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Core i7-3930K: The Smart Sandy Bridge-E Choice

Intel Core i7-3930K And Core i7-3820: Sandy Bridge-E, Cheaper
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After my review of Intel’s Core i7-3960X, I heard second-hand comments from several sources at Intel wondering why everyone else seemed to love the chip, and yet I pretty much recommended against buying it.

Knowing that the Core i7-3930K was just 100 MHz off of its mark and down 3 MB of shared L3 cache, I just had to know how it compared. So, I went and dropped $600 on the thing at Newegg. As an enthusiast making an actual purchase, and now with both the -3930K and -3960X in my possession, I can unequivocally affirm what I suggested in Intel Core i7-3960X Review: Sandy Bridge-E And X79 Express: mainly, that smart enthusiasts who need the effective Sandy Bridge architecture and raw compute power of six cores will buy Core i7-3930K instead of-3960X.

We’ve seen a ton of variance in the overclocking headroom of C0, C1, M0, and retail Sandy Bridge-E-based chips, so it makes little sense to crank our engineering sample as high as it’ll go to compare against this store-bought -3930K. What I can say, though, is that at 4.5 GHz and 1.36 V, you can’t do much better from a single-CPU daily-driver platform.

And that’s why I’m pleased to hand out my first ever Best of Tom’s Hardware award to Intel’s Core i7-3930K. Obviously, this isn’t something you see very often. It’s a distinction reserved for the best of the best, price be damned. Except, in this case, the price (relative to the flagship that just launched ahead of it), actually isn’t obscene.

We’ve seen that it’s super-easy to build a very expensive Sandy Bridge-E-based machine, and prices on high-end X79 motherboards like the ones featured in Thomas’ recent Ultimate X79? Five $320+ LGA 2011 Motherboards, Reviewed only perpetuate that stereotype. But I was able to snag the cheapest LGA 2011-equipped board on Newegg, ASRock’s X79 Extreme4-M, and construct a fairly feature-rich machine capable of potent two-card graphics configurations. It’s not the most purpose-built overclocking motherboard. However, the company deserves big credit for its ability to create a platform up to my little experiment.

And while it’s tempting to think a quad-channel memory controller needs to be populated with 4 GB modules, at least, 8 GB is still ample for most folks. G.Skill’s 8 GB F3-12800CL9Q-8GBZL kit gave me the data rate I wanted (1600 MT/s) at a modest 1.5 V using XMP settings. And that’s priced at $55 bucks (again, I went with the cheapest kit on Newegg). Done deal. Of course, After Effects demonstrated to us that some workloads can utilize more memory if it’s available, so if you’re in that category of high-end buyer ready to run workstation-class apps (and not as concerned about building on Sandy Bridge-E for half the price of my launch review), then step it up to 16 GB at least.

Want A -3930K Of Your Own?

Would you like to win your own Intel Core i7-3930K? How about a DX79SI motherboard and SSD 320 drive? Click here to enter for your chance!

The contest opens on December 8, 2011 9:00 PM PST and closes on January 12, 2012 9:00 PM PST.

Four Winners Will Be Chosen Randomly.

Prizes (provided by Intel):
Four (4) prizes consisting of one (1) Core i7-3930K CPU, one (1) DX79SI motherboard, and one (1) 320 Series 120 GB SSD. Approximate Retail Value Each: $600+$280+$200=$1,080

DUE TO LEGAL REQUIREMENTS, THIS CONTEST IS LIMITED TO LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE USA (EXCLUDING RI) AND 18 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER.

UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED, ALL PERSONAL INFORMATION WILL ONLY BE USED TO QUALIFY AND CONTACT THE WINNER.

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