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Intel Core i9 7980XE & Core i9 7960X Review

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Intel Core i9 7980XE & Core i9 7960X Testing:

Running a processor through a series of workloads can give us an indication of just how it will perform when compared to other processors and platforms. I will be running Intels Core i9 7980XE and Core i9 7960X and 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 gameplay, in which we can see if similarly-prepared setups offer any performance advantages. The system will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 10 Professional 64-bit edition, in addition to the latest chipset drivers for each board and GeForce drivers for the NVIDIA GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition. To ensure as few variables as possible, all hardware will be tested at their stock speeds, timings, voltages, and latencies, unless otherwise stated. After stock speed testing, each processor will then be overclocked as much as possible, while still maintaining full stability.

Testing Setup: Intel Socket 2066 18 & 16 Core

  • Processors: Intel Core i9 7980XE, Intel Core i9 7960X
  • CPU Cooling: Liquid cooling = EK Block and 360mm Radiator, D5 pump
  • Motherboard: MSI X299 Xpower AC
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V 3600MHz 32GB
  • Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition
  • Power Supply: Corsair RM1000x
  • Hard Drive: Corsair Force GT 240GB SATA 3
  • Optical Drive: Lite-On Blu-ray
  • Case: Corsair 780T
  • OS: Windows 10 Professional 64-bit

 

Testing Setup: Intel Socket 2066

Testing Setup: AMD AM4 Ryzen 5

  • Processors: AMD Ryzen R5 1600X, R5 1500X
  • CPU Cooling: Wraith Max
  • Motherboard: ASUS B350 Prime Plus
  • Memory: Geil EVO X 3200MHz 16GB
  • Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition
  • Power Supply: Corsair RM1000x
  • Hard Drive: Corsair Force GT 240GB SATA 3
  • Optical Drive: Lite-On Blu-ray
  • Case: Corsair 780T
  • OS: Windows 10 Professional 64-bit

Testing Setup: AMD AM4 Ryzen 7

  • Processors: AMD Ryzen R7 1800X, R7 1700X, R7 1700
  • CPU Cooling: Corsair H110i
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte AX370-Gaming 5 Aorus
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance 3000MHz 16GB
  • Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition
  • Power Supply: Corsair RM1000x
  • Hard Drive: Corsair Force GT 240GB SATA 3
  • Optical Drive: Lite-On Blu-ray
  • Case: Corsair 780T
  • OS: Windows 10 Professional 64-bit

 

Testing Setup: Intel Z270

  • Processors: Intel 7th Generation Core i7 7700K
  • CPU Cooling: Corsair H115i
  • Motherboard: MSI Z270 SLI Plus
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V 3600MHz 32GB
  • Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition
  • Power Supply: Corsair RM1000x
  • Hard Drive: Corsair Force GT 240GB SATA 3
  • Optical Drive: Lite-On Blu-ray
  • Case: Corsair 780T
  • OS: Windows 10 Professional 64-bit

 

Testing Setup: Intel (Socket 1151)

 

Testing Setup: Intel (Socket 1150)

 

Testing Setup: AMD (Socket AM3+)

 

Overclocking:

  • Intel Core i9 7980XEX @ 4544MHz 45 x 101MHz 1.14v
  • Intel Core i9 7960X @ 4500MHz 45 x 100MHz 1.12v

 

Overclocking an Intel processor has not changed much over the past few years. Well, other than using gear ratios to jump the bclock up higher in large blocks rather than a few MHz at a time. To overclock both the Core i9 7980XE and Core i9 7960X, I used the same methodology I have used to overclock Intel processors over the past several generations. Generally, I start by bumping up the bclock multiplier until the system fails to boot. On these two processors I took a different path. Knowing that with the heavy core count cooling was going to ultimately be my limiting factor, I started low and worked my way up a little slower than I had in the past. Before bumping up the clock speeds, I chose to give me the best chance of reaching core clock speeds that were better than the Turbo Boost speeds by switching from the Corsair H115i to a modestly built water cooling setup. It consists of a D5 pump, EK 360mm radiator loaded with Noctua fans in a push configuration, and an EK Supremacy EVO CPU block. Basic, but effective in most cases.

Starting with the Core i9 7980XE, I had to work through a learning curve on the MSI XPOWER GAMING AC to figure out what settings it liked to keep the system from throttling with the increased load on the VRM and current draw from the added core count of the chip. After farting around for several nights, I was stuck at around 4100MHz, with anything higher than that throttling the clock speeds while not coming close to a thermal limit on the CPU. Using several monitoring tools, I was not able to verify that it was the VRM causing the problem and this also showed that, thermally, I was hitting a max temperature in the mid-60's °C. I finally nailed down a combination that worked and did not throttle the processor and VRM and was able to start tuning upwards.

At 4100MHz, I was using between 1.02v and 1.04v on the core. I moved up to 4400MHz fairly easily and 4500MHz after that with not much fuss, but at this point, I started to really see thermal limits in some of the tests. I was able to eek out another 45MHz by bumping the bclock to 101MHz and the voltage to 1.14v. At this speed and voltage, the system was stable enough to run all the benchmarks repeatedly, but was a bit too hot for anything more demanding like Prime 95 or some heavy FPU workloads. Backing off to 4.2GHz would be a better space to work in day-to-day just on the thermals alone. The water cooling kit handles the load easily for a while, but there comes a point where the slightest deviation in voltage sends the temps screaming northwards into the high 90's pretty quickly without a correspondig rise in coolant temperature.

The Core i9 7060X got pretty much the same treatment as the Core i9 7980XE, but it fell a little shorter on overall clock speed since it wanted to hit its thermal limits a little sooner at 4500MHz, even while using an applied voltage just a couple ticks lower. The learning curve was not as steep on this chip since I cut my teeth working the curve on the i9 7890XE, making for a much earlier night. SInce thermally this chip seems to run a little hotter at the same applied voltages, I hit my thermal limits before I could maximize its potential. Running this chip day-to-day at 4200MHz and using an applied voltage of 1.03v to 1.05v would net you a solid performing system.

The memory controllers on Skylake have proven to be fairly robust and handled the 32GB of G.Skill Ripjaws V DIMMs running at between 3600MHz and 3700MHz with no problem whatsoever. Ultimately, the key to overclocking this platform is to maximize your cooling not only to the CPU, but to the VRM as well, as in certain situations the VRM can get hot and pull a pretty heavy load, driving up the temperatures on the VRM. Even a custom water loop is not going to suffice when you get the voltage outside of the CPU's ability to transfer the load from the cores to the IHS/water block efficiently.

Overall, I have to say clock speeds in the range of 4500MHz with 1.12 to 1.14v proved doable on this setup. Your mileage may vary and surely there is more in these chips. I could go higher for screenshots and light loads, but ultimately it's not going to indicate anything realistic for the everyday user on chips that start at $1700 to $2000.

 

 

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.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  • Scientific & Data:
  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Bibble 5
  4. Office 2016
  5. POV-Ray 3.7
  6. ProShow Gold
  7. HandBrake 1.0
  8. Sandra 2016
  9. AIDA64
  10. Cinebench R15
  11. X.265 Benchmark
  12. PC Mark 8
  • Video:
  1. Tom Clancy's The Division
  2. Hitman (2016)
  3. 3DMark



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