead of 15MB) [bit-tech review here]

DokkRokken said:

Doesn't replicate the excitement of the 1366/i7, which is too bad. Nehalem's debut was a fun time.

I suppose what we can be excited about is how well the consumer/enthusiast grade CPU's like the 2500K perform in comparison. Good work Intel. I hope Piledriver picks up the pace for AMD, though that's wishful thinking, I know.

SB-E is far too overpowered for my actual needs, but I'd be game for a 3930K sometime soon. Perhaps after a stepping revision.

dikbozo said:

It strikes me that this new CPU is really not much to write about, other than it is quite expensive. I do recognize that the initial offerings here are the top end units, which really doesn't bode well for the later iterations of lower price. Another socket means another board to buy. Yet again Intel dictates a more costly upgrade path for manufacturers as well as consumers. The above noted limitations of the chipset supporting this CPU probably means another chipset or socket change down the road. Keep in mind the rather tepid performance delta of this very costly new unit. The price difference between the CPUs themselves is rather large, somewhat reminiscent of the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition units.

I do wish AMD had produced a more clearly competitive chip but as I see the 3960X as a somewhat more powerful but equally mixed performer (as compared to previous i7 chips) it seems that the lack of a more competitive chip from AMD has let Intel slip back into its old arrogance. I wouldn't buy one of these but then again I didn't buy any other CPU at that price point either. I urge others to think and use a careful analysis of their needs before buying/building a new machine.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Originally Posted by Leeky

But hey, any excuse - I just like the layout of the motherboard, the LGA775 is long overdue replacement, and an upgrade to a 6 core SB-E would last me a good while.

and now, a counter point/opposing view.

I an not a big fan of buying the top end, top priced CPU...especially for 'future proofing'. if you are going to spend $1000.00 on a CPU, the following should be of urgent importance and true .

1) Your home computer is used at, or to the point where it is a "time is money" situation.

2) The difference between 2:00 and 2:07 to compress/convert that file is actually important and meaningful to you.

3) you are going to keep the CPU for 3+ years

4) you don't mind the depreciation of an Alpha Romeo.

lets not forget you have gaming as one of your core uses, and it doesn't even offer any improvement in this area. Add to that, in a few months IB will be here with most likely 90%+ performance for about 1/3 the price, and less juice to run it with a 22nm process.

I just think that future proofing with a $1000.00 CPU is going to lead to disappointment. I would bet you a pint, that if you got a picked up an $350 IB CPU,with the intention of replacing it again in a year...you would probably pass on the upgrade. If you did not pass, and purchased/installed a second $350 CPU...you would still be ahead $300, be current generation, have better performance than a $1000 SB now. My advice, get a $350 IB now with an option for a update in a year +/-.

My 2 cents worth.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

It strikes me that this new CPU is really not much to write about

Yup, if it weren't for the fact that it spanks every other CPU in productivity and content creation it would be pretty much s*!+

I do recognize that the initial offerings here are the top end units, which really doesn't bode well for the later iterations of lower price.

The next SKU to launch is the Core i7 3820 at $294

Another socket means another board to buy.

Are you in some kind of hostage situation...forced to wear a vest packed full of plastique that will go boom if you don't get to a Microcenter in time ?

Yet again Intel dictates a more costly upgrade path for manufacturers as well as consumers.

I think the "manufacturers" are loving it...You think that somehow this product launch is costing Intel and the motherboard and RAM makers money ?

The above noted limitations of the chipset supporting this CPU probably means another chipset or socket change down the road

Yup, FC-LGA2011 is likely to go EOL sometime in 2014...hardly worth releasing it -maybe everyone should just stay with their present systems until ~2018 when Skymont makes an appearance

Keep in mind the rather tepid performance delta of this very costly new unit.

Which could be levelled at every new x86 architecture from any vendor since C2D

The price difference between the CPUs themselves is rather large, somewhat reminiscent of the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition units.

...and Core 2...

...and the next enthusiast line...Nehalem..

I do wish AMD had produced a more clearly competitive chip

You realize the last time that happened people had to pay $1000+ for an Athlon FX, right?...$1k+ in 2006

I wouldn't buy one of these but then again I didn't buy any other CPU at that price point either

Quelle surprise

I urge others to think and use a careful analysis of their needs before buying/building a new machine.

...dikbozo...sucking the lifeblood out of an enthusiasts hobby, one post at a time.

++++++++++++++++

I an not a big fan of buying the top end, top priced CPU

Me either, although the 3930K at half the price is mighty tempting -OC isn't affected ( 45 multi + BCLK if required). I'd still wait until prices settle down and some concrete info on the next stepping.

Add to that, in a few months IB will be here with most likely 90%+ performance for about 1/3 the price, and less juice to run it with a 22nm process.

Ahh, but followed by Ivy Bridge-E........TEN CORES G! TEN F@(%n CORES!!!

I just think that future proofing with a $1000.00 CPU is going to lead to disappointment. I would bet you a pint, that if you got a picked up an $350 IB CPU,with the intention of replacing it again in a year...you would probably pass on the upgrade.

I'd probably echo those sentiments if it were not for the fact that the Z77 chipset looks like it's going to be hamstrung by Intel yet again. If you're going that route then buying a 2600K and a good Z68 board with IB drop-in capability is probably the way to go.

From a personal viewpoint - I drive an M5, I like driving...I appreciate the "getting from A to B" mentality, but I probably won't be buying a Ford Fiesta any time soon even though it does much the same things as the Beemer and costs somewhat less...So I can appreciate the enthusiast excess for the sake of excess.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

4) you don't mind the depreciation of an Alpha Romeo.

Here even a new Honda Civic / Accord or Toyota Corolla will loose about 5-6% of its value as soon as you drive it out of the show room, so ................................ this isn't simply an Alpha Romeo issue

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

I'd probably echo those sentiments if it were not for the fact that the Z77 chipset looks like it's going to be hamstrung by Intel yet again. If you're going that route then buying a 2600K and a good Z68 board with IB drop-in capability is probably the way to go.

From a personal viewpoint - I drive an M5, I like driving...I appreciate the "getting from A to B" mentality, but I probably won't be buying a Ford Fiesta any time soon even though it does much the same things as the Beemer and costs somewhat less...So I can appreciate the enthusiast excess for the sake of excess.

Yeah i'm like that with graphic cards....and food....etc..

Hey i am all for the enthusiast thing. i have enthusiast OCD myself.

I just get the impression that Lee-K isn't buying one for an enthusiast vent though...unless he just isn't admitting it :p

and it has been my experience that the vast majority of folk who try to 'future proof' with a product like this, wish they hadn't.

You realize the last time that happened people had to pay $1000+ for an Athlon FX, right?...$1k+ in 2006

you don't say... cuz ...that would be dumb...:o

Here even a new Honda Civic / Accord or Toyota Corolla will loose about 5-6% of its value as soon as you drive it out of the show room, so ................................ this isn't simply an Alpha Romeo issue

I understand that Alphas have a higher "as soon as you get off the lot drop" in value. just what I have heard from those should know....I, i said should know :p

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Yeah i'm like that with graphic cards....and food.

I get the impression that Lee-K isn't buying one for an enthusiast vent though...unless he just isn't admitting it :p

Well, for the bog-standard desktop setup a 2500K/2600K is going to suffice for the majority of people. A 2600K/2700K clocked to 5GHz is still a potent performer. Where the clear cut performance issue isn't clear cut is if you compare low end SB-E vs high end SB...

3820 (4C/8T) @ $294 vs. 2600K (4C/8T) @ $316

Gigabyte X79-UD3 @ £186.34 vs Asus P8Z68 Deluxe @ £192.82 (a reasonable board with PLX chip and similar feature set)

RAM pricing is largely inconsequential.

4-6 months down the track, the upgrade path would be Ivy Bridge (4C/8T) 3600K vs a second hand 3930K (6C/12T). Your upgrade path with Ivy Bridge stops there-barring higher clocked parts, while the X79 still gives the opportunity for secondhand 3960X (or better) and Ivy Bridge-E.

This is pretty much the scenario I'm looking at now...but then, I'm itching to build a balls out system again....X58 for me was good but limiting - Westmere comes too late in the product cycle to consider....and I haven't had a really enjoyable tweaking system since my QX9650 + 790Ultra setup.

Leeky Leeky said:

@DBZ,

Thanks for the explanation in post 29 dude.

and now, a counter point/opposing view.

I an not a big fan of buying the top end, top priced CPU...especially for 'future proofing'. if you are going to spend $1000.00 on a CPU, the following should be of urgent importance and true .

1) Your home computer is used at, or to the point where it is a "time is money" situation.

2) The difference between 2:00 and 2:07 to compress/convert that file is actually important and meaningful to you.

3) you are going to keep the CPU for 3+ years

4) you don't mind the depreciation of an Alpha Romeo.

I agree. I'm not spending $1000 on a CPU. The i7 3930K is more than suitable for my needs and I've no intention of aiming higher.

In response:

1. Not as such, but like other enthusiasts I like things to be smooth and super responsive. Even with an SSD I'm beginning to get frustrated with the gradual reduction in performance from my Q6600. So it is time to upgrade.

2. See above. But for humour, thats 7 seconds I could be doing something else. You add them up and it makes a difference.

3. I'm in front of my PC all day, every day. Its used 18 hours a day, day in, day out. I've had this current PC setup for much longer than that period.

4. I actually happen to love Alfa Romeo's. They sure do break, but they have a character missing in most cars these days.

lets not forget you have gaming as one of your core uses, and it doesn't even offer any improvement in this area. Add to that, in a few months IB will be here with most likely 90%+ performance for about 1/3 the price, and less juice to run it with a 22nm process.

I do. I also run several VM's at once, a majority of the time I'm in front of the computer, plus I'm using Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Fireworks and a whole host of other software usually running in the background dependant on what I'm doing at the time. Six cores/12 threads will give me an advantage in that respect over 4 cores/8 threads. Gaming accounts for as little as 25% of my typical usage.

I just think that future proofing with a $1000.00 CPU is going to lead to disappointment.

I agree. I'd be nuts to spend that sort of money on a CPU. When you consider that I don't upgrade chipset on every release I think the cost of a i7 3930K over several years for its productivity performance is money well spent. I do not deny that the i7 2600K would be adequate in almost (if not) all respects, there are features I like about SB-E.

I would bet you a pint, that if you got a picked up an $350 IB CPU,with the intention of replacing it again in a year...you would probably pass on the upgrade. If you did not pass, and purchased/installed a second $350 CPU...you would still be ahead $300, be current generation, have better performance than a $1000 SB now. My advice, get a $350 IB now with an option for a update in a year +/-.

My 2 cents worth.

Aye, that could be true, but I'm not considering spending that much on a CPU alone. I'll regularly be adding/removing disks, GPU's, PSU's, even changing cases, and RAM, but the chipset and CPU will remain long term once I upgrade. I have absolutely no intention of annual or even bi-annual chipset/CPU replacements.

It will remain in use until such time as an upgrade is needed, in all likelihood 2-3 generations on from now. My current system was built before the system that blew up earlier in the year, and despite being reliable, its getting very long in the tooth for what I ask of it.

Yeah i'm like that with graphic cards....and food....etc..

Hey i am all for the enthusiast thing. i have enthusiast OCD myself.

I just get the impression that Lee-K isn't buying one for an enthusiast vent though...unless he just isn't admitting it

and it has been my experience that the vast majority of folk who try to 'future proof' with a product like this, wish they hadn't.

Its a bit of both. I have mild to moderate enthusiast OCD, my problem most of the time isn't buying stuff, its deciding on what to buy. I've spent months figuring out what route to take, and while admittedly the cheapest route of upgrade is a FX-8120 due to having a compatible motherboard/RAM already, I'm just not convinced its a wise decision long term. Added to the fact its a single PCI-ex motherboard, long term it restricts possible routes of expansion.

So if I remained with AM3+ I'd be replacing the motherboard. Given that point, its almost pointless considering that as an option as a little bit more money would give me a SB system.

DanUK DanUK said:

That's a crazy fast piece of kit.

However as I only really use my PC to play games.. (as this review demonstrates) my i7 920 still does me very well.

Mizzou Mizzou said:

I do. I also run several VM's at once, a majority of the time I'm in front of the computer, plus I'm using Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Fireworks and a whole host of other software usually running in the background dependant on what I'm doing at the time. Six cores/12 threads will give me an advantage in that respect over 4 cores/8 threads. Gaming accounts for as little as 25% of my typical usage.

Given the type of computing you do the i7 3930K makes perfect sense, especially when you spread the cost over a number of years. Also agree that it's a better choice than the FX 8120P (20/20 hind sight), as AM3+ will be long gone before SB-E reaches end of life. When I built my X58 rig with a 965EE Nehalem was assuming at least five years of service, so far so good and it more than handles my gaming/OCD enthusiast needs.

According to bit-tech it appears the 3930K has some pretty fair overclocking abilities just in case you decide to scratch that itch now or down the road

However, the i7-3930K has identical overclocking properties as the Extreme Edition CPU. Using a CPU voltage of 1.4V, a CPU multiplier of 38x, a Base Clock of 123.75MHz, a CPU strap of 125MHz and a memory speed of 1.98GHz, we could also run the i7-3930K stably at 4.7GHz.

fpsgamerJR62 said:

For guys like me running an outdated gaming PC ( AMD 955BE/ 790FX MB / 8 GB DDR2-800 / GTX 275 ), a Core i7 2600K/2700K with 8/16 GB DDR3 seems to be the most logical and cost effective upgrade. However, I have this gut feeling that the Core i7 3930K rig, even with the higher upfront cost of the processor, motherboard and memory, might prove to be the better long term investment for someone who does gaming and also some light office work on the same PC.

Leeky Leeky said:

Given the type of computing you do the i7 3930K makes perfect sense, especially when you spread the cost over a number of years. Also agree that it's a better choice than the FX 8120P

According to bit-tech it appears the 3930K has some pretty fair overclocking abilities just in case you decide to scratch that itch now or down the road

Thanks for the feedback Sir. Yes, I'd noticed that as well, it kind of reinforces the i7 3930K as being the better choice. Coupled to a Corsair H100 Or Silver Arrow air cooler (if it fits!) it should provide for good temperatures moderately overclocked as well. I don't think its unreasonable to see higher than 3960K performance whilst ensuring the OC is safe enough to last long term.

Added bonus being Its such a big upgrade that even at default clocks it will be a huge increase on my current system.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Coupled to a Corsair H100 Or Silver Arrow air cooler (if it fits!)

You may want to take note of TechReport's X79 motherboard roundup. It has the clearance measurements for most of the vendors' (the usual suspects anyway) boards. The arrangements for models within a vendors range don't differ too significantly in most cases as they tend to utilize the same base PCB layout.

This is the Asus P9X79 Pro for example:

You would need to source an LGA2011 retention kit from Thermalright for the SA. Low profile memory modules would be a must also. Noctua's NH-D14 SE2011 (similar to the SA) has increased memory height clearance cutouts and an LGA2011 retention kit - Tom Logan at OC3D got a 3960X to 5GHz using the same cooler in his R4E review.

If you're considering watercooling then I'm not sure that the H100 represents good value for money/performance. You would likely want to replace the fans, so that 's likely to put you over a hundred quid. If you can handle the idea of assembling the kit yourself (not difficult) then I'd suggest the XSPC Rasa 750 kit which isn't appreciably more than the H100 but offers better performance (RS240) or much better performance (RX240 - same kit, thicker radiator, more cooling surface area)...these have the added advantage of being upgradeable -either with other water cooling vendors components, or XSPC's own new range.

Having a component based watercool setup also means you'll likely have a bottle of coolant/distilled and de-ionized water handy should things get out of hand Towering Inferno style

Leeky Leeky said:

Thanks for the advice dude.

Looking on the various sites I frequent things are a little early for availability. I have long considered water cooling, especially the noise reduction it can offer, but whether I'll take the plunge I'm unsure of. Plumbing will be easy enough, been messing with cars for years so coolant systems are no stranger to me.

I considered the H100 as a simple hybrid option that was a easy to fix and setup. Much like a replacement air cooler would be, as its no fuss. But your point is very valid, additional fans would bring it into the territory of a dedicated water cooler setup. We'll see, I'm undecided on the cooling route right now.

I'm set on either the Asus Sabertooth or the Gigabyte GA-X79-UD5, though the MSI X79A-GD65 is another option. I've also found the Gigabyte board's to be reliable long term in the past and given my checkered history with Asus motherboards I'm hesitant to consider it over the Gigabyte version.

As for RAM, I'll be ordering a second set of 8GB DDR3-1600 Corsair XMS3 RAM. I got a set of 4 matched 2GB sticks a couple of months back, so that'll sort the RAM out for both banks, giving me 16GB which should be more than plenty. Only another ~£50 to double it so worthwhile.

champmanfan said:

I was very eager to see how well in practice the i7 3960X would do from the impressive leaked stats that has been teasing us for the past year, how disappointing it all turned out to be. The upside is that my i7 2600K purchase in January '11 was justified by these impressive figures here and much better stability for overclocking on most boards towards 5GHz on water.

I would have bought a 3960X setup but I from reading all the reviews online and watching plenty of professionals testing the chip I can't justify now so will be putting my cash towards a couple GPUs. I do hope that further BIOS updates with the 2011 chipsets sorts out the issues with overclocking and keeping the system stable.

I read elsewhere that 60K PPD from F@H is achievable from the 3960X at stock, this compares to 2700K stock of 31K PPD. Though your better off power consumption wise with the upcoming Xeon E5 1650 for a modest price of £340 per unit.

However, this isn't for gamers at all and should be bought by professionals as was proved by the use of the extra memory bandwidth and use of 12 threads vs 8 for 2700K. All those threads are great but useless until applications are programmed to make use of all these threads, gaming stands no chance because it usually requires no more than 4 threads. The defunct i7 920 has been know for a while now to slightly bottleneck GPUs, the i7 2600K can be had for £230 retail which should look a bargain versus even the i7 3930K at approx. £450.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I was very eager to see how well in practice the i7 3960X would do from the impressive leaked stats that has been teasing us for the past year, how disappointing it all turned out to be.

Actually the estimates were pretty spot on...unless you're talking about some uninformed fanboy/gossip sites,...but then, they always tend to err on the side of sensationalism...of course, if you can supply some links...or even one, that originates from Intel, feel free to share. I follow this stuff very closely, and with the exception of the VT-d and decreased SATA/SAS complement with Patsburg-A (both of which have been known for some time) virtually everything is as shown in the slide decks.

I would have bought a 3960X setup but I from reading all the reviews online and watching plenty of professionals testing the chip I can't justify now so will be putting my cash towards a couple GPUs. I do hope that further BIOS updates with the 2011 chipsets sorts out the issues with overclocking and keeping the system stable.

The issue isn't with the chipset ( BIOS update might help individual boards), it's with the initial CPU revision. These chips [link] . They just aren't capable of going higher. The C2 revision will refine the CPU to a degree -just as the D0 revision greatly increased Bloomfields OC potential from the initial C0 stepping- but SB-E was designed from the outset as an eight core CPU and Core i7 are nothing more than salvage parts running at the limit of LGA2011's 130w specification. In effect the difference between SB and SB-E is that you're sacrificing clockspeed and OC headroom for L3 cache and die area...and games don't generally need a ton of L3.

the i7 2600K can be had for £230 retail which should look a bargain versus even the i7 3930K at approx. £450.

You're attempting to make an argument based on pricing where the majority of the people buying the platform don't give a rat's a5s:

e-peen. Fastest is better than 2nd fastest....if that wasn't the motivation for some then a dual-Xeon SR-3 wouldn't be hitting shelves after the holiday season. Just for comparison, the SR-2 (dual Xeon Westmere-EX) was quite a popular seller, and...

Workstation performance (rendering, compositing, productivity et al) in addition -or instead of - the gaming aspect. Pricing becomes much more palatable if it comes with a tax rebate. The only reason that WS isn't being pushed at the moment is because VT-d and SAS are non-functional on the initial revision boards/CPU's.

champmanfan said:

Estimates.... dividebyzero I didn't keep the links for the previews of the well respected sites because my bookmarks are in need of housekeeping and already difficult to navigate - I never read forums for new tech either as I require quality articles such as this - my expectations of Ivy Bridge was taken from the leaked CPU specifications and how they said it could line up against existing Sandy Bridge processors back in approx. May '11. Of course, theory and practice are two different things when you don't actually have something to test that early. I won't proclaim to know every detail from Intel's lineup and some information I remembered has been replaced with more pressing concerns of late.

Chipset.... There are recommended limitations to the amount of vcore to use and going above 1.4v would degrade the lifespan of the CPU - using 1.5v for even 4.9GHz as noted in your link under LN2 is crazy but only used for benching. Stable overclocking for 24/7 use looks like being 4.6GHz (more reports of this issue all over the web). I wonder how the temps would fair Vs SB under water, my 2600K at 4.7GHz, 1.33vcore is 55c on water under load for a 16hour F@H SMP run at room temps of 23c. Running 3960x at higher vcore plus additional cores 'could' push it towards 65c which is a bit too high for my liking. If you were to overclock, I doubt you would go beyond 4.4GHz if your running it as a workstation for stability (to guarantee stability you obviously wouldn't overclock). Seems you need to read every review to see how each motherboard fairs with overclocking (mixed success apparently from when I was speed reading yesterday).

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

my expectations of Ivy Bridge was taken from the leaked CPU specifications and how they said it could line up against existing Sandy Bridge processors back in approx. May '11.

Most of what is known actually begins and ends with a couple of slides. After that it is all conjecture.

None of which has any bearing on SB-E directly...

Bear in mind that your SB platform has the upgrade path of:

2600K > possibly a faster 2700+K > Ivy Bridge (4C/8T)

The upgrade path for SB-E

3960X/3930K > C2 stepping + speed bin increases > Ivy Bridge-E (up to 10C/20T)

I wonder how the temps would fair Vs SB under water,

Again,

The extreme crowd won't be setting any OC records with SB-E...I thought I'd already made that clear. Likewise do you think your 2600K platform can:

Run quad-SLI ?

Run triple GPU and still have full I/O functionality?

Equal or better a SB-E in Vantage, 3DMark11, WPrime32 or any other accepted performance benchmark ?

If you were to overclock, I doubt you would go beyond 4.4GHz if your running it as a workstation for stability (to guarantee stability you obviously wouldn't overclock).

Firstly, OC depends on the platform and the particular CPU. I've already provided a link to show that SB-E isn't the world's best overclocker, so what's the point?

The world's best overclocker is an AMD part. Care to state how many HWBot benchmarks a FX-8150 would win over the 3960X ? or for that matter, substitute a 2700K for the 8150.

If absolute clockspeed is the defining pinnacle of performance then every enthusiast should be going for Bulldozer since SB is capped at a 57 multiplier.

Seems you need to read every review to see how each motherboard fairs with overclocking (mixed success apparently from when I was speed reading yesterday).

Allow me:

Intel DX79SI low: 4.3 (Hardware Secrets) - High - 4.9 (Hardware Canucks)

Also: 4.4 (HT4U), 4.5 (Overclockers.com, Xbit), 4.6 (Technic3D, Legit Reviews, Hardcore Hardware, Hardware France, Tom's Hardware), 4.7 (PC Perspective, Madshrimps), ), 4.73 (OCC), 4.75 (Hot Hardware), 4.8 (HiTech Legion, ComputerBase, Tech Report)

Asus Rampage IV Extreme : low 4.6 (eTeknik), High: 5 (Tweaktown, OC3D, OCLab.pl) Also: 4.7 (VR-Zone), 4.8 (Kitguru, HardOCP)

Gigabyte Assassin2 : low: 4.4 (TechSpot) High: 4.6 (Tweaktown)

Gigabyte X79-UD7 : 4.77 (Sin's Hardware)

Gigabyte X79-UD5 : 4.8 (Tech Report)

Asus P9X79 Pro: 4.5 (Xbit)

Asus Sabertooth X79: low 4.7 (bit-tech), high: 4.9 (Madshrimps)

MSI X79-GD65: low: 4.7 (Tech Report), high: 5 (Guru3D)

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.