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Intel Sandy Bridge-E Core i7-3960X CPU Review

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MAC

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Since its introduction in January, the Sandy Bridge LGA1155 platform has proven to be exceptionally popular, despite that little chipset issue that was discovered right after launch. It's not hard to see why enthusiasts have embraced Sandy Bridge since it brought forth very significant improvements in the form of much higher clock-per-clock performance, noticeably lower power consumption, enormous overclocking headroom plus the unlocked multipliers to make use of it, and all at a mainstream price. It has to be said that this popularity has been further bolstered by the lack of a serious, well-rounded competitor from AMD.

No matter how good the quad-core/eight-thread Sandy Bridge chips have been, there are always those who want more, and Intel has historically proven to be more than willing and able to cater to this market. For the last 18 months, the six-core/twelve-thread Gulftown processors have been the flagship parts when it comes to overall processing ability, but that changes today with the launch of the Sandy Bridge-E LGA2011 platform.

For years, there were titalating hints that Sandy Bridge-E (SB-E) would be an eight-core part, but regrettably due to power concerns consumer-oriented models will only have six cores enabled. There will be eight-core Xeon offerings, but those parts will be lower clocked in order to stay within the 130W TDP limit, and thus generally be slower in most consumer-oriented software. Despite this slight initial disappointment, what Intel has offered up is definitely no slouch.

The flagship Core i7-3690X Extreme Edition is a 32nm six-core/twelve-thread processor with a 3.3Ghz default clock, but which never ever dips below 3.6GHz and tops out at 3.9GHz in single and dual-threaded workloads. Accompanying these six cores is 15MB of L3 cache, the most of any desktop processor, and a new beefed up memory controller that features a quad-channel DDR3-1600 interface which is theoretically capable of 51.2GB/s of bandwidth. Most importantly for you gamers out there, the integrated PCI-E controller has also been revamped and in coordination with the new X79 Express chipset can supply up to 40 PCI-E 2.0 lanes (with PCI-E 3.0 compatibility, more on this in the chipset section) to the PEG slots. Seeing as this is an Extreme Edition part, it does feature fully unlocked multipliers and since this platform has been truly designed with overclocking in mind, you will be rewarded for using those capabilities.

Since the i7-3960X is the flagship model of Intel's high-end platform, it does carry an exorbitant price tag, $990 to be exact, which is tiny bit lower than the usual $999 Extreme Edition price. Worry not though, although we don't have them on hand, there are two very reasonably priced models coming for this platform, one quad-core and another six-core, specs of which you can see on the following page.

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MAC

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Sandy Bridge-E: Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme

Sandy Bridge-E: Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme



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Sandy Bridge E/Sandy Bridge/Gulftown/Zambezi - Click on image to enlarge

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s first talk about Sandy Bridge-E’s naming scheme. The Sandy Bridge LGA1155 models are part of the Core i3/i5/i7 2000 series, which consists of numerous models with different core counts, threads counts, IGP types, and supported technologies. It’s a bit of a mess. Thankfully, Sandy Bridge-E (SB-E) has been given the 3000 series moniker, and they are all Core i7 models, which simply put means that they all support Hyper-Threading (HT) and Turbo Boost technology. As you will see below, they don’t all have the same core/thread count though.

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As you can see from the die size, transistor count, and the side-by-side comparison at the top of the page, the SB-E has a really big core. In fact, it is by far the largest core that has ever trickled down to the consumer market, being 25% larger than the 346mm2 Phenom II X6’s Thuban die. It is almost 40% larger than the “eight-core” Bulldozer die, which itself features 2+ billion transistors. The SB-E is also almost exactly twice as large as the original Sandy Bridge die, which initially makes sense since SB-E is in fact a native eight-core chip. However, SB-E processors don’t have an integrated GPU. What is taking up all that extra die size is the huge L3 cache, the double-sized memory controller, and more complex PCI-E controller. None of this impacts or even interests your average consumer though, so let’s move on to something more tangible.

The Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition model that we are reviewing today is a six-core/twelve-thread processor with a 3.3GHz default clock and a Turbo Boost mode that tops out at 3.9GHz in single and dual-threaded workloads. While this is not breaking any new ground with regard to frequency, during our time with the chip we never saw it dip below 3.6GHz, and you can honestly consider that the true default clock if you keep Turbo Boost enabled. Since this is an Extreme Edition model it does feature fully unlocked multipliers, so those with more lofty frequency aspirations will be able to satisfy their need for speed. Accompanying these six cores is 15MB of L3 cache, the most of any desktop processor, and new beefed up memory controller that features a quad-channel DDR3-1600 interface which is theoretically capable of 51.2GB/s of bandwidth.

For those who aren’t willing to sell a kidney, the i7-3930K is a very attractive proposition. Basically, it is exactly the same as its big brother, just clocked 100MHz lower and with 0.5MB less L3 cache per core. Since it is a K-series model it also features fully unlocked multipliers and has all the same overclocking capabilities as the Extreme Edition model. At $555, it is a very nice replacement for the $580 i7-980 (non-Extreme).

Arguably, the most interesting chip of the series is the Core i7-3820. Intel is clever, and with this model number they are clearly hoping to evoke the undying love that most enthusiasts had and continue to have for the i7-920. Although this model only has four cores, it features the highest default clock frequency of the bunch. Core count aside, one of the main differences is that this model is only partially unlocked. What this means is that there are ‘only’ 6 bins available above the highest Turbo Boost mode, which is to say the CPU multiplier is capped at 45X. While this might sound terrible, it isn’t and here’s why: 45 X 125MHz (a realistic base clock) x 1.25 (gear ratio – a new feature) equals 7.0GHz. Clearly, this multiplier cap is not going to affect anyone’s overclocking fun. We don’t yet know the price point for the i7-3820, but we can narrow it down to above $300 and below $370. Availability for this particular model will be sometime in Q1 2012.

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Intel didn’t provide us with any retail packaging, but here is a render of the boxes. It’s basically the same style that was introduced with the Sandy Bridge LGA1155 series.

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If you thought LGA1366 processors were big, wait until you have one of these in your hand. These new SB-E chips are downright enormous, which is understandable given the fact the package has to fit 2011 contact points.

Based on the digits on the integrated heatspreader (IHS), we can determine that this sample was manufactured in the 34th week of 2011, which is exactly one year older than our i7-2600K media sample. One full year of further improvements to Intel’s industry-leading 32nm manufacturing process? We can’t wait to see how it overclocks.

By the way, notice that little black dot on the bottom-right corner of the HIS? Intel has drilled holes in all the SB-E chips in order for enthusiasts to place a thermal probe there. How cool is that? And do we need any further proof that Intel has really geared the LGA2011 platform to overclockers? We think not.

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Click on image to enlarge

As mentioned above, we never saw the default 3.3Ghz clock speed. At idle, the chip would drop down to 1.2GHz, and under load it would alternate between 3.6-3.7-3.9GHz depending on the workload. On a side note, we don’t think CPU-Z currently fully supports either this chip or our Intel-provided motherboard, so we would take the vCore figure with a grain of salt. Using AIDA64, we saw the core voltage range from 1.141V to 1.266V, which is quite reasonable if accurate.
 

MAC

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Expanding the Tock - Inside the SB-E Architecture

Expanding the Tock - Inside the SB-E Architecture



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As we have explained in the past, Intel’s development cycle operates on their tick/tock strategy. The "tick" is a shrinking of the previous microarchitecture’s manufacturing process (45nm --> 32nm) and the "tock" is a new microarchitecture. In order to continue pushing CPU technology forward, Intel’s strives to achieve a tick and tock cycle at least every 2 years. Between these two stages, Intel has gotten very good at releasing a number of reworked and enhanced models, which is what we are seeing today with Sandy Bridge-E (SB-E), a high-end desktop variant of the existing Sandy Bridge microarchitecture with a few noteworthy tweaks.

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8 cores/16 threads - 20MB L3 Cache – 2.27 Billion Transistors - 435mm2


As mentioned in the intro, for years it was believed that SB-E would be introduced as an eight-core part, but regrettably due to power concerns consumer-oriented models are limited to six cores. As you can see on die shot above, the two extra cores and 5MB of extra L3 cache are still there, but they have been disabled and hopefully power-gated. There will be eight-core Xeon offerings, but those parts will be lower clocked in order to stay within the 130W TDP limit, and thus generally be slower in most consumer-oriented software.

Now although the SB-E die might look drastically different than the mainstream quad-core die, the parts are merely re-arranged, enlarged (IMC/L3 Cache/PCIE), or stripped out entirely (ie: the IGP). It is the great advantage of the modular block design philosophy that Intel's first unveiled with Nehalem.

The fundamentals are the same though, 3 ALUs (arithmetic logic unit) and 3 AGUs (address generation units) per core, two 256-bit AVX-capable FPUs (floating-point units) per core, 32KB of L1 data cache + 32KB L1 instruction cache per core, and 256KB of L2 cache per core. However, L3 cache has been bumped up to 2.5MB per core, and the associativity of that cache has been greatly enhanced from 16-way to 20-way ensuring low latency and much higher bandwidth. The extremely high bandwidth 256-bit ring bus interconnect still links all the pieces of the die together.

Obviously, the Uncore/System Agent has received the greatest overhaul. The new integrated memory controller (IMC) supports four independent 64-bit memory channels with 1 unbuffered DIMM per channel. This quad-channel IMC also now natively supports DDR3-1600, a nice bump over the previous DDR3-1333 ceiling. Combined these changes have created a memory sub-system that is theoretically capable of 51.2GB/s of bandwidth.

Now the biggest unknown with this launch was whether these chips would actually support PCI-Express 3.0 or not. The answer to that question is regrettably not quite as simple as we would like. While Sandy Bridge-E’s new and improved integrated PCI-E controller supports up to 40 PCI-E 2.0 lanes, PCI-E 3.0 support is still on the fence. The capability is absolutely there, however compatibility simply has not yet been tested thoroughly enough for Intel’s to give it a thumbs up. Once PCI-E 3.0 devices start trickling into Intel’s labs for QA and testing, then we are convinced that they will publicly announced support. Feel free to check out the chipset section for additional info about PCI-E 3.0 on the LGA2011 platform.
 

MAC

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Intel Thermal Solution RTS2011LC / Intel DX79SI 'Siler' Motherboard

Every new platform brings with it a slew of awesome new products, and LGA2011 is no different. With a new socket, a new mounting system, a new chipset, and a new memory interface there are numbers of cool products to check out.


Intel Thermal Solution RTS2011LC


Although it won’t come included with any of the Sandy Bridge-E processors, Intel will be offering the Thermal Solution RTS2011LC in the retail channel for an estimated retail price of between $85-100.

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As you can see, this is an Asetek built and designed liquid cooler, it is basically a rebadged version of their 570LC. It has 120MM fan that is capable of pushing 74CFM at 2200RPM, but it nearly always ran at an inaudible 878RPM, occasionally peaking up to 958RPM when the cores fully loaded were a sufficient time, but it remained dead silent. When plugged in the unit glows blue since there are blue LEDs in the 120mm fan and the pump housing. In our testing it added about 6W to the system’s overall power consumption figures, quite reasonable.

Surprisingly, it is compatible and comes with mounting hardware for not only LGA2011, but also LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA1366, and even AMD’s AM3 socket. As you will see in our temperature testing section, it did a very adequate at cooling the i7-3960X.



Intel DX79SI 'Siler' Motherboard


Despite not get much media coverage and consumer love, Intel’s Extreme Series motherboard line is still going strong. The DX79SI ‘Siler’ is the latest model to join the roster, and it stays true to its roots continuing the usual black and blue design theme that Intel have used for the last 5 or so years.

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While this enthusiast-oriented model seems like a well-rounded motherboard, what we really want to show you is the new motherboard layout, with memory slots on either side of the new LGA2011 socket. Speaking of which, the mounting system is not integrated into the CPU socket retention mechanism. What the means for us consumers is no more need for any CPU or water block backplates. About time. It also adds a great deal of structural rigidity to that area of the motherboard, which is always a bonus.

We will be taking a closer look at this motherboard later on, but it's worth noting that Intel have also included a thermal probe, which fits nicely into the IHS hole that we discussed earlier.



G.Skill RipJaws Z DDR3-2133 16GB Quad-Channel Memory Kit


When a new memory interface is unveiled, the new memory kits are not far behind, and we had the pleasure of using this new G.Skill Ripjaws Z F3-17000CL9Q-16GBZH kit during our reviewing period.

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Click on image to enlarge

This is an enthusiast-oriented memory kit with DDR3-2133 9-11-10-28 1.65V specifications. The timings might seem a little loose, but you have to consider that this is a huge 16GB kit. A few months ago, this type of highly clocked CL9 4x4GB memory kit really did not even exist, there were only slow 11-11-11 4GB modules out there.
 

MAC

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Diving into Intel's X79 Express Chipset

Diving into Intel's X79 Express Chipset


With Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform well integrated into certain areas of the market, we have seen an expanding number of motherboard chipsets which support it. Originally, B65, H61, H65 and P67 motherboards were released with or soon after the initial launch while the recent introduction of Z68 “Cougar Point” brought RST SSD caching into the mix. What we haven’t seen up to this point is an enthusiast level X-series chipset made available but the new Sandy Bridge E platform is about to change that.

Called the X79 (code named Patsburg), this chipset is the spiritual successor to the long lasting Tylersburg X58 and finally ushers the PCH era into the high end market. With Bloomfield finally on its way out, X79-based motherboards should be the go to products on Intel’s high end platform for the foreseeable future. Will still be around when the Panther Point platform is introduced in 2012 for Ivy Bridge CPUs and will be compatible with any Socket 2011 processors from now until the launch of Haswell in 2013. This is one of the reasons why Intel decided to go with the 7x moniker instead of sticking with Sandy Bridge’s 6x naming scheme.

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Some of you may remember the last X-series chipset –the X58- from our original Nehalem review. Back then a 3-chip solution consisting of a processor, MCH and ICH was used but Intel has gradually moved towards a simplified approach by grouping functions into two areas: on the CPU die and within a so called Platform Controller Hub or PCH. This centralization leads to higher performance and increased platform efficiency.

The basic functionality built into the Socket 2011 processors closely mirrors that of previous Sandy Bridge chips but the capabilities have been expanded to better suit enthusiasts. An Integrated Memory Controller acts as a backbone for up to four high speed DDR3 memory channels, each rated at 12.8 GB/s while a separate controller takes care of the PCI-E lanes.

Speaking of PCI-E lanes, Sandy Bridge E processors support a serious number of lanes; 40 to be exact. These can be configured in a variety of different layouts depending on the number of slots Intel’s motherboard partners implement on their boards. We are told every X79 motherboard will include at least two 16x PCI-E 3.0 slots for a full speed 16x / 16x Crossfire or SLI, a vast improvement over the 8x / 8x supported by P67 and Z68. There is also the option of having a third or fourth graphics slot (running at 8x bandwidth) for triple and quad GPU setups.

The X79 Express Chipset incorporates the motherboard’s I/O functions and its features closely mirror those of the P67 and Z68. It includes support for up to 14 USB 2.0 and six SATA 6Gb/s ports (though motherboard vendors can ship products will less) while also including the usual Intel HD Audio module. Many will be disappointed with the omission of integrated USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt support but it seems like Intel isn’t ready to plunge into those waters just yet. Nonetheless, there is an additional 8 PCI-E 2.0 lanes that can be used for more slots or add on-controllers so boards can include USB 3.0 and other non natively supported features.

We should also mention that Patsburg-based motherboards won’t support Smart Response Technology or SSD caching at this point.

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Connecting the processor to the PCH is a second generation Direct Media Interface along with an optional SCSI Controller Unit. However, the Intel FDI (Flexible Display Interface) from P and Z-series boards has been removed since none of the SB-E processors will come with onboard graphics controllers.

The Direct Media Interface (DMI) hasn’t changed either. When necessary, it can function with the same peak bandwidth as four PCI-E 2.0 lanes or 5 GT/s (20Gb/s) but most of the time it will be operating at lower speeds ensure optimal efficiency.

One thing that we didn’t see on previous chipsets is the SCU Uplink which Sandy Bridge E processors are capable of providing. In essence this link allows for a dedicated path between the PCH and processor in order to speed up storage performance and decrease latency. The only downside to using the SCU function is its need for a portion of the CPU’s PCI-E lanes (in this case four) which in essence limits the secondary PCI-E function to a 4x link down from 8x and eliminates the possibility for native 3-way GPU compatibility.

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Unfortunately, there is a bit of confusion here since some of Intel’s documentation (including the diagram above) lists the Sandy Bridge processor as having 40 PCI-E 2.0 lanes while most of their other pieces list full compatibility with the upcoming PCI-E 3.0. This is a bit of a slippery slope but after digging much further with Intel and their motherboard vendors, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge.

According to our conversations these new processors do indeed have PCI-E 3.0 compatibility built in –at least one paper- but they haven’t been officially certified by the PCI-SIG. The main reason for this lack of the necessary certification is a lack of compatible add-in cards from AMD and NVIDIA to test on the dedicated graphics lanes. So while SB-E is physically capable of providing up to 40 PCI-E 3.0 lanes, we likely won’t see anyone make a big deal about it until some additional testing can be done in the near future.

With that being said, some motherboard partners feel strongly enough about the upcoming certification for the SB-E chips that they will be including PCI-E 3.0 stickers on their X79 boards’ packaging and marketing materials. We will even see a few instances of PCI-E 2.0 / 3.0 switching options included within the BIOS.

Intel themselves are quite confident as well as they say: “The processor features up to 40 lanes of PCI Express 3.0 links capable of 8.0 GT/s…”

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With all of this additional bandwidth coming their way, graphics card manufacturers are feeling quite confident as well. According to NVIDIA they have seen a substantial increase in overall 3-Way SLI performance when using the native solution on X79 instead of the usual 16x / 16x + NF200 setup some X58 boards used. Remember, this is based off of the exact same drivers being used in each instance and comparable processors so it looks like higher end SLI configurations could finally see better scaling.
 
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MAC

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Clock-per-clock: SB-E vs. SB / SB-E vs. Gulftown

Clock-per-clock: SB-E vs. SB / SB-E vs. Gulftown



Now as we have already established, Sandy Bridge-E has the same cores as mainstream Sandy Bridge, and the same core/thread count as Gulftown. However, it has more L3 cache per core, a more associative L3 cache, a revamped memory controller, and a host of small obscure tweaks. As a result, we are interested in finding out the effect of these changes on the instructions per clock (IPC), and how SB-E compares to on a clock-per-clock basis with the two respective leaders in the areas of single-threaded performance (Sandy Bridge) and multi-threaded performance (Gulftown).

Single-Threaded Performance: Sandy Bridge vs. Sandy Bridge E

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Click on image to enlarge

Now as you can see we clocked both chips to as close to 3.60GHz as possible and we set identical memory frequencies and timings for both, although the i7-3960X does retain its quad-channel interface (not really an advantage as you will read about later). The SB-E extra cores don’t matter since we are only testing single-threaded performance here.

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As you can see, kind of a pointless exercise. Statistically speaking, and accounting for benchmark variances, Sandy Bridge-E and Sandy Bridge have absolutely identical single-thread performance from a clock-per-clock standpoint.

Next let’s see how SB-E's multi-threaded performance fares against Gulftown:


Multi-Threaded Performance: Gulftown vs. Sandy Bridge E

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Once again, but chips are clocked as closely as possible to 3.60GHz and the memory frequencies and timings are identical for both. Naturally, the Gulftown has its triple-channel memory interfance, while the SB-E is quad-channel. In this test cores matter since we want see which chip has the best multi-threaded performance at a given frequency.

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The table above is pretty clear cut, it is a very definitive victory for SB-E with an average performance improvement of 14% in our selection of highly multi-threaded applications. So in summary, Sandy Bridge-E matches Sandy Bridge’s class-leading single-threaded performance and features significantly faster multi-threaded performance than Gulftown. Truly the best of both worlds.
 

MAC

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Feature Test: Turbo Boost 2.0

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For those of you who aren't familiar with it, let's recap what Turbo Boost is and what it does. Turbo Mode is a performance enhancing feature that automatically unlocks additional speed bins (multipliers) and allows the processor to self-overclock based on thermal conditions and workload. For example, if the Power Control Unit (PCU) senses that only one core is active and the other three are in an idle state, it will use the unused power and thermal headroom to overclock that single active core to ensure superior single-threaded performance. Conversely, if you are running a multi-threaded application, the PCU will measure the thermal headroom and if the processor is running cool enough it will overclock all six cores. On the Core i7-3960X processors, Turbo Boost can provide a 600MHz frequency boost when 1 or 2 cores are loaded, 400MHz when 3 or 4 cores are loaded, and 300MHz in applications that utilize 5 or 6 cores.


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Turbo Boost Off - Click on image to enlarge - Turbo Boost On

As we mentioned previously, with this implementation of Turbo Boost we never ever saw the default 3.3GHz clock speed, no matter how fully the cores were loaded. As a result, with Turbo Boost enabled owners of the i7-3960X can realistically consider 3.6GHz to be the stock frequency. It is basically a free and automatic 9% overclock, not too shabby.

Let's check out the performance gains that Turbo Boost can provide on this flagship part. We selected a nice mix of benchmarks with both light and multi-threaded workloads.

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And you can see, and as mentioned above, with Turbo Boost enabled you can expect a minimum performance gain of about 9%. In very lightly threaded applications, that speed boost does increase up to about 17%, which is nothing to scoff at.
 

MAC

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Feature Test: DDR3 Memory Channel & Frequency Performance Scaling

Feature Test: DDR3 Memory Channel & Frequency Performance Scaling



From about mid-2003 to late 2008, a dual-channel memory interface was as good as it got on the desktop. However, the LGA1366 platform kicked things up a notch, with the first implementation of a triple-channel memory configuration. Combined with a new integrated memory controller (IMC), Nehalem processors produced gigantic memory bandwidth figures. However, as our tests at the time demonstrated, this additional bandwidth did not necessarily equate to better overall performance since very little consumer-oriented software needed that much memory bandwidth. That is one of reasons why Intel did not hesitate to roll back to dual-channel with subsequent mainstream processors like Lynnfield, Clarkdale, and Sandy Bridge LGA1155.

However, today we are dealing with a new generation of software and a super high-end six-core chip with a unprecedented quad-channel DDR3-1600 memory interface capable of 51.2GB/s of memory throughput. Will this make a difference or is it still just overkill in the consumer realm? That’s what we are here to find out. Simply put, we tested the Core i7-3960X in both dual and quad-channel mode in order to determine whether there were any appreciable performance differences.

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As expected, the answer to the above question is that in this case a quad-channel memory interface is overkill, providing miniscule performance gains over a simpler dual-channel configuration. The reason why the results are so close is that a dual-channel DDR3-1600 interface is capable of a theoretical 25.6GB/s of memory bandwith, which is identical to the triple-channel DDR3-1066 interface that was found on the LGA1366 platform…and no one ever said that platform ever lacked memory bandwidth, even when paired with a six-core Gulftown processor.

Since we have already established that the LGA2011 platform has an over-abundance of memory bandwidth, it might seem pointless to test whether higher clocked modules might be helpful, but we gave it a shot anyways.

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Obviously, it is not the additional bandwidth that’s responsible for the differences, the slight gains in performance are due to the lower memory latency (46.3ns vs. 51.6ns). So basically, don't feel like you have to rush to ditch your existing memory kits if you want to make a jump to this platform. Using your current dual-channel kits will noticeably impact performance, and if you have a high-end kit it will reach new levels thanks to the enhanced memory overclocking capabilities of the LGA2011 platform.

Now having said all that, there are enterprise and professional workloads that might make proper use of the quad-channel memory interface, but it’s not something your average enthusiast/power user is likely to encounter. It's also possible that it might provide some benefits once multiple PCI-E 3.0 graphics cards are installed since in that scenario the i7-3960X's HyperTransport Link ramps up from 5.0 GT/s to 8.0 GT/s, and the total bandwidth available for the PEG slots jumps from 16GB/s to about 32GB/s. Once those cards are released we will definitely be testing that out.
 

MAC

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Test Setups & Methodology

Test Setups & Methodology



For this review, we have prepared four different test setups, representing all the popular platforms at the moment, as well as most of the best-selling processors. As much as possible, the four test setups feature identical components, memory timings, drivers, etc. Aside from manually selecting memory frequencies and timings, every option in the BIOS was at its default setting.

Intel Core i7 LGA2011 Test Setup​
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AMD Zambezi AM3+ Test Setup​
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AMD Llano FM1 Test Setup​
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AMD Phenom II AM3 Test Setup​
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Intel Core i5/i7 LGA1155 Test Setup​
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Intel Core i3/i5/i7 LGA1156 Test Setup​
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Intel Core i7 LGA1366 Test Setup​
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For all of the benchmarks, appropriate lengths are taken to ensure an equal comparison through methodical setup, installation, and testing. The following outlines our testing methodology:

A) Windows is installed using a full format.

B) Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed.

C)To ensure consistent results, a few tweaks are applied to Windows 7 and the NVIDIA control panel:
  • UAC – Disabled
  • Indexing – Disabled
  • Superfetch – Disabled
  • System Protection/Restore – Disabled
  • Problem & Error Reporting – Disabled
  • Remote Desktop/Assistance - Disabled
  • Windows Security Center Alerts – Disabled
  • Windows Defender – Disabled
  • Screensaver – Disabled
  • Power Plan – High Performance
  • V-Sync – Off

D) Windows updates are then completed installing all available updates

E) All programs are installed and then updated, followed by a defragment.

F) Benchmarks are each run three to eight times, and unless otherwise stated, the results are then averaged..

Here is a full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:
  • 3DMark06 Professional v1.2.0
  • 3DMark Vantage Professional Edition v1.1.0
  • 3DMark11 Professional Edition v1.0.2
  • 7-Zip 9.22 beta 64-bit
  • AIDA64 Extreme Edition v1.85.1641 Beta / v2.00.1719 Beta
  • Cinebench R10 64-bit
  • Cinebench R11.529 64-bit
  • Civilization V 1.0.1.383
  • Crysis v1.2.1 64-bit
  • Crysis 2 v1.9 + DX11 Pack + HiRes Texture Pack
  • Deep-Fritz 12
  • DiRT 3 v1.2.0
  • Far Cry 2 v1.03
  • HyperPI 0.99b
  • Lame Front-End 1.0 (LAME 3.97 32-bit codec)
  • Left 4 Dead 2 v2.0.8.9
  • LuxMark v1.0
  • MaxxMEM² - PreView v1.90
  • PCMark 7 Professional Edition v1.0.4
  • Photoshop CS4 64-bit
  • POV-Ray v3.7 RC3 64-bit
  • SPECviewperf 11
  • Street Fighter IV Benchmark V1.0.0.1
  • Team Fortress 2 v1.1.7.6
  • TrueCrypt 7.1
  • Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark v1.0.0.0
  • WinRAR 4.0.1 64-bit
  • World in Conflict Demo v1.0.0.0
  • wPRIME version 2.05
  • x264 HD Benchmark 4.0
  • X3: Terran Conflict Demo v1.0

That is about all you need to know methodology wise, so let's get to the good stuff!
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Synthetic Benchmarks: AIDA64 / MaxxMEM² / SiSoft

Synthetic Benchmarks: AIDA64 / MaxxMEM² / SiSoft



*Just as an FYI, as this point in time, we really don't think that either AIDA64 or MaxxMEM are capable of correctly determing memory bandwidth on this platform, so take those results with a grain of salt*


AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.85 - CPU & FPU Benchmarks


SBE_3960X_LGA2011_44.jpg
SBE_3960X_LGA2011_45.jpg

SBE_3960X_LGA2011_46.jpg


AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.85 - Cache Benchmark


SBE_3960X_LGA2011_47.jpg


AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.85 - Memory Benchmarks


SBE_3960X_LGA2011_48.jpg

SBE_3960X_LGA2011_49.jpg


MaxxMEM² - Memory Benchmarks


SBE_3960X_LGA2011_50.jpg

SBE_3960X_LGA2011_51.jpg


Sisoft Sandra 2011.SP5 - Memory Benchmarks


SBE_3960X_LGA2011_52.jpg

SBE_3960X_LGA2011_53.jpg


Sisoft Sandra 2011.SP5 - Cache Benchmarks


SBE_3960X_LGA2011_54.jpg

 
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