Core i7-3970X Extreme Review: Can It Stomp An Eight-Core Xeon?

Test Setup And Software

Test Hardware
ProcessorsIntel Core i7-3970X (Sandy Bridge-E) 3.5 GHz (35 * 100 MHz), LGA 2011, 15 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled

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 i7-3930K (Sandy Bridge-E) 3.2 GHz (32 * 100 MHz), LGA 2011, 12 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled

Intel Xeon E5-2687W (Sandy Bridge-EP) 3.1 GHz (31 * 100 MHz), LGA 2011, 20 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled

AMD FX-8350 (Vishera) 4.0 GHz (20 * 200 MHz), Socket AM3+, 8 MB Shared L3, Turbo Core 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 i7-3770K (Ivy Bridge) 3.5 GHz (35 * 100 MHz), LGA 1155, 8 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled

Intel Core i5-3570K (Ivy Bridge) 3.4 GHz (34 * 100 MHz), LGA 1155, 6 MB Shared L3, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled

Intel Core i5-3470 (Ivy Bridge) 3.2 GHz (32 * 100 MHz), LGA 1155, 6 MB Shared L3, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled

Intel Core i5-2550K (Sandy Bridge) 3.4 GHz (34 * 100 MHz), LGA 1155, 6 MB Shared L3, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled
MotherboardGigabyte X79S-UP5-WiFi (LGA 2011) Intel C606, BIOS F4m

ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional (Socket AM3+) AMD 990FX/SB950 Chipset, BIOS 1.9

Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H (LGA 1155) Intel Z77 Express, BIOS F17
Memory
G.Skill 16 GB (4 x 4 GB) DDR3-1600, F3-12800CL9Q2-32GBZL @ DDR3-1600 at 1.5 V
Hard Drive
Crucial m4 256 GB, SATA 6 Gb/s
Graphics
Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 2 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 306.97


We've transitioned over to Gigabyte's X79S-UP5-WiFi motherboard for benchmarking LGA 2011-based processors. Armed with Intel's C606 chipset, this board is designed to accommodate Intel's Xeon E5 processors. Not all motherboards include this support. So, if you plan to do a little Xeon testing of your own, make sure your platform features the requisite firmware to recognize Intel's more business-oriented processor family.

3D Game Benchmarks And Settings
BenchmarkDetails
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Game Settings: High and Ultra Quality Settings, Anti-Aliasing: FXAA, V-sync: Disabled, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, 2560x1600, Custom Demo, 25-second Fraps run
Battlefield 3
Game Settings: Ultra Quality Settings, Anti Aliasing: Disabled and 4xMSAA (Deferred)/High (Post), Anisotropic Filtering: 16x, Vertical Sync: Off, 1680x1050, 1920x1080, 2560x1600, Demo: Going Hunting, 90-second Fraps run
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
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
Audio Benchmarks And Settings
BenchmarkDetails
iTunesVersion: 10.4.1.10, 64-bit
Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min., Convert to AAC audio format
Lame MP3Version 3.99
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: 0.9.8
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
Application Benchmarks And Settings
BenchmarkDetails
WinRARVersion 4.20
RAR, Syntax "winrar a -r -m3", Benchmark: 2012-THG-Workload, 1.35 GB
WinZip
Version 17
WinZip Commandline Version 3, ZIPX, Syntax "-a -ez -p -r", Benchmark: 2012-THG-Workload, 1.35 GB
7-Zip
Version 9.20 (x64)
LZMA2, Syntax "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5", Benchmark: 2012-THG-Workload, 1.35 GB
Adobe Premiere Pro CS 6
Hollywood Sequence to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Adobe After Effects CS 6
Create Video which includes three Streams
Frames: 210, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously: on
Cinebench
Version 11.5 Build CB25720DEMO
CPU Test single- and multi-threaded
BlenderVersion: 2.63, Cycles Engine
Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, Resolution: 1920x1080, Anti-Aliasing: 8x, Render: THG.blend frame 1
Adobe Photoshop CS 6 (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
Google Chrome Compile, Scripted
Synthetic Benchmarks And Settings
BenchmarkDetails
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4
3DMark 11
Version 1.0.3
SiSoftware Sandra
Version: 2013 Beta
Processor Arithmetic, Multimedia, Cryptography, Memory Bandwidth, .NET Arithmetic, .NET Multimedia
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74 comments
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    Top Comments
  • tumetsu
    I've recently started facepalming every time I see BF3 in CPU benchmarks. "Boy oh boy, this hasn't been confirmed like a hundred times already but the single player is decidedly graphics-bound, so here, have these charts with identical results anyway."
    31
  • jaquith
    Boo on Intel for not enabling all 8-cores especially at that price!
    28
  • amuffin
    100mhz faster than the 3960X, not worth the extra premium.

    Same thing goes for the 3960X compared to the 3930K....not worth the extra 100mhz for $400....
    26
  • Other Comments
  • amuffin
    100mhz faster than the 3960X, not worth the extra premium.

    Same thing goes for the 3960X compared to the 3930K....not worth the extra 100mhz for $400....
    26
  • jaquith
    Boo on Intel for not enabling all 8-cores especially at that price!
    28
  • tumetsu
    I've recently started facepalming every time I see BF3 in CPU benchmarks. "Boy oh boy, this hasn't been confirmed like a hundred times already but the single player is decidedly graphics-bound, so here, have these charts with identical results anyway."
    31
  • dragonsqrrl
    jaquithBoo on Intel for not enabling all 8-cores especially at that price!

    They don't have much of a choice when it comes to the i7's. With the 32nm Sandy Bridge-E Intel has to make a choice between prioritizing clocks or core count within a 150W TDP, based on the target workload for a particular processor. For Xeon's the choice is easy, more cores. For desktop applications the choice isn't as clear, but I think most users would still benefit more from a higher clocked 6-core than a lower claocked 8-core. That's slowly changing though.

    Intel also doesn't want a situation where their LGA 1155 processors outperform their $1000 extreme edition in lightly threaded workloads, which is yet another reason to favor 6-core for now.

    I'd personally like to see an 8-core i7, even if it means lower clocks, but I don't think that'll happen until Ivy Bridge-E. At 22nm Intel probably won't have to make a choice, we'll get the best of both worlds.
    15
  • samuelspark
    So much money...
    19
  • nebun
    jaquithBoo on Intel for not enabling all 8-cores especially at that price!

    why would they....they don't need to do it at this time....amd's top cpu is still very slow when compared with even intels mid rannge cpus
    -7
  • unknown9122
    Why do people still benchmark on itunes 10.4? 10.7 is out... as for the 8 cores as said above^, there is no need to have more than 6. Because if it had 8, then xeons would not sell to pros.
    9
  • dark_wizzie
    Why are we not manually overclocking this expensive CPU? Why do we do benchmarks against stock ig 2500k?
    0
  • A Bad Day
    You also forgot something when comparing against Xeon:

    Stability test.

    Run the i7 for one month under Prime95. It will crash. Run the Xeon for one month under Prime95. If it crashes, then you got a defective Xeon because they're not suppose to crash under 24/7 workload.
    12
  • anthonyorr
    nebunwhy would they....they don't need to do it at this time....amd's top cpu is still very slow when compared with even intels mid rannge cpus


    Why would you even include the 8350? It is 1/6th the price of this CPU. I couldn't imagine what a modern AMD desktop CPU would consist of at the $1000+ price range.
    14
  • A Bad Day
    dragonsqrrlI'd personally like to see an 8-core i7, even if it means lower clocks, but I don't think that'll happen until Ivy Bridge-E. At 22nm Intel probably won't have to make a choice, we'll get the best of both worlds.


    Or set the TDP to 195W and add a warning stating that Intel's stock coolers won't be sufficient for the thermal load.
    -4
  • merikafyeah
    A Bad DayYou also forgot something when comparing against Xeon:Stability test.Run the i7 for one month under Prime95. It will crash. Run the Xeon for one month under Prime95. If it crashes, then you got a defective Xeon because they're not suppose to crash under 24/7 workload.

    The i7 isn't supposed to crash under 24/7 workloads any more than a Xeon is. The footnote to this statement however has everything to do with thermal envelopes. The primary reason why Intel charges $1000 more for a Xeon is because Xeons can operate stably at higher temperatures. This is very, very important because cooling costs lots and lots of money when you need to cool hundreds of server racks and rendering farms all year round and there can't be any downtime. Ever. Because lost time equals lost money. They say every minute of downtime means a million dollars lost, so you pay extra to ensure a sudden heat wave doesn't wipe out your business. (Though some companies could certainly use better flood protection as to not rape their customers for lost profits, but I digress.)
    15
  • nebun
    anthonyorrWhy would you even include the 8350? It is 1/6th the price of this CPU. I couldn't imagine what a modern AMD desktop CPU would consist of at the $1000+ price range.

    lol....here is the answer...a lsow cpu, lol
    -9
  • apache_lives
    A Bad DayYou also forgot something when comparing against Xeon:Stability test.Run the i7 for one month under Prime95. It will crash. Run the Xeon for one month under Prime95. If it crashes, then you got a defective Xeon because they're not suppose to crash under 24/7 workload.


    Not correct

    Your talking about a processor (i7) vs a platform (Xeon, since the Xeon's usually require ECC memory, server boards, usually server OS etc) -- 99.999% of the time crashes/issues are NOT processor related.

    Crashes are usually from things like non JEDEC standard spec ram, poorly written SSD firmware, bad drivers and so on - not a processors fault.
    11
  • A Bad Day
    merikafyeah(Though some companies could certainly use better flood protection as to not rape their customers for lost profits, but I digress.)


    I recall seeing a picture of a tiny server room flooded with raw sewage from a busted pipe. The management of the small business attempted to ignore the laws of physics and told the IT that there will be no shutdowns.

    I'm pretty sure there was a smell of magic smoke accompanying the sewage odor shortly afterwards.
    5
  • clonazepam
    Great article.

    "Complete Tom's Hardware Suite" Chart... ugh I hate being color blind, must concentrate harder.

    The 3DMark 11 benchmark was a "Performance" run I'm guessing. Couldn't find that anywhere.
    1
  • blazorthon
    A Bad DayYou also forgot something when comparing against Xeon:Stability test.Run the i7 for one month under Prime95. It will crash. Run the Xeon for one month under Prime95. If it crashes, then you got a defective Xeon because they're not suppose to crash under 24/7 workload.


    If the i7 fails, then it's no less faulty than the Xeon. They're the same chips, just with different feature sets.
    6
  • TheBigTroll
    nah. xeons are binned for lower power consumption and lower heat output compared to the i7 counterparts
    7
  • blazorthon
    TheBigTrollnah. xeons are binned for lower power consumption and lower heat output compared to the i7 counterparts


    Same chips still. Binning doesn't change what they're made of. Similar to how the Tahitis in the 7970 GHz Edition are better binned than those in the regular 7970, but they're still the same chips.
    7
  • TheBigTroll
    true. but they are different in their own way
    6