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

 

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 


Our Test Procedures and Test Benches

Our CPU Test Benches for each CPU tested

Intel Socket 2011 (Ivy Bridge-E)

Intel DX79SI Motherboard

Kingston HyperX DDR3 1600MHz Quad Channel Ram

Two Kingston HyperX SATA 3 SSD’s in RAID 0

Intel Active Thermal Solution RTS2011LC Water-cooling

Cooler Master Silent PRO Gold 1200w PSU

Two Nvidia GTX580’s in SLI

Highspeedpc Test Bench

AMD Socket FM2

Asus F2 A85-V Pro

OCZ Agility 3 120GB SSD

Kingston HyperX 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM

Noctua NH-U14S heatsink

Cooler Master V1000 Power Supply

Two Nvidia GTX 580’s in SLI

Microcool Banchetto 101 Test bench

Intel Socket 1150

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

Kingston HyperX 128GB SSD

Kingston HyperX 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM

Noctua NH-U12S heatsink

Cooler Master V1000 Power Supply

Two Nvidia GTX 580 ‘s in SLI

Microcool Banchetto 101 Test bench

Intel Socket 1155 (Ivy Bridge)

Crucial Ballistix Tracer Ram 1600Mhz 2x2Gb

Intel DZ77GA-70K

OCZ Agility 3 120Gb SSD

Noctua NH-C14 heatsink

Cooler Master Silent Pro M 850Watt PSU

Two Nvidia GTX580’s for SLI testing

Microcool Banchetto 101 Test bench

Intel Socket 2011 (Sandy Bridge-E)

Intel DX79SI Motherboard

Kingston HyperX DDR3 1600MHz Quad Channel Ram

Two Kingston HyperX SATA 3 SSD’s in RAID 0

Intel Active Thermal Solution RTS2011LC Water-cooling

Cooler Master Silent PRO Gold 1200w PSU

Two Nvidia GTX580’s in SLI

Highspeedpc Test Bench

Intel Socket 1155 (Sandy Bridge)

Crucial Ballistix Tracer Ram 1600Mhz 2x2Gb

FATAL1TY P67 Profess1onal Series Motherboard

OCZ Agility 60Gb SSD

Noctua NH-C14 heatsink

Cooler Master Silent Pro M 850Watt PSU

Sapphire HD6970 BF:BC2 Edition for AMD testing

Two Nvidia GTX580’s for SLI testing

Microcool Banchetto 101 Test bench

Intel Socket 1366

Gigabyte G-1 Assassin Gaming Motherboard

EVGA Classified GTX580 Video card

Cooler Master HAFX Nvidia Edition Case

Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3 Ram 1600MHz

Cool-It Water-cooling

Cooler Master Silent PRO Gold 1200w PSU

Western Digital SiliconEdge Blue SSD

CPU Testing Procedures

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

1920x1080 – high settings, first scene starting after the cut scene, recorded using fraps

Dirt 2

1920x1080 – 4x MSAA – high settings, in-game benchmark

3DMark Vantage

CPU Score- Performance benchmark

3DMark 2011

Physics Score – Performance benchmark

wPrime

1024M and 32M

X264 HD Benchmark

Pass 1 and Pass 2

Cinebench

CPU and CPU (Single Core results)

Passmark

String Sorting, Physics, Encryption, Compression, SSE, Find Prime Numbers, Floating Point Math, Integer Math, CPU Mark Score

Sandra

Inter-Core Latency, Inter-Core Bandwidth, Whetstone iSSE3, Dhrystone iSSE4.2, Aggregate Arithmetic Performance

AIDA64

CPU PhotoWorxx, CPU Zlib, FPU VP8

PCMark Vantage 64-bit

Full benchmark Suite

PCMark 7

Full benchmark Suite

WorldBench

Photoshop CS2, Autodesk 3Ds (rendering) Microsoft Office, and Winzip

Onboard GPU Testing Procedures (for CPu’s that have built in GPU’s)

3DMark Vantage

Performance and High settings

X264 HD Benchmark

Pass 1 and Pass 2

Unreal Heaven Benchmark 3.0

 

Cinebench

 

Dirt 3

1920x1080 – 4x MSAA – high settings, in-game benchmark

F1 2011

1920x1080 – 4x MSAA – high settings, in-game benchmark

Super Street Fighter 4

Set to 1920x1080

 


CPU Performance

In the real world everyone puts their computer to use in different ways. Some focus on gaming while others might find encoding or running multiple virtual machines to be most important. Because of that I have split up our compute performance testing slightly to help pinpoint what might apply to you the most.

Overall Benchmarks

The only big surprise in the overall synthetic benchmarks was the 4960X not topping the chart in the PCMark 7 benchmark. In all of the others it is the fastest CPU we have ever tested. In Passmark especially there is a big gap between the 4960X and anything else.

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Specialty Benchmarks

Specialty Benchmarks doesn’t really describe this section the best, but basically here we have all of the benchmarks that don’t fall into the other groups. Most of these focus on compute power from different angles. Here we will get a better idea of how the i7-4960X compares to everything else in things like encoding, math, ect. It’s not really a surprise that it dominated all of the tests. The Cinebench benchmark really caught my eye though with its single CPU testing. The Ivy Bridge-E outperformed the standard Ivy Bridge CPU on a per core basis and came in really close to the Haswell 4770K as well. wPrime and X264 Benchmark really show the benefit to the extra cores and memory bandwidth.

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Real World

Our real world testing uses Worldbench to run through timed benchmarks in Winzip, Autodesk 3ds, and Microsoft Office. The lower the score the better due to the scores being times. You can see where Autodesk takes advantage of all six of the 4960X’s cores while the other two don’t. This is what you are going to run into in the real world, not everything is completely optimized. Even so in those cases the performance was still not far off. In Autodesk the 4960X topped the charts as well.

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In Game Performance

To put the 4860X to the test our dual GTX 580 test bench was going to need an upgrade, so we worked with Nvidia to put together two GTX 780s to really push the limits. This should help bring out the differences in CPUs more rather than being limited by video card performance. To go along with the upgraded test bench, I have changed up our in game benchmarks as well. I did test the 4960X with our previous tests as well for comparison purposes but in the future we will be moving to the new in game benchmarks as they are a better representation of what people play today.

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Before we jump all the way into game performance, let’s take a look at the 3DMark Vantage and 2011 results. These are only for the CPU scores, so these do not take into account the GTX 780s. As you can see the 4960X is right at the top of the charts on both benchmarks. Each has a fairly large gap between the 4960X and the 3970X let alone the more comparable 3960X. 3DMark Vantage favors the number of cores more where in 3DMark 2011 clock speed is taken into account more. You can see this by checking out the location of the 980X in each test.  

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The difference between the 4960X and the 3970X isn’t as noticeable in game but you can really see the difference when you compare to the i7-4770K. The 4770K is a fast CPU but the 4970X pulls ahead with its additional cores, memory bandwidth, and PCI lanes.

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Not surprisingly in our old benchmarks the 4960X was at the top of the charts as well.

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Temperatures

Temperature testing isn’t something I always cover in CPU testing only because it is sometimes hard to compare results from one motherboard to another or one CPU cooler to another. In this case I was able to do this with the 3970X and the 4960X. Our Intel water cooling kit is getting a little aged and noisy but still holds up. I put it to the test when testing each CPU while running Prime95 for a half hour each. As you can see from the results below the difference between the two is staggering. The 3970X’s high clock speed and larger manufacturing process really heat things up while the 4960X stayed at a reasonable temperature. With better cooling you could do much better than this as well!

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Overall and Final Verdict

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When I first got my hands on the 3960X back at its launch I was blown away by its performance. Moving on to the 3970X Intel once again kicked things up a notch. Now today with the i7-4960X they have once again upped their game. The 4960X topped the charts in almost every single test I through at it and when paired up with those two Nvidia GTX 780 GTXs it really dominated. The same things that made the original Sandy Bridge-E great are still here like their quad channel memory and the higher number of PCI Express lanes you get over a mainstream board. The main thing that sets this apart from the previous models though is the bump in performance as well as a substantially cooler running temperature under load.

The problem is a lot of people who are willing to put down almost 1k dollars on their CPU have already invested in their i7-3960X or i7-3970X, making the market for the i7-4960X a little tougher. I can’t see a lot of people who already have the 3960X or 3970X jumping up to get this, but those who picked up a low end 2011 Socket CPU at the original launch might be on the market for a CPU that is going to give them a big jump in performance without them having to go out and spend more on another motherboard after paying a good chunk of change for their X79 originally.

Considering the performance increase from Sandy Bridge-E to Ivy Bridge-E I really think the sweet spot is going to be with the 4930K with its price being almost half what the 4960X while still getting you a base clock that is only .2 less than the this model and still giving 6 cores. Hopefully we will be able to get one in to put it to the test as well in the future. So at the end of the day would I recommend the 4960X? If price isn’t an object, of course! You aren’t going to find anything that competes with it. I also stand behind the recommendation that more enthusiasts should be looking at X79 for builds due to its additional memory bandwidth and PCI Express lanes. 

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Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: http://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld replied the topic: #32567 03 Sep 2013 15:43
I hope everyone had a great extended weekend, I know I did. Before I took the weekend off I did have this ready for you guys and I can now publish it now that the NDA is up. The new Ivy-Bridge-E i7-4960X isn't going to be for everyone but if you could build a dream machine this CPU should be at the top of your list.

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