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Intel Core i7 4960X Review

ccokeman    -   September 3, 2013
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Intel Core i7 4960X Conclusion:

If you take a look at the raw performance scores, Intel's latest six core / twelve thread beast is just that in terms of multi threaded performance. Across the entire test suite it is faster at completing a workload at stock speeds than anything else on the market. Is it fast enough to move up from Sandy Bridge Extreme? It all comes down to a matter of performance versus dollars spent. On average the improvement borders on 10% through the test suite. If a 10% boost in productivity is worth it, then by all means yes. Add in the additional native PCIe 3.0 lanes that can support extra PCIe-based RAID cards and multi GPU configurations that can benefit from the added bandwidth, and you may end up with even better boosts in productivity.

To push that point home I found that when overclocked to 4.4GHz the Core i7 4960X is just about as fast as the Core i7 3960X Sandy Bridge Extreme clocked close to 300MHz higher at 4.7GHz. That's progress as they say. Each and every test had measurable improvements over the prior generation. All at the relatively static price point of $990 for an Extreme Edition processor. All that performance is going to benefit anyone needing the impressive memory bandwidth and up to 64GB of DRAM capacity available with the socket 2011 X79 platform.

As far as gaming performance goes, using a single discrete graphics card pushing a 1920x1080 resolution with high settings, you are not going to net the end user any real difference in gaming FPS performance since the GPU is going to prove out to be your limiting factor. Where the Core i7 4960X can shine outside the content creation bubble is when you are populating three or four PCIe slots with graphics cards pushing large, three to six panel Eyefinity or Surround displays for that ultimate high end gaming rig.

Overclocking on the Core i7 4960X was bit of a disappointment after pushing to over 4.7GHz on the Core i7 3960X Sandy Bridge Extreme with a core clock of only 4.44GHz possible on this chip fully Prime 95 stable. At 4.44GHz I had to push 1.42v through it to gain stability. A push to 4500MHz needed another boost in vcore that really was too high for daily use on Intel's 22nm architecture long term. It could be just my sample and is hopefully not the norm or average for the 4960X.

Temperatures were surprisingly not bad after playing with Haswell for the past couple months. Even so, 1.42v is going to need a solid liquid cooling solution to keep the thermal load in check. Memory overclocking seems better on Ivy Bridge Extreme as I can get my 2133MHz rated test system memory up and over 2400MHz, whereas I could only reach into the mid 2300MHz range on the 3960X with the same set of modules. Small improvements, but improvements just the same.

Intel's Extreme Edition processors have always been the parts for the uncompromising power user. As such they carry with them a price tag that may or may not be out of reach for the rest of the market. For those who can and do use the processing power, memory bandwidth, and PCIe bandwidth, it's a win-win part that is a fast and efficient no compromise solution.

 

Pros:

  • Improved IPC performance
  • Improved memory overclocking
  • High PCIe 3.0 lane count

 

Cons:

  • Price
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