A New Chip for a New Year
When Intel launched the Sandy Bridge-E platform in November, there were three processors listed on the specification sheet. The Core i7-3960X is the flagship, 6-core processor with the ~$1000 price tag, the Core i7-3930K still had 6-cores but a much lower cost and similar clock speeds and the Core i7-3820 was the only quad-core option and was listed for a Q1 release. We reviewed the Core i7-3930K in December and found that it offered nearly the same performance as the more expensive unit at about half the price.
Today we are getting a preview of the Core i7-3820 that will be released likely in early February and will come with a much more reasonable price tag of $285 to fill out the LGA2011 socket. The question that we must ask then is can the quad-core Core i7-3820 compete against the currently available quad-core Sandy Bridge parts that fit in the widely available LGA1155 socket? We not only have to consider performance but also the features of each platform as well as the total cost.
Same Feature Set, New Die
While most of the features of the Core i7-3820 are going to be identical to those of the previous SNB-E processors we have seen, there are some important differences with this chip. Let's see what is familiar first. The Core i7-3820 is based on the Sandy Bridge-E design that works on the LGA2011 socket and the X79 chipset and motherboards currently on the market. It includes a quad-channel memory controller and 40 lanes of PCI Express that are actually capable of PCIe 3.0 speeds. HyperThreading is still enabled so you are getting the benefit of being able to run twice as many threads as you have cores.
There are some very important changes on this CPU as well though starting with a quad-core design. This directly pits this Sandy Bridge-E part against the currently existing Sandy Bridge processors running on the Z68/P67 chipset and LGA1155 socket. Also, the L3 cache on the Core i7-3820 is at 10MB, 5MB less than the Core i7-3960X and 2MB less than the Core i7-3930K. We are basically talking about a processor that bridges the gap between the original SNB and newer SNB-E parts and it creates some interesting battles and comparisons.