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Haswell-E: The Intel Core i7-5960X 8-core Processor Review

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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Revamped Enthusiast Platform

Join us at 12:30pm PT / 3:30pm ET as Intel's Matt Dunford joins us for a live stream event to discuss the release of Haswell-E and the X99 platform!! Find us at http://www.pcper.com/live!!

Sometimes writing these reviews can be pretty anti-climactic. With all of the official and leaked information released about Haswell-E over the last six to nine months, there isn't much more to divulge that can truly be called revolutionary. Yes, we are looking at the new king of the enthusiast market with an 8-core processor that not only brings a 33% increase in core count over the previous generation Ivy Bridge-E and Sandy Bridge-E platforms, but also includes the adoption of the DDR4 memory specification, which allows for high density and high speed memory subsystems.

And along with the new processor on a modified socket (though still LGA2011) comes a new chipset with some interesting new features. If you were left wanting for USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt on X79, then you are going to love what you see with X99. Did you think you needed some more SATA ports to really liven up your pool of hard drives? Retail boards are going to have you covered.

Again, just like last time, you will find a set of three processors that are coming into the market at the same time. These offerings range from the $999 price point and go down to the much more reasonable cost of $389. But this time there are more interesting decisions to be made based on specification differences in the family. Do the changes that Intel made in the sub-$1000 SKUs make it a better or worse buy for users looking to finally upgrade? 

Haswell-E: A New Enthusiast Lineup from Intel

Today's launch of the Intel Core i7-5960X processor continues on the company's path of enthusiast branded parts that are built off of a subset of the workstation and server market. It is no secret that some Xeon branded processors will work in X79 motherboards and the same is true of the upcoming Haswell-EP series (with its X99 platform) launching today. As an enthusiast though, I think we can agree that it doesn't really matter how a processor like this comes about, as long as it continues to occur well into the future.

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The Core i7-5960X processor is an 8-core, 16-thread design built on what is essentially the same architecture we saw released with the mainstream Haswell parts released in June of 2013. There are some important differences of course, including the lack of integrated graphics and the move from DDR3 to DDR4 for system memory. The underlying microarchitecture remains unchanged, though. Previously known as the Haswell-E platform, the Core i7-5960X continues Intel's trend of releasing enthusiast/workstation grade platforms that are based on an existing mainstream architecture.

Continue reading our review of the new Intel Core i7-5960X Haswell-E processor!!

With IVB-E platforms maxing out at a 6-core design, and the mainstream Haswell designs peaking at 4 cores, the jump up to 8-cores will instantly result in some impressive performance increases in applications that are heavily multi-threaded. All Haswell-E, Core i7-5000 SKUs are going to be unlocked for easy overclocking. As you'll see in a couple of pages, my results in that area are going to drastically change overall performance comparisons.

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Haswell-E is based on the same 22nm process technology as the standard Haswell CPUs, but with an increase of the transistor count from 1.4 billion to 2.6 billion, thanks to the doubling of processor cores and because of the massive 20MB of last level cache on-board. Die size jumps up to 355 mm2 on Haswell-E compared to 177 mm2 on Haswell.

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Although there are (officially) three processors launching today, we only really have a single part in for testing, the flagship Core i7-5960X, which marks the return of Intel Extreme Edition CPUs. Unfortunately, that also means a return of the $1000 price tag! The rated specifications are mind blowing though: 8-cores and 16-threads, quad-channel DDR4 memory support and  20MB of LLC. The base clock of the processor is only 3.0 GHz with a peak Turbo Boost of 3.5 GHz, but overclocking beyond that is going to be really easy it seems. As we have seen in previous E-grade processor releases, we have 40 lanes of PCI Express, though fully PCIe 3.0 compliant now.

The 140 watt TDP is about 10 watts higher than the Ivy Bridge-E i7-4960x.

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The other two models being launched by Intel have some different numbers in front of them. The Core i7-5930K drops from 8-cores to 6-cores (still with HyperThreading) and the 20MB of LLC does down to 15MB. You still have DDR4, quad-channel memory support and 40 lanes of PCIe 3.0. The clock speed increases by 500 MHz on the base clock and 200 MHz on the Turbo Boost speed, resulting in better performance for single threaded applications.

The Core i7-5820K differs even more. Core count remains at six, though PCIe support goes from 40 lanes down to 28 lanes. Clock speeds are 100-200 MHz slower than the Core i7-5930K as well. That 28 lane PCIe configuration might seem like a big hit for some buyers, but I think when you realize that the Core i7-5820K can still handle three PCIe x8 slots (for triple graphics cards, for example) and still have 4 lanes leftover for a PCIe SSD (or M.2), the majority of enthusiast will be able to deal with the drop from 40 lanes. Of course, that price delta helps as well - the Core i7-5820K will run you just $389, compared to $583 for the Core i7-5930K and $999 for the Core i7-5960X.

But let's not forget the recently released Devil's Canyon CPUs. With a price tag that is $50 under the cost of the Core i7-5820K, the Core i7-4790K only has a 4-core design and DDR3 memory support, but those cores are running 700-800 MHz faster than the lowest priced Haswell-E. For buyers that are concerned about single threaded performance, a 4.0 GHz base clock speed could look pretty tempting over the 3.0 GHz base clock of the Core i7-5960X. But buyers more interested in multi-threading have options with both 6-core and 8-core Haswell-E launching today.

Later we'll show you how the Core i7-5960X and the Core i7-4790K compare (as well with many other CPUs) in our benchmarks. Next, let's learn about the new X99 chipset and what the platform brings to the table.

August 29, 2014 | 09:11 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for including the tests with gpus!

How does this overclock compared to the 5930K? I apologize if you already answered this question in the article.

August 29, 2014 | 09:20 AM - Posted by PapaDragon

Amazing! Wasnt expecting that high of an overclock with 8 Cores, the power consumption , nor the h100 being able to maintain it below 80C at 4.6. Wow. Intel did a great job and The Asus Deluxe looks stunning. Thanks for the review Ryan!

August 29, 2014 | 09:22 AM - Posted by Jack_Pearson (not verified)

FIRST!!!

Yeah, I know, "first" posts, but hey, I have been waiting for a DECENT upgrade for years!

FIRST!

August 29, 2014 | 09:34 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Decent performance. Would have figured it would be a little better in multi-threaded applications, but that may be the clock speed holding it back a little negating the 2 extra cores.

Despite all that. It's mouth watering, but I'd never pay $999 for it just how even extreme users will tell you those $999 Intel parts are a joke and that's just a very high premium for those 2 cores unless you're running some serious applications.

August 29, 2014 | 01:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

8 cores, or the maximum for a server part, ray tracing will eat all those cores/threads, and still take hours. It's time for the GPU makers to get some Ray tracing hardware, in a massively GPU parallel type of SKU, and bid goodbye to the CPU for all graphics workloads. I'm talking thousands of cores doing Ray interaction computations, and not even the Xeon Pi can keep up when simulating billions of rays with multiple, per ray, interactions through multiple transparent, and semi-transparent surfaces. It gets hairy fast, with rays, but those images can not be simulated any better way than the original way the eye gets its information, from those trillions and trillions of photon interactions. Even for, Non Ray Tracing, serious applications, better to LAN up some less expensive boxes together and do some work on a home based cluster, there are some fine Linux Distros, that will enable some damn good asymmetrical multiprocessing among wired laptops and PCs, and those inexpensive AMD APUs/motherboards can be LANed up just fine.

August 29, 2014 | 09:38 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This is the best review on the net so far.

The idiots on the other sites are cooling the 5960x with a H80i and then complaining about temps.

August 29, 2014 | 04:40 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

LOL well I did do that at first, before moving to the H100i.

August 29, 2014 | 09:41 AM - Posted by Kingofkats

Infreakingcredible CPU! Fantastic work by a Intel and Asus! Thanks for a super review, Ryan, and I'm still blinking at your overclocking results. Price and power consumption aren't exactly bargains, but I'm LOVING the fact that specs like these in a microATX box may finally push Thunderbolt into the mainstream, with consequent drops in prices for TB gear.

August 29, 2014 | 09:48 AM - Posted by Adam (not verified)

Awesome review Ryan. Can't wait for the live stream! Just ordered that motherboard and cpu from newegg!!

August 29, 2014 | 04:40 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Wow, congrats!

August 29, 2014 | 10:42 AM - Posted by Robogeoff (not verified)

I'm wondering how much of a difference 5930k is from 4930k. Unfortunately, I can only afford the mid-level -E class CPUs.

August 29, 2014 | 11:21 AM - Posted by Nilbog

Why does the heat spreader have a hole in it?

Am i crazy to think the 3 GHz clocks seem a little conservative considering the target market? Or perhaps they did that to make overclocking seem more meaningful.

August 29, 2014 | 11:27 AM - Posted by Aaron (not verified)

Excellent review as always Ryan! The question is, will i ever be able to afford such a monster of a cpu.

My one and only question for you is in the testing, setup and SiSoft Sandra page. Why did you list the MSI A85 (Trinity) board when nowhere in the article was it even mentioned (let alone even closely compare in the stack)?

August 29, 2014 | 04:42 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Oh, copy and pasted that table from a previous CPU story. :)

August 29, 2014 | 11:52 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

AMD 5GHz 8-core CPU: $269.99
Intel 3GHz 8-core CPU: $999

Cheapest AM3+ motherboard: $24.99
Cheapest 2011 motherboard: $228.79

AMD DDR3 16GB RAM cheapest: $149.99
Intel DDR4 16GB RAM cheapest: $199.99

Save $1000 and go with AMD.

August 29, 2014 | 12:27 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

1. A 5960X consumes 81 Watts less than a 9590 at full load. So your power bill will be larger and you'll need a stronger power supply.

2. The 5960X can be overclocked on air. Try to overclock a 9590 and not set you're house on fire.

3. This was never meant to compete with anything that AMD has. If people just look at the number of cores as opposed to actual performance, of course they wouldn't know why this cost $1000.

4. A Haswell (socket 1150) will cost about the same as an AMD system and give similar performance.

August 29, 2014 | 12:55 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Come on Nvidia, get a Power8 license, and build a line of Home gaming servers, with Nvlink, that's 12 cores, at 8 threads per core for the Power8, for the trust fund kids and your Titians! All on a mezzanine module! People with money want to game too. Yes Nvidia, get power8, and you will not ever need an x86 license. Apple too, license some Power8s for your Mac Pros, and stop giving your stockholders money to Intel, yes ARM for iStuff, and Power8 for the Mac pros, and eventually for you macbooks, those P.A. semiconductor folks have such a fine pedigree(Alpha 21064, StrongARM, others), and don't worry any more, about licenses transferring, because Power8 is up for license, just like ARM, and Apple bought you with couch change, so there is plenty of R&D funding to do with Power8 your P.A. semiconductor magic! Refrence Power8s to the mac pro, and Power8 derivatives to the macbooks. New ISAs, no problem for Captain Cook, he has chests filled with royal jewels, and gold doubloons, enough to port OSX to any ISA, x86 be damned! Hell, the Good Captain, just sealed a handshake with IBM, for some cloud connected iThings, why not get some of that juicy Power8 going on the Mac Pros. the more People that license the power8 ISA, and refrence designs, and start fabbing their own flavors, the less High performance home computing will cost, maybe even more than 40 PCI 3.0 lanes for less than $300 on the CPU SKUs!

August 31, 2014 | 05:36 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You're right

August 29, 2014 | 12:24 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Clock for clock Haswell-E is about 15% faster than a 3 year old SNB-E. Eight cores makes sense if you need or want them. Otherwise, not much of an incentive for SNB-E owners to upgrade until Skylake-E perhaps.

I used to like having the latest and greatest, but this 5-10% clock for clock increase per generation BS is wearing thin. If an 8-core Haswell-E could consistently OC to 5GHz for daily use it would be another story. Unfortunately, they can't and I doubt that 4.6GHz is the normal as well. The average is probably around 4.4GHz for the 8-core.

August 29, 2014 | 04:43 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

You might be right - but I can tell you that 8-cores at 4.6 GHz is truly impressive to use.

August 30, 2014 | 12:15 AM - Posted by MtRush (not verified)

I agree, after seeing these gaming benches.
these games aren't taking advantage of these cores, only the ghz.
i'll be waiting out for broadwell,skylake unless haswell-e refresh can take advantage of games then.

August 29, 2014 | 05:51 PM - Posted by balls (not verified)

I have both the Ivy Bridge 4930K and the FX8350. Both are wonderful processors, and without a doubt I use the Intel system for converting media - it saves hours, but every time I see that performance for the dollar chart I love the fact that I own an AMD CPU. With respect to value - it is tough to beat and it is the choice I use when building additional machines and ones for family members. No guilt and good feelings knowing I spent the right amount and made people happy.

August 30, 2014 | 09:39 AM - Posted by Homey (not verified)

was looking forward to this board and the Intel i7-5960X chippy
UNTIL I saw the UK price hikes!!!
RRP $1,000 is £601.83 approx... and the board at $399 is £240.37

SADLY as is ALWAYS the case with the UK
Scan (A Very trustworthy source) has them for...
£759.80 and £287.16 respectively

that's a UK rip off price hike of over £205 (or $340.00)
No wonder the UK is so behind when it comes to sales to the gen pop
I for one won't be falling for UK's rip off pricing not again!

and I was so ready to lob out for the board chippy rammage and graphics cards with approx £1,200 but it seems it'll be more like £2,000

September 1, 2014 | 01:05 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You do realise we have to pay 20% VAT in the UK, right? Not to mention the customs duty and import VAT the suppliers have to pay add to the cost. No "price hikes" here.

August 30, 2014 | 12:31 PM - Posted by Dumgi

Ryan, I'm a new fan of your website and youtube page. You guys deliver great reviews and content. I was waiting for this processor but sadly I need to save more :-(... lol

August 30, 2014 | 01:56 PM - Posted by QD (not verified)

Definitely the new king of the hill. Looks like the new enthusiast sweet spot will be the 5920-30 for the more cost-performance competitive solution.

Still, I expect a new dream machine soon ;D
見到你,當你來到這裡

August 30, 2014 | 03:43 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This platform clearly wants 14nm Broadwell-E for better power efficiency and higher clocks.

September 2, 2014 | 07:20 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Look around: Broadwell-E isn't scheduled until Fall of NEXT year (2015), or over a year away. And Skylake-E may be more than double that. And then Cannonlake...well, with all the problems with the XUV sources and such, who really knows?

September 2, 2014 | 09:20 AM - Posted by BBMan (not verified)

Yep- this really is a pretty big process move so speculation is out there

http://wccftech.com/intel-14nm-broadwell-volume-production-not-started/

August 31, 2014 | 05:33 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

why you do not try with 167 MHZ
What good AVX 2 If you work 100 MHZ?

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