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Crysis 2 In SLI

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

Intel’s three most modern enthusiast-oriented platforms include X58, Z68, and now X79.

The first proffers 36 PCIe 2.0-compatible lanes, enabled through the X58 Express I/O Hub itself. The second facilitates 16 lanes of second-gen PCI Express on the processor and eight more lanes on the Z68 Express Platform Controller Hub, though you’ll usually only see the CPU’s PCIe used to drive one or two graphics cards. With X79, the 40 lanes of third-gen PCI Express are enabled by the processor, potentially facilitating a massive throughput advantage over either older chipset.

But because there aren’t any PCIe 3.0-capable devices available yet, that feature goes unutilized for now. Still, can Core i7-3960X show us a benefit to using it over prior enthusiast platforms?

In DirectX 9 mode, where the graphics demand is the lowest, Intel’s Core i7-3960X turns in the highest average frame rate. Utilizing DirectX 11, the outcome is too close to call.

There’s nothing to indicate that two PCI Express x16 slots are of any benefit to our GeForce GTX 580 cards in SLI compared to Z68’s two PCI Express x8 slots, though. And any advantage Core i7-3960X holds over Core i7-990X is more likely to be attributable to the processor’s performance itself.

Core i7-3960X fails to put significant distance on our other two three-way-capable platforms in three different resolutions. Sandy Bridge-E does hold a measurable advantage, it’s just very small.

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