Core i7-3970X: Faster, But Less Efficient At The Same Price
Intel didn’t have to launch the Core i7-3970X. Its -3960X was already the fastest single-socket workstation processor you could buy. But, in the year that has passed since Sandy Bridge-E first debuted, Intel also introduced its Ivy Bridge architecture. Better per-cycle performance gave enthusiasts something to consider: do you save some money by buying a quad-core Ivy Bridge-based processor, or splurge on an older architecture for its higher core count and more generous PCI Express connectivity?
With the Core i7-3970X, Intel gives power users with money to spend a little more reason to lean in favor of Sandy Bridge-E. An extra 200 MHz under full load is reflected in apps like Adobe Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Autodesk 3ds Max, Microsoft Visual Studio, and Maxon Cinema 4D. A 100 MHz-higher Turbo Boost bump helps iTunes, PowerPoint, and Lame.
Although Intel is maintaining its $1000 pricing on this desktop flagship, you’ll need to pay closer attention to cooling. A massive 150 W TDP is more than Intel’s LGA 2011-oriented heat sink can handle. Instead, the company recommends its closed-loop thermal solution, adding nearly $80 to the already-steep CPU's cost.
Unfortunately, at least in our suite of tests, the extra infusion of performance isn’t significant enough to counteract higher power consumption. Efficiency suffers as a result. There’s a good chance you won’t care if more speed in a money-making application covers the difference.
Though, in that case, we’re obligated to mention Intel’s Xeon E5-2687W. It’s a $1900 processor, yes. It’s also rated for 150 W. But if you need your software to run as quickly as possible, this eight-core monster armed with 20 MB of L3 cache tears through threaded workloads—and it does so more efficiently than even a year-old Core i7-3960X.
Same thing goes for the 3960X compared to the 3930K....not worth the extra 100mhz for $400....
Intel also doesn't want a situation where their LGA 1155 processors outperform their $1000 extreme edition in lightly threaded workloads, which is yet another reason to favor 6-core for now.
I'd personally like to see an 8-core i7, even if it means lower clocks, but I don't think that'll happen until Ivy Bridge-E. At 22nm Intel probably won't have to make a choice, we'll get the best of both worlds.
Run the i7 for one month under Prime95. It will crash. Run the Xeon for one month under Prime95. If it crashes, then you got a defective Xeon because they're not suppose to crash under 24/7 workload.
Why would you even include the 8350? It is 1/6th the price of this CPU. I couldn't imagine what a modern AMD desktop CPU would consist of at the $1000+ price range.