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Intel's Xeon E5-2697 V2 And Leaked Benchmarks

Intel's 12-Core Xeon With 30 MB Of L3: The New Mac Pro's CPU?
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Pre-Production Benchmark Data Isn’t Always What It Seems

There were probably some bummed-out professionals, then, when a Geekbench result was recently uploaded to Primate Labs’ online browser showing that 12-core Xeon E5 around nine percent faster than last generation’s dual six-core Mac Pro, based on Westmere-EP.

Source: Geekbench Browser, Primate LabsSource: Geekbench Browser, Primate Labs

Those scores require a bit of context, though. The 32-bit build of Geekbench uses x87 code, for starters, so it isn’t optimized for any of the other instruction set extensions that Westmere-EP or Ivy Bridge-EP support. Getting close to Apple’s claim of doubled floating-point performance requires software compiled with the AVX flag. John Poole, the founder of Geekbench, posted several other reasons why the next-gen and previous-gen Mac Pros might be separated by such a narrow margin.

The leaked result was run using the free 32-bit build of Geekbench on a pre-release build of OS X Mavericks. Switching over to the paid 64-bit build of the benchmark adds SSE support, though that’s still a pre-Pentium 4 extension. Tab between the 32- and 64-bit runs on Xeon X5675-based systems and you’ll find that the SSE-capable build averages 14%-better performance.

Curious as to how the very same 12-core Xeon E5-2687 V2 compared in Windows, I ran my own test on a 64-bit build of Geekbench and scored in excess of 30,000 points—more than 25% faster than the leaked number. The individual sub-tests showed both Xeon E5-based platforms trading blows in the integer and floating-point components, but clearly a more real-world comparison was needed in order to establish the new Xeon’s performance in a workstation environment. Fortunately, I have the upcoming Xeon E5-2697 V2, the upcoming Core i7-4960X, an existing eight-core Xeon E5-2687W, and a Core i7-3970X.

Meet The Xeon E5-2697 V2

Intel's original Xeon E5 family was based on the Sandy Bridge architecture. Launched more than a year ago, they spanned thermal ceilings from 50 to 150 W, core counts between two and eight, and price points between $188 and $3620 (for the highest-end quad-socket-capable models). Truly, this was a processor line-up with something for everyone. Entry-level small business servers, powerful workstations, rack-mounted virtualization and cloud boxes, and storage appliances are all driven by carefully picked Xeon E5s. 

A transition to the Ivy Bridge architecture sees Intel increment its nomenclature to the Xeon E5-16xx/24xx/26xx/46xx V2 series. A corresponding shrink to 22 nm manufacturing lets the company add more cores and L3 cache without violating the thermal limits imposed last generation. Expect to see 10-core models rated for as little as 70 W, 12-core models that hit 130 W, and a number of TDPs in between. All the while, Intel maintains 256 KB of L2 cache and a 2.5 MB slice of shared L3 per core.

Most of the Xeon E5-2697 V2's specifications are consequently pretty easy to guess. It's a 12-core processor with 3 MB total on-die L2 cache and 30 MB of shared L3. A base clock rate of 2.7 GHz jumps as high as 3.5 GHz with Turbo Boost enabled and just one core active. With two utilized, the clock rate tops out at 3.4 GHz. Frequency drops to 3.3 GHz with three cores active and 3.2 GHz with four. So long as thermals allow, spinning five cores up drops you to 3.1 GHz. From six to 12 active cores, the Xeon E5-2697 V2 tops out at 3 GHz.

As with the Ivy Bridge-E-based Core i7-4960X we previewed, Intel facilitates DDR3 data rates of up to 1866 MT/s. Basic RAS modes and ECC are enabled. You'll see QPI transfer rates of 6.4, 7.2, and 8 GT/s up and down the V2 line-up, but the -2697 V2 specifically sports a pair of links at that top specification.

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