Intel Core i7-5960X, -5930K And -5820K CPU Review: Haswell-E Rises

X99, LGA 2011-3 and DDR4: Get Ready For A Big Upgrade

And by big I mean that a move to Haswell-E necessitates a lot of new hardware.

Intel got a lot of life out of LGA 2011. The interface surfaced alongside Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E) almost three years ago. However, a number of variables can change over time to break compatibility, including the introduction of DDR4 memory technology.

Physically, the old and new enthusiast processors are the same size. Their ball pattern pitch is the same, too. But Intel keys its Core i7-5000-series CPUs differently than the -4000s or -3000s, so you can’t accidentally drop an LGA 2011 model into LGA 2011-3, and vice versa.

In short, that -3 is important, and although both interfaces employ 2011 pins, Intel ensures you don’t mix up Haswell-E with Ivy Bridge-E or Sandy Bridge-E by notching the package uniquely. You need an X99-based motherboard for Core i7-5960X, -5930K, or -5820K.

There is good news, though. Consistent dimensions translate to cooling solution compatibility. Just be sure your old LGA 2011-specific heat sink or water block can handle Haswell-E’s slightly higher thermal ceiling. Intel’s previous-gen flagships were 130 W parts, these new Core i7s are rated at 140 W, and as we’ll see shortly, overclocking can quickly push power use much higher.

X99 Express: A Platform Controller Hub With Familiar Features

The evolution of Intel’s chipset business is painfully slow to watch. As functionality finds its way into the CPU itself, there’s less and less for the platform controller hub to handle. And what remains doesn’t change very often. If you were hoping for a connectivity revolution from X99, prepare for disappointment.

Fortunately, X79 was so old that X99 at least gets Intel’s top-end platform back up to modern standards. It enables 14 USB ports, six of which support USB 3.0 transfer rates. There’s an integrated gigabit Ethernet MAC. HD Audio is a requisite, of course. And we find a familiar eight lanes of PCI Express 2.0 for attaching add-ons, either through expansion slots or on-board third-party controllers. Perhaps the most notable step forward is support for up to 10 SATA 6Gb/s devices.

Now, the bummer is that Intel continues attaching its PCH to the host processor through a four-lane DMI 2.0 connection. You get 2 GB/s of bi-directional throughput, so it’s not hard to concoct a combination of peripheral, network, and storage traffic to overwhelm the narrow pipeline.

At least the top two SKUs give you plenty of PCIe for attaching the fastest graphics cards, SSDs, and 10 GbE add-ins, right?

DDR4: A New Memory Technology, But Why?

Given today’s multi-channel memory controllers built into processor dies, we rarely hear about bandwidth limitations unless integrated graphics is involved. Last generation’s Ivy Bridge-E supported up to four channels of DDR3 at up to 1866 MT/s, and that was good for more than 40 GB/s of throughput.

So, why DDR4?

The transition isn’t really motivated by a prescient need in the enthusiast space. But as you see some of Intel’s other processing products start emerging in the server and then mobile markets, DDR4’s inherent benefits will have more of an impact.

For example, a lower supply voltage of 1.2 V helps pull power consumption down compared to the 1.5 V DDR3 modules we’re used to. Some of that is mitigated in today's piece, since the DDR4 kits we have in-house are pushed to 1.35 V, sometimes requiring even more voltage. But in an enterprise-oriented configuration, multiple Haswell-EP-based CPUs are going to use registered modules down at the standard’s specified 1.2 V, delivering quantifiable power savings.

Foundries are also manufacturing DDR4 using more advanced processes, allowing for higher density. Again, this affects server customers looking to cram tons of capacity into their machines more than enthusiasts considering Haswell-E, perfectly content to spread 32 or 64 GB across eight slots.

DDR4 also paves the way for higher data rates, starting at 2133 MT/s and scaling up from there. Latencies are up too, though. What we noticed was that a Core i7-4960X armed with DDR3-1866 isn’t too far off a Core i7-5930K with DDR4-2133 in SiSoftware’s memory bandwidth benchmark.

More apparent from our testing is that there are still kinks to be worked out. The X99-based motherboards in our lab are continuously receiving firmware updates, most of which relate to DDR4 compatibility. Some won’t boot at all. Others struggle to hit data rates in excess of 2666 MT/s. At that point, we have to switch from a 100 MHz BCLK to 125 MHz or more. The 2800 and 3000 MT/s options still aren’t stable (at least in our SoCal lab; Igor got his 2800 MT/s setup running in Germany). Until firmware, module compatibility, and pricing improves, DDR4 may be the reason cautious enthusiasts camp out on the sidelines for a while.

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    Top Comments
  • CaptainTom
    Yeah the real winner of a cpu here is definitely the 5820K. If I were building now, that is what I would use.
    25
  • JamesSneed
    Out of curiosity why were so many of the gaming tests only done at 2560x1440? Seems like you would be more GPU bound at this resolution. I'm not sure it really matters but I do like gaming at 1080p for the very high frame rates was curious if these would push frame rates higher. Otherwise nice review.
    17
  • ohim
    Anonymous said:
    Affordable 8-cores from Intel are finally coming. Awesome.


    1000$ is affordable to you ? :))

    Anonymous said:
    Out of curiosity why were so many of the gaming tests only done at 2560x1440? Seems like you would be more GPU bound at this resolution. I'm not sure it really matters but I do like gaming at 1080p for the very high frame rates was curious if these would push frame rates higher. Otherwise nice review.



    Though you have a point here, the guy buying such CPUs most likely will game at above 1080p .. but this would have implied using 2 GPUs at least in the test.
    15
  • Other Comments
  • dovah-chan
    Oh boy here we go...
    -9
  • Merry_Blind
    Affordable 8-cores from Intel are finally coming. Awesome.
    -15
  • B4vB5
    Chris and Igor @ TomsHW,

    Bit disappointed to not see a comparison with the Xeon E5-1650v2(or 1660v2), as the 2600 is a bit overkill comparing prices. Some of us just need a workstation with ECC ram and not just a free-for-all(ie someone else is paying) Xeon 2600 fest.
    0
  • JamesSneed
    Out of curiosity why were so many of the gaming tests only done at 2560x1440? Seems like you would be more GPU bound at this resolution. I'm not sure it really matters but I do like gaming at 1080p for the very high frame rates was curious if these would push frame rates higher. Otherwise nice review.
    17
  • ohim
    Anonymous said:
    Affordable 8-cores from Intel are finally coming. Awesome.


    1000$ is affordable to you ? :))

    Anonymous said:
    Out of curiosity why were so many of the gaming tests only done at 2560x1440? Seems like you would be more GPU bound at this resolution. I'm not sure it really matters but I do like gaming at 1080p for the very high frame rates was curious if these would push frame rates higher. Otherwise nice review.



    Though you have a point here, the guy buying such CPUs most likely will game at above 1080p .. but this would have implied using 2 GPUs at least in the test.
    15
  • chiefpiggy
    Why do they call these their "5th generation" of Intel core processors if they're refreshes of the Haswell processors? I get that they have revolutionary technology within but with the release of broadwell so soon I doubt that anyone would buy these processors..
    -2
  • envy14tpe
    I need this system to play Minecraft. with that aside, Intel finally has made a jump in i7s value and performance.
    -4
  • therogerwilco
    Meh, looks like I'll be keepin my uber delid'd oc'd 4770k a bit longer
    6
  • srap
    "Single-threaded software is so last decade, though."
    I have a hunch that we will never see anything like this in the comment sections of AMD reviews. Not sure why :D
    8
  • CaptainTom
    Yeah the real winner of a cpu here is definitely the 5820K. If I were building now, that is what I would use.
    25
  • ingtar33
    so that 8 core monster pretty much caps out around 4.3-4.5ghz... shame. if it was a little higher i might be inclined to open the pocket book for that.
    7
  • mctylr
    From page 14, last paragraph:
    Quote:
    As Intel’s first official eight-core processor, the top Haswell-E model


    Er, no. No it's not the first eight core processor. It is the first eight-core consumer or Core iN series processor though.

    I also don't know of any unofficial 8-core processors either.
    4
  • DoDidDont
    Great news for people wanting to speed up their single socket systems in apps like Mental Ray, v-ray etc. I understand why Tom’s compared these new processors with the E5-2687w v2 in this review, but anyone splashing the cash on an E5-2687w v2 is going to buy two in a dual socket set-up making the system twice as fast as the top end 5960x in the majority of these benchmarks. It would be a waste of cash just buying one for a single socket system and not taking advantage of the QPI. For business users needing to produces multiple HQ images a day to meet deadlines I would still choose the Xeon’s over the I7. The Xeon’s pay for themselves within a few months. Waiting 48 hours for a batch of animation frames to render instead of 96 hours make a lot of difference.
    5
  • dgingeri
    Not really any significant CPU change from the SB-E or IB-E. The big changes come from the platform, and the x99 has the same interface as the x79. Technically, the x99 could support a SB-E processor, if Intel would let it. Again, I'm held back from making a change because Intel decided to force a CPU upgrade to make a technology upgrade cost $1500 instead of only about $400. I'll have to stick with my x79 for a while longer. It is just not worth the cost.
    0
  • dovah-chan
    Anonymous said:
    Were you disappointed by last year's Ivy Bridge-E launch? Core i7-5960X, -5930K, and -5820K promise more excitement, sporting up to eight cores, DDR4 memory, a new X99 chipset, and an LGA 2011-3 interface. Should you jump to upgrade, though?

    Intel Core i7-5960X, -5930K, And -5820K CPU Review: Haswell-E Rises : Read more


    I was wondering how often you writers read the comments? Just wondering.
    1
  • pierrerock
    Gee. DDR4 save about 5 W with 4 modules. And i was worried of pwer consumption when i overclocked my FX 8350 at 4.7 GHz :O
    4
  • dragonsqrrl
    Quote:
    Yeah the real winner of a cpu here is definitely the 5820K. If I were building now, that is what I would use.

    Ya, the 5820K really stands out, especially in comparison to Intel's previous lowest SKU processors on X79. For the first time the x820 actually looks like a great option to go with. It's the same as a 3960X in clock speed and core count, except it's Haswell which seems to result in a 10-15% performance boost, and it's over $600 cheaper. The only drawback might be if you have a lot of high bandwidth PCIe cards, but I doubt that'll be an issue for most enthusiasts.

    And omg that price:
    http://www.microcenter.com/product/437203/Intel_Core_i7-5820k_33_GHz_LGA_2011_V3_Tray_Processor

    ... I love Microcenter.
    5
  • maroon1
    Quote:
    Not really any significant CPU change from the SB-E or IB-E. .


    THe improvement in multi-threaded workloads are good. It is the biggest improvement per generation we have seen since gulftown
    3
  • Pavel Pokidaylo
    Um I'm a total noob. Can someone tell me approximately how much of an increase in performance I'd see using any of these over my i5 4670k? My CPU is not overclocked.
    I'm running a 780 ti and Gskill Ripjaw 1600 RAM.
    1
  • Champion_hero
    Hmm so for gaming, we're looking at either the 5820 or 4690..

    How would the cost of said systems compare, assuming we could create them as equal as possible? Would the performance benefits of the 5820 justify the additional cost?

    I'm still running on my old x58 i7 920, but it's starting to BSOD on CPU intensive games (although I suspect its my mobo that's the issue)...

    I wanted to build a new system this year, but don't want to make the same mistake I did with the x58 and be left with something that simply can't be upgraded after a year or so. At the same time, I don't want to buy into old tech if that too won't last..

    I have had a good run with my x58 mind, but am wary Intel may do what they did with my Gen 1 i7, and change something fundamental with the platform/DDR4 to mean I'll be 'stuck' with whatever I buy now...
    1