Remember when everyone wanted Intel’s enthusiast CPUs? Pepperidge Farm remembers. With Ivy Bridge and then Haswell pushing the mainstream CPU lineup ahead quickly it seems like it has been ages sense the launch of X79 and with it Sandy Bridge-E. That’s not to say they still aren’t powerful, but with multiple competing launches from Intel alone the platform hasn’t exactly gotten a lot of attention. Well today we get to play a little catch up with the introduction of the Ivy Bridge-E CPUs. Specifically I’m going to take a look at the i7-4960X, their new flagship CPU. Let’s take a peek at what is new.
Product Name: Intel i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E
Review Sample Provided by: Intel
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
Ivy Bridge-E Overview
Before I jump into testing, let’s take a look at what Ivy Bridge-E is all about. First and foremost the biggest thing to keep in mind is that it does still support X79 and there isn’t a new chipset being launched with Ivy Bridge-E. That means older motherboards have the potential to support the new CPUs as long as they have firmware that supports the new CPU. This is huge in my opinion because one of the biggest hurdles for a lot of people when Sandy Bridge-E launched was the price range of X79 motherboards. Now that they have been on the market for a while the prices have dropped down slightly, while still not down to what people expect to see from the mainstream boards. These more expensive X79 boards are coming with features that are more specific to enthusiasts and as a whole have a lot more features than lower end mainstream boards for Haswell for example.
As you can see above the X79 chipset hasn’t changed at all. You are still getting 40 PCI lanes and quad channel memory, two of the biggest reasons to be considering X79. We see a lot of people build multi-GPU PCs on LGA 1150 and LGA 1155 motherboards but they do have a fundamental flaw, their limited PCI lanes. This means that you only get two 8x PCI Express slots where on X79 you can run two x16 slots along with a x8 or if you are looking for quad GPU’s you can run one x16 with three x8 PCI Express slots. That along with the additional bandwidth is where it’s all at.
Moving onto the CPU itself, most of the changes from Sandy Bridge-E to Ivy Bridge-E relate to the die shrink. On the mainstream Ivy Bridge CPU’s they did major changes to their onboard GPU but obviously we won’t see that on the E product line because they do not have onboard GPU’s built in. So when you look at the basic specifications you really don’t see large differences between the i7-4960X that I am going to look at today versus the i7-3960X that launched Sandy Bridge-E. The base clock has been bumped up from 3.3 to 3.6GHz and along with that the Turbo can now run up to 3.0GHz from the 3.9GHz of the 3960X. The only other change is a bump from 1600MHz to 1866MHz on memory support. You still have 6 cores and 12 threads, more than enough for anything out right now while people (like me) who are hoping to see more high core count CPU’s will have to wait for software development to push it farther.
To go with what I was saying previously, the die pictures below are telling. The 3960X clearly still had the potential for 8 core CPUs, heck I have a few in my PC from the Xeon line. But the 4960X with its smaller die size has dropped those two extra cores, unless Intel is hiding something from us.
There isn’t much to say at our last photo, the packaging for the new CPU’s will follow the same design as Sandy Bridge-E, I didn’t see any black boxes like the previous Extreme CPU’s though. What I could find is below that has the Extreme Desktop branding on it, but without all of the typical Extreme flash.