Xeon E3-1275 v3: A Lot Like Haswell On The Desktop, With Pro Features
After many years of working with these platforms on a daily basis, and many hours over the past few weeks running benchmarks, it's clear than Intel's Xeon E3-1200 family is progressing along in an evolutionary manner. By that we mean successive generations are yielding small but consistent performance increases. You can use our benchmark data to decide whether a Xeon E3-1200 v3 CPU is a worthwhile update based on your existing IT infrastructure.
The technologists in us wonder if this will become a pain point, though. Intel's competition has already expressed an intention to enter the server space with ARM-based designs that continue picking up performance at a rapid rate. Fortunately, from what we've seen in testing the Ivy Bridge-EP-based Xeon E5s and the Avoton SoCs leveraging Silvermont, Intel is prepared to battle.
What does all of that mean for Xeon E3? It'll almost certainly come under increasing pressure from within Intel and without. The latest CPUs certainly have their merits, though. In terms of power, Intel's new v3 generation shows off the architecture's emphasis on reducing idle consumption. Performance from the HD Graphics P4600 engine is also quite a bit better. We know the on-die subsystem is quite a ways off from what a discrete graphics card can do. But a growing collection of professional certifications at least make the integrated graphics component viable for entry-level design work. We'll tell Intel's workstation team the same thing we told the desktop crew: we'd love to see a version of the Xeon E3 with GT3e on-board, certified for professional applications.
A majority of Xeon E3s are sold into server environments where the HD Graphics component isn't needed. In those applications, improvements made to the Haswell architecture are really significant. Furthermore, as density continues to be emphasized by micro-servers for the cloud and other applications (like HP's Moonshot), having fewer components down on the motherboard helps enable smaller designs. Haswell's fully-integrated voltage regulator facilitates this. The architecture's advantages really map over well to the datacenter, then. Lower idle power use, better performance, and fewer on-board components are all great differentiators.
GPU-enabled versions, such as Intel's Xeon E3-1275, are meant for mid-range workstations requiring ECC-capable memory and no discrete graphics card. I can't help but think back to Chris Angelini's The Core i7-4770K Review: Haswell Is Faster; Desktop Enthusiasts Yawn, where his conclusion weighed the modest performance gains against existing LGA 2011-based solutions. The fact of the matter is that the entry price for a new LGA 2011-based CPU is similar to the Xeon E3-1275 v3 if you're planning to use an add-in graphics card. The bonus you get from either a Sandy Bridge- or Ivy Bridge-EP-based setup is that the number of cores you can get your hands on, total PCIe connectivity, and memory throughput are all greater than what the LGA 1150 platform supports.
At the end of the day, the fact that we have Intel's Xeon E3-1275 as a persistent offering through three generations means there are professionals buying this CPU. The addition of ECC support is notable, as are the improved power characteristics. Of course, purchasing a workstation CPU with on-die graphics over one without means that subsystem is important to you. And in that sense, the success of Xeon E3-1275 v3 is largely contingent on Intel's ability to add professional application certifications, continue enhancing performance, and expound on features like OpenCL support.