Intel Core i7 4960X Reviewccokeman - September 3, 2013
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Intel Core i7 4960X Introduction:
It's been close to two years in the making and we finally have a successor to the Sandy Bridge-based socket 2011 processors at the top of Intel's product stack. In many respects the Ivy Bridge Extreme series processors will mirror those in the Sandy Bridge Extreme product launch with a pair of six core, twelve thread parts with a four core, eight thread part with similar naming structures as well. At launch the Core i7 4960X and 4930K will be fully unlocked, overclocking enabled parts with the quad-core 4820K most likely following as a partially unlocked part. The difference in the SKUs comes not only in the core count but in the amount of L3 dynamically shared cache available to the cores with the 4960X having 15MB, the 4930K at 12, and the 4820K at 10MB, or 2MB more than on the Haswell-based 4770K.
Pricing, at least based on the slides from Intel, will follow the price points of $990, $555, and $310 as you move down the product stack. Other than the obvious similarities with SB-E, Ivy Bridge Extreme comes with boosts in clock speed and a new set of features that cater to the enthusiast, including increased bclk multiplier levels of up to 63, real time by core overclocking, power limits, and turbo voltage control. Memory frequencies are unlocked in 266MHz increments. We get coarse bclk ratio adjustment of 125MHz and 166MHz, as well as granular single bclock adjustability, power limit overrides, improved memory support at 1866MHz, and all the things that made Sandy Bridge Extreme successful.
If the performance of the Core i7 3960X was impressive and we get the IPC improvements of the Ivy Bridge architecture, then the 4960X should prove equally as exciting.
Intel Core i7 4960X Closer Look:
Intel's Ivy Bridge processor for the Extreme line up follows the same evolution process as the mainstream parts with a drop to 22nm. With that drop we get a new processor at the top of the Intel product stack that houses 1.86 billion transistors in a die that measures 15.0 mm x 17.1 mm [257 mm2]. Fewer than the 2.27 billion under the lid on Sandy Bridge Extreme. Much of what is going on at die level is almost a carbon copy of what we had with Sandy Bridge Extreme. Under the integrated heat spreader, the die is equipped with six physical processing cores that support Intel Hyper-Threading for a total of twelve threads that can be accessed simultaneously. We see the same 15MB of dynamically shared Intel Smart Cache that can be accessed by all six cores. New for IVB-E is native support for Quad Channel 1866MHz rated DDR3 memory that improves the available memory bandwidth at stock speeds. The base clock speed on the Core i7 4960X is 3.6GHz, reached with a 100 bclk and 36 multiplier that boosts up to 4GHz by way of Intel's Turbo Boost Technology. Even with the increase in clock speed the Core i7 4960X still runs within the 130W TDP that has been the same since the socket 1366 Extreme Editions were released. As an Extreme Edition processor, the 4960X is fully unlocked with a multiplier limit of 63 and is equipped to use coarse bclk multipliers or gear ratios of 125MHz and 166MHz.
Retail packaging on the Core i7 4960X, 4930K, and 4820K all will be shipped without an included boxed cooling solution. The main reason is that it is added cost to the consumer and that a boxed solution would have to be fairly robust, just like what Intel offered when Gulftown was launched. Considering that most users will opt for an aftermarket cooling solution to keep these large packages cool, it's a smart move. On the flip side Intel will 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 to be in the $85 to $100 range.
Intels Core i7 4960X Ivy Bridge Extreme processors are designed to work with a two-chip platform, with the bulk of the I/O on die and the Platform Control Hub taking care of the rest of the functions. Much like with Sandy Bridge Extreme, Ivy Bridge Extreme has four memory channels, each supporting bandwidth of 14.9GB/s instead of 12.8GB/s due to the bump in memory speed support to 1866MHz that drives another boost in bandwidth for the platform. There are a total of 40 lanes of PCIe 3.0 graphics bandwidth, with each lane carrying 1GB/s of data bi-directionally. Multiple GPUs are supported in several configurations that with the addition of PCIe 3.0 support natively should improve multi-GPU performance over a non-X79 system. Eight PCIe 2.0 lanes are available from the X79 PCH. A total of fourteen USB 2.0 ports, Intel Gigabit LAN, Intel HD Audio, and six SATA ports are attached to the X79 PCH. In the block diagrams below you can see the differences brought about by Ivy Bridge Extreme.
Eagerly anticipated for some time now, the waiting is over to see just how good Ivy Bridge Extreme is or isn't.