Intel Xeon E5-2600 v4 Broadwell-EP Review

Intel's Xeon E5-2600 v4 finds the company at the intersection of a waning desktop market and the exploding data center segment. Less momentum on the desktop side is naturally worrying; but being a leader in the high-growth enterprise space is a great place to be; Intel just happens to sell 99 percent of the world's processors destined for the data center. There is no single contender that poses an immediate threat to the company's dominance, though IBM's Power architecture and a budding Qualcomm initiative in China may gain ground over the long term.

The latest evolution in Intel's Xeon line-up is made possible by the Broadwell-EP architecture, manufactured on a 14nm process. That's a shrink of Haswell-EP's 22nm lithography. Many see Broadwell-EP as Intel's last attempt at satisfying the famed tick/tock cadence.

No doubt, Moore's Law is slowing to a crawl. The first precursors became evident in July of last year when the company indicated it'd push back its 10nm process to 2017. A recent 10-K filing merely formalized the obvious and inevitable.

Intel's filing indicates that it is migrating from the familiar tick/tock tempo to a slower process, architecture and optimization cadence. It appears that the challenges of shrinking transistors are becoming too difficult, and too expensive, to circumvent at such a rapid pace.

The new rhythm will lengthen the amount of time the company utilizes its 14nm and 10nm processes, which makes good business sense. Financially, it is better for Intel to recoup more of its investment into increasingly expensive tooling while extending its profitability window for each processor generation. There is no clear threat to the company's dominance, so its technological leadership position isn't at risk.

The Xeon E5-2600 v4 family wades into this new reality with a number of improvements that extend beyond more cores and cache (though it includes those as well). Perhaps that'll gives us some insight into Intel's plans moving forward.

Intel Xeon E5-2600 v4 Series

The Broadwell-EP microarchitecture increases the maximum number of cores/threads from 18/36 to 22/44, and also makes room for up to 55MB of shared L3 cache (up from 45MB). Intel still enables four channels of DDR4 memory, but increases the peak data rate to 2400 MT/s (a 15 percent improvement). Intel also added new memory features, such as support for 3DS LRDIMMs and DDR4 Write CRC (an enhanced form of error control). 

We're told the CPUs benefit from an IPC increase of 5.5 percent or so through a series of optimizations we'll cover on the following page, and are socket-compatible replacements for Xeon E5-2600 v3-based Grantley systems (LGA2011-3). Existing motherboards/servers will require a BIOS update, though. The existing C610 series chipset soldiers on, meaning that most platform features remain unchanged. You still get 40 lanes of PCIe 3.0 and two QPI 1.1 ports, for example.

The E5-2600 v4s offer a different base frequency and Turbo Boost setting for AVX and non-AVX functions, but Intel notably allows each core to operate in either mode without affecting the clock rate of other cores. In the past, every core ran at a lower base and peak Turbo Boost frequency if the cores were running a mix of AVX and non-AVX code. That restriction is no longer in place.

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Our Xeon E5-2697 v4 sample features 18 Hyper-Threaded cores and provides a non-AVX base frequency of 2.3GHz, peaking at 3.6GHz under Turbo  Boost. Running AVX code, the base drops to 2GHz, while Turbo can still take you to 3.6GHz.

The Product Stack

The fourth-generation E5-2600 series features 22 models designed for a wide range of workloads. Intel groups the processors into High Core Count (HCC), Medium Core Count (MCC) and Low Core Count (LCC) segments ranging from four cores and 10MB of LLC to 22 cores with 55MB of cache.

New Intel 3D NAND SSDs

All of the processing power in the world is worthless if your CPU is waiting on the storage subsystem. Intel helped foment the SSD revolution when it introduced its first datacenter-oriented drives. Of course, the move was a strategic one. Intel makes more money selling storage. In turn, SSDs help unlock the potential of multi-core processors, encouraging more Xeon business.

Intel and Micron produce NAND in the jointly operated venture called IMFT, which recently announced 3D NAND-based products. Intel chose to launch two drives based on the technology, its DC P3520 and DC P3320 SSDs, in tandem with Broadwell-EP.

The DC P3320 series is news to us, but the DC P3520 is not. We discovered a document back in August that foretold the release of Intel's DC P3608, and it also included pertinent information on the DC P3520. Intel briefed us on the DC P3320 during its Broadwell disclosure. However, it kept information about the DC P3520 to itself. Don't worry, though. We have the scoop on all of Intel's new SSDs, including dual-port NVMe-based offerings, on page three.

First, let's take a closer look at the Broadwell-EP microarchitecture.

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  • utroz
    Hmm well we know that Broadwell-E chips must be coming very very soon if Intel let this info out.
  • bit_user
    Wasn't there supposed to be a 4-core 5.0 GHz SKU? Single-thread performance still matters, in many cases.
  • turkey3_scratch
    328798 said:
    Wasn't there supposed to be a 4-core 5.0 GHz SKU? Single-thread performance still matters, in many cases.


    In most server applications it doesn't matter as much as multithreaded performance. If you need single-core strength, getting a consumer chip is actually better, but you probably aren't running a server if single-threaded is your focus.
  • PaulyAlcorn
    Quote:
    Wasn't there supposed to be a 4-core 5.0 GHz SKU? Single-thread performance still matters, in many cases.

    I read the rumors on that as well, but nothing official has surfaced as of yet to my knowledge.
  • bit_user
    1712875 said:
    328798 said:
    Wasn't there supposed to be a 4-core 5.0 GHz SKU? Single-thread performance still matters, in many cases.
    In most server applications it doesn't matter as much as multithreaded performance. If you need single-core strength, getting a consumer chip is actually better, but you probably aren't running a server if single-threaded is your focus.
    Try telling that to high-frequency traders. I'm sure they want the reliability features of Xeons (ECC, for example), but the highest clock speed available.

    And the fact that Intel even released low-core high-clock SKUs is an acknowledgement of this continuing need. Clock just not as high as I'd read. With the other specs basically matching the Haswell version, the only difference is ~5% IPC improvement. Seems pretty poor improvement, for a die-shrink.
  • firefoxx04
    Would nice to have a quad core xeon that turbos at 4.4ghz just like the 4790k. I had to go with a 4690k when building an autocad system because it only uses one core and needs that core to be fast... this means i have to sacrifice ecc support.
  • bit_user
    2074532 said:
    Quote:
    Wasn't there supposed to be a 4-core 5.0 GHz SKU? Single-thread performance still matters, in many cases.
    I read the rumors on that as well, but nothing official has surfaced as of yet to my knowledge.

    On wccftech (not the most reliable source, I know), they claimed:

    Model: Intel Xeon E5-2602 V4
    Cores/threads: 4/8
    Base clock: 5.1 GHz
    Turbo clock: TBD
    L3 Cache: 5 MB
    TDP: 165W

    Given what we know about 2.5 MB/core of L3 Cache, the 5 MB figure sounds suspicious. It's conceivable they could disable some to hit the target TDP, I guess.
  • firefoxx04
    We cant get skylake to consistently hit 5ghz... why would a xeon chip suddenly hit 5ghz?
  • JamesSneed
    211300 said:
    We cant get skylake to consistently hit 5ghz... why would a xeon chip suddenly hit 5ghz?


    I'm not saying the 5Ghz rumor is true but Intel has always known which chips can hit higher clocks during certification if the chip is a top end or low end chip cores disabled etc. I'm sure they could cherry pick a few to sell for $$$ if they wanted. Now are they I have no real idea.
  • bit_user
    211300 said:
    We cant get skylake to consistently hit 5ghz... why would a xeon chip suddenly hit 5ghz?
    Well, I was surprised, too.

    There are obviously things you can do in chip design that allow one to reach different timing targets. And I was hoping they might've refined their 14 nm process, since the time the first Broadwells launched. So, I thought, with more TDP headroom afforded by this socket (roughly double what Skylake has to work with), maybe they could do it.

    I thought maybe Intel was addressing some pent-up demand for high clockspeed applications. That said, it seemed particularly odd in Broadwell, given that it generally seems oriented towards lower clockspeed / lower power applications.

    But maybe it was a typo, or even a blatant lie, in order to track down leakers.
  • alidan
    Quote:
    We cant get skylake to consistently hit 5ghz... why would a xeon chip suddenly hit 5ghz?


    proper binning and sold specifically as that because of what it hits, this could double/triple the value of the chip at least compared to other lower binned versions.
  • thor220
    Quote:
    Wasn't there supposed to be a 4-core 5.0 GHz SKU? Single-thread performance still matters, in many cases.


    A really high clock on a server platform seems like an overclocker's dream to me. Stability and performance. Not to mention that server processors use solder instead of that cheap paste Intel uses in their consumer processors.
  • RedJaron
    Doesn't sound right to me. A server chip binned that high would be ridiculously expensive, more than even the 5960X. I can't see then selling more than a couple hundred to the richest and most eccentric computer enthusiasts.
  • LudeMasta99
    How many FPS will I get in Crysis with this?
  • Adriano Bordignon
    How does Photoshop behave under this cpu?
  • bit_user
    570460 said:
    Doesn't sound right to me. A server chip binned that high would be ridiculously expensive, more than even the 5960X. I can't see then selling more than a couple hundred to the richest and most eccentric computer enthusiasts.
    FWIW, IBM introduced Power6 processors in 2007 & 2009 that were clocked up to 5 GHz. No doubt, they cost an arm and a couple legs.
  • Waldek
    Slightly off the topic, but... I was curious about the data centers' power consumption statistics. The article says 416.2 TWh per year. This is true. What the article says incorrectly, however, is that it would be more than 182 countries (of 192). The correct example would be that this gives the datacenters of the world 11th place in the power consumption ranking in the world. For example, the UK alone consumes 320 TWh (and is currently number 11 worldwide). The datacenters consume currently ca. 5% of the world's power usage...
  • sincreator
    Getting a chip to hit 5.0ghz or more stable is pretty rare to say the least. Silicon Lottery https://siliconlottery.com/collections/2011-3 specializes in picking out binned chips to sell, and they don't even have one model that is clocked that high.
  • PaulyAlcorn
    Quote:
    Slightly off the topic, but... I was curious about the data centers' power consumption statistics. The article says 416.2 TWh per year. This is true. What the article says incorrectly, however, is that it would be more than 182 countries (of 192). The correct example would be that this gives the datacenters of the world 11th place in the power consumption ranking in the world. For example, the UK alone consumes 320 TWh (and is currently number 11 worldwide). The datacenters consume currently ca. 5% of the world's power usage...


    The article does not state that it is more than the *combined* total of 182 countries, merely that it consumes more power than each of them compared individually. You are right,mentioning that it would place 11th in the world is probably a better way of stating the statistic.
  • bit_user
    248772 said:
    Getting a chip to hit 5.0ghz or more stable is pretty rare to say the least. Silicon Lottery https://siliconlottery.com/collections/2011-3 specializes in picking out binned chips to sell, and they don't even have one model that is clocked that high.
    Sure, but there's a difference between binning chips designed to run at a lower clock vs. actually designing a chip to hit higher clock speeds. There's no reason Intel can't make chips that clock higher, but they don't choose to because they think there's not sufficient market demand for something which burns so much power. AMD tried this with 225 W TDP Bulldozers, a few years back.

    I remember reading that the Pentium 4 was originally designed to scale up to 10 GHz, by the end of its production. Of course, back then, the only way they could hit those speeds was to use really long pipelines composed of very simple stages. Then, when they discovered that leakage of newer process nodes was higher than anticipated, they were left with a very inefficient architecture that was stuck below the clock speeds that would've made it competitive.

    These days, I think Intel could do it without such a drastic architectural tradeoff. But it still comes down to a power vs. clock, no matter what.
  • utroz
    328798 said:
    570460 said:
    Doesn't sound right to me. A server chip binned that high would be ridiculously expensive, more than even the 5960X. I can't see then selling more than a couple hundred to the richest and most eccentric computer enthusiasts.
    FWIW, IBM introduced Power6 processors in 2007 & 2009 that were clocked up to 5 GHz. No doubt, they cost an arm and a couple legs.


    Those IBM chips had a really long pipeline to allow clock speeds that high as well as an SOI process node basically built from the ground up for them. I wonder what version of 14nm Intel is using for Broadwell-E/EP/EX as I know they had one version they used for the Broadwell-U,Y,H,DT(C) and when they moved to Skylake they used an updated version of 14nm. Is it possible that Broadwell_E/EP/EX are using the updated 14nm process?
  • pastorpastor
    nice review, but I'm deceived, there is no important 3d rendering benchmarks like cinebench 3dsmax / VRAY