Intel Core i7-5960X, -5930K And -5820K CPU Review: Haswell-E Rises

Intel Keeps Enthusiasts On Its Most Modern Design With Haswell-E

The Ivy Bridge-E launch (almost exactly one year ago) was disappointing for a number of reasons. Not only did the Core i7-4960X offer little beyond what we were already getting from -3970X, but it had the gall to surface three months after Intel started selling its Haswell-based Core i7-4770K. Adding insult to injury was the already-old X79 Express chipset, outclassed in almost every way by the mainstream Z87 platform.

Simply put, power users have a hard time accepting last-generation’s technology as new when there’s already something shinier to anticipate.

Intel is already buzzing about Broadwell. But it’s technically taking the wraps off of Haswell-E while Haswell is still relevant. The distinction may seem trivial, but I guarantee that enthusiasts care. And although X99 Express doesn’t introduce any groundbreaking functionality, it at least integrates thorough USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s support.

That may sound like a tepid assessment of Haswell-E, but the truth is I’m giddy to have my hands on real high-end hardware again. Imagine a mixing bowl. Sift the idea of Intel’s first desktop-oriented eight-core CPU based on its most modern architecture. Add a new memory technology. An updated chipset. Solder-based thermal interface material improving your chances of a solid overclock. And sprinkle in LGA 2011-3, which we’re told will support Intel’s next-gen high-end desktop chip. Folded all together, those ingredients are actually quite tasty.

My impression of the three Haswell-E-based models isn’t completely uniform, though.

While eight Haswell cores are envy-inducing, thousand-dollar processors are reality for a fortunate few. The silver lining is that, previously, a Xeon E5-2687W v2—Ivy Bridge-based with eight cores—would have cost you $2000. Now you can get similar performance with an unlocked multiplier for half as much money. Power users able to exploit what a Core i7-5960X offers will certainly enjoy its exclusivity as they plow through taxing workloads.

But the -5960X wouldn’t be my first choice for a gaming-oriented system anyway. Its core count typically doesn’t benefit 3D frame rates, while lower base and Turbo Boost frequencies are sometimes felt as lower performance and greater frame time variance. Plus, there’s the whole price tag issue. That’s why I often look to Intel’s second-best solution as favorites. The Core i7-3930K and -4930K held onto their six cores and sold for a lot less money. I liked them a lot.

This time around, Intel’s stack is organized differently. Stepping down to the -5930K means losing two cores right off the bat. There is no intermediate eight-core option. So, if the rest of the Haswell-E line-up consists of six-core CPUs, why not drop another notch to the Core i7-5820K? Some enthusiasts will thumb their noses at Intel for cutting 12 lanes of third-gen PCI Express from its 40-lane controller, but as differentiators go, that one’s pretty tame. Twenty-eight lanes gives you room to run one 16-lane graphics card, two in x8-mode with plenty of connectivity left over, or even three cards on x8 links. And for $50 more than a Core i7-4790K, you get six cores, 15 MB of shared L3 cache, a bit of insulation against the future, four channels of DDR4, and ample PCIe. This time around, I’m going with the Core i7-5820K as my smart choice.

For a chance at winning your own Core i7-5820K-based PC, please click this link to enter our CyberPower PC/Tom's Hardware sweepstakes. The system's specs are as follows:

You may enter the sweepstakes only one time. If you enter more than once, duplicate entries will be deleted. Entries from contest entry sites will be deleted.

The Sweepstakes opens on August 29, 2014 9:00 AM PDT and closes September 12, 2014 9:00 AM PDT.

One winner will be chosen randomly; the prize will be one (1) CyberPowerPC Black Pearl system, as configured below; approximate retail value: $3000.00.

  • Intel Core i7-5820K Six-Core Processor
  • EVGA X99 ATX Motherboard  
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  • Asetek 570 LXL 240 mm Liquid Cooling Extreme Performance CPU Cooler
  • 2 TB (2 TB x 1) SATA 6Gb/s Hard Drive with 64 MB Cache (7200 RPM)
  • 256 GB Intel 730 Series SATA 6Gb/s SSD
  • 16 GB (4 GB x 4) DDR4-2133 Quad-Channel Memory
  • NZXT H440 Black and Red Case
  • Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64-bit Edition) + Office 365 FREE 30 Days Trial


  • dovah-chan
    Oh boy here we go...
  • Merry_Blind
    Affordable 8-cores from Intel are finally coming. Awesome.
  • B4vB5
    Chris and Igor @ TomsHW,

    Bit disappointed to not see a comparison with the Xeon E5-1650v2(or 1660v2), as the 2600 is a bit overkill comparing prices. Some of us just need a workstation with ECC ram and not just a free-for-all(ie someone else is paying) Xeon 2600 fest.
  • JamesSneed
    Out of curiosity why were so many of the gaming tests only done at 2560x1440? Seems like you would be more GPU bound at this resolution. I'm not sure it really matters but I do like gaming at 1080p for the very high frame rates was curious if these would push frame rates higher. Otherwise nice review.
  • ohim
    14063555 said:
    Affordable 8-cores from Intel are finally coming. Awesome.

    1000$ is affordable to you ? :))

    14063653 said:
    Out of curiosity why were so many of the gaming tests only done at 2560x1440? Seems like you would be more GPU bound at this resolution. I'm not sure it really matters but I do like gaming at 1080p for the very high frame rates was curious if these would push frame rates higher. Otherwise nice review.

    Though you have a point here, the guy buying such CPUs most likely will game at above 1080p .. but this would have implied using 2 GPUs at least in the test.
  • chiefpiggy
    Why do they call these their "5th generation" of Intel core processors if they're refreshes of the Haswell processors? I get that they have revolutionary technology within but with the release of broadwell so soon I doubt that anyone would buy these processors..
  • envy14tpe
    I need this system to play Minecraft. with that aside, Intel finally has made a jump in i7s value and performance.
  • therogerwilco
    Meh, looks like I'll be keepin my uber delid'd oc'd 4770k a bit longer
  • srap
    "Single-threaded software is so last decade, though."
    I have a hunch that we will never see anything like this in the comment sections of AMD reviews. Not sure why :D
  • CaptainTom
    Yeah the real winner of a cpu here is definitely the 5820K. If I were building now, that is what I would use.