Intel Core i7-6950X Broadwell-E Evaluate – The First 10-core Desktop CPU

You'll be forgiven for not noticing it, but last year around this time, Intel introduced its 5th-generation core architecture, codenamed Broadwell. On the desktop, Broadwell retained the LGA1150 socket that Haswell used, with only two processors ever released: the Core i7-5775C and the Core i5-5675C, without a Core i3 or other models.

Broadwell was essentially a tool shrink to 14 nm compared to the 22 nm process used by Haswell. The most notable upgrade was made on the iGPU, which we now know as the Iris Pro Graphics 6200. Armed with 48 execution units, it trumped everything we had seen before from Intel, although the main reason for this was otherwise a new and unique 128 MB eDRAM known as the 128 MB L4 cache.

When released, the Core i7-5775C cost about 10% more than the Haswell 4790K and, in combination with a discrete graphics card, did not offer any noticeable performance improvements. Broadwell was plagued by limited availability and poor overclocking freedom and was quickly overshadowed by Skylake.

Just two short months later, the Skylake-based Core i7-6700K came on the market and hardly showed any world-changing performance compared to the then two-year-old Haswell processors, but offered much more options than Broadwell and thus largely closed the book on this series.

The desktop CPU market is pretty weird right now, and since things seem to have stalled in the past two to four years, we're overdue for some excitement. Intel's releases were so overwhelming that they still sell Haswell processors alongside Broadwell and Skylake.

Perhaps the most tempting processors that have arrived for performance audiences in recent years have been those of the Haswell E series. The Core i7-5820K was a popular choice with enthusiasts: at $ 390, it's not much more expensive than the flagship Skylake and Broadwell CPUs, and offers additional cores, cache, and potential performance. At the top of the Haswell E family is the 8-core 5960X, a $ 1,050 part for power users.

It might be time to say goodbye two years later. Intel has officially launched Broadwell-E, which consists of four processors covering configurations with 6, 8 and 10 cores. These chips differ significantly in terms of specifications and prices, so there is more reason to examine them more closely.

Meet Broadwell-E: hide your credit card

We have compiled the following table to help you compare the Broadwell E processors with previous high-end Intel desktop processors:

i7-6950X i5-6900K i7-6850K i7-6800K i7-5960X i7-5930K i7-5820K
Basic clock 3.0 GHz 3.2 GHz 3.6 GHz 3.4 GHz 3.0 GHz 3.5 GHz 3.3 GHz
Max Turbo 4.0 GHz 4.0 GHz 4.0 GHz 3.8 GHz 3.5 GHz 3.7 GHz 3.6 GHz
Cores 10th 8th 6 6 8th 6 6
subjects 20th 16 12 12 16 12 12
TDP 140W 140W 140W 140W 140W 140W 140W
PCIe traces 40 40 40 28 40 40 28
memory DDR4-2400 DDR4-2400 DDR4-2400 DDR4-2400 DDR4-2133 DDR4-2133 DDR4-2133
L3 cache 25 MB 20 MB 15 MB 15 MB 20 MB 15 MB 15 MB
Architecture Broadwell-E Broadwell-E Broadwell-E Broadwell-E Haswell-E Haswell-E Haswell-E
socket LGA2011-3 LGA2011-3 LGA2011-3 LGA2011-3 LGA2011-3 LGA2011-3 LGA2011-3
Price $ 1723 $ 1089 $ 617 $ 434 $ 999 $ 583 $ 389

The base model Core i7-6800K is a 6-core processor that supports 12 threads with a standard speed of 3.4 GHz and can extend up to 3.8 GHz depending on the workload. At $ 434, the 6800K costs 12% more than the 5820K and offers no real advantage on paper. So this is a low blow for enthusiasts.

There is a second 6-core part called 6850K, which also contains 6-core / 12-threads, although it is clocked at 200 MHz higher. The main difference is in the PCI Express lanes, which have been increased from 28 to 40. This is equivalent to $ 5,930,000. Instead of resetting $ 580, you pay a starting price of around $ 617.

Ascending, we find the 6900K priced at an unbelievable $ 1,089, which is more than you can expect for the 5960X and for seemingly few benefits. The 6900K is instantly a bit higher clocked, supports higher clocked DDR4 memory and offers the obvious advantages that come with a die shrink, but otherwise there's not much else to talk about here.

If you thought these first three rewards were rich, you won't like what we have in store next. For unknown reasons, the 6950X has a MSRP of $ 1,723 – yes, you read that right. This means that the 10-core model costs almost 60% more than the 8-core version, but the number of cores is only increased by 25%.

This is an absurd price, which is only reinforced by Intel's own Xeon series. The company's server-quality Broadwell EP series was launched in April and came with a range of 10-core processors. One of them, the Xeon E5-2640 v4, costs $ 939 and, although not unlocked, can operate up to 3.4 GHz. This Xeon E5 chip can also be paired with a second one – similar to how we did it cheaply with the E5-2670 recently. This means that it would be possible to build a 20-core / 40-thread system for about the same price as the 6950X.

In addition, resident CPU / GPU expert Graham Singer (aka "Dividebyzero") quickly pointed out that roughly the same money for the Xeon E5-2680 v4, a 14-core / 28-thread processor 2.4 GHz is available on 3.3 GHz, which brings extras such as ECC support. Again, with the right motherboard it would be possible to add a second processor for 28 cores / 56 threads. The only downside is the locked frequency and more limited DDR4 memory support, where the official specification requires 2133 memory.

All Broadwell-E processors officially support up to DDR4-2400 memory in a four-channel configuration. This is a 13% increase over the DDR4-2133 specification of Haswell-E processors. Still, I had no problems running my 5960X with DDR4-2666 memory, so I'm not sure how much more headroom will be available with Broadwell-E.

The only other specification that all processors have in common is their thermal design power of 140 W, the same power as the 5960X.

Test the system setup

Intel sandy bridge-ep system specifications

  • Intel Xeon E5-2670 (2.6 GHz – 3.3 GHz)
  • Intel Xeon E5-2670 (2.6 GHz – 3.3 GHz)
  • Asrock Rack EP2C602
  • G.Skill 64 GB DDR3-1866 RAM
  • GeForce GTX 1080
  • Samsung SSD 850 Pro 2 TB
  • Corsair RM series RM100x 1000w
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

AMD Vishera system specifications

  • AMD FX-8350 (4.2 GHz – 4.40 GHz)
  • Asrock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional
  • G.Skill 8 GB DDR3-2400 RAM
  • GeForce GTX 1080
  • Samsung SSD 850 Pro 2 TB
  • Corsair RM series RM100x 1000w
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Intel Haswell system specifications

  • Intel Core i5-4670K (3.4 GHz – 3.8 GHz)
  • Asrock Z97 Extreme6
  • G.Skill 8 GB DDR3-2400 RAM
  • GeForce GTX 1080
  • Samsung SSD 850 Pro 2 TB
  • Corsair RM series RM100x 1000w
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Intel lga2011 system specifications

  • Intel Core i7-6950X (3.0 GHz)
  • Intel Core i7-5960X (3.0 GHz)
  • Asrock Fatal1ty X99M killer
  • G.Skill 16 GB DDR4-2666 RAM
  • GeForce GTX 1080
  • Samsung SSD 850 Pro 2 TB
  • Corsair RM series RM100x 1000w
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Intel skylake system specifications

  • Intel Core i7-6700K (4.0 GHz – 4.2 GHz)
  • Asrock Z170 Gaming K6 +
  • G.Skill 16 GB DDR4-2666 RAM
  • GeForce GTX 1080
  • Samsung SSD 850 Pro 2 TB
  • Corsair RM series RM100x 1000w
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

power consumption

Although two additional cores were added and clocked a bit higher compared to the 5960X, the 6950X actually used slightly less power. This is the advantage of a smaller process and means that the 6950X uses 5% less power than the 5960X.

The Hybrid x265 doesn't take full advantage of the 10-core processor, and that's why the 6950X system uses 22% less power than the 5960X.

7-Zip can take full advantage of the 6950X, so we see a similar image for both the 5960X and 6950X systems.

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