Review Index:

Intel Sandy Bridge-E Review - Core i7-3960X and X79 Chipset Tested

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Power Consumption and Performance per Watt

What about power consumption?  Maybe the AMD FX lineup can do it all while maintaining a lower idle or peak power consumption?

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The idle power consumption of the new Sandy Bridge-E processors is right in line with the other 6-core parts based on Nehalem.  Even though the idle speed of this CPU is now 1.2 GHz (as opposed to the 1.6 GHz of the standard SNB parts) we are still drawing an extra 10 watts compared to the Core i7-2600K.  This could be due to the additional memory channels and PCIe interfaces.

The load power consumption on the Core i7-3960X is still quite high, coming in at 229 watts compared to the 165 watts of the Core i7-2600K.  What is perhaps most damning for AMD is that the FX-8150 actually pulls MORE power than the Core i7-3960X yet falls so far behind in performance.

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The new Sandy Bridge-E part is surprisingly efficient in terms of performance per watt as it is the outright leader in 3 of our 5 comparisons and is close to the top in other two.  This obviously shows the capability of multi-core processing on tasks that efficiently use multiple threads.  If we had compared the gaming performance per watt of the Core i7-3960X to the Core i7-2600K, the results would show that the additional power use was mostly wasted. 

November 14, 2011 | 03:35 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Main and only reason for disabling cores in design is that in production process of chips(for example Xeon processors) they may encounter defects that with this mechanism tolerates these situations.

November 14, 2011 | 03:40 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Defects might be the wrong word here. But they usually do it to allow the other cores to clock higher, important on a consumer product. Less important on a server environment.

November 14, 2011 | 08:12 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The main reason i understood what that they wanted to stay within the 130W TDP envelop, plus less cores means less heat, means more OC, means more FPS.

Unless you fall in the small group of users that do programs like video encoding.

November 14, 2011 | 10:31 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

They could use this transistors for other matters,for example for cache modules, but they don't use these space for anything.With one difference This architecture is similar to Celeron processors in previous Intel designs. In this arrangement cores are deactivated instead of caches modules.Cores is disabled instead of CPU When any of them defected in production process in the factory.

November 14, 2011 | 03:53 AM - Posted by Dave Bruce (not verified)

When will we get some costs and build specs? Also what are the supply lines like will we have to wait awhile before wholesalers have stocks? Great Review well done.

November 14, 2011 | 07:49 AM - Posted by Imperfectlink

Fell a little flat with the render tests. Could you please include something a little more contemporary eg. Cinebench 11.5 please? After all, this is going to be one of the target demographics for the processor.

Edit: Especially need an overclocked CB score. That's what people will be doing with them.

November 14, 2011 | 08:28 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

CB 11.5 scales VERY well, much like POV-Ray, and we provided an overclocked POV-Ray result, so you should be able to use that one.

November 14, 2011 | 09:26 AM - Posted by perfectshot (not verified)

Awesome review Ryan! The performance per $ still makes the i7 2600K seem like the best choice if on a budget.

Can't wait to see what the leader board looks like in Q1 2012.


November 14, 2011 | 12:48 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yeah, I definitely wouldn't consider this a budget part at all, even the Core i7-3930K...

November 14, 2011 | 11:26 AM - Posted by Mt2e

I just feel that if you were to have the workloads that sb-e provides benifits for wouldn't you just get a Xeon based system.

November 14, 2011 | 12:49 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Not if you are a small biz or pro-sumer looking to save money.

November 14, 2011 | 12:48 PM - Posted by Sihastru

I realize that this 3960X is top dog when it comes to desktop CPUs, but I can't help it to feel a bit sad when I know there's two extra cores with an extra 5MB of cache disabled, just sitting there, doing nothing.

And it's not like it's just a certain feature that's disabled, it's two fully hyperthreaded cores! That's like a really good extra dual core CPU that's gone dark, something like an unlocked Sandy Bridge 2100K (non existant, but you get the point). It takes "dark silicon" to the next level.

Is this to preserve a certain clockspeed - power envelope ratio or is this just because there's virtually no competition in this segment anymore? Is it that much cheaper to have just one die for desktop/worstation/server?

Do I get to blame AMD for ruining my life all over again? (hint: it's a joke)

November 16, 2011 | 04:57 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

"Is this to preserve a certain clockspeed - power envelope ratio.."

You are correct right here - those two cores aren't doing "nothing"; what they are doing is allowing the Core i7-3960X to clock as high as it is.

I still agree with you though - I wish Intel had released an 8-core version with a lower top speed so we had two options at this insane price point.

November 14, 2011 | 02:08 PM - Posted by Mt2e

Yer right Ryan about the cost when u think about it.

Ryan do you think SB-E will minimize multi-GPU microstutter? because its basically sb+2 I dont think it will but I dont know how the increased system bandwidth will minimize "jitter"

November 14, 2011 | 02:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How are the single core on Blender better?? The new sb-e is the fastest single thread on the chart with 76.13 sec. Were you looking at it backwards. You may also look into using the new cycles render instead of the old Blender, as it will be the new standard in Blender 2.62 comming December.


November 14, 2011 | 04:57 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

You are correct, I was reading those results backwards. Thanks, fixed!

November 14, 2011 | 04:51 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

this CPU is a BIG FAIL!!!

$1000 and its single core performance is slower than 2600K !

Why are Review websites not slamming this CPU?

November 14, 2011 | 05:01 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

The same reason we didn't "slam" $1000 CPUs for the decade they have continued to be released. They aren't meant for single core workloads and excel really only in the outlier cases of heavy threaded workloads and the like.

No, this CPU isn't for most, it isn't even likely for MANY people, but the fact that it is there is good for the market to be pushed forward.

I don't remember anyone complaining when the Core i7-980X launched...?

November 14, 2011 | 04:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

$1000 Intel CPU FAIL

hardocp link

November 16, 2011 | 04:22 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)


November 14, 2011 | 05:37 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Why in the world would anyone praise this cpu. It's a mediocre step forward from the 2600k, and with Ivy on the way in the first half of next year, a complete waste of money.

November 14, 2011 | 07:05 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I am afraid you are going to be more disappointed in the CPU performance of Ivy Bridge than Sandy Bridge-E...

November 15, 2011 | 08:22 PM - Posted by mtrush (not verified)

why? ivy bridge will be more cost effective for intel and us.
possibly less power and more cores. god forbid faster cores.

November 16, 2011 | 05:44 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Because the CPU portions of Ivy Bridge compared Sandy Bridge are likely only going to be about 5-10% better.

November 14, 2011 | 06:33 PM - Posted by mtrush (not verified)

ya i'd wait for ivy-bridge and ddr4 2012

November 14, 2011 | 09:58 PM - Posted by drbaltazar (not verified)

wrong amd cpu to put against the i7 e3960x,you should be revisiting just the e3960x vs the opteron 6282se,that is the same priced cpu to go against the 3960,price for price the
3820 will be a better counter part to the 8150 or the

November 15, 2011 | 12:56 AM - Posted by DJBRUCE

If I want a top end gaming pc should I go for the SBE 3960 with the ASUS extreme IV m/b with twin 580 in SLI or am I just wasting my money:(

November 26, 2011 | 09:24 PM - Posted by Kaosuonline (not verified)

The twin 580's sound awesome. I'd stick with a Sandy Bridge 2500K and an ASUS P867WS Revolution MoBo. You are sure not going to bottleneck with that (if you are going with just one card then go with the P8P67 PRO. Two 580's are going to draw a lot of power. 850W plus (preferably plus).

November 15, 2011 | 07:31 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I think Ryan did a good job explaining the subtle differences between the SB and SB-E. Moreover, with AMD's lackluster Bulldozer turnout and SB-Original not offering more than 4 cores, this CPU is now the premier CPU on the consumer planet. Look, if you want TOP-end power for a while- you're not going to find it anywhere else ...

... and they're going to charge it- because they can.

November 15, 2011 | 08:12 AM - Posted by t3ngu (not verified)

Another crappy comparison.
You compare CPU's reaching 1000 euros in price (intel) vs a mere 200 euros of the bulldozer (amd).

Compare two same priced cpu's and its more of a test than this complete waste of time

November 15, 2011 | 09:06 AM - Posted by Sihastru

They did that already (and other sites too), 2500K and 2600K vs. Bulldozer, it lost there too.

The idea of the article here is to compare the best offerings from the main (only?) two competitors on the market. When we're in this segment, we're interested about performance more and less about the price. We don't really care about performance/monetary unit, we just want the best there is, period.

November 16, 2011 | 04:34 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

Ryan you seem to be attracting a lot of trolls on this review.

November 16, 2011 | 04:58 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I have always gone under the assumption that:

More Trolls = More Correct in my Views

November 15, 2011 | 11:49 PM - Posted by J.P. (not verified)

Why does the i5 2500K perform better then the i7 2600k on so many of these tests am I missing something. Is there other reasons that I would spend $100 more one a CPU not to mention would the 2700K be worth the $30 more than the 2600K. I was waiting for the SB-e processor but I just cant justify the price/performance BIGTIME FAIL on Intel, just wasted my time waiting for a product that barely outperforms I7 990X.

Is LGA2011 backwards compatible with the I7-2600?

November 16, 2011 | 04:33 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

LGA2011 is completely different than LGA1155 (AKA I7-2600 you inquired about).

Seems a lot of people are mad about this...Ryan has said it like 10 times - this is not for most of "us." This is for a small market of power users, not the people that want the best frame rates on Battlefield 3.

November 16, 2011 | 05:01 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

First, as to why the 2500K might outperform the 2600K in some select instances: because a four-threaded app has 4 dedicated cores on the 2500K and though there ARE 4 dedicated cores on the 2600K, it is possible that the OS doesn't put each thread on its own core and instead you see a bit of HyperThreading i the mix, which isn't nearly as efficient as single core computing. That being said, usually the OS figures this out pretty quickly, so differences are actually minimal.

As for the 2700K - I would actually recommend it over the 2600K if that was your choice before, yes.

November 17, 2011 | 01:05 AM - Posted by J.P. (not verified)

Thanks for your response Ryan, if I hear you right the I5 doesn't have HT. so turning off HT one the 2600K or 2700K may improve some of the non-multi-threaded reliant applications. As for your suggesting the 2600K over the 2700K for the $22 difference would I be getting a sightly higher binned chip with better TDP, clock speed, etc.. I guess I am know wounding id the 2500K is the right choice @ more than $100 less( I believe I heard you guys say as much on the Podcast) do I loose any else then HT with the 2500K.

Thanks Again

November 30, 2011 | 12:01 AM - Posted by ftimster

So question?? If you want the fastest gaming pc or just the fastest system go with 3960x and dont wate for ive?? Asus rampage iiii 32gb or 16gb and keep your graphics top of the line. Money is not a problem but ive bridge whats the deal? not going to be all arround better than 3690x dont want to upgrade again i am currently running 990x asus rampage iii formula three gtx 580's Would like to here a really good breakdown on sandy-e vs ivy??? Thanks watch the show allways!!!! Tim in alasks!! :-)

December 5, 2011 | 06:28 PM - Posted by Steve-S (not verified)

Great review Ryan! Have you ever done a benchmark using virtual PCs? It would be interesting to put 32gb of ram in one of these systems and see how many virtual PC's you could effectively run. Throw different loads on each of the machines and see what brings it to knees.

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