Intel Core i7-5960X Haswell-E Evaluate: A True 8-core Desktop CPU

While Haswell's update earlier this year with the Core i7-4790K and Z97 motherboards laid the foundation for a high-performance desktop PC, people who want the fastest possible Intel rig have with the 6-core Core i7-4930K ( $ 555) and the Core i7 built -4960X ($ 990) LGA 2011 chips from last September's Ivy Bridge-E series, which has massive 12MB and 15MB L3 caches as well as support for quad-channel -DDR3-1866 memory.

The Extreme Edition processor series from Intel is over a decade old and was developed in 2003 with the single-core Pentium 4 EE 3.4 GHz, which uses the same Socket 478 platform as standard Pentium 4 processors, but with an exclusive L3 Cache gets. The Pentium 4 EE consisted of 169 million transistors in the 130 nm process and had a price that corresponded to the cost of building an entire PC.

The next notable stop on this line was the 2006 Core 2 Extreme X6800, which used the 65nm process and was the first to feature a quad-core design, although it was obsolete at $ 1,000 from the Q6600, which followed six months later for half the price. The Core i7-975 Extreme Edition came from the Core 2 Extreme, but this part was just as disappointing as the X6800, with no real advantages over chips that were much cheaper.

Although the Core i7-980X 2010 produced six-core Intel processors, it was poor compared to the standard Core i7 processors of the time and, apart from an unlocked clock multiplier, did not offer any significant advantages for which only a few justify a double payment could. With enthusiasts realizing that the only extreme of Intel's Extreme Edition was the price, the company made some major changes in 2011.

Sandy Bridge-E started with its own platform, on which the $ 1,000 EE chips were slightly better equipped than the standard Core i7 chips – anything but inexpensive, but at least they offered advantages like a larger L3 cache . Two years later (last September) with Ivy Bridge-E, things remained similar – it brought a more powerful L3 cache, but its supporting X79 chipset offered nothing about the Z87 and was later outshone by the Z97.

How does Haswell-E correct all of this? For starters, the chip we're going to look at has eight cores, a huge 20MB smart cache, and support for the latest DDR4 memory. The latest Extreme Edition package from Intel is also accompanied by a new 9 chipset, the X99, which supports more SATA 6 Gbit / s ports (10 instead of just two) and finally native USB 3.0 support for the flagship Platform the company offers.

Let’s take a look at the three new processors: Core i7-5820K, Core i7-5930K and Core i7-5960X. Prices start at $ 389 for the 5820K, while the Core i7-5930K costs a lot more at $ 583. At first glance, the 50% price increase appears to be unjustified, and although many could successfully argue that this is the case, the PCI Express 3.0 lanes available, which increase from 28 to 40 lanes, are important here. The Core i7-5820K offers 12 more lanes than the Core i7-4970K.

(Haswell-E left and Haswell right)

So if you don't need more than 28 lanes for a 4-way multi-GPU setup, the cheaper Core i7-5820K is a better buy than the 5930K.

The Core i7-5960X is the Extreme Edition version and a significant upgrade of the Core i7-5930K. While the PCIe 3.0 lanes remain at 40, 20MB gives users 33% more cache, the number of cores increases from six to eight, and 16 threads are supported using Hyper-Threading.

(Haswell-E left and Haswell right)

Despite most cores and the largest price of $ 1,050, the 5960X is the lowest of the three cores at just 3.0 GHz and a maximum turbo frequency of 3.5 GHz. This could mean that the 5960X is slower than the Core i7-4960X if six or fewer cores are used because the 4960X is clocked 20% higher.

All three Haswell-E processors support DDR4 memory with 2133 MHz and we are not sure how much overclocking scope there is. For example, our 4960X was never stable with DDR3 memory clocked at 1600 MHz, so it will be interesting to see if the 5960X is subject to similar restrictions.

The TDP (Thermal Design Power) for Haswell-E processors has been increased from 130 W for Ivy Bridge-E to 140 W. This is not surprising since the standard Haswell processors were rated higher than the standard Ivy Bridge processors (84 W vs. 77 W).

Note that the Core i7-5960X or one of the Haswell E processors does not offer any cooling. Intel recommends liquid cooling and the TS13X solution costs around $ 100.

In addition to a new 9 series chipset, the Haswell E architecture also requires a new socket, which Intel has referred to as the LGA2011-v3. In short, this new version of the LGA2011 socket is not compatible with the original used by Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge-E. This means that these older processors cannot be used on the new X99 motherboards, while the Haswell-E processors cannot be used on older X79 motherboards.

The X99 chipset brings some much needed improvements over the older X79 chipset. Embarrassingly, Intel's previous flagship chipset only supported two SATA 6 Gbps ports, while native USB 3.0 support didn't even exist. This is embarrassing because AMD's $ 30 AM1 platform is better equipped.

The LGA2011 platform is finally getting native USB 3.0 support, albeit on a new version of the platform. Users no longer have to suffer with just a few SATA 6Gb / s ports because the X99 offers a total of 10. Get ready for boards with 20 SATA ports.

Compared to the Z97 chipset, the X99 is no different. The most notable difference is the additional four SATA ports.

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