Unbeatable Value & Performance

Normally, we wouldn't cover secondhand hardware on TechSpot, but in the case of the Xeon E5-2670 we felt an exception had to be made. Midway through 2015 we put together one of our "Then and Now" articles that looked at almost 10 years of Intel CPUs. In that comparison, you will find the Sandy Bridge 2700K facing off against the Haswell based 4790K.

Despite being built upon a more current CPU architecture and having a 14% clock speed advantage, the 4790K was on average just 16% faster in encoding tasks. Even smaller margins were seen when looking at gaming performance, and this is the reason why we recommended that those using an unlocked Sandy Bridge processor not make the upgrade to Haswell.

Despite the arrival of Skylake processors in late 2015, this didn't really change, as once again, only very minor performance improvements are expected.

Even faster (yet still affordable): 40-Thread Xeon PC for less than a Broadwell-E Core i7, read our follow-up here

So when comparing the Sandy Bridge-EP processor to the more modern octa-core Haswell-E it isn't exactly a night-and-day comparison. The key advantage of the 5960X is the higher operating frequency and, of course, the fact that it can be considerably overclocked.

Still, a single Xeon E5-2670 was able to hold its own and was often found performing somewhere between the Core i7-6700K and 5960X, and more often than not, it was closer to the 5960X. Adding a second E5-2670 to the mix saw the dual-socket system at a serious advantage in a large number of tests.

The only notable drawback to the Xeon rig is power consumption, and this is why data centers update their hardware periodically – the energy cost of running less efficient processors can be quite considerable at scale, not to mention the cooling required.

Naturally, we are comparing the Xeon E5-2670s to the 5960X as they both sport eight cores, but in reality it is a farcical comparison, considering that one costs $1000 and the other can be had for less than a hundred bucks.

The core components of our dual Xeon E5-2670 system cost about $800, which includes two E5-2670 processors, a new dual-socket LGA2011 motherboard, and 64GB of DDR3 memory. Throw in a case, power supply, graphics card and some storage and you have a seriously capable machine for the price of a flagship Core i7 chip.

When purchasing your Xeon E5-2670 processors online, make sure you get the C2 (SR0KX) stepping chips, especially since they don't currently cost more than the C1 chips. Apparently, the C1 (SR0H8) doesn't support VT-d (Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O), whereas this is fixed with the C2 stepping, and this might be important for virtualization pass-through. If you ever plan to resell the Xeon chips down the track, the C2 models will likely fetch a better price as well.