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

Test Setup And Benchmarks

Test Hardware
Processors
Intel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E) 3.3 GHz (33 * 100 MHz), LGA 2011, 15 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled

Intel Core i7-990X (Gulftown) 3.43 GHz (26 * 133 MHz), LGA 1366, 12 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled

AMD FX-8150 (Zambezi) 3.6 GHz (18 * 200 MHz), Socket AM3+, 8 MB Shared L3, Turbo Core enabled, Power-savings enabled

AMD Phenom II X4 980 BE (Deneb) 3.7 GHz (18.5 * 200 MHz), Socket AM3, 6 MB Shared L3, Power-savings enabled

AMD Phenom II X6 1100T (Thuban) 3.3 GHz (16.5 * 200 MHz), Socket AM3, 6 MB Shared L3, Turbo Core enabled, Power-savings enabled

Intel Core i7-2600K (Sandy Bridge) 3.4 GHz (34 * 100 MHz), LGA 1155, 8 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled

Intel Core i5-2500K (Sandy Bridge) 3.3 GHz (33 * 100 MHz), LGA 1155, 6 MB Shared L3, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled

Intel Core i7-920 (Bloomfield) 2.66 GHz (20 * 133 MHz), LGA 1366, 8 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled
Motherboard
Intel DX79SI (LGA 2011) Intel X79 Express Chipset, BIOS SI.0280B

Asus Rampage IV Extreme (LGA 2011) Intel X79 Express Chipset, BIOS 0067

Asus Crosshair V Formula (Socket AM3+) AMD 990FX/SB950 Chipset, BIOS 0813

Asus Rampage III Formula (LGA 1366) Intel X58 Express, BIOS 0505

Asus Maximus IV Extreme (LGA 1155) Intel P67 Express, BIOS 0901
Memory
Crucial 32 GB (4 x 8 GB) DDR3-1333, MT16JTF1G64AZ-1G4D1 @ DDR3-1600 at 1.65 V on Socket AM3+ and LGA 2011, DDR-1333 at 1.65 V on LGA 1155

Crucial 24 GB (3 x 8 GB) DDR3-1333, MT16JTF1G64AZ-1G4D1 @ DDR3-1066 at 1.65 V on LGA 1366
Hard Drive
Intel SSD 510 250 GB, SATA 6 Gb/s
Graphics
Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 1.5 GB
Power Supply
Cooler Master UCP-1000 W
System Software And Drivers
Operating System
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
DirectX
DirectX 11
Graphics DriverNvidia GeForce Release 280.26
Nvidia GeForce Release 285.62 for all SLI testing

Tom's Hardware's Test Bench

3D Game Benchmarks And Settings
BenchmarkDetails
Crysis 2
Game Settings: Ultra Quality Settings, Anti-Aliasing: Disabled, V-sync: Disabled, High-Quality Textures: Enabled, DirectX 9 and DirectX 11, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, 2560x1600, Demo: Central Park
DiRT 3
Game Settings:  Ultra Quality Settings, Anti-Aliasing: Disabled and 8x AA, Anisotropic Filtering: Disabled, Sync Every Frame: No, 1680x1050, 1920x1080, 2560x1600, Demo: Built-in Game Demo
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Game Settings: Ultra Quality Settings, Anti-Aliasing: 1x AA and 8x AA, Anisotropic Filtering: 16x, Vertical Sync: Disabled, 1680x1050, 1920x1080, 2560x1600, Demo: Crushblow to The Krazzworks, DirectX 11
Battlefield 3
Game Settings: Ultra Quality Settings, Anti-Aliasing: 4x MSAA, Vertical Sync: Disabled, 1680x1050, 1920x1080, 2560x1600, Demo: Going Hunting, DirectX 11
Audio Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
iTunesVersion: 10.4.10, 64-bit
Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min., Convert to AAC audio format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
Video Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.95
Video: Big Buck Bunny (720x480, 23.972 frames) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept Reference v2.2
Version: 2.2.0.5440
MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio:
MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
x264 Software LibraryAMD-Supplied AVX- and XOP-Optimized builds, TechARP's x264 HD Benchmark 4.0, Modified to accommodate new versions of x264 and CPU-Z 1.58
Application Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
WinRARVersion 4.01
RAR, Syntax "winrar a -r -m3", Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
WinZip 14Version 14.0 Pro (8652)
WinZip Commandline Version 3, ZIPX, Syntax "-a -ez -p -r", Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
7-Zip
Version 9.20 (x64)
LZMA2, Syntax "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5", Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5
Paladin Sequence to H.264 Blu-ray
Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality, Mercury Playback Engine: Hardware Mode
Adobe After Effects CS 5.5
Create Video which includes 3 Streams
Frames: 210, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously: on
BlenderVersion: 2.59
Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, Resolution: 1920x1080, Anti-Aliasing: 8x, Render: THG.blend frame 1
Adobe Photoshop CS 5.1 (64-Bit)Version: 11
Filtering a 16 MB TIF (15 000x7266), Filters:, Radial Blur (Amount: 10, Method: zoom, Quality: good) Shape Blur (Radius: 46 px; custom shape: Trademark sysmbol) Median (Radius: 1px) Polar Coordinates (Rectangular to Polar)
ABBYY FineReaderVersion: 10 Professional Build (10.0.102.82)
Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
3ds Max 2012
Render Space Flyby, 1440x1080, from Y: RAM Drive
Adobe Acrobat X Professional
PDF Document Creation (Print) from Microsoft PowerPoint 2010
SolidWorks 2010
PhotoView 360, 01-Lighter Explode.SLDASM Benchmark File, 1920x1080 Render, 1.44 Million Polygons, 256 AA Samples
Visual Studio 2010
Miranda IM Compile, Scripted
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4
3DMark 11
Version 1.0.2
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version: 17.80
Processor Arithmetic, Multimedia, Cryptography, Memory Bandwidth, .NET Arithmetic, .NET Multimedia
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120 comments
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    Top Comments
  • Wow,lots of details and benchies.Great review as always Chris !
    28
  • 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
  • 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
  • Wow,lots of details and benchies.Great review as always Chris !
    28
  • 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
  • Enjoyed the review Chris ! WoW.
    3
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • :| 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
  • great but too expensive....
    3
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • If this is coming out now, when is Ivy Bridge scheduled to come out
    0
  • hmmm, nice review, Chris! Can you do some overclocking review on these chips?
    2
  • 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
  • any chances to unlock the disabled core?
    5
  • iam2thecrowe 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
  • I heard when windows 8 come out this processor will get more benefit lawl
    4