Review Index:

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

Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Very Minor Changes

November 14th, 2011 - that is the date that Intel introduced the LGA 2011 socket and the Sandy Bridge-E processor. Intel continued their pattern of modifying their mainstream architecture, Sandy Bridge at the time, into a higher performance (and higher priced) enthusiast class. The new socket differentiated these components into their own category for workstation users and others who demand top performance. Today Intel officially unveils the Ivy Bridge-E platform with essentially the same mindset.

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The top end offering under the IVB-E name is the Core i7-4960X, a six-core, HyperThreaded processor with Turbo Boost technology and up to 15MB of L3 cache.  Sound familiar?  It should. There is really very little different about the new 4960X when compared to the Sandy Bridge-E Core i7-3960X released in 2011.  In fact, the new processors use the exact same socket and will work on the same X79 motherboards already on the market.  (Pending, of course, on whether your manufacturer has updated the UEFI/Firmware accordingly.) 


The Ivy Bridge-E Platform

Even though the platform and features are nearly identical between Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge-E there are some readers that might need a refresher or maybe had never really investigated Socket 2011 products before today.  I'll step through the major building blocks of the new Core i7-4960X just in case.

Continue reading our review of the Intel Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E Processor!!

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As the name implies, the Ivy Bridge-E processors are based on the Ivy Bridge architecture that we are already familiar with in the mainstream Intel processor segment.  Thus, the architecture does not include the advantages and IPC improvements of Haswell (released just this past June).  Even though the IVB and IVB-E parts share the same basic architecture, they are different in some very important ways. 

First, the IVB-E parts will include up to 6 cores and 12 processing threads; only the Core i7-4820K will share the same core count (quad-core) of the mainstream IVB CPUs. Second, IVB-E does not include any kind of integrated graphics; while I would not normally care about that omission for an enthusiast CPU, the lack of QuickSync transcoding acceleration is something that I wish Intel had found a way to integrate. 

Third, the memory controller on IVB-E is quad-channel as opposed to the dual-channel controller found on the mainstream platforms.  This means that nearly all X79 boards will ship with at least 4 DIMM slots while most will actually have 8, supporting as much as 64GB of system memory.  It also means you'll need a four DIMM kit to take full advantage of the memory bandwidth available on IVB-E. 

Another important change is the move from 16 lanes of PCI Express up to 40 lanes!  This means that the X79 + IVB-E systems can easily support 3- and 4-card graphics configurations without the need for external PCIe bridge chips. 

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This die shot of the Core i7-4960X shows the six processing cores as well as the large L3 shared cache that is as large as 15MB depending on the SKU you purchase. 

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Intel has some pretty lofty goals for the performance advantages of Ivy Bridge-E over Sandy Bridge-E and even over the latest Haswell Core i7-4770K.  Some of these metrics are fair while others are pretty misleading; the 36% faster in 3D gaming result for example is based solely on the physics test of 3DMark Fire Strike.

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Here is the lineup of IVB-E parts that will be available starting this month.  The flagship Extreme Edition processor is the Core i7-4960X that runs at a base clock of 3.6 GHz and a top turbo speed of 4.0 GHz.  The Core i7-4930K is bound to be much more popular with a base clock of 3.4 GHz and a Turbo Boost frequency of 3.9 GHz, all while being priced $435 lower.  Finally, the quad-core variant is the Core i7-3820K that will be sold at a $310 level but enables the features and support of the X79 platform at the lowest possible price. 

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One thing that Intel does do right with the X79 platform and associated processors is enable overclocking pretty much without restriction.  The cores are unlocked on all three CPUs being released today and Intel has even added the ability to adjust core clocking, power limits and turbo voltages in real time via software. 

Video News

September 3, 2013 | 04:07 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 | 08:04 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 | 10:03 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! :)

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September 3, 2013 | 07:47 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 | 11:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

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

September 6, 2013 | 06:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

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

September 9, 2013 | 05:12 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 | 10:43 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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