Wrap Up: Top Performance for No-Expense-Spared Budgets
Knowing that our Core i7-3960X and 4960X samples halted at 4.4GHz, we weren't surprised to find the same overclocking headroom with our 5960X sample. Still, an eight-core processor clocked at 4.4GHz makes a powerful statement and if that's the route you're going to take, you'll need a fairly decent water cooling setup.
Overclocking aside, there is a lot to consider with today's launch and the entire Haswell-E platform, the highlights of which include Intel's 8-core 5960X, its X99 chipset and the introduction of high frequency DDR4 memory.
For us, the X99 chipset is one of the most important factors because it's a significant upgrade over the X79 and a slight upgrade over the Z97. Although the X99 isn't a huge improvement on the Z97, it's a much better situation than what the LGA2011 platform faced previously where its flagship chipset was a considerable downgrade from the mainstream versions.
The LGA2011-v3 platform should be a little more attractive to potential buyers with the availability of reasonably affordable motherboards such as the Asrock X99 Extreme3 at $210, which is about the price of a mid-range Z97 motherboard. Although the X99 Extreme 3 and its kind are 'budget' models, they still have impressive features such as M.2 support, 10 SATA 6Gb/s ports, 3-way GPU support and plenty of USB 3.0 ports.
Affordable X99 motherboards may be in place, but the required DDR4 memory is currently fetching a rather high price premium over DDR3. Having to purchase new memory is already going to scare some folks off so it won't help that 16GB DDR4 2133MHz quad-channel kits are priced at $250 while DDR3 kits of the same speed and capacity are as low as $150.
Based on the handful of application and encoding tests we ran, the Core i7-5960X was on average 9% faster than the 4960X and 30% faster than the 4790K. Unfortunately we didn't have time to upgrade all our gaming results from the Radeon R9 280X to the 290X, but I don’t think this would have made much, if any difference.
The Core i7-5960X is mostly a waste when it comes to gaming considering it isn't much faster than a low-end Core i3 processors, even in some CPU-dependent titles. For the most part, the 5960X can hope to match the 4790K -- it was only in Hitman: Absolution that the 5960X pushed ahead by a 7% margin.
At the same time, when it comes to gaming, buying a Core i7 processor of any description is fairly unnecessary. As our results show, the Core i5-4670K can deliver the same level of gaming performance as any Core i7 processor, again the only exception being Hitman.
Priced at $1,050, the Core i7-5960X costs three times more than the 4790K so it's obviously not a good value solution, regardless of your workload. Like every Extreme Edition processor before it, the 5960X is aimed at people who will spend whatever Intel is asking for just to have the fastest system possible.
Pros: With eight cores, a 20MB L3 cache, 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes, DDR4 support, decent overclocking and Intel's new X99 chipset, the Core i7-5960X is destined for dream machines.
Cons: It doesn't offer much of an advantage over mainstream chips for gaming and in scenarios where there is a solid speed boost, at $1,050 you'll be paying a largely disproportionate premium for it.