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

World Of Warcraft In SLI

Core i7-3960X’s advantage was already apparent with a single card in World of Warcraft.

Poor scaling at 1680x1050 using SLI indicates that we’re processor-bound, and that this game could really use a faster CPU above all else (indeed, overclocked to 4.6 GHz, the -3960X yields nearly 150 FPS).

Because there’s little difference between no AA and 8x AA at 1920x1080, we can also be fairly confident in a processor bottleneck at that resolution, too. The Z68 and X58 platforms fall in behind, inhibited by slower CPUs.

Finally, at 2560x1600, we see the -3960X’s 8x AA score drop a bit relative to its performance without the feature. But look at everything else—from 1680x1050 to 2560x1600, the frame rates are pretty consistently even.

The same platform-oriented bottlenecks that kept GeForce GTX 580s from stretching any higher in two-way SLI keep a trio of cards from scaling, well, at all, really. WoW just isn’t one of those games that demands more than one really powerful GPU.

It does, however, put the extra performance enabled by Core i7-3960X to good use, as the game shows off a 20 FPS advantage over the next-closest finisher (Core i7-2600K) at all three resolutions.

Although this is a processor review and we’re most interested in how Sandy Bridge-E performs, it’s also important to take a closer look at gaming performance in more GPU-constrained titles to gauge whether the more potent CPU helps alleviate any overhead. With that in mind…

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    Top Comments
  • Maziar
    Wow,lots of details and benchies.Great review as always Chris !
    28
  • ohim
    This article tells me 2 things , either our current software is a total piece of crap since it has absolutely no clue of multi core cpus, or the future without AMD is so grim that intel makes you pay 1000 bucks for a cpu that doesn`t perform really that fast ... but for sure the software industry needs to take a better look at those multicore optimisations.
    24
  • SpadeM
    So no SAS/Full Sata 3 ports but u do get PCIe 3 ... no Quicksync but u do get 2 more cores and the added cache ... no USB 3.0 but u get quad channel memory which in real life every day computing is a minimal gain at best. Feels an awful lot like a weak trade if you ask me. I'm basically asked to buy the P67 chipset with sprinkles on top. And for 1000$ it feels like it falls short. For heavy workloads it's cheaper and faster to make yourself 2 systems based on 1155 or bulldozer and render, fold, chew numbers that way. X79 should have launched with an ivy bridge based cpu inside and a better chipset to live to it's name.
    What we have today is simply a platform for bragging rights not a serious contender to the X38, X48, X58 family.
    17
  • Other Comments
  • Maziar
    Wow,lots of details and benchies.Great review as always Chris !
    28
  • SpadeM
    So no SAS/Full Sata 3 ports but u do get PCIe 3 ... no Quicksync but u do get 2 more cores and the added cache ... no USB 3.0 but u get quad channel memory which in real life every day computing is a minimal gain at best. Feels an awful lot like a weak trade if you ask me. I'm basically asked to buy the P67 chipset with sprinkles on top. And for 1000$ it feels like it falls short. For heavy workloads it's cheaper and faster to make yourself 2 systems based on 1155 or bulldozer and render, fold, chew numbers that way. X79 should have launched with an ivy bridge based cpu inside and a better chipset to live to it's name.
    What we have today is simply a platform for bragging rights not a serious contender to the X38, X48, X58 family.
    17
  • nikorr
    Enjoyed the review Chris ! WoW.
    3
  • illfindu
    Not to take the review to much off topic but its worth bringing up because this review was so complete , as in covering a vast array of situations and programs. Its truly embarrassing for AMD that the FX-8XXX series is beaten not only bye chips with half the cores but half the cores that are a generation behind. In fact as of this moment the FX set is almost inspiring it its lack of any value at first glance at some of these marks one could say that AMD's most expensive chip at over 200$ is one of its slowest being beaten bye both the x4 and x6 phenoms.
    -13
  • redsunrises
    Illfindu, you are beating a dead horse... Old news, lets move on (sorry, just tired of the same thing being said over and over, which will end in an amd fanboy fight). Great review though!
    13
  • ohim
    This article tells me 2 things , either our current software is a total piece of crap since it has absolutely no clue of multi core cpus, or the future without AMD is so grim that intel makes you pay 1000 bucks for a cpu that doesn`t perform really that fast ... but for sure the software industry needs to take a better look at those multicore optimisations.
    24
  • stonedatheist
    I think Intel would be raking in the dough if they left all 8 cores enabled for the 3960X. I doubt that a later revision will enable them. 8c/16t will probably hit the desktop with IB-E (can't wait) :)
    -4
  • joytech22
    :| Well AMD is fighting a losing battle.. (In High-End CPU's, which I actually use for rendering etc..)
    I would LOVE to see them pick up their game and provide me with a worthy upgrade over my 4GHz i7 2600 (Non-K). I would swoop it up.

    Look, BD had 4 modules with two "cores" each, each module is equivalent to a Sandy Bridge core.
    They should just combine both of those cores or make them a single core, so we get 4 threads.

    Then create 4-6-8 core versions of those CPU's..
    Think about it.. the FX8150 is more of a 4-core CPU where the resources are halved pretty much so you get two threads per core, it would have been MUCH MUCH better if they just kept 4 strong cores.


    Not sure why either but I always seem to start an AMD related comment :\
    -9
  • sudeshc
    great but too expensive....
    3
  • JeanLuc
    Hi Chris,

    The labels are wrong on the graphs on this page the last ones should read DDR2-2133 on the last two shouldn't it?

    JeanLuc
    0
  • Yargnit
    The 3930k certainly appears to be the chip to watch for out of this bunch. The 3820 is basically a 2600k/2700k on a more expensive platform, and the 3960x needed to be the full 8c/16t version of the processor to sell for $1000. (If you are dropping that much A dual socket EVGA SR2 setup still makes more since)

    The only use for the 3820 really seems to be a cheap placeholder processor if you need a new PC now, but want to wait for a likely full 8c/16t version to come out around the time Ivy Bridge is released. The 3930k should prove to be a very good high end gaming/ mid range workstation part though for people who invest close to $1k in graphics cards.
    -2
  • LuckyDucky7
    So, are we getting any overclocked measurements in the near future?

    The funny thing is that cores don't scale well. They do, but it's far from ideal as the percentages from the 2600K show (and the FX-8150 but that's a different story).


    But the takeaway:

    -If you're playing games the i5-2500K is the best purchase you can make and it's enough for Tri-580 SLI. Only WoW shows any difference, but most games ignore it.

    -X79 is Intel being just plain lazy. No matter how you slice it- the X79 should have been called X67 and left like that. It's also a wildcat platform that will only support at most 6 CPUs that aren't terribly crippled.

    -A Phenom II 955BE (or unlocked 960T, or a 1090T/1100T) is still a fine CPU to have unless you're gaming with dual graphics cards or doing time-intensive tasks.
    17
  • halcyon
    Irrevocably thorough review Chris. Excellent work, as usual. Oh, and I and do want a 3960X. Don't need it. Can't justify it. Just want it.
    5
  • cangelini
    JeanLucHi Chris,The labels are wrong on the graphs on this page the last ones should read DDR2-2133 on the last two shouldn't it?JeanLuc


    Yessir! Working on it now!
    5
  • rahulkadukar
    If this is coming out now, when is Ivy Bridge scheduled to come out
    0
  • undead_assault
    hmmm, nice review, Chris! Can you do some overclocking review on these chips?
    2
  • iam2thecrowe
    everyone saying its too expensive, no sh%t!!! Top end cpus have and will always be expensive. Lets go back to 2006 - amd FX-62 - over $1000 at launch. and back to 1999 - AMD athlon 700mhz - near $900 http://www.sharkyextreme.com/hardware/reviews/cpu/athlon_700/ . pentium III http://www.firingsquad.com/hardware/pentium3/prices.asp $700+. Has everyone lost their memory???
    16
  • machvelocy
    any chances to unlock the disabled core?
    5
  • halcyon
    388413 said:
    everyone saying its too expensive, no sh%t!!! Top end cpus have and will always be expensive. Lets go back to 2006 - amd FX-62 - over $1000 at launch. and back to 1999 - AMD athlon 700mhz - near $900 http://www.sharkyextreme.com/hardware/reviews/cpu/athlon_700/ . pentium III http://www.firingsquad.com/hardware/pentium3/prices.asp $700+. Has everyone lost their memory???

    Yes. Its expensive. In other news the Earth orbits the Sun. I wish I had enough $$$ that the costs of this CPU was inconsequential to me.
    -6
  • srgess
    I heard when windows 8 come out this processor will get more benefit lawl
    4