Intel Xeon E5-2600: Doing Damage With Two Eight-Core CPUs

Xeon E5: Respectable Performance Boost, Bigger Efficiency Gain

The Sandy Bridge architecture was a really big deal on the desktop. More than a year after its introduction, Core i5-2500K is still the processor I recommend to friends who ask for buying advice. And although it took Intel a long time to incorporate Sandy Bridge into its server and workstation portfolio, the resulting effort is complex, and yet scalable in a way that only the Xeon E7s can rival.

There are 37 different Xeon E5s. We only got our hands on one. But the Xeon E5-2687W is the fastest model, and we were able to benchmark it against three other flagships in their respective families: Xeon W5580, Xeon X5680, and Core i7-3960X. Obviously, the performance you get from any dual-processor platform is wholly dependent on the tasks you throw at it. Our test suite is predominantly workstation-oriented. But even with lightly-threaded benchmarks folded in, the Xeon E5s were about 21% faster, on average, than the Xeon 5600s. After factoring out the tests you typically wouldn’t see on a workstation, the advantage grew just a hair to almost 23%.

But while comparing the Xeon E5s to the Xeon 5600s was interesting, I was more impressed by the efficiency calculation than any other piece of data. The Xeon E5-2687W is etched using the same 32 nm node. It’s way larger. And its TDP is 20 W higher per processor. Indeed, you can clearly see that, under full load, two Xeon E5-2687Ws draw more power from the wall than the Xeon X5680s. But the speed-up attributable to Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture and two additional cores per socket outweighs the power spike, yielding better efficiency.

Consider also that the E5’s strengths are more accessible across a wider range of segments. There are now eight-core processors available for entry-level dual-socket servers in the Xeon E5-2400 family. A single-socket Xeon E5-1600 workstation line-up offers similar functionality as the Core i7-3000 series, adding RAS functionality important to some folks. The Xeon E5-2600s cover a broad range of 2S servers and workstations. And a line of Xeon E5-4600 processors introduces the idea of more commoditized quad-socket configurations that maximize performance/watt in HPC environments.

Obviously, if you’re a professional working in a data center, the prospect of improving efficiency is a head-turner. Similar, engineers and artists looking at next-gen workstations have to appreciate a platform that averages 20% better performance. But even if you’re a hardware enthusiast with no reason to use any of this gear, it’s still pretty cool to pop open Windows’ Task Manager and watch 32 threads go to town rendering a scene that could end up in the next game you enjoy.

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  • willard
    dalethepcmanNo gaming benchmarks? I know this is a high workstation / mid server build, but you know some of the boutiques will make a gaming rig out of any platform. Just out of curiosity, I would have liked to see 2x7970 or 2x580 and a few gaming benchmarks thrown in.

    I'd be really surprised to see these in gaming machines, even in the high end boutiques. That's a $2k processor they reviewed, and basically all it offers over the $1k SB-E chip (for gamers) is an extra pair of cores, which games can't make use of.
    19
  • willard
    esreverwhy aren't AMD cpus tested too? I wouldn't mind seeing how 2x interlagos stacks up.

    Anandtech benched those next to the new Xeons. Went about as well as Bulldozer vs. Sandy Bridge.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5553/the-xeon-e52600-dual-sandybridge-for-servers/6
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  • esrever
    why aren't AMD cpus tested too? I wouldn't mind seeing how 2x interlagos stacks up.
    14
  • Other Comments
  • CaedenV
    My brain cannot comprehend what CS5 would look like with this combined with a 1TB R4 drive, and the GTX680 version of the Quatro would look like... and I am sure my wallet cannot!

    Great article! I was not expecting my mind to be blown away today, and it was :)
    8
  • dalethepcman
    No gaming benchmarks? I know this is a high workstation / mid server build, but you know some of the boutiques will make a gaming rig out of any platform. Just out of curiosity, I would have liked to see 2x7970 or 2x580 and a few gaming benchmarks thrown in. :)
    -22
  • willard
    dalethepcmanNo gaming benchmarks? I know this is a high workstation / mid server build, but you know some of the boutiques will make a gaming rig out of any platform. Just out of curiosity, I would have liked to see 2x7970 or 2x580 and a few gaming benchmarks thrown in.

    I'd be really surprised to see these in gaming machines, even in the high end boutiques. That's a $2k processor they reviewed, and basically all it offers over the $1k SB-E chip (for gamers) is an extra pair of cores, which games can't make use of.
    19
  • nforce4max
    I must say DROOL :O
    9
  • esrever
    why aren't AMD cpus tested too? I wouldn't mind seeing how 2x interlagos stacks up.
    14
  • reclusiveorc
    I wonder how fast TempEncode would chew thru transcoding avi/wmv files to mp3/mp4
    0
  • willard
    esreverwhy aren't AMD cpus tested too? I wouldn't mind seeing how 2x interlagos stacks up.

    Anandtech benched those next to the new Xeons. Went about as well as Bulldozer vs. Sandy Bridge.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5553/the-xeon-e52600-dual-sandybridge-for-servers/6
    18
  • cangelini
    esreverwhy aren't AMD cpus tested too? I wouldn't mind seeing how 2x interlagos stacks up.

    Mentioned on the test page--I've invited them to send hardware and they haven't moved on it yet.
    14
  • willard
    cangeliniMentioned on the test page--I've invited them to send hardware and they haven't moved on it yet.

    I would guess that's because Interlagos is garbage compared to the new Xeons and they know it. I don't think they're terribly eager for the front page of Tom's Hardware to show the low end Xeon's beating the best Interlagos has to offer.
    10
  • Onus
    What, or who, was the target? Are there military applications for this weapon?

    Sorry, vote me down all you like, but the title was just silly.
    -17
  • cangelini
    willardI would guess that's because Interlagos is garbage compared to the new Xeons and they know it. I don't think they're terribly eager for the front page of Tom's Hardware to show the low end Xeon's beating the best Interlagos has to offer.

    Not really my place to speculate--only to point out that I similarly wanted to see AMD hardware included and explain why it isn't there :)
    9
  • willard
    jtt283What, or who, was the target? Are there military applications for this weapon?Sorry, vote me down all you like, but the title was just silly.

    No, the title is a fairly common phrase in American English.

    "Now that I've got X, I can really do some damage" would probably be the way I hear it used most often.
    5
  • willard
    cangeliniNot really my place to speculate--only to point out that I similarly wanted to see AMD hardware included and explain why it isn't there

    Yeah, I understand that you're in a sensitive position. But being a lowly commenter, I'm free to speculate all I want!

    Muahahahaha!
    6
  • cangelini
    willardYeah, I understand that you're in a sensitive position. But being a lowly commenter, I'm free to speculate all I want!Muahahahaha!

    Precisely ;-)
    6
  • wiyosaya
    Interesting results.

    In my opinion, the SolidWorks test is also one of those not representative of typical SolidWorks tasks. PhotoView only renders realistic images of a SolidWorks model. Personally, I think the Specviewperf SolidWorks test would be significantly more representative of average SolidWorks use.

    Although I really hate to draw this comparison, PhotoView is more like using Power Point to organize a display of images created in Photoshop. In this comparison, most of the grunt work is done by Photoshop rather than Power Point, as is most of the grunt work done in SolidWorks then rendered in PhotoView. Performance differences revealed by the Specviewperf test are more informative, IMHO. See these.
    1
  • juan83
    great review.. i wonder myself how long we 'll have to wait to see 8 cores and 16 threads on desktop segment as a default pc.. (or less than 400 dolars)

    we have to wait to long for that..
    0
  • Anonymous
    I would love one of those with a pair of FireGL cards and a mix of SCSI and SSD drives. I'm sure a dual core version of all of that will run me close to $8K though. Consider though how much Sun SPARC stations and SGI Workstations costed a decade or so ago? Workstations that were not nearly as capable went 20-25k. A dual core E5-2687 with FireGL cards and SSD drives is the fastest workstation you could put together on any platform and you can do it for far less than the 25k from years ago. Absolutely crazy to think about it in those terms.
    0
  • EXT64
    I think you need to run some folding at home on that. I can't imagine what it would get in PPD, considering how well the old Intel 6 cores (Gulftown) do.
    3
  • jaquith
    Great article and thanks! 16-cores/32-threads is nice! :)

    Reading this however, all I can do is think how PO'ed I am at Intel not enabling the 7th & 8th cores on the SB-E i7-3960X and i7-3930K.
    1
  • cangelini
    jaquithGreat article and thanks! 16-cores/32-threads is nice! Reading this however, all I can do is think how PO'ed I am at Intel not enabling the 7th & 8th cores on the SB-E i7-3960X and i7-3930K.

    I'm going to drop these into X79 and compare the numbers to see how power is affected. Maybe get a little overclocking out of them, just to check ;-)
    5