When we tested the new Sandy Bridge-E processors at the end of last year, we mentioned a cheaper version called the Core i7-3820. Although information about the chip has become known, the processor is still on the shelves and is expected to arrive in February. Fortunately, sample units are passed around before general availability, so we don't have to wait and see how they stack up.
The i7-3820 is particularly fascinating because of its retail price under $ 300 – far less than other chips in the series. For example, the Core i7-3960X has a MSRP of $ 999 and costs more than $ 1,049, while the i7-3930K has a RRP of $ 583 and fetched $ 599 at E-Tail. Both are six-core CPUs that work above 3 GHz with massive 15 MB and 12 MB L3 caches.
At around half the price of the 3930K, we expected Intel to slaughter the i7-3820, and while this is partially true, the 3820 remains an impressive example with four cores operating at 3.6 GHz, a 10MB L3 cache and HyperThreading support. Compared to the comparable i7-2600K, the 3820 offers an additional L3 cache, support for PCI Express 3.0, quad-channel memory and a platform that requires up to 32 GB system memory.
Although LGA2011 includes some new tricks that are missing from LGA1155, we are disappointed with chipset support. The X79 is rather lackluster and has nothing new to offer compared to the Z68. Nevertheless, the raw performance of SB-E is the strongest selling point and we are excited to see how the affordable variant behaves and how it compares to the very popular Core i7-2600K.
Some have expected the i7-3820 to be in a somewhat difficult position in terms of pricing. Although processors have a similar rate, the platform behind the i7-3820 is significantly more expensive than that of the 2600K. While Z68 motherboards are available for less than $ 100, simple X79 boards start at $ 200 and usually cost around $ 230.
In addition, the i7-3820 supports quad-channel memory, so users don't have to buy two but four modules. Core i7-3820 owners may pay up to $ 200 more for the same performance as people who choose the i7-2600K. This only makes sense if you need the additional PCI Express bandwidth or the larger storage capacity – or so it seems on paper. Let's see what the tests have to say.