titleThe PC world is always moving, innovating, and reinventing itself. Every day, every month, and every year we see new products introduced from every aspect of the industry. You will almost never will you see any of those new products cause more than just a small hiccup in the overall scheme. There is one company that is a little different. When we come across a main Intel launch everyone in the industry stops what they are doing to make sure they are aligned with what Intel is doing. Today I can finally talk to you about Intel’s newest launch, a new socket, chipset, and CPU. Today we are taking a look at the new i7-3960X CPU and the x79 chipset that is introduced along with it.

Product Name: Intel i7-3960X and Intel DX79SI

Review Sample Provided by: Intel, Kingston

Review by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

What is Sandy Bridge-E and X79

Before we get into that Sandy Bridge-E is all about let me explain Intel’s product cycle. They describe it as a Tick then Tock, like a clock. As they continue to shrink their manufacturing process we will see a “tick” and a “tock” for each shrink. The first of the two the “tick” will just be a more efficient version of the microarchitecture introduced before. A good example of this was the introduction of the Nehalem lineup a few years ago; with the die shrink later creating Westmere. Last year Intel introduced Sandy Bridge and we will see the die shrink to 22nm when they introduce Ivy Bridge.


Where it gets a little confusing is the use of two different consumer product lines/sockets the use of the same i7 moniker across them. The two product lines are mainstream and then their high end desktop platform. For the past year the mainstream line was LGA 1155 with Sandy Bridge and the high end desktop line was LGA 1366. LGA 1366 was getting long in the tooth, and this was even more obvious when compairing performance numbers to Sandy Bridge CPU’s. Of course the 6 core variations could hold their own but were still based on an old microarchitecture. That’s where Sandy Bridge-E comes in. Sandy Bridge-E is based on the LGA 2011 socket and uses the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture, with a few very important improvements to be able to support high end performance.

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Other than the obvious improvement of 6 cores (also note the two other spots to upgrade to 8 cores in the future), what else was improved? When compared to the LGA 1155 socket Sandy Bridge CPU’s the biggest advantage overall on the Sandy Bridge-E CPU’s is the added bandwidth. The number of PCIe lanes on Sandy Bridge CPU’s was very limited causing motherboard manufactures to get very creative on the high end gaming motherboards. A good example of this would be MSI having to shut off some of the USB 3.0 ports when you are running two or more video cards in SLI. With a total of 16 PCIe Lanes a Sandy Bridge CPU was capped with one x16 video card. Sandy Bridge-E has a total of 40 PCIe Lanes. Giving lots of room for whatever you might need. Although those lanes are not listed as PCIe 3.0 they are capable of 8GT/s, its believed that they will be certified later on. Until then we will just have motherboard manufactures mentioning PCIe 3.0 readiness. On top of all of the PCIe Lanes Intel beefed up the built in memory controller. X58 had triple channel RAM, Sandy Bridge has dual channel, and Sandy Bridge-E has quad channel RAM! The four channels together give you a total of 51.2 GB/s of memory bandwidth.

Now although we are reviewing the i7-3960X today, Intel is also introducing a second CPU with a third coming out in Q1 of 2012. I’ve included the family listing blow . The top three CPU’s listed are/will be 2011 socket CPU’s with the bottom three standard 1155 socket Sandy Bridge CPU’s. As far as product names go the Sandy Bridge-E CPU’s will be numbered in the 3k series of numbers with Sandy Bridge in the 2k, and the original Nehalem CPU’s in the sub 1k series. From there you can break them down by the last three numbers and the letter at the end. In this case the 3960X can be broken down by 3-960-X. Calling this a 960 leaves room for more CPU’s in the future with the X at the end designates this as an Extreme series CPU that is unlocked and a flagship CPU. The K seen at the end of the i7-3930K and i7-2700K both also stand for unlocked multipliers, but don’t get the Extreme name because they are not at the top of the Intel CPU foodchain.


The packaging for Intel’s new CPU’s follows the same design that we have come to expect. But there is one major difference, the size. The new size has to do with another change, no heatsink included. With this being the performance lineup Intel has decided to let you decide on what heatsink to go with rather than force a design on you.


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With 2011 pins the size of the new LGA 2011 socket CPU’s is considerably larger than other Sandy Bridge CPU’s. I’ve included a comparison photo of the different between the two below. You can also see a few of the design changes in the heatspreader. Unlike Sandy Bridge the heatspreader has a more defined edge. You will also notice the hole in the heatspreader. With our CPU being an engineering sample don’t know for sure if that will carry on to production CPU’s, but we have seen this in the past. The hole is used to insert the glue needed to attach the heatspreader to the CPU.

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That doesn’t mean they won’t have a cheap heatsink available. They have still developed a standard heatsink for government and business use, you will just have to pick it up along with the CPU. They are also recommending a who list of heatsinks and water cooling solutions from other manufactures to keep your new Sandy Bridge-E cool. They still went ahead and designed their own water cooling solution along with Asetek. I have included the info here, but read more in our cooling section to find out more as we do have one to test.

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To go along with the new CPU you have a new chipset, X79. While talking about the new CPU I mentioned the 40 total PCIe Lanes for graphics cards and the quad channel memory. The X79 chipset takes care of everything else on your motherboard. Intel has given a total of 480 Mb/s bandwidth each to a total of 12 USB 2.0 port capability on the X79 chipset. For the network card Intel has integrated one of their very own 10/100/1000 cards along with Intel High Definition Audio. The X79 chipset also runs 8 PCIe x1 slots on top of the direct lanes to the CPU. For SATA ports the base X79 chipset will get you a total of six with two of those ports being SATA 3. Along with that motherboard manufactures will have the option of including Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology for configuring your RAID on the X79 SATA ports.

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CPU Specifications

i7-3960X Processor

Extreme Edition

i7-3930K Processor

i7-3820 Processor

Number of Processor Cores




Number of Simultaneous Threads with Intel®

Hyper-Threading Technology




Intel® Smart Cache Size

15 M B

12 M B

10 MB

Processor Base Frequency

3.3 GHz

3.2 GHz

3.6 GHz

Memory Frequency

1600 MHz

1600 MHz

1600 MHz

Intel® Turbo Boost Technology




Number of DDR3 Memory Channels




Overclocking Enabled2




Intel® Express Chipset








Motherboard Specifications

Processor Support

• Intel® Core™ i7 processors in the LGA2011 package

• Intel® Turbo Boost Technology2

• Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology3

• Integrated Memory Controller with support for up

to 64 GB4 of system memory DDR3 2400+ O.C.


• Intel® Fast Memory Access

• Supports Intel® 64 architecture5

Intel® X79 Express Chipset

• Intel® X79 PCH

• Intel® Rapid Storage Manager (RAID 0, 1, 5, 10)

• Two SATA (6.0 Gb/s) and four SATA (3.0 Gb/s) ports

USB Ports

• Six Hi-Speed USB 2.0 ports via back panel

• Eight additional Hi-Speed USB 2.0 ports via four

internal headers

• Four Super-Speed USB 3.0 ports via NEC controller

System Bios

• 64 Mb Flash EEPROM with Intel® Platform

Innovation Framework for EFI Plug and Play,

IDE drive auto-configure

• Advanced configuration and power interface

V3.0b, DMI 2.5

Fast Boot

• Fast boot

• Intel® Express BIOS update support: BIOS update

via F7 function key

Hardware Management Features

• Processor fan speed control

• System chassis fan speed control

• Voltage and temperature sensing

• Fan sensor inputs used to monitor fan activity

• Power management support for ACPI 3.0b

Intel® Pro 10/100/1000

Network Connection

• Dual Intel® LAN on the back panel

• New low-power design can meet Energy Star*

5.0 specifications

Expansion Capabilities

• Three PCI Express* x16 connectors (configured

as x16/x8/x8 in Tri graphics mode)

• Two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots

• One PCI slot


• 10-channel Intel® High Definition Audio6 codec

• 8-channel via the back panel

• 2-channel via the front panel

• Back panel support for output via optical cable

• One internal header for S/PDIF output for

HDMI* support

System Memory

Memory Capacity

• Eight 240-pin DIMM connectors supporting

quad channel memory. Two double-sided  

DIMMS per channel

• Maximum system memory up to 64 GB7 using

8 GB double-sided DIMMs

Memory Types

• DDR3 2400+ O.C. SDRAM memory support

• Non-ECC Memory

Memory Modes

• Quad- or tri- or dual- or single-channel

operation support

Memory Voltage            

• 1.35 V low voltage

• 1.5 V standard JEDEC voltage

• Support for Intel® XMP extended voltage profiles

Jumpers and Front Panel Connectors


• Single configuration jumper design

• Jumper access for BIOS maintenance mode

Front Panel Connectors

• Reset, HD LED, Power LEDs, power on/off

• Four front-panel Hi-Speed USB 2.0 headers

• One front-panel Super-Speed USB 3.0 headers

• Front-panel audio header

• One IEEE 1394a header


Board Style


Board Size

• 11.6¨ x 9.6¨ (29.46 cm x 24.38 cm)

Baseboard Power Requirements

• ATX 12 V


Operating Temperature

• 0° C to +55° C

Storage Temperature

• –20° C to +70° C

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Board Layout

Let’s go over the Intel DX79SI’s features and layout. But first here are a few photos of the packaging it comes in.

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Starting from the backside there are a few noticeable things. First its nice to see Intel going with a black PCB like some of the other motherboard manufactures. Without even flipping the board over its easy to spot the eight RAM slots!

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Starting in the top right corner you can see the new LGA 2011 socket surrounded by RAM slots. The new X79’s quad channel chipset means a total of 8 slots when you are running two sets of RAM. Each slot supports DDR3 and Intel has color coded the two channels in blue and black.

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To the right of the RAM you have the standard 24 pin power connection along with a four pin fan header. Behind the pan header there is a small two pin header used to hookup the included remote thermal probe.

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Below the power and fan headers you have all of your SATA connections. The Intel DX79SI has four SATA 2 and two SATA 3 connections. You can spot the faster SATA 3 ports because they are blue in color.

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The entire bottom of the Intel DX79SI is covered in various headers. The bottom right section has four USB 2.0 headers, one USB 3.0 header, a Firewire header, and then your front panel connection. The front panel connection is toward the center of the bottom of the board and is a little more difficult to read when wiring everything up. They did color code everything to help with hooking it all up.

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Moving across to the left side of the bottom of the Intel DX79SI you have your front panel audio header, another four pin fan header, power and reset buttons, and a diagnostic LED. In between the front panel audio header and the fan header you have a batch of small led’s that light up showing hard drive use, confirming that your CPU and memory are hooked up correctly, and ever a few that will let you know if things are getting a little too hot.

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Along with the 24 pin power the CPU power comes from an 8 pin power connection at the top of the board

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The LGA 2011 socket brought with it a new mounting design. They now use two hold down bars to keep the CPU pushed up against the 2011 pins. Working with those hold down bars can be a little tricky, so they have labeled what bar to open and close first. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not too bad, but it is different than what we are used to.

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The best part of the new platform is all of the extra PCIe Lanes that are available. The Intel DX79SI itself has two full 16x slots along with a third x8 slot for GPU use. You also have two PCIe x1 slots and one legacy PCI slot for those that need it. You will also notice they went with a push down design on the PCIe slot locks. This works fairly well but lacks the wing design we have seen on other boards that makes reaching the locks easier in some situations. I should also point out that the top slot lock is Very close to the heatsink just below the CPU socket. I carved my finger nail up really good trying to remove our video card during testing.

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The rear I/O panel on the Intel DX79SI seems a little empty compared to what we are used to seeing. But most of that has to do with the lack of any video hookups. You do end up with six USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports. You have a 5 plug audio panel plus one optical connection. Two 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports will keep you connected and for those who need it there is a Firewire port also.

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The Intel DX79SI’s BIOS uses Intel’s own BIOS design and has a few key differences from any other BIOS we have worked with in the past. You will find all of the same features and adjustability that you would find on any other motherboard. But I was impressed with the use of labels in the rear I/O configuration panel and PCI configuration screens. The drawings are simple, but do a great job of showing what device you are working with. Something that I wish we saw on every BIOS. Here is quick video walk through of the entire BIOS, this way can see EVERY option available.


In our cooling section today we are going to cover both the built in cooling for the Intel DX79SI, and also Intel’s new water cooling called the “Intel Active Thermal Solution RTS2011LC”.

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The Intel DX79SI’s cooling is a three part design consisting of three heatsinks, with two being joined together by a heatpipe. The first heatsink is directly at the top above the CPU. The design is a blue anodized fin design with a black plate attached with the Intel DX79SI’s product name on it. This heatsink is in place to keep the power chokes cool when you get into high power usage.

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The second heatsink below the CPU socket does a similar job as the top heatsink but this time it is also attached to the chipset cooler via a heatpipe. Because of that, this cooler pulls double duty and helps supplement the cooling of the chipset. Its design is the same blue anodized blue fin design with a black plate on top. This time the black plate has an Intel logo on it.

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The last cooler for the Intel DX79SI is also the most eye catching. The x79 chipset is housed under this cooler but due to clearance issues with long video cards they are limited in height. That is why they use a heatpipe to attach it to another heatsink to help with cooling the chipset. The skull design is a nice touch and was the first thing that caught our eye when we first saw the DX79SI.

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Intels Active Thermal Solution RTS2011LC looks like just about any other all in one water cooling solution on the market, and for good reason. Asetek helped design and manufacture the RTS2011LC, one of only two main companies who you will normally see doing designs like this (the second being Cool-It). Because of that this design is very similar to designs we have seen from Antec and Corsair that were also produced by Asetek.

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The most interesting thing about this design is that Intel made sure to include adapters for all of its other chipsets. Because of that this cooler is not limited to someone who is looking for LGA 2011 cooling. The blue LED’s in the fan are a nice touch for those looking for that Intel blue look. With the fan turned off I was able to get a good look at the fan and I was very impressed with its construction. The shell is very heavy and sturdy and the clear fan blade when spun spins very smoothly. The fan reminds me of similar designs from Notcua and other manufactures who cater to the $20 dollar fan market. This is considerably better in construction than when we would normally find with a sub $100 water cooling kit. The glowing Intel logo on the pump is a nice addition also and will look great through a side panel window.

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Our Test Rigs

For X79 Testing

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

http://www.highspeedpc.com/ Test Bench

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For Sandy Bridge Testing

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

For 1366 Testing

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


Intel included in their software pack a program for monitoring and overclocking your PC called XTU Overclocking Utility. I wasn’t expecting much because Intel isn’t exactly known for their willingness to overclock on their motherboards. Surprisingly the software was VERY feature full. In fact it was basically an easier to use version of their BIOS. I put together a quick video of all of the software’s functionality for everyone to check out. I was especially impressed with the ability to monitor every aspect, including fan speeds, temperatures, voltages, and load. When combined with the ability to overclock and the built in ability to load test for minutes, hours, or even days, this is a great piece of software.

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Our Testing Procedures

Aida64 – Formally Everest ADIA64 is a full benchmark suite. For CPU benchmarking we run CPU Queen, CPU PhotoWorxx, CPU ZLib, CPU AES, CPU Hash, FPU VP8, FPU Julia, FPU Mandel, and FPU SinJulia.

Breakdowns on each benchmark from AIDA64

CPU Queen – “This simple integer benchmark focuses on the branch prediction capabilities and the misprediction penalties of the CPU. It finds the solutions for the classic "Queens problem" on a 10 by 10 sized chessboard. At the same clock speed theoretically the processor with the shorter pipeline and smaller misprediction penalties will attain higher benchmark scores. For example -- with HyperThreading disabled -- the Intel Northwood core processors get higher scores than the Intel Prescott core based ones due to the 20-step vs 31-step long pipeline. CPU Queen test uses integer MMX, SSE2 and SSSE3 optimizations.”

CPU PhotoWorxx - It performs the following tasks on a very large RGB image:



-Rotate 90 degrees CW

-Rotate 90 degrees CCW

-Fill the image with random colored pixels

-Color to black & white conversion



This benchmark stresses the integer arithmetic and multiplication execution units of the CPU and also the memory subsystem. Due to the fact that this test performs high memory read/write traffic, it cannot effectively scale in situations where more than 2 processing threads used. For example, on a 8-way Pentium III Xeon system the 8 processing threads will be "fighting" over the memory, creating a serious bottleneck that would lead to as low scores as a 2-way or 4-way similar processor based system could achieve. CPU PhotoWorxx test uses only the basic x86 instructions, and it is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

CPU ZLib - This integer benchmark measures combined CPU and memory subsystem performance through the public ZLib compression library. CPU ZLib test uses only the basic x86 instructions, and it is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

CPU AES - This benchmark measures CPU performance using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) data encryption. In cryptography AES is a symmetric-key encryption standard. AES is used in several compression tools today, like 7z, RAR, WinZip, and also in disk encryption solutions like BitLocker, FileVault (Mac OS X), TrueCrypt.
CPU AES test uses only the basic x86 instructions, and it's hardware accelerated on VIA PadLock Security Engine capable VIA C3, VIA C7, VIA Nano and VIA QuadCore processors; and on Intel AES-NI instruction set extension capable processors. The test is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

CPU Hash - This benchmark measures CPU performance using the SHA1 hashing algorithm defined in the Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 180-3. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate MMX, MMX+/SSE, SSE2, SSSE3, AVX or XOP instruction set extension. CPU Hash benchmark is hardware accelerated on VIA PadLock Security Engine capable VIA C7, VIA Nano and VIA QuadCore processors.

FPU VP8 Benchmark -This benchmark measures video compression performance using the Google VP8 (WebM) video codec Version 0.9.5 (http://www.webmproject.org). FPU VP8 test encodes 1280x720 pixel ("HD ready") resolution video frames in 1-pass mode at 8192 kbps bitrate with best quality settings. The content of the frames are generated by the FPU Julia fractal module. The code behind this benchmark method utilizes the appropriate MMX, SSE2 or SSSE3 instruction set extension, and it is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

FPU Julia Benchmark - This benchmark measures the single precision (also known as 32-bit) floating-point performance through the computation of several frames of the popular "Julia" fractal. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x87, 3DNow!, 3DNow!+, SSE, AVX or FMA4 instruction set extension. FPU Julia test is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

FPU Mandel Benchmark - This benchmark measures the double precision (also known as 64-bit) floating-point performance through the computation of several frames of the popular "Mandelbrot" fractal. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x87, SSE2, AVX or FMA4 instruction set extension. FPU Mandel test is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

FPU SinJulia Benchmark - This benchmark measures the extended precision (also known as 80-bit) floating-point performance through the computation of a single frame of a modified "Julia" fractal. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing trigonometric and exponential x87 instructions. FPU SinJulia is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

Cinebench - CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. The test procedure consists of two main components - the graphics card performance test and the CPU performance test.

Main Processor Performance (CPU)

The test scenario uses all of your system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene (from the viral "No Keyframes" animation by AixSponza). This scene makes use of various algorithms to stress all available processor cores.

In fact, CINEBENCH can measure systems with up to 64 processor threads. ThIS test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects which in turn contain more than 300,000 polygons in total, and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights, shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. The result is displayed in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.

Graphics Card Performance (OpenGL)

This procedure uses a complex 3D scene depicting a car chase (by renderbaron) which measures the performance of your graphics card in OpenGL mode. The performance depends on various factors, such as the GPU processor on your hardware, but also on the drivers used. The graphics card has to display a huge amount of geometry (nearly 1 million polygons) and textures, as well as a variety of effects, such as environments, bump maps, transparency, lighting and more to evaluate the performance across different disciplines and give a good average overview of the capabilities of your graphics hardware. The result given is measured in frames per second (fps). The higher the number, the faster your graphics card.

Passmark Performance Test 7.0

CPU Mark

Integer Math    

Floating Point Math
Find Prime Numbers




Physics String Sorting

Sandra -

Processor Arithmetic-

Whetstone testing is great to see how well a CPU can handle floating-point arithmetic. We also do Dhrystone that is similar but for integer and string operations.

Multi-Core Efficiency-

A benchmark specifically designed to measure the efficiency of the different multi-core processors with their different architectures as well as compare their performance to traditional multi-processor (SMP) systems.

Performance measuring benchmarks do not show at-a-glance the differences between multi-core processors and how multi-threading programs should be designed to best take advantage of the underlying architecture while avoiding the "gotchas" .

This benchmark does not test processor unit computational performance, i.e. how fast the cores of the processors are; it tests how fast the connection between them is only.

Memory Bandwidth-

Sandra's algorithm is multi-threaded on SMP/SMT systems. This works by splitting the arrays and letting each thread work on its own bit. Sandra creates a thread for each CPU in the system and assignes each thread to an individual CPU.

Another difference is the aggressive use of sheduling/overlapping of instructions in order to maximise memory throughput even on "slower" processors. The loops should always be memory bound rather than CPU bound on all modern processors.

The other major difference is the use of alignment. Sandra dynamically changes the alignment of streams until it finds the best combination, then it repeatedly tests it to estimate the maximum throughput of the system. You can change the alignment in STREAM and recompile - but generally it is set to 0 (i.e. no).


Designed by the guys behind PCWorld, Worldbench is a benchmark designed to use applications and utility’s that everyone uses day to day and benchmark their performance. This gives the most accurate REAL world results, something that no other benchmark does. Being fully automated, WorldBench 6's application tests are scripted to run consecutively, and those results are automatically combined and compared against a baseline system. Popular applications like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and Mozilla Firefox are each used as they would be in real-world situations to comprise the final WorldBench score.

WPrime – Perfect for testing the multithreading of multiple core CPU’s. “wPrime uses a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sorting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum.”

X264 HD – X264 HD is a CPU encoding benchmark. Using the x264 codec this test encodes a video file and times its performance.

Overall Synthetic Benchmarks

We run the entire collection of futuremark’s PC and 3D benchmarks. Although they are synthetic, they do run consistent benchmarks on both in game performance and PC performance. Their new PCMark 7 does an amazing job of testing real world programs including web page loading speed and other activities nearly everyone does on their PC daily.

3DMark Vantage Performance

3DMark Vantage High

3DMark Vantage 2011 Performance

3DMark Vantage 2011 Extreme

PCMark Vantage

PCMark 7

In Game Tests

Call Of Duty Black Ops (1920x1080 – high settings, first scene starting after the cut scene, recorded using fraps)

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)

Metro 2033 DX11 test (built-in benchmark, 1920 x 1080; DirectX: DirectX 11; Quality: Very High; Antialiasing: MSAA 4X; Texture filtering: AF 4X; Advanced PhysX: Enabled; Tessellation: Enabled; DOF: Disabled)

Metro 2033 DX10 test (built-in benchmark, 1920 x 1080; DirectX: DirectX 10; Quality: Very High; Antialiasing: MSAA 4X; Texture filtering: AF 4X; Advanced PhysX: Enabled; Tessellation: Enabled; DOF: Disabled)

Performance Numbers

To judge the performance of the i7-3960X we have put it up against a few other CPU’s we have tested recently including the 980X. Between the i7-2600 and the i7-980X we should be able to get a good idea of how the i7-3960X stands.

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The i7-3960X dominated all of our results in AIDA64. A few that are especially noticeable are the CPU AES test that benchmarks the CPU’s ability to decode Advanced Encryption Standard. The i7-3960X did nearly double the performance of the i7-2600 and was also well above the 980X also. We saw similar results in the CPU PhotoWorxx benchmark, a benchmark that tests both the CPU and memory bandwidth. The Quad channel memory paid off with that benchmark alone.



Our 3DMark 11 Physics Scores show the i7-3960X with a considerable lead once again. The difference between the 980X and the i7-2600 was less than I expected, but with almost 3000 points between the i7-3960X and the 980X it was no contest!



The difference between the i7-3960X and the 980X is a little less noticeable (on the graph, not going by the numbers) but with a 5000 point lead nothing else is even coming close to the i7-3960X, including the 6 core 980X.



I was very interested in seeing the results from Cinebench. Not only does it do a total CPU comparison, but we also get results on a single core level. This way we can see how much the architecture is helping compared to the number of cores. In this case the i7-3960X still out performed the others but on the single core results the numbers were much closer. This is a testament to the improvements in the architecture that the i7-3960X bested the i7-2600 on the per core level.


In Game

We didn’t include out 980X in game results because all of our 980X testing was done with just one GTX580 while all of the other testing was done with them in SLI. Our results between all of our Sandy Bridge CPU’s showed little to no improvement between them for in game performance but with the added CPU performance of the i7-3960X we were finally able to see huge jumps in performance in games that were CPU limited like Metro 2033 and Battlefield Bad Company 2. Our two GTX 580’s running in SLI paired up with the i7-3960X gave us a whopping 153 FPS average in Battlefield Bad Company 2. Finally a reason to upgrade your CPU.



All of our Passmark results tell the same story really. The i7-980X out performs the i7-2600 but the i7-3960X walks away with it all. The overall CPU Mark score tells the story with a 4000 point gap between the i7-3960X and the i7-980X.


Pcmark 7

Running just the one GTX580 effected our results for the 980X but not as much as we expected. I went ahead and included the results because I wanted everyone to see the difference in the i7-3960X and i7-980X in the results that don’t use the GPU at all like the productivity score. Not related to the CPU but the storage system score also shows just a little bit how fast the two Kingston HyperX SSD’s are in RAID 0.


PCMark Vantage

The PCMark Vantage results are exactly the same as our PCMark 7 results. The i7-3960X dominates but I can’t help but wonder what we would see from the i7-980X in the gaming results if it had two GTX580’s in SLI like the others. It performed really well considering it was down in hardware.



We have added a few benchmarks to our Sandra testing. Inter core latency shows the delay between cores and you can see that the i7-3960X is slightly ahead of the i7-980X, thanks to the newer architecture I’m sure. The Aggregate Memory Performance really shows the difference between the triple channel memory and the quad channel memory.



With a lower score being better you can see the programs that take advantage of multiple cores and the programs that don’t. Either way, these tests do a great job at showing real world performance in applications that you may use every single day at home or at work. Photoshop showed the biggest jump from the i7980X to the i7-3960X, taking advantage of multithreading and the improvements in architecture.



One of the most used CPU benchmarks when it comes to overclocking is wPrime. My results show a major jump in performance from the i7-980X to the i7-3960X. Because of this I’m sure we will see the i7-3960X being very popular with overclockers trying to break world records.


X264 HD

Our encoding benchmark X264 HD ranked the i7-3960X at the top just like our previous benchmarks. What is interesting is how close our first pass results are between the i7-980X, i7-2600, and i7-2500.


Overall and FV

So we have covered a lot of information. I know as I write this I am exhausted from all of the benchmarking, writing, photographing, video, editing, ect. Even in my deteriorated state I am still genuinely excited about both the i7-3960X and the X79 platform as a whole. Sandy Bridge has been amazing, but as an enthusiast platform it was very limited. Finally getting more PCIe Lanes is a major step forward for gamers and enthusiast. The i7-3960X is now the top dog by a large margin, now it’s time to see what can be gotten out of it from overclocking. Due to our limited time table to get this published our overclocking numbers will have to wait, but if Sandy Bridge is any indication we have a lot to look forward there.

Image 2

It’s not all flowers and butterflies though, it’s hard to forget through all of our testing that the i7-3960X comes in at the price that could literally buy you an i7-2600 gaming rig that is more than capable of playing everything on the market. The i7-3960X is obviously for a limited market of people who are willing to spend an almost unlimited amount to get the best. The second thing that bothered me with the i7-3960X was the lack of any cooling solution included at that price point. I know that most people won’t end up using anything included but the heatsink that came with the i7-980X was more than capable. I don’t think it would have been a far stretch to have included the water cooling kit with their flagship CPU. I think that alone would be reason enough to go for the i7-3960X over the i7-3960 for example.

Image 4

Speaking of the Intel Water Cooling, I was very impressed with their design except one small issue. Going with Asetek means the water cooling uses the same mounting bracket that the Corsair H50 uses, a design that can be a little cumbersome to use unless you have three hands. I would have liked to of seen them go with a Cool-It design for this reason.

Image 13

What about the Intel DX79SI motherboard that we tested? I was impressed with Intel's offering honestly. This only gets me more excited to play with offerings from Gigabyte, Asus, and all of the other manufactures. If the Intel DX79SI is the base, they will only take the entire platform to a whole new level!

Image 25

As a whole I have to give the i7-3960X and X79 top honors. I hope we see more CPU’s from Intel on the 2011 socket that will hopefully bring this platform into the price range of the average enthusiast. Until then we will be happily playing with ours!


Author Bio
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: http://lanoc.org
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's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #20874 14 Nov 2011 16:20
Sandy Bridge-E :D
L0rdG1gabyt3's Avatar
L0rdG1gabyt3 replied the topic: #20895 15 Nov 2011 01:43
Thats a pretty sexy board!
garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #20896 15 Nov 2011 01:48
Yeah not bad for an Intel board eh. Asus board reviews incoming still Nd gigabytes soon also

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