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Ivy Bridge-E: Intel Core i7-4960X Processor Review

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Power Consumption, Perf per Dollar, Closing Thoughts

Power Consumption Testing

Our power testing was done with the discrete graphics card installed but idle (obviously).  Cinebench 11 was used to get our CPU load values but all measurements are for the full system.

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Even if you didn't find the performance improvements of Ivy Bridge-E to be particularly interesting, you have to give Intel some props for the power consumption benefits found in the move to 22nm!  At idle, the Core i7-4960X is using 10 watts less power while under a full CPU load the difference is 25 watts.  Considering you are getting a performance increase this drop in power consumption, even for processors that were both rated at a 130 watt TDP, is impressive to see and will make enterprise buyers ecstatic. 

Yes, the 4960X is still using quite a bit more power than the i7-4770K Haswell CPU but at a significant performance advantage in threaded workloads.

 

Performance per Dollar

One thing we wanted to take into consideration with this review is the idea of performance per dollar.  To get some interesting data I selected three benchmarks (7zip, Cinebench 11 and x264 v5.0) and included current pricing from Newegg.com (or Amazon if out of stock on Newegg). 

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The projected MSRP of the Core i7-4960X is a staggering $990.  Obviously a better option for performance per dollar would be the Core i7-4930K but without that part in our possession I was hesitant to attempt to "emulate" the performance levels of it without control over things like cache size. 

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Obviously the new Extreme Edition IVB-E isn't going to win any value awards, but Intel has never made that claim.  It DOES improve over the current top SNB-E part though and for workstation and enthusiast users the choice is pretty obvious.

 

Closing Thoughts

Intel tells us that the Core i7-4960X should be available within the next two weeks with system builders and in the typical retail and e-tail channels. 

Intel's new line of Ivy Bridge-E parts pretty much falls into line with what we expected when we first got word about the official specifications of the CPUs.  Moving the microarchitecture from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge results in a very modest performance gain in terms of IPC and the clock speed increase are really only 100 MHz (or, if you count the later released Core i7-3970X part, 0 MHz) left us with performance gains of 3-13%.  Considering that SNB-E was already considered the highest performance system you could buy (for multi-threaded content): if you can gain another 10% on that, in select workloads, then you have an easy win.

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The other side of this story tells us that single threaded workloads are still better on Haswell, which also happens to be quite a bit cheaper.  When SNB-E first launched it was another 6 months before Ivy Bridge was released on the mainstream to usurp it in terms of architecture.  Ivy Bridge-E is not so lucky, arriving 3 months AFTER the release of the next generation microarchitecture from Intel.  Thanks to the 6-cores on the i7-49xx processors they are able to maintain performance leads in multi-threaded workloads but in many other tasks are slower or just barely as fast as the sub-$350 Core i7-4700 series. 

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Obviously there are other reasons to pick IVB-E over Haswell, the most prominent of which is PCI Express support - with 40 lanes the platform supports 3-Way and 4-Way multi-GPU configurations that Haswell struggles with.  Quad channel memory and support for up to 64GB of system memory as also great for high-end users and content creation  On the other hand, the lack of USB 3.0 integration on the chipset and only having two SATA 6G channels native show the shortcomings of X79.

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Ivy Bridge-E on the left, Haswell on the right

So should you buy an Ivy Bridge-E processor over a Haswell processor for your next system?  In my view the ideal buyer for an IVB-E rig is one that wants to use at least two graphics cards, possibly three or four, needs expansion for PCIe storage and wants the ability to crank the memory capacity up near the peak.  If you don't meet that criteria, chances are good you'll get much better value and features by selecting a Haswell system.

Only the select few need apply for the Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E processor - the fastest and most expensive desktop processor on the market.  If you want the best of the best for your gaming PC or workstation then you won't do better than this. 

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September 3, 2013 | 01:07 AM - Posted by Boris (not verified)

"...a set of three of NVIDIA's GeForce GTX TITANs. At $999 MSRP, the TITAN is the fastest single GPU graphics card on the market and running three of them in SLI gives us a total of 18GB of graphics memory (!!)."

No it doesn't. VRAM is mirrored in SLI/CF. Therefore, three Titans still effectively have 6GB of VRAM.

September 3, 2013 | 05:04 AM - Posted by Irishgamer01

IF your a average gamer ....don't bother.
Love one but just cannot get over the price.

Not to be fanboy ish but shouldn't gamers be moving to 8 core
AMD. I know intel is faster, but two years down the road into xBONE and PS4 life cycle it might just be an advantage.

September 3, 2013 | 07:03 AM - Posted by YTech

8 Core is great, but from what I've heard, most games aren't well optimized for 8 cores.

Hence why most gamers used to recommend the 2 core CPU (Duo/Dual). Now, 4 cores is preferred. Eventually, most games will be optimized for 8 cores. I do recall seeing some new games that when it detect additional cores, it will utilize them.

However, note that more cores means lower clock-speed (Ghz) per core. So if you can't use those additional cores, performance is decreased.

As for other usages such as high computing task, 8 cores are recommended (e.i. Adobe software).

Cheers! :)

June 12, 2014 | 05:09 AM - Posted by Dominga (not verified)

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September 3, 2013 | 04:47 PM - Posted by Clayton (not verified)

I'm sure none of the reviewers have wanted to do this, for obvious reasons, and we probably won't know till more are in the wild, but I'd love to know if these have soldered IHSs or if I need to continue my tradition of de-lidding these things. It will influence my decision to a reasonable degree. I haven't seen mention of this on any of the reviews so far.

September 17, 2013 | 08:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I've seen it somewhere.. Ivy-E is soldered to the IHS.

September 6, 2013 | 03:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Any plans to test PCI Express 2.0 vs 3.0 on the "E" platforms?

September 9, 2013 | 02:12 PM - Posted by ZzzSleep (not verified)

There just isn't the single threaded IPC gains that we need for anybody to justify an upgrade from Sandy Bridge onwards. There's also no gains in overclocking headroom either, which makes the processor a pretty lackluster offering over the last generation from Intel.

September 9, 2013 | 07:43 PM - Posted by Dan (not verified)

What's up with the slow memory latency of the 4960X? Does having 4 memory channels affect the latency?

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