Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Intel Xeon E3-1280 v2 Review: Ivy Bridge Goes Professional

Intel Xeon E3-1280 v2 Review: Ivy Bridge Goes Professional
By

Intel recently introduced its Xeon E3-1200 v2 CPUs, based on the Ivy Bridge architecture. Though they're very similar to the third-generation desktop Core chips, ECC memory support, four extra PCIe 3.0 lanes, and attractive pricing grab our attention.

Not long ago, we took a look at Intel’s Xeon E5 family in Intel Xeon E5-2600: Doing Damage With Two Eight-Core CPUs. In that story, we saw the company expose its Sandy Bridge-E design the way its architects originally intended: armed with eight cores, 20 MB of shared L3 cache, and QPI links cranking away at 8 GT/s. That was a far cry from the desktop Core i7-3960X we reviewed previously, neutered back to six cores and 15 MB of L3 cache—particularly since our Xeon E5-based platform was running in a dual-socket configuration in Altered Beast mode.

Now, Intel is replacing its entry-level Xeon E3s, formerly based on the Sandy Bridge architecture, with models that employ its Ivy Bridge design.

There aren’t any dormant processing cores or blocks of shared L3 cache to make the new Xeons really pop this time around. Intel instead relies on a couple of unique business-oriented features and creative pricing to make its Xeon E3s shine.

How’s this for an example? Right now, Newegg is selling the Core i7-3770 (with a locked multiplier) for $320. A Xeon E3-1240 v2, which runs at the same 3.4 GHz, doesn’t include processor graphics, and bears a 69 W thermal ceiling, goes for $280. Same speed, no useless graphics, lower power consumption, and $40 less? Color us intrigued.

The Benefits Of Workstation-Class Hardware

Today, however, we’re looking specifically at Intel’s Xeon E3-1280 v2, which is higher up in the stack. Just 100 MHz faster than Intel’s quickest desktop-oriented model, Core i7-3770K, E3-1280 v2 sells for a pricey $612. The -3770K is a much more palatable $332. How do you justify the Xeon over the Core i7 when you know they’re both based on the same Ivy Bridge architecture?

That’s a difficult argument for an enthusiast to make. But in some environments, the difference in pricing is truly inconsequential compared to the few benefits enabled by the Xeon. Compared to the desktop parts, Intel’s Xeon E3s support ECC-capable memory, for example, catching and correcting memory errors that could either take a business machine down or affect critical data.

These new Xeons also enable four additional lanes of third-gen PCI Express connectivity. A chip like Core i7-3770K exposes 16 lanes, total. The Xeon E3s offer 20, which can be used as single x16 and x4 links, or across two x8 slots and one x4 interface. The former configuration would work well in a workstation with discrete graphics and an add-in storage or networking controller. The latter is decidedly better for server setups, supporting more high-speed devices over an 8 GT/s bus.

Some of the other benefits that Intel cites are less relevant to our look at the -1280 v2, but better as you descend the product family. For instance, there are 11 total Xeon E3 models, allowing for broad differentiation. All but two models support Hyper-Threading, and all but two come equipped with 8 MB of shared L3 cache.

Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 29 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 13 Hide
    tomfreak , August 15, 2012 4:32 AM
    Quote:
    Ivy Bridge Goes Professional


    Need Ivy Bridge Goes budget.

    Still Waiting this.... i3, Pentium G
Other Comments
  • -8 Hide
    aqualipt , August 15, 2012 4:21 AM
    Meeeh, Ivy bridge is a disappointment for the hardcore PC users, although is great for mobile users.
  • 13 Hide
    tomfreak , August 15, 2012 4:32 AM
    Quote:
    Ivy Bridge Goes Professional


    Need Ivy Bridge Goes budget.

    Still Waiting this.... i3, Pentium G
  • -1 Hide
    bit_user , August 15, 2012 5:02 AM
    Skip.

    I went with a Sandybridge E5-1620 + discrete graphics. Twice the memory bandwidth. Twice the PCIe lanes. Comparable price. And the raw performance of the cores is only a couple % slower. A good tradeoff for GPU compute.
  • 3 Hide
    mousseng , August 15, 2012 7:03 AM
    Okay, I'll take your word for it that a $600+ Xeon can be better value in certain scenarios than an i7. But how exactly is it better value than the ~$230 E3-1230v2, which (as far as I can tell) is exactly the same, only clocked a few hundred MHz lower? Is the need to squeeze every ounce of performance out of the server-class CPUs so great that Intel can demand a $400 price hike for 300MHz?
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , August 15, 2012 7:14 AM
    The 3Ds Max test doesn't make any sense unless you mention which renderer you're using (Mental Ray? Vray? Scanline?). Also it would be nice if you compared against desktop processors to see if it's worth splashing out on the Xeons
  • 2 Hide
    PreferLinux , August 15, 2012 7:55 AM
    Skeletor1The 3Ds Max test doesn't make any sense unless you mention which renderer you're using (Mental Ray? Vray? Scanline?). Also it would be nice if you compared against desktop processors to see if it's worth splashing out on the Xeons

    You don't buy Xeons for performance, you buy them for reliability. The performance for clock speed is exactly the same.
  • 0 Hide
    PreferLinux , August 15, 2012 7:57 AM
    moussengOkay, I'll take your word for it that a $600+ Xeon can be better value in certain scenarios than an i7. But how exactly is it better value than the ~$230 E3-1230v2, which (as far as I can tell) is exactly the same, only clocked a few hundred MHz lower? Is the need to squeeze every ounce of performance out of the server-class CPUs so great that Intel can demand a $400 price hike for 300MHz?

    If you need the single-threaded performance, you need it. You can't get that performance by combining multiple systems. In servers or render farms, you can just add a few more machines to make up for the lesser performance, because they are dealing with tasks that are extremely well threaded – so you don't buy the fastest option, you buy the best value option. But in some cases, the single threaded performance is more important (certain workstation tasks) or you are limited to one system (many workstation tasks), so the performance matters more than value until the performance stops making a significant difference.

    And I wouldn't say that it is better value, rather I'd say that it is necessary for the extra reliability.
  • 3 Hide
    mandrilux , August 15, 2012 8:09 AM
    Nice review, but i'd like to view a comparasion between E3-1245v2 or E3-1275v2 versus I7-3770 or I7-3770K over a motherboard with chipset Z77 like Asrock. Because the E3 is cheaper than I7 and supports same socket.
    Thanks.
  • -3 Hide
    mandrilux , August 15, 2012 8:10 AM
    Nice review, but i'd like to view a comparasion between E3-1245v2 or E3-1275v2 versus I7-3770 or I7-3770K over a motherboard with chipset Z77 like Asrock. Because the E3 is cheaper than I7 and supports same socket.
    Thanks.
  • 1 Hide
    ekho , August 15, 2012 8:59 AM
    Intel doesn't compete hard these days.
    It does whatever it wants.
    AMD or ARM-BASED are not serious competitors at least for about next 2 years I guess.
  • 0 Hide
    silverblue , August 15, 2012 12:17 PM
    ARM doesn't feature in the workstation space, whereas AMD's Vishera/Delhi, whilst not perfect, could still be a good CPU - its performance gains over Zambezi/Valencia eclipse Ivy's over Sandy. Still, it'll only be aggressive pricing from AMD that really makes them stand out this year against the i7s.

    I'm liking the v2 moniker; instead of inventing new codes, is it so hard to just attach a suffix like a version number of an a/b/c etc.? That's enough to convince people that it's comparable to an older model in speed, socket type etc. but the version number will denote improved performance.
  • 3 Hide
    A Bad Day , August 15, 2012 12:27 PM
    Quote:
    2 = LGA 1155
    4 = LGA 1356
    6 = LGA 2011
    8 = LGA 1567


    Intel: Compatibility? Standards? Screw that.
  • 0 Hide
    A Bad Day , August 15, 2012 12:35 PM
    EDIT: I wonder what was Intel's reasoning for four different socket under the same CPU brand?
  • 1 Hide
    jaquith , August 15, 2012 12:36 PM
    Nice review Chris and thanks! :) 

    Translation to Real World - One thing that has often disturbed me is the duration of many of these benches, my experience is that they often either aren't relevant or worst aren't a good measure to real world jobs which often last for HOURS not 1~2 minutes. For comparison sake and perhaps scaling it would be nice to have a 'Part 2' with E5's and UP/DP/MP.

    It took me a half cup of coffee to figure out why you choose the E3-1290, I got it once I realized the clocks.

    Using Stock clocks the Ivy Bridge is a good step in the right direction, but other than it's Litho it's hard for me still to consider it a 'Tock'. I'm hoping the Haswell will correct some of the IB shortcomings.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 15, 2012 1:36 PM
    This is a server chip. Where are the IO and database tests? You know, server tasks.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 15, 2012 1:49 PM
    Would have loved to see the Xeon v2 coupled with a Z77 chipset board, just to see if there is any performance degradation compared to the C-series chipsets. AsRock, Gigabyte, MSI all support the Xeon V2s on their H77 and Z77 boards.
  • 0 Hide
    mousseng , August 15, 2012 6:07 PM
    Quote:
    If you need the single-threaded performance, you need it. ... But in some cases, the single threaded performance is more important (certain workstation tasks) or you are limited to one system (many workstation tasks), so the performance matters more than value until the performance stops making a significant difference.

    And I wouldn't say that it is better value, rather I'd say that it is necessary for the extra reliability.

    Okay, so basically it is that thing I said (the need for performance being that great). And yeah, I worded the whole 'value' bit pretty poorly, but you seem to have caught on to what I was getting at. Thanks!

    Being a consumer with no knowledge of the enterprise/server sector of hardware, it's a bit difficult to see how something so seemingly small can be worth so much, but I often forget that businesses have a lot more money to spend than individuals like myself.
  • -2 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , August 15, 2012 6:58 PM
    arent the IvyBrisge-EP supposed to ne launching in Q3 2013?
  • -1 Hide
    jaquith , August 15, 2012 8:08 PM
    mayankleoboy1arent the Ivy Bridge-EP supposed to ne launching in Q3 2013?

    It depends, supposedly Q2 2013 but if the Haswell makes the Ivy Bridge-EP superfluous then it's doubtful it will ever be produced.

    If you can stomach guesses and utter conjecture then here's an interesting post with external links in an effort to prove or disprove - http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2259752
  • -3 Hide
    iamtheking123 , August 16, 2012 4:15 AM
    bit_userSkip.I went with a Sandybridge E5-1620 + discrete graphics. Twice the memory bandwidth. Twice the PCIe lanes. Comparable price. And the raw performance of the cores is only a couple % slower. A good tradeoff for GPU compute.

    E5 is the full server version of Sandy Bridge. The equivalent won't be released for Ivy Bridge until next year, so the comparison isn't valid. This is just some re-badged client Ivy Bridge parts with minor enhancements.

    FYI you wasted money if you bought E5 for home use. Overclockability, which Xeons don't have, is more important that memory bandwidth or pci-e lanes.
Display more comments