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Intel Core i7-4960X Review: Ivy Bridge-E, Benchmarked

Is Ivy Bridge-E An Enthusiast’s Salvation?

Does Intel’s Core i7-4960X, specifically, get me all revved up about upgrading? Well, no. Not really. But then again, those thousand-dollar CPUs rarely do. What about the Core i7-4930K replacing Intel’s -3930K for $550? That’d be a tough sell for all of the same reasons. Mainly, it doesn’t push performance high enough to warrant a big price tag. Any interest in a Core i7-4820K? I’d be more inclined to bet on a -4770K/Z87 platform, if only for the newer chipset’s extra functionality.

As far back as April of last year we knew that Core i7-3770K was somewhere between zero and seven percent faster than Core i7-2700K, depending on the workload. Is it really a surprise that Ivy Bridge-E would only be a few percent faster than Sandy Bridge-E? At least on the performance end, Core i7-4960X is close to what we might have expected.

Still, it would be cool to see Intel configure Core i7s with 10 or 12 cores, like some of the planned Ivy Bridge-EP models. Instead, it looks like we’ll be waiting for Haswell-E to see the first eight-core enthusiast-oriented processors. As a result, Intel is really limiting the appeal of Ivy Bridge-E to power users building or buying brand new PCs. The bummer there is the two-year-old platform with two SATA 6Gb/s ports and no native USB 3.0. That’s hardly going to get an enthusiast worked up when Z87 is so much more fully featured. If you already own a Core i7-3960X or -3930K, you’re simply not going to sink another big chunk into single-digit percent gains.

Should Ivy Bridge-E fail to encourage upgrades or new system builds, I know who’s going to absolutely love this new architecture: the server and workstation segments. For what little gets added to performance, Ivy Bridge-E does some crazy-awesome things to power and efficiency. When you multiply out the gains across a rack, you’re looking at a lot less power, a lot less heat, and a lot less cooling.

Consider this a parting shot: Core i7-4960X is faster than Core i7-3970X and simultaneously about 30% more efficient. In the world of Xeon E5-2x00 v2 processors, that’s going to be killer. Want some proof? Go check out Intel's 12-Core Xeon With 30 MB Of L3: The New Mac Pro's CPU?

Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.