Sandy Bridge-E: Core i7-3960X Is Fast, But Is It Any More Efficient?

Test Setup And Benchmarks

LGA 2011 Platform
LGA 2011 PlatformIntel DX79SI, Chipset: Intel X79 Express
LGA2011 ProcessorsIntel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition (32 nm, Sandy Bridge-E), 6C/12T, 3.3 GHz, 6 x 256 KB L2 Cache, 15 MB Shared L3 Cache, 130 W TDP, 3.9 GHz max. Turbo Boost
Socket AM3+ Platform
Socket AM3+ PlatformAsus Crosshair Formula V (Rev. 1.0), Chipset: AMD 990FX, BIOS: 9905 (2011-10-03)
AM3 ProcessorsAMD Phenom II X4 980 (45 nm, Deneb, C3), 4C/4T, 3.7 GHz, 4 x 512 KB L2 Cache, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache, 126 W TDP

AMD Phenom II X6 1100T (45 nm, Thuban, E0), 6C/6T, 3.3 GHz, 6 x 512 KB L2 Cache, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache, 126 W TDP, 3.7 GHz max. Turbo Core
AM3+ ProcessorsAMD FX-8150 (32 nm, Zambezi), 8C/8T, 3.6 GHz, 8 MB L2 Cache, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache, 125 W TDP, 3.9 GHz Turbo Core, 4.2 GHz max. Turbo Core
LGA 1156 Platform
LGA 1156
Platform
Gigabyte P55A-UD7, Chipset: Intel P55 Express, BIOS: F8b
LGA 1156 ProcessorsIntel Core i7-870 (45 nm, Lynnfield, B1), 4C/8T, 2.93 GHz, 4 x 256 KB L2 Cache, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache, 95 W TDP, 3.6 GHz max. Turbo Boost

Intel Core i5-750 (45 nm, Lynnfield, B1), 4C/4T, 2.66 GHz, 4 x 256 KB L2 Cache, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache, 95 W TDP, 3.2 GHz max. Turbo Boost
Socket LGA 1155 Platform
LGA 1155 PlatformIntel DP67BG, Chipset: Intel P67 Express, BIOS: 2040 
LGA 1156 ProcessorsIntel Core i7-2600K (32 nm, Sandy Bridge, D2), 4C/8T, 3.4 GHz, 4 x 256 KB L2 Cache, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache, w/ HD Graphics 3000, 95 W TDP, 3.8 GHz max. Turbo Boost

Intel Core i5-2500K (32 nm, Sandy Bridge, D2), 4C/4T, 3.3 GHz, 4 x 256 KB L2 Cache, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache w/ HD Graphics 3000, 95 W TDP, 3.7 GHz max. Turbo Boost
LGA 1366 Platform
LGA 1366 PlatformMSI BigBang-Xpower, Chipset: Intel X58 Express, BIOS: 1.2
LGA 1366 ProcessorsIntel Core i7-975 Extreme Edition (45 nm, Bloomfield, D0), 4C/8T, 3.33 GHz, 4 x 256 KB L2 Cache, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache, 130 W TDP, 3.6 GHz max. Turbo Boost

Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition (32 nm, Gulftown, B1), 6C/12T, 3.33 GHz, 4 x 256 KB L2 Cache, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache, 130 W TDP, 3.6 GHz max. Turbo Boost
Common Platform Components
Dual DDR3 Memory2 x 4 GB DDR3-1333, Kingston KHX1600C9D3K2/8GX
Discrete GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 6850, GPU: Cypress (775 MHz), Graphics RAM: 1024 MB GDDR5 (2000 MHz), Stream Processors: 960
System DriveSamsung PM810, 256 GB, SATA 3 Gb/s
Power SupplySeasonic X-760, SS-760KM Aktive PFC F3
System Software & Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1
Drivers and Settings
ATI Radeon DriversAMD Catalyst 11.8 Suite for Windows 7
Intel Chipset DriversChipset Installation Utility Ver. 9.2.3.1022
Intel Rapid StorageVer: 10.6.0.1002


Benchmarks and Settings

Audio Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
iTunesVersion: 10.4.1.10
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, 48000 Hz, Six-Channel, English to
Video: AVC1 Audio1: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept Reference v2.2Version: 2.2.0.5440
MPEG2 to H.264
MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec
28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2)
Audio:
MPEG2 (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
7-ZipVersion 9.22 beta
LZMA2
Syntax "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
WinRARVersion 4.01
RAR
Syntax "winrar a -r -m3"
Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
WinZip 15.5 ProVersion 14.0 Pro (8652)
WinZip Commandline Version 3
ZIPX
Syntax "-a -ez -p -r"
Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
Autodesk 3d Studio Max 2012Version: 10 x64
Rendering Space Flyby Mentalray (SPECapc_3dsmax9)
Frame: 248
Resolution: 1440 x 1080
Adobe After Effects CS5.5Create Video which includes 3 Streams
Frames: 210
Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously: on
Adobe Photoshop CS 5.1 (64-Bit)Version: 11
Filtering a 16 MB TIF (15000x7266)
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)
Adobe Acrobat X ProfessionalVersion: 10.0.0
== Printing Preferenced Menu ==
Default Settings: Standard
== Adobe PDF Security - Edit Menu ==
Encrypt all documents (128 bit RC4)
Open Password: 123
Permissions Password: 321
Microsoft PowerPoint 2010Version: 2007 SP2
PPT to PDF
Powerpoint Document (115 Pages)
Adobe PDF-Printer
BlenderVersion: 2.59 beta
Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1
Resolution: 1920x1080
Anti-Aliasing: 8x
Render: THG.blend frame 1
MatlabR2011a
Internal Benchmark: 10 runs


We also ran the efficiency test's applications in the following order:
 

Single-Threaded:

Adobe Acrobat 
WinZip 
iTunes 
Lame

Multi-Threaded:

3ds Max
Blender
HandBrake 
MainConcept
After Effects
Photoshop
Premiere
Matlab
7-Zip

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57 comments
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    Top Comments
  • fstrthnu
    Aand yet more evidence that most people looking for a high-end processor will be perfectly fine with the i5-2500K or the 2600K
    21
  • Other Comments
  • fstrthnu
    Aand yet more evidence that most people looking for a high-end processor will be perfectly fine with the i5-2500K or the 2600K
    21
  • sam_fisher
    fstrthnuAand yet more evidence that most people looking for a high-end processor will be perfectly fine with the i5-2500K or the 2600K


    I guess it just depends on what you're doing. If you have a high end workstation and are using programs that are going to utilise all 12 threads, quad channel memory and 40 lanes of PCIe, and you need that processing power then it's probably not a bad investment. Whereas for most users the 2500K or the 2600K will do fine.
    7
  • benikens
    Quote:
    Ironically, when it comes to performance, Intel’s Core i7-9360X is the real Bulldozer. Since its power consumption levels are lower than the Gulftown-based Core i7, it should also deliver amazing performance per watt as well. Is that really the case?


    It's i7-3960x, not i7-9360x
    -5
  • pwnorbpwnd
    Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the 6850 a Barts card? Unless I am wrong but I own a 6850.
    -1
  • one-shot
    There is a small typo on Page 9

    "Total power used drops again relative to Cor ei7-3960X's predecessor, the Core i7-980X (Gulftown)."
    -1
  • Shape
    Quote:
    Ironically, when it comes to performance, Intel’s Core i7-9360X is the real Bulldozer.



    ROFL!!! Very well said!

    Nice!
    7
  • de5_Roy
    another informative, in-depth article about efficiency. great work guys!
    3960x might very well be the $1k cpu that's worth the (over)price unlike the older 980x.
    sb-e shows that both single threaded and multi threaded performance as well as efficient power use can be ahcieved by a 32nm, 6 core, 130 tdp cpu (but you gotta pay a lot for that).
    when you bring price into the equation, quad core sb i5 and i7(95w tdp) are the best way to go (i wonder how an i7 2700k fare if it was tested alongside these cpus).
    2
  • agnickolov
    And I was so hoping Visual C++ had made it into the regular benchmark set. Sadly, it's missing here...
    1
  • giovanni86
    Looking forward to seeing what type of Air/liquid cooled Overclocks can be achieved with these newly released processors.
    -1
  • Anonymous
    I wanna know how it performs on DAW apps. I hope it will be included in future benchmarks.
    -1
  • AstroTC
    Excellent review but has anyone else noticed of good looking the LGA 2011 Platform setup is? I really like to see it.
    0
  • jemm
    Great article! I loved that mobo with 4 dimms at each side of the processor.
    -1
  • ukee1593
    I am still very pleased with my i5 2500 after reading this article. Sandy Bridge-E's efficiency might be impressive for a high end CPU ... but it still cannot beat the practicality of the Standard Sandy Bridge.

    I can't wait until Ivy Bridge!
    3
  • gsxrme
    by no means am i replacing my 2600k @ 5ghz w/ HT ON and GSkill 2200Mhz Cas7 anytime soon.
    -6
  • aldaia
    fstrthnuAand yet more evidence that most people looking for a high-end processor will be perfectly fine with the i5-2500K or the 2600K

    Agreed, 2500k is still the sweet spot in the triple trade-off performance/power/cost. This is what I will choose if i needed a replacement, considering the applications I run.
    sam_fisherI guess it just depends on what you're doing. If you have a high end workstation and are using programs that are going to utilise all 12 threads, quad channel memory and 40 lanes of PCIe, and you need that processing power then it's probably not a bad investment. Whereas for most users the 2500K or the 2600K will do fine.

    Right, but if i have a truly highly parallel application, then, a server with several interconnected nodes offers more bang for the buck. I would consider 4 nodes based on 2500k that probably are cheaper than a single 3960X and offer me much more computing power. It all depends on your appliccation.
    But clearly the 3960X is for a niche market, either because it really fits your needs or the "bragging rights" niche market.
    3
  • AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls
    aldaiaAgreed, 2500k is still the sweet spot in the triple trade-off performance/power/cost. This is what I will choose if i needed a replacement, considering the applications I run.Right, but if i have a truly highly parallel application, then, a server with several interconnected nodes offers more bang for the buck. I would consider 4 nodes based on 2500k that probably are cheaper than a single 3960X and offer me much more computing power. It all depends on your appliccation.But clearly the 3960X is for a niche market, either because it really fits your needs or the "bragging rights" niche market.


    The i7-3930K is pretty decent for the price, though. At the same clocks as the 3960X it's the same speed, and all reviews featuring both have it achieving the same overclocks, sometimes at lower voltage. Unless it's for bragging rights or epeen the 3930K is clearly a better choice since the extra cache seems to be useless for desktops and it isn't even better binned.
    -1
  • CaedenV
    The more benchmarks I read the happier I am with my i7 2600 :) It is right behind the new big boy, and only cost $250 at my local computer hardware store compared to $1000 to get a few extra seconds off.

    What will be really interesting to see is what happens with the IB release. Last time the mainstream SB could meet or beat the old high end chips, for 1/3 the price. I wonder if the IB release will do the same thing, or if Intel will downplay the performance so as not to piss off their high-end buyers again.
    3
  • AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls
    CaedenVThe more benchmarks I read the happier I am with my i7 2600 It is right behind the new big boy, and only cost $250 at my local computer hardware store compared to $1000 to get a few extra seconds off.What will be really interesting to see is what happens with the IB release. Last time the mainstream SB could meet or beat the old high end chips, for 1/3 the price. I wonder if the IB release will do the same thing, or if Intel will downplay the performance so as not to piss off their high-end buyers again.


    Ivy Bridge is a die shrink that is based mostly on lowering power consumption and getting higher IGP performance. CPU performance improvements will be few: according to Anandtech 4-6% higher IPC than Sandy Bridge, and since Intel is focusing on power consumption clock speeds won't be much higher than SB, so about a 5% improvement there too. About 10% more CPU performance max, so don't expect too much. Sandy Bridge-E will still be significantly faster in multi-threaded.
    -1
  • TeraMedia
    Based on the results for some of the multi-threaded tests, it appears as if the turbo boost on SB-E is getting modulated more often than the turbo boost on 2600K. It would be very interesting to see a multi-threaded test in which turbo boost was turned off, and the clocks of both were set at the same rate, e.g. 3.6 or 3.9 GHz, whatever the cooler will bear. Also supporting this idea is that several of the configurations appear to max out at right around 200-210 watts peak power. So if the thermal limiter threshold is kicking in for SB-E to keep it within its power budget, that could explain the "better, but not way better" performance between SB-E and 2600K. Would such a test be feasible, Toms?
    -1
  • danraies
    I work in engineering and many of our employees have heavily multithreaded applications running at their personal machines sometimes for days on end. This is obviously the kind of place SB-E chips will thrive unless IB blows them out of the water. Obviously these $1K chips are not the right choice for enthusiast gaming PC's and they're arguably not the best choice for servers as they get outshined by cheaper chips over several nodes. However there are certainly applications where 6+ cores at 3.3ghz+ are worth $1K and SB-E steps in where Bulldozer failed.
    2