Late last year when we reviewed the new Sandy Bridge-E processors, we mentioned a more affordable version called the Core i7-3820 was coming. Although information about the chip had been revealed, the processor has yet to hit shelves and is now expected to arrive later in February. Fortunately, sample units are being passed around ahead of general availability, so we don't have to wait to see how it stacks up.
The i7-3820 is particularly intriguing because of its sub-$300 retail price -- far less than other chips in the series. For instance, the Core i7-3960X has an MSRP of $999 and sells for more like $1,049, while the i7-3930K has an MSRP of $583 and is fetching $599 at e-tail. Both are six-core CPUs operating over 3GHz with massive 15MB and 12MB L3 caches.
At roughly half the price of the 3930K, we expected Intel to butcher the i7-3820, and while that's partially true, the 3820 remains an impressive specimen with four cores operating at 3.6GHz, a 10MB L3 cache and HyperThreading support. Compared to the similarly priced i7-2600K, the 3820 offers additional L3 cache, support for PCI Express 3.0, quad-channel memory and a platform that will take as much as 32GB of system memory.