Intel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E) And X79 Platform Preview

Benchmark Results: Sandra 2011

There are obvious reasons to want a six-core CPU over a quad-core model, but the IPC-oriented improvements made to Sandy Bridge keep Intel’s latest architecture competitive in Sandra’s Arithmetic benchmark. Sandy Bridge-E combines them, though, yielding significant gains.

The Multimedia test is a little less telling. However, Sandy Bridge-E again scores another win over Gulftown.

We were already impressed by improvements made to AES-NI moving from the Nehalem to Sandy Bridge architectures. However, Sandy Bridge-E takes this metric to another level entirely, turning a 50% increase in core count to a more than 100% boost to AES256 hashing bandwidth.

Memory bandwidth also shoots up, as expected. Why doesn’t the Gulftown-based Core i7-990X perform more aggressively? Its triple-channel memory controller is officially limited to DDR3-1066, capping peak throughput at 25.6 GB/s. The dual-channel Core i7-2600K supports DDR3-1333, so its ceiling is 21.3 GB/s. Meanwhile, our 32 GB memory kit runs with no issues at the Core i7-3960X’s purported DDR3-1600 data rate, topping out with a 51.2 GB/s maximum.

Of course, none of these configurations hit their theoretical limits. But we do see tremendous memory bandwidth from Sandy Bridge-E anyway, which will become more important in the enterprise workloads that multi-processor Xeon E5s wind up addressing.

Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • tri force
    "AMD FX-8150 (Zambezi) 3.6 G...Alright, that's just mean"

    I felt really happy for a second :(
  • xyster
    awesome! thx 4 the preview chris. i've been looking forward to this
  • wicko
    Just bought a 2600k, and after reading this I have no regrets.
  • for the price, the 8150 at 250 dollars will smoke intel out the water. IF you really want to go dolla per dollar , a dual socket amd opteron 6220 system will severely outperform the intel i73960 for alot cheaper. Thats 16 x 3.5 ghz turbo bulldozer cores against 6 3.3 ghz sandy bridge cores. hmm
  • jprahman
    I was really looking forward to Sandy Bridge-E, but it looks like a mixed bag from the review. The lack of USB 3 and especially PCI-E 3 was really disappointing, especially for an enthusiast class processor and chipset. The dearth of SATA ports was pretty surprising too, everything up to this review had indicated far more.

    The extra performance you can get looks pretty nice for stuff like transcoding, but the performance in the majority of applications doesn't justify the extra cost for the i7-3960. I'd rather get a i7-2600K or i5-2500K... or wait for Bulldozer to see how it performs relative to an i5-2500k or i7-2600k.

    To be honest, this review almost comes off like an attempt to chill any interest high-end enthusiasts might have for Bulldozer.
  • hmp_goose
    I predict a "meh" from enthusiast … And a far number of LGA1366 drivers looking for a price cut. ;-)
  • Wamphryi
    I just got an i7 2600 K and like a previous writer commented I have no regrets either. The 2600 K is such good bang for buck and lots of people seem to be snapping them up.
  • Tamz_msc
    I hope Bulldozer is more interesting than this. I honestly dont see many enthusiasts investing in this - they're better off waiting for Ivy Bridge.
  • raclimja
    what a massive disappointment, i was hoping for big performance improvement from intel

    i guess i will just stick with my i5 2500k and upgrade my aging HD 4870 x2 to something like GTX 680 or HD 7900
  • dalauder
    You say the i7-3820 will be a tough sell, but maybe, like the i7-2600, it will be an excellent non-overclocked part for OEM machines. For that purpose, I think a machine that can run DDR3 1600MHz at without overclocking is a reasonable upgrade over the i7-2600.

    There is a market for people who want top-end gaming machines but never want to look inside other than to add more graphics. Based off of Cyberpower, IBuyPower, Alienware, etc.--I bet that market is at least as big as enthusiasts that hand pick their parts.