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Intel Core I7 6950X Extreme Edition Broadwell-E CPU Review

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Category: CPU's
Price: $1723
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Intel Core i7 6950X Extreme Edition Broadwell-E Introduction:

Those who own the pinnacle of Intel's product stack at the time of release tend to keep going to the well when the next generation is introduced. Case in point is many X58 users stuck it out until X79 came around and migrated to X99 as the next upgrade path with Haswell-E. Now, here we are two years into the X99 life cycle with a refresh to the X99 platform to welcome in Intel's Broadwell-E architecture.

Today, Intel launches its new flagship processor in the Broadwell-E product stack. Accompanying it are three other processors that make up the full X99 socket 2011-v3 stack. The highlight of this launch is the introduction of the Core i7 6950X. This processor is a 10-core beast of a chip that supports Hyper Threading for 20 threads of computing power. Basic specifications on the Core i7 6950X are ten physical cores built on the 14nm process with Hyper Threading support. Baseline clock speeds for the Core i7 6950X are 3.0GHz, with a Turbo Boost 2.0 technology initiated 3.5GHz. Internally, there is 25MB of shared Intel Smart Cache.

While the Core i7 6950X is the big news, those not looking for 10 cores and 20 processing threads can step down to the 6900K and get eight cores that support Hyper Threading, comes with 40 PCIe lanes, and is equipped with 20MB of dynamically managed Intel Smart Cache. The 68XXK series also makes a debut with the Core i7 6850K and 6800K that are both six core / twelve thread chips with similar clock speeds. Both feature 15MB of Intel Smart Cache. The main difference comes in the PCIe lane count, with the 6850K coming with 40 and the 6800K getting 28 PCIe lanes. DDR4 memory support sees an improvement to 2400MHz across all four processors.

Where Intel stuck to the $999 price point on the Core i7 5960X, the price does take a jump up this time by a significant amount for the Core i7 6950X to $1723. That will give even some of the most jaded CPU junkies a moment of pause. Pricing is not much better on the 8-core Broadwell-E variant, the 6900K, at $1089. The 68XXK series are a bit more palatable from a price perspective. Knowing what you can usually expect from Extreme series chips, it should prove interesting to see just how well the Core i7 6950X performs against other processors with the lower clock speed and increased core count. Let's see what Intel's latest processor can do.

 

Intel Core i7 6950X Extreme Edition Broadwell-E Closer Look:

We last looked at a socket 2011-v3 based processor when Haswell-E was first introduced. The Core i7 5960X was the first foray into a 6+ core environment, and now with the Broadwell-E Core i7 6950X we have the move to ten physical cores, putting it firmly at the top of the Intel product stack. To get the additional core and transistor count up under the hood, Intel had to move to the 14nm node using its Tri-Gate 3-D Transistors. Whereas the move to Haswell-E required a new socket, moving to Broadwell-E will only require an update to the BIOS for support on existing motherboards. Under the integrated heat spreader, the die is equipped with a total of ten physical processing cores that support Intel Hyper Threading for a total of twenty threads that can be accessed simultaneously. On Broadwell-E, the dynamically shared Intel Smart Cache has been pushed to 25MB that can be accessed by all ten cores.

Broadwell-E ushers in a boost to the officially supported quad channel DDR4 frequency from 2133MHz rated DDR4 memory to 2400MHz. This boost improves the baseline bandwidth availability when using the higher rated DIMMs. Up to 64GB of DDR4 memory is supported on the X99 platform, much like we have seen on the X79-based systems. As we saw with the Core i7 5960X, DDR4 modules in speeds up and over 2800MHz+ were available at launch, while we are seeing a bunch of 3200MHz rated kits as DDR4 technology improves. Much like the previous generation, Broadwell-E features processors with 40 or 28 PCIe lanes directly off the CPU. 

The base clock speed on the Core i7 6950X is 3.0GHz, reached with a 100 bclk and 30 multiplier that boosts up to 3.5GHz by way of Intel's Turbo Boost 2.0 and Turbo Boost Max 3 Technology. Even with a drop in clock speed frequency, you get a boost in the available core count to help fill that perceived gap in performance. Past versions of Intel's Extreme Edition lineup have run with a 130W TDP since the launch of Gulftown. With Broadwell-E, the TDP moves to 140W, much like we saw with the Core i7 5960X. As an Extreme Edition processor, the Core i7 6950X is a fully unlocked chip that allows the end user to use coarse bclk multipliers or gear ratios of 125MHz and 166MHz to boost performance.

 

 

 

Intel's Core i7 Broadwell-E Extreme processors are built to work with a two-chip platform, including the CPU and X99 PCH. For this launch, we will be seeing some X99 refreshes from the motherboard partners to better take advantage of the Broadwell-E processor. 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, with speeds of up to DDR4 2400MHz 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 are supported, depending on the CPU installed in the motherboard. It makes the X99 platform the "go-to" when pushing 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, much like we see on the Z170 chipset equipped motherboards in the mainstream segment.

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.

 

We saw what Haswell-E was capable of with the bump to eight cores and 16 threads. Now, let's see what we get from Broadwell-E that moves to 10 cores on a new process with 20 available threads to get the work done. This should prove interesting.




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