Intel Ivy Bridge-E Processors Arrive
The Intel LGA 2011 socket and Intel X79 Express chipset came to market in November 2011 when Intel first introduced 6-core Sandy Bridge-E processors. This platform has been around for quite some time and early adopters might be itching to update to something a bit newer. Intel today is finally introducing Ivy Bridge-E processors for LGA 2011 platforms, which means that this will be a drop in CPU replacement (after a BIOS flash) on some of the Intel X79 Chipset motherboard that have been sold over the years. Many companies like ASUS will also be doing an 'X79 Refresh' and coming out with a number of boards that have updated components for those looking for something more than just a drop-in processor replacement.
The Ivy Bridge-E processor series features up to 6-cores using the Ivy Bridge architecture and they are manufactured on the smaller 22nm process, whereas the Sandy Bridge-E processors used the 32nm process. The top SKUs that we will cover in a second have six physical cores and 12 total threads due to HyperThreading, which is a key selling point for those running heavily threaded apps. Intel also improved upon the chips quad channel, so the new Internal Memory Controller (IMC) officially supports 1866MHz memory modules, up from the official 1600MHz support that came with Sandy Bridge-E processors. Intel considers the new Ivy Bridge-E processors to be the ultimate desktop processor that the company has to offer.
Intel will be launching three Ivy Bridge-E processors for the LGA2011 platform. You have the Intel Core i7-4960X at $990, the Intel Core i7-4930K at $555 and the Intel Core i7-4820K at $310. The Intel Core i7-4960X has 6-cores/12-threads with a base clock of 3.6GHz with a turbo frequency of up to 4GHz. The Core i7-4960X has the largest L3 shared cache of any of the new processors at 15MB and has a Max TDP of 130W.
Next up you have the more affordable Intel Core i7 4930K processor, which has the same number of cores and threads, but with a base clock speed of 3.4GHz and a turbo clock of up to 3.9GHz. It should be noted that the L3 cache has been reduced to 12MB from 15MB, so you get 20% less cache. For $555 this should be a popular processor as you can easily overclock it to make up for the clock speed shortcomings, so the only really loss would be the L3 shared cache reduction.
On the bottom of the product stack is the Intel Core i7 4820K, which is a bit different in a numbers of areas and costs just $310. This is a quad-core processor, so you have 4-cores and 8-threads. The base clock is oddly the fastest of the bunch at 3.7GHz, but the turbo mode only goes up to 3.9GHz. Intel further reduced the cache, so now you are down to just 10MB of L3 cache. This is the lowest cost of the bunch and is aimed for enthusiasts that want to step up to the X79 platform and have 40 PCI Express Gen 3.0 lanes and quad-channel DDR3 memory support.
As you should know by now, not all apps take advantage of 6 cores and 12 threads, but the number of apps that take advantage of 4 or more threads is slowly increasing as time goes on.
When it comes to overclocking, the LGA2011 platform has always been overclocking friendly and we expect that to hold true on the with the new Ivy Bridge-E CPU lineup. We've been told that 4.5GHz should be easy to reach with performance 3rd party CPU coolers. Both K and X SKUs of the Ivy Bridge-E lineup are fully unlocked and have enhanced B-Clock (BCLK) and ratio tuning. Before the multiplier ratio went up to x57, but now it will go all the way up to x63. Intel also enabled real-time core overclocking, power limits and turbo voltage control.
The Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) is also being updated with the launch of Ivy Bridge-E. Intel XTU 4.2 is now the latest build of this overclocking utility and it has HWBOT integration and support for Ivy Bridge-E and Windows Blue. You can now share your results on Facebook and Twitter with this latest build, so Intel is jumping on the social media bandwagon when it comes to bragging about your overclocking performance or possibly asking friends for overclocking tips or help.
Intel sent us the Intel Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E processor for testing, so that is the processor we'll be looking at today. We'll be comparing it to the Intel Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E processor on the ASUS X79 Deluxe motherboard from 2011 with a pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan video cards running in SLI!
Let's move along and take a closer look at our test system and then get to the benchmarks.
Before we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 8 Enterprise 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.
Intel Socket LGA 2011 Test System:
To test out the performance of the Intel Core i7-4960X and Core i7-3960X processors we will be using the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe revision 1.03 motherboard that we got back in 2011. This board has been used on our test bench for years and has been one heck of a solid board. ASUS released BIOS 4401 on 9/2/2013 and that is the version that we used for all testing. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz memory kit was set to XMP 1.3 memory profile settings, which is 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 2T memory timings. The Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SSD uses 19nm NAND and was using M311 firmware. We will be using a pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan video cards in 2-way SLI to check out gaming performance on both the LGA1150 and LGA2011 platforms today.
AMD Socket FM2 System:
The AMD A85X platform that we used to test the AMD socket FM2 processors featured the GA-F2A85X-UP4 motherboard with BIOS F4 that came out on 3/13/2013. The Corsair Dominator Platnium 8GB 2133MHz memory kit was set to XMP 1.3 memory profile settings, which is 1.5v and 9-11-11-31 1T memory timings. The Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SSD uses 19nm NAND and was using M311 firmware.
Intel LGA 1150 Test System:
The Intel Z87 platform that we used to test the Intel 1150 processors was running the Intel DZ87KL-75K motherboard with BIOS 1817 that came out on 5/08/2013. The Corsair Dominator Platnium 8GB 2133MHz memory kit was set to XMP 1.3 memory profile settings, which is 1.5v and 9-11-11-31 1T memory timings. The Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SSD uses 19nm NAND and was using M310 firmware.
Here is a quick look at the CPU-Z information for our main test system that we'll be doing the testing on.
|Intel LGA1150 Test Platform|
Intel Core i7-4770K
|Intel DZ87KL-75K||Click Here|
|8GB Donimator 2133MHz||Click Here|
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SSD
Intel Retail Boxed
Windows 8 64-Bit
SiSoftware Sandra 2013 SP3a
The Sisoft Sandra 2013 SP3a benchmark utility measures pretty much all of your system components, but we'll be using it to focus on memory and CPU performance!
Results: The Intel Core i7-3960X and Core i7-4960X were both tested on the same Windows 8 system with a Corsair Vengeance memory kit running at 1866MHz with CL9 timings. The difference between the two processors was barely noticeable and were around 46B/s.
Results: The Intel Core i7-4960X was found to be ~3.2% faster than the Intel Core i7-3960X CPU in the Sandra Multi-Media Processor benchmark.
Results: The Intel Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E processor was 6% faster than the Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E processor when it came to Cryptographic bandwidth.
Results: In the CPU Arithmetic benchmark the Core i7-4960X was 5.0% faster than the Core i7 3960X CPU and 21% faster than the Core i7-4770K 'Haswell' CPU.
x264 HD Encoding
Simply put, the x264 HD Benchmark is a reproducible measure of how fast your machine can encode a short HD-quality video clip into a high quality x264 video file. It's nice because everyone running it will use the same video clip and software. The video encoder (x264.exe) reports a fairly accurate internal benchmark (in frames per second) for each pass of the video encode and it also uses multi-core processors very efficiently. All these factors make this an ideal benchmark to compare different processors and systems to each other. We are using x264 HD v5.0.1 for this test.
This application did fairly well when run on 12 threads, as you can see from the screen shot above. The first pass was not using all of the processing power available on the cores, but on the second pass all 12 threads were at ~95% load.
Benchmark Results: In the x264 HD Video encoding benchmark the Intel Core i7-4960X was 7.8% faster in the second pass and 8.3% faster in the less CPU intensive first pass when compared to the Core i7-3960X. The Core i7-4960X was 33% faster than the Core i7-4770K 'Haswell' processor in this benchmark, so you can see the strength of the LGA2011 platform here versus the LGA1150 platform.
CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.7
CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.7 is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in! MediaEspresso 6.7 can be used to output your slideshows and videos to mobile devices like an iPhone, iPod, PSP or Zune. Pre-set profiles eliminate the need for any complex settings and you can just drag-and-drop the video files you want to convert straight into the application.
We downloaded a clip that was encoded at 24 frames per second (fps) at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (1080p). We then used MediaEspresso 6.7 to convert this clip to work on our iPhone 5 with the default mobile phone profile settings.
Benchmark Results: No performance gains were to be had in this benchmark between Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge-E!
HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded video transcoder, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows. It is popular today as it allows you to transcode multiple input video formats to h.264 output format and is highly multithreaded.
This workload is a fibe minute HDV. The input file is encoded in Mpeg format. Video encode parameters are 23.9mbps, 1920x1080, 29.9fps. Audio encode parameters are 384 kbps, 48kHz, 2channel, mpeg audio version 1 layer 2. File size is 128MB. The workload is encoded into h.264 output format using the preset - high profile. HandBrake version 0.9.9 was used for benchmarking.
Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-4960X was found to be 8.5% faster than the Intel Core i7-3960X and 29% faster than the Intel Core i7-4770K processor.
POV-Ray 3.7 RC7
Processor Performance on Pov-Ray 3.7 RC7:
The Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer was developed from DKBTrace 2.12 (written by David K. Buck and Aaron A. Collins) by a bunch of people (called the POV-Team) in their spare time. It is a high-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The POV-Ray package includes detailed instructions on using the ray-tracer and creating scenes. Many stunning scenes are included with POV-Ray so you can start creating images immediately when you get the package. These scenes can be modified so you do not have to start from scratch. In addition to the pre-defined scenes, a large library of pre-defined shapes and materials is provided. You can include these shapes and materials in your own scenes by just including the library file name at the top of your scene file and by using the shape or material name in your scene. Since this is free software feel free to download this version and try it out on your own.
The most significant change from the end-user point of view between versions 3.6 and 3.7 is the addition of SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) support, which, in a nutshell, allows the renderer to run on as many CPU's as you have installed on your computer. This will be particularly useful for those users who intend on purchasing a dual-core CPU or who already have a two (or more) processor machine. On a two-CPU system the rendering speed in some scenes almost doubles. For our benchmarking we used version 3.7 RC5, which is the most recent version available. The benchmark used all available cores to their fullest extent to complete the render.
Once rendering on the object we selected was completed, we took the elapsed time from the dialog box, which indicates the exact time it took for the benchmark to finish the benchmark. A lower time indicates faster system performance. This benchmark used all 12 threaded and loaded each one up at 100% load!
Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-4960X finished the POV-Ray render with all CPU cores enabled in just over two minutes. This was 10.2 seconds faster than the Intel Core i7-3960X and 41.44% faster than the Core i7-4770K. This makes the flagship Ivy Bridge-E processor about 25.6% faster than the flagship Haswell processor and 8.5% faster than the Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E processor.
MAXON; CINEBENCH R11.5:
MAXON recently released CINEBENCH Release 11.5, an advanced hardware testing suite that assesses a computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on the same powerful technology as MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. The new version of CINEBENCH includes the ability to more accurately test the industry’s latest hardware, including systems with up to 64 processor threads, and the testing environment better reflects the expectations of today’s production demands. A more streamlined interface makes testing systems and reading results incredibly straightforward. Again, higher Frames/Second and point score equal better performance.
Cinebench R11.5 was able to put a 100% load across all the cores on all of the processors, which makes this a great benchmark to look at multi-core platforms.
Benchmark Results: The Core i7-4960X had a performance gain of 6.2% versus the Core i7-3960X when all cores were being used. The Intel Core i7-4770K 'Haswell' processor proved to be the best when you look at individual core performance.
We were given an advanced copy of Futuremark PCMark 8 Professional Edition ahead of the public and figured we'd give it a quick test run. PCMark 8 is expected to launch later this month.
PCMark 8 includes five new benchmark tests, each designed around a specific scenario. Each benchmark produces a score you can use to compare systems as well as detailed results from the individual workloads.
PCMark 8 Home, Creative, and Work benchmark tests
These three benchmark tests reflect the most common computer usage patterns - light home use, demanding media and entertainment activities, and typical office productivity tasks. Choose the benchmark that best matches the intended audience for the device being tested, or run all three for a complete picture of the device's performance.
PCMark 8 Storage test
PCMark 8 Storage benchmark is ideal for testing the performance of SSDs, HDDs and hybrid drives. Using traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games, PCMark 8 Storage highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.
New Adobe and Microsoft application tests
One of the most exciting new features in PCMark 8 is the Applications benchmark which measures system performance using popular applications from the Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office. You can choose which tests to run based on the applications installed on your system.
We ran the default test for each CPU and selected the processor to run the OpenCL workloads.
Benchmark Results: The PCMark 8 'Home Score' for each processor was fairly close with just over 500 points separating the field. The Intel Core i7-4960X was found to be just 3.8% faster than the Intel Core i7-3960X.
Futuremark 3DMark has three primary benchmark tests that you can run and which test you should be running depends on the system that you are benchmarking on.
- Ice Storm - For mobile devices and entry-level PCs
- Cloud Gate - For notebooks and home PCs
- Fire Strike - For gaming PCs
- Fire Strike Extreme - For extreme gaming PCs (extreme mode for those with multiple GPUs)
We ran the FireStrike Extreme benchmark to see how the processors would perform.
Benchmark Results: 3DMark Firestrike Extreme showed really nice performance scaling and showed the Core i7-4960X to be less than 1% faster than the Core i7-3960X in the overall test. In the Physics section of the benchmark the Core i7-4960X was found to be nearly 7% faster!
NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan 2-Way SLI Graphics Performance
On March 5th, 2013 Square Enix released Tomb Raider, billed as a reboot of the franchise. In Tomb Raider, the player is confronted with a much younger Lara Croft who is shipwrecked and finds herself stranded on a mysterious island rife with danger, both natural and human. In contrast to the earlier games Croft is portrayed as vulnerable, acting out of necessity, desperation and sheer survival rather than for a greater cause or personal gain.
The game has been built on Crystal Dynamics's game engine called the "Crystal Engine" and the graphics look fantastic. AMD and Crystal Dyanmic's worked on a new technology called TressFX Hair, which AMD describes as “the world’s first in-game implementation of a real-time, per-strand hair physics system” for this game title. We set the image quality to the low quality and ultimate quality presets for benchmarking.
Benchmark Results: At low image quality setting we could see the performance scaling that we expected, but at Ultimate quality (everything cranked up) the performance gap was pretty much gone and the scores were scattered to say the very least. When it comes to gaming performance it is clear that any of these processors are more than up to the task. We went with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan 2-way SLI setup for testing, so there shouldn't be a GPU bottleneck at these speeds!
BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games, and published by 2K Games. BioShock Infinite is the third installment in the BioShock series, and though it is not part of the storyline of previous BioShock games, it does feature similar gameplay concepts and themes. BioShock Infinite uses a Modified Unreal Engine 3 game engine and was released worldwide on March 26, 2013.
We tested BioShock Infinite with the low and ultra game settings at 1920x1080.
Benchmark Results: Again we see some pretty what we expect at low quality settings and then at Ultra quality settings you see most of the processors performing the same.
Hitman: Absolution is an action-adventure stealth DirecX 11 video game developed by IO Interactive and published by Square Enix. It is the fifth entry in the Hitman game series, and runs on IO Interactive's proprietary Glacier 2 game engine. This game title uses the Glacier 2 game engine and was released on November 20th, 2012.
We benchmarked Hitman: Absolution with the low and ultra game settings at 1920x1080.
Benchmark Results: Hitman: Absolution is tough on discrete graphics cards and even our NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan SLI setup was only getting up to 80FPS on low quality settings. The results here are scattered once again, but we ran them four times and this is the average of all the numbers. This pretty much just goes to show that a $300 processor will get you the same gaming performance as a $1000 processor on real world game titles.
Total System Power Consumption
Since power consumption is a big deal these days, we ran some simple power consumption tests on our test beds. The systems ran with identical power supplies, Solid-Sate Drives, Memory kits and motherboards from the same company. To measure idle usage, we ran the system at idle for one hour on the desktop with no screen saver and took the measurement. For load measurements, Prime95's in-place large FFT's were run on all cores to make sure each and every processor was at 100% load for maximum power consumption and heat.
Benchmark Results: Power consumption measurements show that Intel has done a great job with Ivy Bridge-E as it consumed less power than Sandy Bridge-E at both idle and in our two load scenarios. At idle it is just a few Watts lower, but at dull power it was 36W lower in 3DMark Firestrike Extreme Game Test 1 and it used 44 Watts less in Prime 95! This is a 14% power drop in Prime 95 and a 5% power drop in 3DMark. The Intel 'Haswell' processors that we also have in the chart use half the power at idle and in Prime 95, so building an LGA1150 platform will certainly be more efficient than an LGA2011 platform. Each platform is aimed at a different user though, so just something to keep in mind when you are planning out your next system build. It should be noted that all the low power states were enabled on the Haswell platform.
Intel Core i7-4960X CPU Overclocking
The Intel Core i7-4960X processor starts out life with a 3.6GHz base clock and can boost up to 4.0GHz. We heard that reaching 4.5-4.7GHz should be easy for most platforms with high-end air coolers or water cooling.
For this review we used the Intel RTS2011LC CPU Water Cooler and wanted to see how high we could get the 130W TDP processor.
We were able to quickly bump up the multiplier in the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard BIOS and that got us up and running at 4.5GHz with full stability without having to tinker with any other settings. Notice that the voltage automatically increased from ~1.27V to 1.41V.
We were able to get the system up and running at 4600MHz, but it wasn't stable in all benchmarks at 4.6GHz. We backed it back down and ran some benchmarks at 4.5GHz and were happy with the results.
At 4.5Ghz we were able to get an score of 13.68 on all cores and 1.90 on one core! This is the highest score we have ever reached with a single desktop processor
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
The Intel Ivy Bridge-E SKUs are a welcomed addition to the Intel X79 platform and socket LGA 2011. The performance improvements weren't massive, but there was a noticeable performance gain in the vast majority of the benchmarks we used. This will likely disappoint some, but it breaths new life into a platform that was starting to get a but long in the tooth so to speak. And to be fair to Intel, they noted in their press presentation that most of the performance gains would be in the single digits over the Intel Core i7-3960X processor.
If you are looking to bring some more power to your LGA2011 platform and reduce power consumption, you have a pretty big choice to make. You'll have to shell out $310-990 on the Sandy Bridge-E processor you go with to get single digit performance improvements in some situations. If you don't have any budget concerns and want to get the most from your system then by all means purchase one, but if you already have an LGA2011 platform and are happy with the performance it will be hard to justify spending $300+ unless you do a ton of multi-threaded tasks and do them often. This would be those doing content creation and big time media encoding. Those content creation houses and professionals are often the ones that can afford $990 processors.
We know a fair share of people are still running Intel LGA 1366 (X58 Gulftown) platforms and if you've been waiting on Sandy Bridge-E to come out along with the 'refreshed' X79 boards, you could be in for a better overall user experience thanks to all the updates on the CPU, chipset and other controllers on the motherboard for audio, LAN, USB 3.0 and more. The only downside is that right now only one of the six Intel X79 boards that we have here at Legit Reviews works with Ivy Bridge-E. Intel will not be releasing any more BIOS updates for their boards, so all Intel X79 motherboard owners will not be able to upgrade from Sandy Bridge-E to Ivy Bridge-E. Other motherboard makers like Gigabyte have yet to release new BIOS versions as well, but plan to in the weeks ahead. Right now just ASUS and MSI appear to have rolled out proper Ivy Bridge-E support on their older Intel X79 boards.
Gamers and enthusiasts can certainly pick up the Intel Core i7-4960X processor and Intel will gladly take your $990, but gamers will be just fine with an LGA1150 system with a Haswell processor. The Intel LGA2011 platform is more aimed at power users and hardcore enthusiasts running heavy workloads or gamers lucky enough to have NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFire multi-GPU setups. Just for fun count up how many PCI Express lanes you are currently using. Now add in some extra room in case you want to add in a PCIe RAID card, video capture card or an additional video card or two. Are you anywhere close to needing 40 PCIe lanes? Do you need the ability to run 64GB of DDR3 quad-channel memory for content production? If you answered yes to either question then probably have an Intel X79 platform in consideration. If you don't the Intel X79 platform isn't a necesity and you might be able to move down to the Z87 platform with Haswell.
At the end of the day the Ivy Bridge-E processors should be appealing to those that are looking to build a system where they need a ton of CPU cores and a platform with plenty of PCI Express lanes and gobs of memory bandwidth thanks to quad-channel memory. If that is something you are looking for then you have a new processor to look at getting.
The Intel Core i7-4960X is the fastest desktop processor that we have ever tested, but since the performance gains are minimal, it is hard to get really excited about! Ivy Bridge-E performance is leaps and bounds ahead of AMD and offers better energy efficiency than the previous Intel Sandy Bridge-E processors, so it certainly has a place in the market!
Legit Bottom Line: The Intel Core i7-4960X costs a pretty penny, but outperforms all other desktop processors!