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Benchmark Results: Productivity

Intel Core i7-3960X Review: Sandy Bridge-E And X79 Express

OCR isn’t a workload for which we’d normally tap a thousand-dollar chip. However, ABBYY’s FineReader 10 does scale based on available core count, granting the Core i7-3960X a first-place finish. One of our most commonly-recommended CPUs, Intel’s Core i5-2500K takes exactly twice as long to finish this benchmark. How’s that for perspective?

All of the tests up until now have painted Core i7-3960X in a pretty positive light by virtue of optimizations for threading, which keep all of Sandy Bridge-E’s cores busy. But Lame is single-threaded, so the only advantages this new chip has are its clock rate, IPC, and whatever gains Intel can enable with Turbo Boost.

Not surprisingly, then, the Core i7-3960X comes in right around the Core i7-2600K—a CPU about one-third of its cost. The rest of the field follows behind. Without question, this, like the FX last month, is a processor primarily intended to tackle threaded workloads. The big difference is that it also presents solid single-core performance too, rather than sliding backward, which is what we see FX-8150 do.

The same story presents itself in WinZip, roughly. The -3960X and -2600K swap places, yet remain practically tied.

WinRAR is a completely different animal. Not only does it exploit all six of the Core i7-3960X’s cores, but it also demonstrates an affinity for higher-performance memory. Add to that the clear benefits attributable to Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture and it’s no wonder the incoming flagship does so well, notably outpacing the outgoing top-end model.

Also able to utilize all of a six-core/12-thread processor’s resources, 7-Zip favors the Core i7-3960X just like WinRAR did.

Because this test is well-threaded, FX-8150 delivers a nice gain over the Phenom II X6 1100T, falling just one second short of Intel’s Core i7-2600K.

The creation of a PDF document from a PowerPoint 2010 presentation runs fastest on the Core i7-3960X, but only by a second. The fact that all of the Sandy Bridge-based chips finish within four seconds of each other suggests that the workload only taxes one thread, and favors Intel’s most current architecture over the Nehalem design that came before.

All of AMD’s chips bring up the rear. And because the Phenom II X4 offers better IPC than FX-8150, it’s able to outperform the most recent release. Unfortunately, Phenom II X6 1100T gives up too much clock rate to keep up, despite the fact that its Turbo Core technology dithers at up to 3.7 GHz.

We know from watching Windows’ Task Manager that our Miranda IM client compile test taxes multiple cores, which is why the Core i7-990X manages to slide into second place behind the Core i7-3960X. Intel’s other Sandy Bridge-based chips come in third and fourth, followed by three AMD CPUs. Intel’s Core i7-920 seems to lack the clock rate and architectural advantages of Sandy Bridge to compete in this discipline.

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