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Intel Xeon E3-1280 v2 Review: Ivy Bridge Goes Professional

Intel’s Second-Gen Xeon E3 Processor Family

Aside from ECC memory support and four extra PCIe lanes, the Xeon E3s are very much similar to the third-gen Core processors we introduced in Intel Core i7-3770K Review: A Small Step Up For Ivy Bridge, architecturally.

There are more Xeon E3s, though. Intel already launched 11 different models with thermal ceilings as low as 17 W and as high as 87 W.

Xeon E3Base ClockMax. Turbo BoostL3 CacheCores / ThreadsHD GraphicsDDR3Power
No Integrated Graphics
-1290 v23.7 GHz4.1 GHz8 MB4 / 8None1600 / 133387 W
-1280 v23.6 GHz4 GHz8 MB4 / 8None1600 / 133369 W
-1270 v23.5 GHz3.9 GHz8 MB4 / 8None1600 / 133369 W
-1240 v23.4 GHz3.8 GHz8 MB4 / 8None1600 / 133369 W
-1230 v23.3 GHz3.7 GHz8 MB4 / 8None1600 / 133369 W
-1220 v23.1 GHz3.5 GHz8 MB4 / 4None1600 / 133369 W
-1220L v22.3 GHz3.5 GHz3 MB2 / 4None1600 / 133317 W
Integrated Graphics
-1275 v23.5 GHz3.9 GHz8 MB4 / 8P40001600 / 133377 W
-1265L v22.5 GHz3.5 GHz8 MB4 / 820001600 / 133345 W
-1245 v23.4 GHz3.8 GHz8 MB4 / 8P40001600 / 133377 W
-1225 v23.2 GHz3.6 GHz6 MB4 / 4P40001600 / 133377 W

Three SKUs are rated at 77 W. Like the desktop chips bearing similar TDPs, these feature processor-based graphics (referred to as HD Graphics P4000). A fourth chip bears a lower 45 W ceiling, but runs at more conservative clock rates and sports HD Graphics 2000 instead.

The remaining seven Xeon E3s ship without graphics enabled, allowing Intel to scale back its thermal limits. Five of the products are rated at 69 W. A sixth gives up two of its cores to slip in at 17 W, and the seventh goes all-out with a 3.7 GHz base frequency, nudging power up to 87 W for the sake of performance.

What’s In A Name?

Given so many models differentiated in so many ways, it’s worth revisiting Intel’s nomenclature. Of course, we’re glad to see it using the same structure as last year. From my look at the Xeon E5s a few months back:

First, you have the brand, Xeon. Easy enough. Then there’s the product line: E3, E5, or E7. Again, we get the general sense that E3 is intended for entry-level single-socket workstations and servers, while E5 now spans a broader range from single- to quad-socket systems. The E7s cover two-, four-, and eight-socket servers.

The first digit you encounter specifies wayness, or the maximum number of CPUs in a node (that’s 1, 2, 4, or 8).

The second is indicative of socket type. Somewhat confusingly, Intel plans to use the numbers 2, 4, 6, and 8 moving forward. However, the actual interface corresponding to each digit may change. At least for 2012, we end up with the following associations:

2 = LGA 1155 4 = LGA 1356 6 = LGA 2011 8 = LGA 1567

The last two numbers are SKU designators like 10, 20, 30, and so on. Although there’s no formula to tell you why one chip might be a 50 and another a 70, Intel says it uses a combination of core count, cache size, clock rate, QPI data rates, and so on to classify each chip.

Certain models might also receive a single-letter suffix. For example, a model ending in L is meant as a low-power part. The CPUs we’re testing today are flagged as workstation models with a W suffix.

Finally, in the future, Intel plans to use a version number after the model name like v2 or v3 to identify generational progression. Ivy Bridge-based CPUs will be the first to employ those.

The time has come for those first v2-branded Ivy Bridge-based models, which simply succeed the first-gen parts. Also, two of the new Xeon E3s bear an L suffix, indicating their suitability in low-power (17 and 45 W) environments. Lastly, notice that the graphics-equipped chips all have names that end in a “5”, while the others end with a “0”.

Thus, it’s easy to interpret something like Xeon E3-1240 v2, a single-socket, LGA 1155-capable CPU roughly in the line-up’s middle. The “0” at the end tells us it doesn’t include processor graphics, and the lack of a suffix indicates standard voltage, making it a 69 W offering.

  • aqualipt
    Meeeh, Ivy bridge is a disappointment for the hardcore PC users, although is great for mobile users.
    Reply
  • tomfreak
    Ivy Bridge Goes Professional


    Need Ivy Bridge Goes budget.

    Still Waiting this.... i3, Pentium G
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Skip.

    I went with a Sandybridge E5-1620 + discrete graphics. Twice the memory bandwidth. Twice the PCIe lanes. Comparable price. And the raw performance of the cores is only a couple % slower. A good tradeoff for GPU compute.
    Reply
  • mousseng
    Okay, I'll take your word for it that a $600+ Xeon can be better value in certain scenarios than an i7. But how exactly is it better value than the ~$230 E3-1230v2, which (as far as I can tell) is exactly the same, only clocked a few hundred MHz lower? Is the need to squeeze every ounce of performance out of the server-class CPUs so great that Intel can demand a $400 price hike for 300MHz?
    Reply
  • The 3Ds Max test doesn't make any sense unless you mention which renderer you're using (Mental Ray? Vray? Scanline?). Also it would be nice if you compared against desktop processors to see if it's worth splashing out on the Xeons
    Reply
  • PreferLinux
    Skeletor1The 3Ds Max test doesn't make any sense unless you mention which renderer you're using (Mental Ray? Vray? Scanline?). Also it would be nice if you compared against desktop processors to see if it's worth splashing out on the XeonsYou don't buy Xeons for performance, you buy them for reliability. The performance for clock speed is exactly the same.
    Reply
  • PreferLinux
    moussengOkay, I'll take your word for it that a $600+ Xeon can be better value in certain scenarios than an i7. But how exactly is it better value than the ~$230 E3-1230v2, which (as far as I can tell) is exactly the same, only clocked a few hundred MHz lower? Is the need to squeeze every ounce of performance out of the server-class CPUs so great that Intel can demand a $400 price hike for 300MHz?If you need the single-threaded performance, you need it. You can't get that performance by combining multiple systems. In servers or render farms, you can just add a few more machines to make up for the lesser performance, because they are dealing with tasks that are extremely well threaded – so you don't buy the fastest option, you buy the best value option. But in some cases, the single threaded performance is more important (certain workstation tasks) or you are limited to one system (many workstation tasks), so the performance matters more than value until the performance stops making a significant difference.

    And I wouldn't say that it is better value, rather I'd say that it is necessary for the extra reliability.
    Reply
  • mandrilux
    Nice review, but i'd like to view a comparasion between E3-1245v2 or E3-1275v2 versus I7-3770 or I7-3770K over a motherboard with chipset Z77 like Asrock. Because the E3 is cheaper than I7 and supports same socket.
    Thanks.
    Reply
  • mandrilux
    Nice review, but i'd like to view a comparasion between E3-1245v2 or E3-1275v2 versus I7-3770 or I7-3770K over a motherboard with chipset Z77 like Asrock. Because the E3 is cheaper than I7 and supports same socket.
    Thanks.
    Reply
  • ekho
    Intel doesn't compete hard these days.
    It does whatever it wants.
    AMD or ARM-BASED are not serious competitors at least for about next 2 years I guess.
    Reply