Intel Core i7 4960X Review

ccokeman - 2013-09-01 18:35:13 in CPU's
Category: CPU's
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: September 3, 2013
Price: $990

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.

Intel Core i7 4960X Specifications:

Processor Number
Core i7 4960X
CPU Base Frequency GHz
CPU Max Turbo Frequency GHz
DDR3 Mhz
L3 Cache
PCIe Gen3.0
Intel® Secure Key
Intel® OS Guard


Intel Core i7 4960X Features:

Intel Core i7 4960X Testing:

Testing Intel's latest Extreme Edition processor the Core i7 4960X will involve running it and its comparison products through OCC's test suite of benchmarks, which include both synthetic benchmarks and real-world applications. The gaming tests will also consist of both synthetic benchmarks and actual game play, in which we can see if similarly-prepared setups offer any performance advantages. The system will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition, in addition to the latest chipset drivers for each board and AMD Catalyst drivers for the XFX HD R7970. To ensure as few variables as possible, all hardware will be tested at their stock speeds, timings, voltages, and latencies, unless otherwise stated. Turbo Boost will be disabled on all processors to make a fair comparison without skewing results. After stock speed testing, each processor will then be overclocked as much as possible, while still maintaining full stability.


Testing Setup: Intel Socket 2011

Testing Setup: Socket 1150


Testing Setup: AMD 



Testing Setup: Socket 1155


Comparison CPUs:



Overclocked settings:


One would figure that overclocking IVB-E would be the same as overclocking a standard Ivy Bridge architecture processor in that it is pretty simple to get to the level of performance you want with a simple bump in the bclock multiplier and the associated voltage needed to stabilize the overclock. In its simplest form that holds true. We do get the bclock gear ratios first offered on Sandy Bridge Extreme and this chip was able to use the 125MHz ratio without any major concerns other than verifying your memory clock speed before a reboot to prevent a failed post due to running too far outside the capabilities of the installed DRAM.

The sample I have here was able to reach 4444MHz, but to do so required much more voltage than I would like at 1.42v set in the BIOS while using High LLC. This required a switch from the Corsair H100 to a full on water cooling system to manage the thermal load put out by six cores under load. On Intel's 22nm architecture that's going to be a bit high for daily use. However it is what is needed to keep the processor running at that speed. Memory overclocking seems to be on par with the 3770K running my test system memory at over 2400MHz with some tweaking to the timings and voltages needed to run the number.



Maximum Core Clock Speed:

Each CPU has been tested for stability at the listed overclocked speeds. These clock speeds will represent the level of performance shown by the overclocked scores in the testing.




  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Geekbench 2.1
  4. Bibble 5
  5. Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
  6. POV-Ray 3.7
  7. ProShow Gold
  8. HandBrake .9.8
  9. Sandra 2012 
  10. AIDA64 2.60
  11. Cinebench 10 & 11.5
  12. HD Tune 4.60
  13. PC Mark 7
  1. Metro 2033
  2. DiRT 3
  3. 3DMark 11

Well we have our lineup and maximum stable overclocks. Time to see what results we get from the Fourth Generation Haswell.

Intel Core i7 4960X Testing:

The first part of our testing will involve system-specific benchmarks.


Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is primarily used to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:



The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to completion.











Lower is Better


WinRAR is a tool that archives and compresses large files to a manageable size. Here, we will test the time needed to compress files of 100 MB and 500 MB. Time will be measured in seconds.




Lower is Better





Lower is Better



Geekbench 2.1 is a benchmark that tests CPU and memory performance in an easy-to-use tool. The measure used for comparison is the total suite average score.


Higher is Better


Bibble 5:

This test consists of converting one hundred 8.2 MP RAW images to JPEG format. The original file size is 837 MB. The measure used for comparison is time needed to convert the file, in seconds.


Lower is Better


Starting out strong here, the Core i7 4960X is faster than the SB-E 3960X in every test. What's interesting to note is that when overclocked it is close to the performance of the 3960X when that's clocked close to 300MHz higher.

Intel Core i7 4960X Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2 MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is the amount of time it takes to refresh the sheet.

















Lower Is Better


POV-Ray 3.7: This program features a built-in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric Multi-Processing), enabling the workload to be spread across several cores for quicker completion.


Higher Is Better


ProShow Gold: This program is used to take a collection of images and stitch them together in a slide show, using a variety of transitions and effects, to make a compelling show you can share with friends and family. The workload consists of 29 high-resolution images that are stitched into a 3 minute video file.


Lower Is Better


HandBrake .9.8: is an open source application used to transcode multiple video formats to an h.264 output format. The test file size is 128 MB in size and 43 seconds in length.


Lower Is Better


Here again we see that at stock speeds the 4960X is the fastest processor in these tasks, many times by roughly 10% margins. Overclocked again we see that the 4960X, while clocked lower, offers performance similar to the 3960X clocked higher.

Intel Core i7 4960X Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.
















Processor Arithmetic


Multi-Core Efficiency



Memory Bandwidth



Cache and Memory




Power Management Efficiency



AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a software utility designed for hardware diagnosis and benchmarking. I will be using the CPU Queen test that looks for the solution to the "Queens" problem on a 10x10 chessboard. This tests the branch prediction capabilities of the processor. The FPU Mandel test measures double precision floating point performance through the computation of several frames of the "Mandelbrot" fractal.


Higher is Better


So far the performance trends of the 4960X are pretty consistent across the board in each of the benchmarks, both stock and overclocked.

Intel Core i7 4960X Testing:

Cinebench 10 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program, CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.























Higher is Better

Cinebench 11.5



Higher is Better


HD Tune measures disk performance to easily make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.





Higher is Better





Lower is Better


PCMark 7 is the latest iteration of Futuremark's popular PCMark system performance tool. This latest version is designed for use on Windows 7 PCs and features a combination of 25 different workloads to accurately measure the performance of all PCs, from laptops to desktops.


Higher is Better


Single thread performance is worse than on Haswell but is slightly better than the Ivy Bridge-based 3770K in Cinebench. Multi thread performance just scales well above that of the 3960X.

Intel Core i7 4960X Testing:

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA PhysX, and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied – in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses, chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.













Not a whole lot here to drive the 4960X as the top dog on a gaming computer with a single GPU installed.

Intel Core i7 4960X Testing:

DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.
















In this game we see the Intel processors performing at a higher level than their AMD counterparts. Stock versus overclocked shows a slight improvement when the 4960X is overclocked.

Intel Core i7 4960X Testing:

3DMark 11 is the next installment in Futuremark’s 3DMark series, with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies that this benchmark is for Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence, the name matches the year proceeding its release (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 is designed solely for DirectX 11, so Windows Vista or 7 are required along with a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition has unlimited free tests on performance mode, whereas Vantage is only allowed for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all of the features of the benchmark, while the professional edition runs $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing; one to test for physics handling and one to combine graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics library is used for physics simulation and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still seems to be a popular choice.

With the new benchmark, comes two new demos that can be watched, both based on the tests. Unlike the tests, however, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and involves a few vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and presents a location similar to South American tribal ruins with statues and the occasional vehicle around. The demos are simple in that they have no story – they are really just a demonstration of what the testing will be like. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors MSI and Antec on their sides – the sponsorships helping to make the basic edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to test the performance of each card. The presets are used as they are comparable to what can be run with the free version, so that results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.













In 3DMark 11, the processing power of the Core i7 4960X drives performance higher in the tests that it influences, namely the Entry and Performance tests. The rise in the physics score illustrates where the improvement in scoring is generated.

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.