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Haswell-Based Xeon E3-1200: Three Generations, Benchmarked

The Intel Xeon E3-1200 Series' Evolution

Back in 2011 Intel introduced its Sandy Bridge architecture, which went into a lot of the company's mobile, desktop, and server products. Before that, the Nehalem design did the same thing, driving a litany of products with familiar code names: Clarksfield, Bloomfield, Lynnfield, Gainestown, and Beckton should all bring back some fond memories. In fact, if you look back in history, there are a great many examples of Intel leveraging its work across multiple segments, optimizing each configuration as needed. With Haswell, that effort continues. We've already looked at the architecture's significance in the mobile and desktop spaces. Now it's time to visit the workstation and entry-level server market with Xeon E3-1200 v3.

A number of the product portfolio's features remain persistent between the Core and Xeon markets, just as they have since the Sandy Bridge era, when Intel introduced its first Xeon E3-1200 CPUs:

  • Similar clock rates with increasing IPC and lower overall system power each generation
  • Dual-channel DDR3 memory support
  • The ability to accommodate 32 GB of RAM
  • Unbuffered memory only
  • On-die graphics available
  • ECC support for the Intel Xeon E3 line
  • PCIe control is built into the CPU package and consists of 16 lanes
  • Pricing relatively comparable between server and consumer desktop parts

In shifting from the LGA 1155-based Xeon E3-1200 to the LGA 1155-based Xeon E3-1200 v2, and now to the LGA 1150-based Xeon E3-1200 v3, processor speeds remain similar, with slight boosts in certain areas. Similarly, the amount of work each successive architecture can get done in one clock cycle continues improving slightly, but not staggeringly so. Memory support holds steady at up to 32 GB of unbuffered ECC.

Comparatively, Intel's high-end Xeon E5 brand, intended for more compute-intensive workloads, supports up to quad-channel memory configurations and registered DIMMs. That gives those LGA 2011-based platforms the ability to address hundreds of gigabytes of memory. Back when Sandy Bridge first surfaced, 32 GB seemed like a lot of RAM for a small server or workstation. In 2013, we see high-end desktops sporting that much (particularly easy across eight memory slots).

As you shop for business-class hardware, it's important to keep your application in mind. Do you need multiple processors in a machine? Is power consumption a big concern? How about price? From the Xeon E3 through the E5 line-ups, there exists a spectrum along which certain target environments fall. Xeon E3 is most definitely about small business servers, entry-level workstations, and density. Think Web hosting, light design work, and centralizing data in a branch office.

A notable feature that the workstation-oriented Xeon E3 models offer is the availability of Intel's HD Graphics P-series engine on-die. Hardware-wise, it's very similar to what you get on the desktop Core i7s. But Intel provides a special driver with the Xeon that is certified for applications from Autodesk, Adobe, SolidWorks, and Siemens. Naturally, discrete GPUs make the most sense in a high-end workstation. But in a more mainstream box, HD Graphics P4600 and ECC memory come together as a solid combination. It's only unfortunate that you can't get a professional derivative of the Iris Pro 5200 in the Xeon E3 line-up.

Intel employs the same naming convention as the previous two generations, illustrated in the graphic below. Today's story centers on the company's Xeon E3-1275 CPUs, but you can clearly see (and appreciate) that Intel is maintaining nomenclature consistency. This might have been difficult to decipher at first. Three architectures in, though, we know right where everything goes.

During the course of this piece, we'll look at the key similarities and differences between Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, and Haswell, and what they mean for each workstation chip's performance. We're also digging into the platforms from Supermicro that we used for testing. After all, they're equal citizens in the quest for reliability in a professional environment.

  • dgingeri
    I have two Dell T110 II servers, one with an E3-1230 and one with an E3-1220v2, that cost me less than $800 each. I can tell you, they are great little machines, perfect for self-teaching Windows Server or ESXi. I now have the E3-1220v2 set up as my Windows 2008r2 router/DNS/DHCP/file/print server, and it uses a mere 45W of power when idle. The E3-1230 is my ESXi 5.1 machine right now.
    Reply
  • CommentariesAnd More
    Best article to say in your face to those who think Xeons are poor performers.
    Reply
  • vmem
    honestly not surprising at all

    I think 'meh' will be the overwhelming majority consensus on this chip
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    11571644 said:
    honestly not surprising at all

    I think 'meh' will be the overwhelming majority consensus on this chip

    That's kind of the way I see it. I don't think the Xeon is anything to write home about like some people on this board do, but the average user and/or gamer won't notice a lick of difference between an i5, i7, and low end Xeon. I would only recommend them in instances of things like Photoshop and heavy duty CS5 usage, but even then an i7-4770K or i7-4820K would be a better choice.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    While ARM chips may be doubling performance on a fairly regular basis, you need to keep in mind that ARM chips are starting from pretty far back. By the time they catch up with mainstream x86 chips, they will most likely hit very similar IPC and frequency scaling brick walls as x86 chips and won't gain much ground beyond that.

    The only real threat from ARM is to profit margins: once ARM catches up, it may become more difficult for Intel to maintain the large premiums they currently command across most markets.
    Reply
  • the1kingbob
    Did Toms looks at the AMD 6100, 6200, and 6300? That would make to be an interesting comparison since the underlying architecture changed from the 6200 to 6300 (i think, maybe 6100 to 6200)
    Reply
  • Amdlova
    people in my county buy this processor for gaming... need a seriosly test on this. 1230v2 have same price 3570k here!
    Reply
  • dgingeri
    "I would only recommend them in instances of things like Photoshop and heavy duty CS5 usage, but even then an i7-4770K or i7-4820K would be a better choice." They wouldn't be any advantage in either case. The advantage of the Xeon isn't performance, but stability. It's use of ECC memory makes it much better for purposes like a high end workstation for an engineer or digital artist so their work isn't lost or interrupted by a memory error and crash or in servers where it can stay running reliably for months at a time.

    In addition, the chipsets and platforms used with Xeons are more stringently held to industry standards, making them known quantities for device makers. Enterprise raid controllers are frequently unsupported on a standard desktop system with a Core i7 4770 and Z87 chipset, while they would be supported on a Xeon E3-1275v3 with a C226 chipset, even though the actual silicon design is exactly the same between the two.

    There really isn't any difference in the silicon itself between a Haswell Core i7 and a Haswell Xeon E3, so there won't be a performance difference. The difference is in the stability of equipment surrounding each.
    Reply
  • pjkenned
    InvalidError - these are not in the same league as the ARM chips. Avoton and Rangeley are the real ARM competitor. I JUST got two Avoton 8-core platforms in the lab as this article was going live (benchmarks here: http://forums.servethehome.com/processors-motherboards/2444-intel-avoton-c2750-benchmarks-supermicro-a1sai-2750f.html ) If ARM was targeting Centerton (the Atom S1260), they are targeting a platform way behind Avoton and the E3 reviewed above.

    the1kingbob - I have AMD Opteron 3000, 4000 and 6000 series chips in the lab and use them daily. The Operton 3300 series would be the closest platform but the performance is significantly behind the Haswell Xeon E3-1275 V3. Those Opterons also do not have integrated GPUs like the E3-12x5 V1 V2 and V3 chips so are hard to compare.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    11572444 said:
    InvalidError - these are not in the same league as the ARM chips.
    And I never said they were - at least for now. But ARM might get there if they manage to sustain their current improvement pace for a few years while AMD and Intel remain stuck for most intents and purposes.

    Yes, Intel released some cut-down x86 chips to compete with ARM for low-power market segments but this is only a temporary fix since Intel will likely add much of that stuff back in to keep up with ARM as ARM performance ramps up. The interesting part in 3-5 years will be where ARM will go once they hit the same steep diminishing return slope AMD and Intel are on.
    Reply