Intel Core i7 5960X Extreme Edition Reviewccokeman -
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Intel Core i7 5960X Extreme Edition: Introduction
Intel's X79 Extreme series platform has been out for a while now, but technology has started passing it by. In the three years since the X79 Extreme series platform was introduced, there have been three mainstream performance chipsets (Z77, Z87, and Z97) along with two sockets (1155 and 1150) that have added functionality, while we only got a refresh on the original X79 platform last year. The time has finally come for Intel to take the wraps off what has been more or less known for a while now with the introduction of the X99 platform and new Haswell-E processors.
Today Intel launches its new flagship processor, the Core i7 5960X, as the top processor in its product stack. Basic specifications on the Core i7 5960X are eight physical cores and, with Hyper Threading support, 16 threads of processing power. Also launching today with the 5960X will be the Core i7 5930K (a six core, 12 thread processor) and the 5820K that takes a step up from the 4820K with an additional pair of cores to make it a six core, 12 thread processor. While the 5960X has 20MB of dynamically shared cache, the 5930K sees only 15MB and the 5820K sees a further drop to 10MB of cache. Another key difference that sets these processors apart is that the Core i7 5820K sees a reduction in the amount of PCIe lanes to 29 PCIe lanes instead of the 40 seen on the 5930K and 5960X.
With the new platform and X99 chipset we see a new socket rather than the familiar LGA 2011 socket, with a revision to the socket labeled as LGA 2011-v3. While the socket is still a 2011 pin socket, earlier Exteme Edition socket 2011 CPUs are not compatible. To further separate the platforms, Intel has introduced DDR4 memory support and usage on the latest Hawell-E Core series processors as a way to further boost memory performance, albeit at the cost of some latency due to the change in voltage applied to the DIMMs and the timings that can be run with currently available memory ICs. It is much like what we saw with DDR3 DRAM as the process and ICs matured.
With eight cores on board pricing is going to be a concern, but Intel is sticking to the $999 price point for the Core i7 5960X Extreme series processor; the K SKU chips are more or less at the same levels as we saw with Ivy Bridge-E at $555 for the 5930K and the 5820K coming in at $389.The 4960X saw a performance boost by way of not only the process improvement, but a clock speed boost as well. Haswell-E, specifically the Core i7 5960X I am looking at today, does not get its performance boost from raw clock speed, with a base clock speed of 3.0GHz and Turbo Boost speed of 3.5GHz. That boost comes when you can take advantage of the 16 processing threads available to deliver a huge step in performance while taking just a small bit more out of your electrical budget with the rise in TDP from 130W to 140W.
Knowing what Extreme series chips are all about, it will prove interesting to see just how the 5960X performs given the lower clock speed and IPC improvements. Let's dig a little deeper to see just what kind of performance is available.
Intel Core i7 5960X Extreme Edition: Closer Look
We finally see the successor to X79 with the X99 chipset and socket 201- v3 processors that are based on Intel's Haswell microarchitecture. The Core i7 5960X is at the top of the food chain for this platform and is built upon the company's tried and true 22nm process. By using a different socket, previous generation socket 2011 processors are not compatible with X99-based motherboards. The Core i7 5960X transistor count has spiked from the 1.86 billion transistors on the Core i7 4960X to 2.6 billion 22nm Tri-Gate 3-D Transistors on the Core i7 5960X, with a corresponding bump in die size from 15.0 mm x 17.1 mm to 17.6mm x 20.2mm. Under the integrated heat spreader, the die is equipped with a total of eight physical processing cores that support Intel Hyper Threading for a total of sixteen threads that can be accessed simultaneously. There is a boost up to 20MB of dynamically shared Intel Smart Cache that can be accessed by all eight cores.
With the new socket and increase in physical core count, Intel again changed the game and is the first to integrate DDR4 with support for Quad Channel 2133MHz rated DDR4 memory using both 4 and 8GB DIMMs that not only bumps up the native support speed, but drives bandwidth up even higher at those stock speeds. Up to 64GB of DDR4 is supported on this platform, much like we have seen on the X79-based systems. With the memory clocking abilities of non-Extreme Edition Haswell silicone, we should see some significant improvements in memory clock speeds. With DDR4 modules out already at 2800MHz+ it should prove interesting.
The base clock speed on the Core i7 5960X is 3.0GHz, reached with a 100 bclk and 30 multiplier that boosts up to 3.5GHz by way of Intel's Turbo Boost 2 Technology. Despite the drop in clock speed there is an upside with the addition of two more cores. Past versions of Intel's Extreme Edition lineup have run with a 130W TDP since the launch of Gulftown. With this launch the processor TDP takes a jump to 140W, but again you are giving up 10W for two additional physical cores, so the tradeoff is not as bad as it looks when you begin to look at raw performance. As an Extreme Edition processor, the 5960X is fully unlocked and is equipped to use coarse bclk multipliers or gear ratios of 125MHz and 166MHz.
Retail packaging on the Core i7 5960X, 5930K, and 5820K is fair'y consistent with last year's IVB-E offerings, and each SKU will be shipped without an included boxed cooling solution. The added cost would be absorbed by the consumer and most people running this caliber of a system will most likely choose their own more robust solution anyhow. On the flip side Intel will still be offering an all-in-one liquid cooling solution, much like it did when socket 2011 launched with Sandy Bridge Extreme. If the TS13X looks familiar, it should, as the RTS2011LC is basically the same part. It is still Asetek built, but with an improved pump head assembly. Pricing on the slides provided by Intel show the price for this solution to be in the $85 to $100 range, comparable with some of the high end AIO systems on the aftermarket.
Intel's Core i7 5960X Haswell Extreme processors are designed to work with a two-chip platform including the CPU and X99 PCH. The bulk of the I/O comes from the X99 Platform Control Hub with much of the PCIe connectivity and DRAM functionality coming straight off the CPU. Four channels of DRAM are supported, much like on X79 socket 2011 systems, but with Haswell-E we see the introduction of DDR4 with speeds of up to DDR4 2133MHz officially supported. There are a total of 40/28 lanes of PCIe 3.0 graphics bandwidth coming straight from the die. Configurations of two 16x + one 8x and five 8x are supported, depending on the CPU, making this platform preferable when running multiple discrete graphics cards in SLI or CrossFireX. It is a huge benefit when compared to systems limited to 16 lanes of PCIe 3.0 bandwidth trying to run a multi GPU configuration.
Additional hardware on the board is needed to run the five 8x configuration. The interconnect between the CPU and PCH is a DMI 2.0 x4 20 Gbit/s connection, much like what is used on the X79 platform. Eight PCIe 2.0 lanes are available from the X99 PCH supporting up to 5Gb/s bi-directionally. A total of fourteen USB ports come off the X99 PCH with six of these being Super Speed USB 3.0 ports with the balance being USB 2.0 ports. Intel Gigabit LAN, Intel HD Audio, and 10 SATA 6Gb/s ports supporting Intel's Rapid Storage Technology 13.1 are attached to the X99 PCH. Also pulling off the X99 PCH are support for Intel's own Extreme Tuning utility and the Management engine.
The CPU will not run on its own any way you look at it. For the supporting cast I will be using ASUS' new X99 offering, the X99 Deluxe, that takes a broad step away from the gold and black theme and comes to the plate with an interesting design of white and black. The change to DDR4 memory means that my stock pile of DDR3 DIMMs are useless for this platform. Corsair stepped in and supplied a set of its DDR4 2800MHz modules. I will be looking at these closer in a later review, but for now this makes up the base of the test system.
Eagerly anticipated for some time now, the wait is over to see just how good Haswell Extreme is or isn't.