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

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Multi-GPU Gaming Performance

One of the key target markets for the new Haswell-E processor and the X99 chipset is high end, enthusiast PC gamers and in particular those of you willing to dive into multi-GPU configurations. For a quick look at how the new Core i7-5960X + X99 compares to other high end options, we ran some games on three different systems, all using a set of three NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti graphics cards in SLI.

The first system was the ASUS X99-Deluxe motherboard and the Core i7-5960X processor, the target of our review today. The second system is our standard GPU test bed: the Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E processor and ASUS X79 Rampage IV Extreme motherboard. Finally, to get some data for the "conservative crazy PC gamer" I put together a system using the Core i7-4790K on a Z87 motherboard with a PLX bridge chip, enabling 3- and 4-Way SLI configurations.

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I used the 340.52 driver that was the latest beta from NVIDIA's website. We are looking to see if the X99 platform and the new HSW-E processor can improve on multi-GPU scaling in any way. Or, does the higher single threaded clock speed of the Core i7-4790K still mean more to gaming despite claims that game engines continue to breach into multi-threadedness?

Games were tested at a resolution of 3840x2160, or 4K to really push the GPUs as hard as possible. This also helps approximate performance of multi-display gaming (Eyefinity or Surround) due to the high pixel count.

If you are new to the way we test graphics card and systems, these graphs below are going to be a bit confusing. We use a system I call Frame Rating that uses direct capture of the GPU display output and then uses post processing to measure observed performance. Especially when diving into the world of multiple GPUs in a single system, on-system performance measurements like FRAPS can misrepresent what the gamer sees thanks to micro-stuttering and more.

Let's start with BF4.

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The first thing we notice in the Observed FPS graph is that the performance on all three platforms is very close when looking at average frame rate. All three results range between 99 and 104 FPS on average.

The frame times graph, shows us individual frame times. The wider the line is on the Y-axis, the more frame time variance there is and usually indicates frame stutter. Triple and quad-GPU systems tend to have a lot more issues with delivering consistent frames times, and I see no advantage between any of the three test setups in the case.

A quick glance at the Frame Variance shows that we are seeing more than 5ms of frame time variance (that's noticeable) for 20% of the frames rendered (above the 80th percentile). That's not great, but it does appear that the Core i7-4790K has slightly MORE variance than either SNB-E or HSW-E, telling us that the base Haswell platform is slightly underperforming.

 

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The Frame Time graph of Crysis 3 is quite different than BF4 - the frames are being delivered fairly consistently with low variance, indicating a better overall experience. Average frame rates hover at 34-35 FPS regardless of the processor used. Frame time variance is almost identical as well.

 

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Here is our first indication that Haswell-E, in particular the Core i7-5960X, might have some advantage in multi-GPU gaming. The average frame rate of the 5960X based system is about 10% faster than the frame rate on either the 4790K or 3960X system. Even though there is more frame time variance than we want to see in our games, no single platform stands out from the others as being worse (or better really). 

 

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Metro: Last Light is another game that shows almost no differences between multi-GPU scaling performance on these three platforms. 

 

What can you take away from this quick little look at multi-GPU scaling on Haswell-E? Well clearly we have more testing to do and we'd like to include AMD Radeon cards in the mix (if they can solve a dramatic bug we found in testing) to get a clearer picture. But, at least for this short glance, there are very little differences in either average frame rate performance or in frame time variance between the Core i7-5960X, Core i7-3960X and Core i7-4790K. To be honest, I was hoping and expecting something a bit different.

August 29, 2014 | 12:11 PM - 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 | 12:20 PM - 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 | 12:22 PM - 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 | 12:34 PM - 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 | 04:57 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 | 12:38 PM - 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 | 07:40 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

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

August 29, 2014 | 12:41 PM - 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 | 12:48 PM - 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 | 07:40 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Wow, congrats!

August 29, 2014 | 01:42 PM - 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 | 02:21 PM - 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 | 02:27 PM - 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 | 07:42 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

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

August 29, 2014 | 02:52 PM - 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 | 03:27 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 | 03:55 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 | 08:36 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You're right

August 29, 2014 | 03:24 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 | 07:43 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 | 03:15 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 | 08:51 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 | 12:39 PM - 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 | 04:05 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 | 03:31 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 | 04:56 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 | 06:43 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

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

September 2, 2014 | 10:20 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 | 12:20 PM - 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 | 08:33 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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