Intel Sandy Bridge-E LGA 2011 CPUs Arrive

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The 2nd generation Intel Core i7 3000 series of processors are the first high end desktop platform CPUs that have been designed with the Sandy Bridge 32nm microarchitecture. Intel code named these 32nm processors 'Sandy Bridge-E' and we are guessing that the "E" stands for extreme. The transition to Sandy Bridge-E for the high end platform means that the LGA1366 with the Intel X58 Express chipset and Bloomfield/Gulftown processors have finally been put out to pasture. Intel announced the LGA1366 platform back in November 2008, so this is the first platform change for enthusiast users in over three years! 

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With the introduction of the LGA2011 socket comes new processors and today Intel announced the Core i7-3960X, Core i7-3930K and the Core i7-3820. The bad news is that only the Core i7-3960X and the Core i7-3930K are available for purchase today at $990 and $555, respectively. This means that if you wanted to upgrade your system to one of these new processors it isn't going to be cheap as the entry level processor is $555 and entry level Intel LGA2011 motherboards are right around the $300 mark. Those on a budget do have a light at the end of the tunnel, though, as the Intel Core i7-3820 will be released in early Q1 2012 for right around $290. This is going to be a high-volume part number and looks to take the place of the Intel Core i7-920 that Intel originally launched for the LGA1366 platform.

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The Intel Core i7 Sandy Bridge-E core is built on the 32nm manufacturing processor and has a total transistor count of 2.27 Billion on a die that is just 20.8 by 20.9 mm square. The Core i7-3960X has 15MB of cache that is shared across all six cores. With a base clock of 3.3GHz and a top end Turbo clock speed of 3.9GHz, we are shocked that it has a TDP of just 130W!

Intel Sandy Bridge-E Processor Feature Details:

Intel Sandy Bridge-E Supported Technologies:

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The processor that Intel sent to us to test is the Intel Core i7-3960X which is the flagship processor and the Extreme Edition part. This processor has 6 cores and Intel Hyper-Threading technology, so it has 12 threads! It runs with a base clock of 3.3GHz, but can reach 3.9GHz when in Turbo mode!

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Speaking of turbo mode, the Intel Core i7-3960X runs 600MHz above its rated 3300MHz base clock if 1-2 cores are active! If the CPU has 5-6 cores under load it will run up to 300MHz above the base clock for improved performance.

Zalman CNPS12X CPU cooler

The Intel socket LGA2011 processors are fairly large and you really have to see one in person to understand how large this new processor really is. We tried to put the size of the new processor and socket into perspective by placing it next to an Intel LGA1366 'Gulftown' processor and an LGA1155 ' Sandy Bridge' processor.

Intel Launch Products

Intel also launched the DX79SI 'Siler' motherboard and the RTS2011LC sealed liquid cooling thermal solution today. We'll be using the DX79SI motherboard for today's test system and we'll also be taking a brief peek at the Intel RTS2011LC water cooler. We will have in-depth reviews on both of those products at a later date, but we wanted to at least include a preview on them in our launch day article!

The Intel X79 Express Chipset & DX79SI Mobo

In order to understand the Intel X79 platform it is best to take a look at the motherboard chipset that is going to be used.

The Intel X58 Express Block Diagram

The Intel X79 Express looks familiar as it is very similar to the Intel Z68 Express Chipset that is shown below. The main difference between the two platforms is, of course, the sockets. The Intel X79 platform only supports LGA2011 Sandy Bridge-E processors and those processors have 40 lanes of PCI Express 3.0 links capable of 8.0 GT/s, and 4 lanes of DMI2/PCI Express 2.0 interface with a peak transfer rate of 5.0 GT/s. Intel doesn't come out and say this board supports PCI Express 3.0 video cards, but once those cards hit the retail market we expect this board to be fully compliant. 

The Intel X79 chipset supports Quad Channel DDR3 Memory architecture, so expect to see ~40GB/s of memory bandwidth on new systems using this platform! Intel has updated their Rapid Storage Technology, but we haven't gotten a chance to try it out, yet. The Intel RSTe 3.0 driver package was designed with a default setting that was optimized for additional data protection needed for data center storage configurations. The software is still in the early stages and the official release of the Intel RSTe 3.0 driver package is trending to WW49 (week of Nov. 28th). Speaking of storage, Intel does not offer Smart Response Technology (SSD Caching) on the X79 chipset.

The Intel X58 Express Block Diagram

The Intel X79 Express chipset supports 40 lanes PCI Express 2.0 for the Graphics, while the Intel Z68 Express supports only 16 Lanes for the Graphics. This means that while the Intel Z68 platform can run dual graphics, the Intel X79 Express Chipset will support up to five graphics cards in a 1x16, 2x8, and 2x4 configuration. One of the features that was not included on the Intel X79 platform is the Intel Smart Response Technology. We aren't terribly surprised that it isn't included; after all, if you are paying $999.00 for the Intel Core i7 3960X you will likely be using a good sized SSD for your boot drive.

Intel DX79SI Retail Box

Intel sent over the DX79SI 'Siler' motherboard, which is their top end X79 motherboard. This board will be priced between $280 and $300 when it hits the retail market, which makes it priced on the lower end of the spectrum from what we can tell.

Intel DX79SI Features

This board is packed full of features like 8 DDR3 DIMM slots, dual Intel Gigabit LAN and support for both NVIDIA SLI and AMD Crossfire multi-GPU setups. 

Intel DX79SI Siler motherboard

The PCI Express slots are spaced far enough apart that you can run three double slot graphics cards on the board at the same time for 3-way SLI or CrossFire as well!

Intel DX79SI Siler motherboard

Expect to see more about this board when we fully review it at a later date!

32 in 32 Promotional Unboxing

Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition

When Intel sent us the 32nm Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition processor they asked us if we wanted to participate in a promotion called '32-in-32' where our readers could also win Intel components like the ones we are reviewing here today.

For complete rules and entry details, check out Intel’s Facebook page:


Here is a brief description of the promotion:

Win an Incredible Intel Unlocked PC & More: 32 in 32 Challenge

Win weekly unlocked prize packages from Intel and Newegg starting November 14. Take home the grand prize and you'll fly to Newegg HQ for a chance to build your own Intel Enthusiast PC valued at over $5,000. Weekly prize bundles include Intel® Core™ i7 Extreme Edition processors, Intel® Desktop Boards, Intel® Solid-State Drives, and other system components. Each week is a chance to win a different unlocked prize package. To win the grand prize, create and submit a video explaining in about 32 seconds why you deserve to a chance to build your ultimate unlocked PC.


Inside the promotional box we found all the components for our test system with 'trays' of goodies for us to find.


The Intel DX79SI motherboard! Let's put these parts together to see how this system performs!

The Test System

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 7 Ultimate 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. All of the systems ran an AMD Radeon HD 6950 graphics with Catalyst 11.10 Preview drivers, a Crucial C300 256GB SSD with firmware version 0009, a Corsair HX850W power supply and all of the systems ran a total of 8GB DDR3 memory at CL9 timings (1.50V), with the exception of AMD Phenom II processors that were limited to 1600MHz with CL9 timings. We kept the video cards, power supplies, solid-state drives, memory timings and voltages identical to make sure the processors were being kept in the hot seat.

Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform

Intel LGA2011 Test System

The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the Intel LGA 2011 processors was running the Intel DX79SI motherboard with BIOS SI.0280B that came out on 10/14/2011. The Corsair Dominator GTX4 8GB 2400MHz quad channel memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-28 1T memory timings. We also used a Zalman CNPS12X CPU Cooler. CPU-Z version 1.58.7 does not properly read the Intel Core i7-3960 processor, so the memory clock settings are not being shown correctly.

Intel X79 Test Settings

Intel Z68 Platform

Intel Z68 Test System

The Intel Z68 platform that we used to test the Intel 1155 processors was running the Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 motherboard with BIOS F10 that came out on 10/12/2011. The Corsair Vengeance 8GB 1866MHz memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-28 1T memory timings.

Intel Z68 Test Settings

The AMD FM1 'Llano' Test System:

AMD Llano APU Test System

The test system was run in dual-channel memory mode at 1866MHz with 9-10-9-28 1T memory timings. The Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H motherboard was running BIOS F3, which was the latest build available when testing was completed. You can see all of the CPU-Z and GPU-Z information for this test platform below.

AMD Socket FM1 Test Settings

AMD AM3+ Platform

AMD AM3+ Test System

The AMD AM3+ platform that we used to test the AMD Phenom and FX processors were run on the ASUS Crosshair V Formula motherboard with BIOS 9901 that came out on 9/26/2011. The Corsair Vengeance 8GB 1866MHz memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-28 1T memory timings on the AMD FX-8150 and then at 1600MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-28 1T memory timings on the Phenom II X4 and Phenom II X6 processors.

Intel Z68 Test Settings

The integrated graphics comes up as Radeon HD 6530D according to GPU-Z and we used AMD CATALYST 11.6 drivers for testing.

AMD Test Platform



Live Pricing


A8-3850 / A6-3650


Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H
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8GB GSKILL Ripjaws 1866
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Video Card

AMD Radeon HD 6950

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Hard Drive

Crucial C300 256GB SSD

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AMD Retail Boxed

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Power Supply

Corsair HX850W

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Operating System

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit

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SiSoftware Sandra 2011 SP5

Sisoftware Sandra 2011 SP5

The Sisoft Sandra 2011 SP5 benchmark utility just came out a few weeks ago and we have started to include it in our benchmarking. Sandra 2011 comes with support for Virtualisation (Virtual PC/Server, Hyper-V, VMware) and GPGPU (OpenCL, DirectX 11 DirectCompute), but today we will be using the program to look at memory and CPU performance!

Sandra 2011 SP5 Memory Benchmark Scores

Results: The Intel Core i7-3960X is the first processor that uses quad-channel DDR3 memory and we were blown away by the bandwidth this platform has. Our Core i7-3960X running 1866MHz had 39.5GB/s of memory bandwidth. We tried running 1600MHz memory in it as well and hit 38GB/s, so this platform has gobs of bandwidth available for the processor.

Sisoftware Sandra 2011 SP5

The Sandra Processor Multi-Media benchmark has been a long time favorite of ours to look at floating point performance on processors.

Sandra 2011 SP5 Benchmark Scores

Results: The Intel Core i7-3960X rules the roost when it comes to CPU performance in this benchmark that put all the cores to 98% load.

Sisoftware Sandra 2011 SP3

Cryptography has become an important part of our digital life: it allows us to conduct safe transactions online, certify programs and services, keep our data secure and much more. Sandra 2010c has a dedicated benchmark built-in that measures cryptographic performance, which is important on the new Intel 32nm processors like the Core i7 980X. It includes features like AES-NI! Intel AES-NI is a new set of Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) instructions that are going to be introduced in the next generation of Intel processors, as of 2009. These instructions enable fast and secure data encryption and decryption, using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), defined by FIPS Publication number 197.  The architecture introduces six instructions that offer full hardware support for AES. Four of them support high performance data encryption and decryption, and the other two instructions support the AES key expansion procedure. Let's take a look at how this feature impacts Cryptography performance.

Sandra 2011 SP3 Benchmark Scores

Results: The processors with the AES-NI instruction set are very evident in this benchmark. The Intel Core i7-3960X obviously supports AES-NI instructions and it easily beats out all of the other processors. 

x264 HD Encoding

x264 HD Encoding Benchmark

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 v4.0 for this test.

x264 HD Encoding Benchmark

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.

x264 HD Encoding Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The x264 HD benchmark is very CPU intensive and it showed the Intel Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E processor running at 194.4 FPS on the first pass and 61.2 FPS on the second pass. The Intel Core i7-3960X really eats this benchmark up and if you do a ton of video editing this is clearly the processor architecture that you need!

CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5

CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5 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 6.5 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.

CyberLink MediaShow 6.5

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 6.5 to convert this clip to work on our iPhone. If you have this software and want to try it out yourself you can download the Coral Reef Adventure (IMAX) 1080p clip that we used from this site. This benchmark only used ~40% of the of the processor and looks like it is only threaded for up to ten threads as two of the threads were not under any load.

CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: With hardware acceleration disabled we see that Intel Core i7-990X completed the benchmark faster than the Intel Core i7-3960X.  We contacted Intel and showed them this benchmark chart last week, but they never got back to us with any suggestions, so we are guessing the number is right.



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.

HandBrake 0.9.5 benchmarking

This workload is a 43-second HDV. The input file is encoded in Mpeg format. Video encode parameters are 23.9mbps, 1440*1080, 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 0.9.5 was used for benchmarking. HandBrake 0.9.5 does support 12-threads, but as you can see above it only used about 80-95% of the available processing power.

HandBrake 0.9.5 benchmarking

Benchmark Results: HandBrake version 0.9.5 loves having multiple physical CPU cores and threads to work with. The Intel Core i7-3960X CPU finished the work load 14 seconds faster than the Intel Core i7-990X and 37 seconds faster than the AMD FX-8150.

POV-Ray 3.7 RC3

Processor Performance on Pov-Ray 3.7 RC3:

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 RC3, which is the most recent version available.  The benchmark used all available cores to their fullest extent to complete the render.

Pov-Ray 3.7 RC3

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!

Pov-Ray 3.7 RC3

Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-3960X finished the POV-Ray benchmark in 129.48 seconds and was faster than any other processor that we have ever benchmarked.

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

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.

Cinebench R11.5 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: When it comes to multi-core performance the Intel Core i7-3960X scored 11.46 points, which is the highest score we have ever seen on this benchmark. That is also close to twice the performance that we saw on the AMD FX-8150 Bulldozer CPU!  It is clear that AMD Bulldozer and Intel Sandy Bridge-E processors are in two totally different categories.

Cinebench R11.5 Results

Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-3960X also dominates the single core CPU benchmark! That didn't really come as a surprise after seeing how it performed in the multi-CPU benchmark!

PCMark 7

PCMark 7 Benchmarking

This is our first use of Futuremark PCMark 7 for a processor review. PCMark 7 which is specifically designed for Windows 7. It measures the performance of the latest PC hardware across a variety of common scenarios.

PCMark Vantage 7 supports both system level and component level benchmarking and comprises several different test suites but for the purposes of this review, we employed the standard test suite. The nice thing about it is that you can submit your scores online and compare against others.

AMD FX-8150 Detailed Benchmark Results:

AMD FX-8150 PCMark 7 Benchmark Results

Intel Core i7-3960X Detailed Benchmark Results:

Intel Core i7-3960X PCMark 7 Benchmark Results

Looking at the detailed test results between the AMD FX-8150 'Bulldozer' and the Intel Core i7-3960X 'Sandy Bridge-E' processor we can see that Intel rules the roost in this test. Both systems run a Crucial C300 SATA III 6Gbps hard drive, so that is why the system storage tests are nearly identical.

PCMark Vantage Benchmarking

Benchmark Results: PCMark 7 had the Intel Core i7-3060X leading the group of processors be roughly 350 points more than the next competitor, which is the Intel Core i7-990X. It looks like the successor to Gulftown is doing well!

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

3DMark Vantage

The Performance settings were used for testing, so a resolution of 1280x1024 was used.

3dmark Vantage Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-3960X beat all the other processors in 3DMark Vantage! All of the processors were tested on platforms using AMD Radeon HD 6950 video cards with Catalyst 11.10 drivers. You can see some pretty good scaling here as there is a 8550 3DMark difference (59%) between the Intel Core i7-3960X and the AMD FX-4100.

3dmark Vantage Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The differences seen on the GPU test were a little closer as it looks like we were becoming GPU limited by the Radeon HD 6950 at the top of the chart.

3dmark Vantage Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The CPU benchmark results in 3DMark Vantage are impressive looking as the Intel Core i7-3960 Sandy Bridge-E processor dominates all of the others in the chart by a good distance. This is also the first stock processor that we have ever had break the 40,000 point mark in this application. The Intel Core i7-3960X is more than twice as fast as the AMD FX-8150 Bulldozer processor!

Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. Resident Evil 5 features similar gameplay to Resident Evil 4, with context-sensitive controls and dynamic cut scenes also making a return. The player can control Chris Redfield or Sheva Alomar in a similar fashion to Leon S. Kennedy in Resident Evil 4, with the same over-the-shoulder perspective.

Resident Evil 5

We ran the Resident Evil 5 benchmark in DX10 mode with all the image quality settings turned down, which just happens to be the default settings of the game.

Resident Evil 5

This game title runs on up to six threads as you can see from the task manager shot above that was taken on a test system that was running the Intel Core i7-3960X processor.

Resident Evil 5 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: We heard that the Intel Core i7-3960X wasn't going to make a huge difference in gaming benchmarks, so we were shocked to see the CPU at the top of the chart for the Resident Evil 5 DirectX 10 benchmark! This game is only threaded for what looks like six cores and that is the reason that all the 6-8 core processors were at the top of the chart. The Intel Core i7-3960X was just ahead of the Intel Core i7-990X.

H.A.W.X. 2 Benchmark

Tom Clancy's HAWX 2

Aerial warfare has evolved. So have you. As a member of the ultra-secret H.A.W.X. 2 squadron, you are one of the chosen few, one of the truly elite. You will use finely honed reflexes, bleeding-edge technology and ultra-sophisticated aircraft - their existence denied by many governments - to dominate the skies. You will do so by mastering every nuance of the world's finest combat aircraft. You will slip into enemy territory undetected, deliver a crippling blow and escape before he can summon a response. You will use your superior technology to decimate the enemy from afar, then draw him in close for a pulse-pounding dogfight. And you will use your steel nerve to successfully execute night raids, aerial refueling and more. You will do all this with professionalism, skill and consummate lethality. Because you are a member of H.A.W.X. 2 and you are one of the finest military aviators the world has ever known. H.A.W.X. 2 was released on November 16, 2010 for PC gamers.

Tom Clancy's HAWX 2

We ran the benchmark in DX11 mode with the image quality settings set fairly high as you would on a high-end gaming PC with a Radeon HD 6950 graphics card.

Tom Clancy's HAWX 2

The H.A.W.X. 2 PC game title runs on what looks like seven threads if the processor being tested has that many available.

Tom Clancy's HAWX 2 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: At 1920x1080 the Intel Core i7-3960X and the LGA2011 platform (X79) performed identically with the Intel Core i7-2600K and 2700K processors on the LGA1155 platform (Z68).  This came as a bit of a shock, but it appears that we are more GPU limited than CPU limited for the graphics intensive DirectX 11 game title. 

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

Stalker Call of Pripyat DX11 Performance Benchmark

The events of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat unfold shortly after the end of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl following the ending in which Strelok destroys the C-Consciousness. Having discovered the open path to the Zone's center, the government decides to stage a large-scale operation to take control of the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat utilizes the XRAY 1.6 Engine, allowing advanced modern graphical features through the use of DirectX 11 to be fully integrated; one outstanding feature being the inclusion of real-time GPU tessellation. Regions and maps feature photo realistic scenes of the region it is made to represent. There is also extensive support for older versions of DirectX, meaning that Call of Pripyat is also compatible with older DirectX 8, 9, 10 and 10.1 graphics cards.

Stalker Call of Pripyat Advanced Image Quality Settings
Stalker Call of Pripyat Advanced Image Quality Settings

The game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: CoP has no internal benchmarking tools built into the game engine, but they do have a standalone benchmark available that we used for our testing purposes. The screen capture above shows the main window of the benchmark with our settings. Notice we are running Enhanced Full Dynamic Lighting "DX11" as our renderer. Under the advanced settings we enabled tessellation, MSAA and Screen Space Ambient Occlusion.

Stalker Call of Pripyat Advanced Image Quality Settings

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat looks to only be threaded for one CPU core as you can see from the Windows Task Manager screen capture that was done during a benchmark run.

Stalker Call of Pripyat Advanced Image Quality Settings

Benchmark Results: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat doesn't exactly scale well across multiple cores. The AMD FX-4100 and FX-8150 performed nearly identically on this benchmark.

Total System Power Consumption

CPU 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. Curious about other test scenarios, we decided to HAWX 2 the PC game for testing. We also tested a video transcode using HandBrake 0.95 to see how the power draw on that was.

ASUS F1A75-M Pro System Power Consumption

Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E processor had very impressive idle power consumption numbers at just 59.9 Watts on average. The previous generation Intel Core i7-990X Gulftown processor consumed 111 Watts at idle, so Intel has done a great job with idle power consumption on this CPU. Most PCs sit at idle anyway, so this is critical. At load the power jumped up, but had respectable power draws in gaming and video encoding testing. When running Prime 95 64-bit we saw the system hit 260 Watts of draw, which is the most of any processor on this application. The AMD FX-8150 Bulldozer processor still tops the charts with 286 Watts during gaming.

Intel Core i7-3960X CPU Air Temp Testing

It's tough to do temperature testing since we don't have a thermo chamber, but the least we can do is show you the temperature numbers we observed on the Intel Core i7-3960X processor as we tested it. For benchmarking and temperature testing we used the Zalman CNPS12X CPU cooler. Sure, Intel sent over their new water cooler, but we wanted to keep our power numbers in check the best we could. Running a water pump in addition to the fans increases power usage and we didn't want that to influence our power consumption numbers that we will be showing you on the next page.

Zalman CNPS12X CPU cooler

The Zalman CNPS12X is one of the largest CPU coolers that we have ever used. It weighs in at 1,000 grams and has dimensions of 151(L) x 132(W) x 154(H)mm. The Zalman CNPS12X doesn't come cheap, either, as it costs $99.99 shipped! Since everything on this HSF is massive it was tricky to get memory modules to work with it. We have a feeling that Intel released their first desktop water cooler to help avoid memory fitment issues. We found that standard height modules would fit in all eight socket, but we run 1866MHz CL9 memory on all of our test systems. Trying to find a memory kit that would work at these speeds was nearly impossible, but luckily we had a kit of Corsair Dominator GTX4 DDR3 2400MHz memory that would fit and work at the timings we wanted. We had to take the heat sink off on the two inner modules, but that is no big deal as they would run 9-10-9-28 1T timings at 1866MHz with 1.50 Volts!

To get idle temperatures we let the platform idle for 30 minutes on the open test bench and then ran it at full load with Prime 95 64-bit.

Intel Core i7-3960X Processor Temperature at Idle

The ambient air temperature in the room was 70F or 21C. We used the new Intel Extreme Tuning Utility to monitor the overall CPU temperatures. You can independently monitor each core with this utility or the average of all of them. We enabled just the overall temperature to make things simple. As you can see from the image above the idle temperature bounced around 32-33C, which is pretty darn impressive.

Intel Core i7-3960X Processor Temperature at Load

When it comes to load temperatures we fired up Prime95 64-bit and let the system run for about 30 minutes as by then the CPU temperatures leveled off. At 100% load in Prime95 we found the Intel Core i7-3060X topping out at 57C. Not bad considering the processor is running at a very respectable 3.6GHz with all six cores at load thanks to Turbo mode.

Let's look to see how the Intel Active Thermal Solution RTS2011LC does on the next page!

Intel Core i7-3960X CPU Water Temp Testing

Intel RTS2011LC

Today, Intel has also introduced the RTS2011LC, a sealed liquid cooling thermal solution that works on Intel core processor families with LGA2011 / 1366 / 1155 / 1156 sockets. This kit is geared toward enthusiasts that want to get the most from their computer. We've already covered this cooler back in September, so we'll get right to it. This water cooling kit features a 150mm x 118mm x 37mm radiator that is kept cool by a 120mm x 120mm x 25mm fan.

Intel RTS2011LC Copper Base

The water block and pump cover clearly states that the water cooler was developed by Asetek, which has been in the liquid cooling business for a long time. Asetek has teamed up with Corsair and Antec in recent years and jointly brought out liquid coolers with them, so this should be a quality cooler.  Flipping the block over you can clearly see the copper cold plate. Intel has not announced pricing on this water cooler, but we expect it to be in the $80-$100 range.

Specifications of RTS2011LC:

Intel has made a very nice installation video for the RTS2011LC water cooler that is certainly worth a look if you are curious about buying one of these coolers.

Intel Core i7-3960X Processor Temperature at Idle

The Intel RTS2011LC water cooler is pretty darn quiet and the Intel Core i7-3960X was running at 35C at idle.

Intel Core i7-3960X Processor Temperature at Load

When it comes to load temperatures with Prime95 64-bit we found the Intel Core i7-3060X topping out at 68C. This is 11C higher than the Zalman CNPS12X, but well under the thermal limits of the processor.

We'll have an in-depth review posted here shortly that shows off the new Intel water cooler by our CPU cooling guru, so stay tuned!

Core i7-3960X CPU Overclocking

Overclocking greatly varies due to what hardware is being used and who is doing the overclocking. Always remember that no two pieces of hardware will perform the same, so our results will differ from what you might be able to get. Intel informed us that on their DX79SI motherboard with the Core i7-3960X that we should be able to hit 4.6GHz to 4.8GHz with relative ease.

Intel DX79SI Siler motherboard

Intel has also introduced a new feature on their DX79SI 'Siler' motherboard called 'overclocking assistant' that will help novices when it comes to overclocking! This is great news as it will help enthusiasts get the most from their Core i7 processor and quad channel DDR3 memory kit.

Intel Overclocking Assistant

To use the auto overclocking feature you need to enter the BIOS setup (Press F2 during the system POST) and go to the performance page. After accepting the legal disclaimer you can pick either a 1.00x gear ratio or 1.25x gear ratio for overclocking. The CPU overclocking assistant allows for selections that range from 4.000 GHz to 4.625 GHz. It sets all the voltages, turbo ratios, power and current limits for you automatically. You can also overclock the memory on this BIOS page by selecting 1600, 1866 or 2133 MHz when using the 1.00 gear ratio or 1666 or 2000 MHz with the 1.25x ratio. Intel informed us that for the highest frequencies that we don't want to populate the black memory slots. This is common sense as it is easier to keep four modules stable than eight!

Intel Core i7-3960X Overclocking Assistant

Intel also sent us instructions for manually setting the system to run at 4.8GHz! The bad news is that our test system wouldn't even post with the 4.8GHz settings!

Intel Core i7-3960X Overclocking Assistant

We were able to get the auto overclock running at 4.6GHz (1.0x gear ratio) and at 4.625GHz (1.25x gear ratio) although we found the system wasn't fully stable when running stability tests like Prime95.

Intel Core i7-3960X Overclocked 4625MHz

When running a single thread turbo mode bumped up the profiles one more multiplier, so, for example with the 1.0x gear profile loaded we were running 4700MHz when running a single Super Pi thread.

Intel Core i7-3960X Overclocked 4625MHz

With the 4625MHz auto overclocked enabled it was benchmark stable for the most part and we were able to rip off some very impressive numbers. For example, in Cinebench we got a score of 11.46 and with this overclock we were hitting 13.57!

Intel Core i7-3960X Overclocked 4625MHz

We then wanted to look at temperature and power consumption as that both of those usually drastically change when overclocked. 

 Intel Core i7-3960X Stock Settings
4625MHz OC Profile
Idle Temp
 32C  38C
Load Temp
 57C  76C
Idle Watts
 60W  84W
 Load Watts
 260W  319W
 Cinebench Score

As you can see the temperature was up 19C at load and the power consumption was up by 59 Watts. Intel designed the processor to work very power efficiently at stock speeds, but once you overclock it and increase the voltages you throw all that out the window. If you plan on overclocking one of these processors you will need aftermarket cooling! We used the Zalman CNPS12X for overclocking as it had the best thermal performance of all the LGA2011 coolers that we had available at the time.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

The Intel X79 platform for socket LGA2011 processors proved that it is clearly the new enthusiast desktop platform for Intel. The Intel Core i7-3960X processor did a great job of showing just how far ahead Intel is when it comes to processor performance. AMD's new 'Bulldozer' processor series doesn't stand a chance against Intel's new 'Sandy Bridge-E' processors. The Intel Core i7-3960X is hands down the fastest processor that we have ever tested and used before. It is without a doubt the exotic super car of processors and with its commanding $990 suggested retail price it reserved for the select few that are willing to pay to have the best money can buy.

Zalman CNPS12X CPU cooler

The Intel Core i7-3960X was remarkably fast on multi-threaded benchmarks and that is very good news for power users that really tax their systems with workloads like video encoding and decoding. When it comes to gaming performance the Core i7-3960X is the first Intel Extreme Edition processor that didn't really excel in the games. Most games don't take advantage of four threaded let alone twelve, so this makes sense. If you're looking for a cost effective gaming system you'd be better off using the Intel X68 Express chipset and socket LGA1155 processor. That said, the Intel LGA2011 platform wasn't really lacking in gaming performance! 

Intel Sandy Bridge-E Features

We weren't sent the Intel Core i7-3930K for testing, but at $555 it is also a very interesting processor. It has less cache (12MB) and a 100MHz base/turbo clock, but is still a fully unlocked part. Many of our readers might be wondering why buy the 3960X for $990 when for roughly half the price you can get nearly the same processor minus the cache (we are certain you can overclock it 100MHz). This is a great question! Intel didn't really differentiate the Extreme Edition processor that much and that is great news to those that like to feel they are getting a deal. The Intel Core i7-3820 is going to be the entry level Sandy Bridge-E processor and it won't be released until Q1 2012. Intel didn't exactly say why, but why release it if the competition can't touch your last edition processor?

Intel Sandy Bridge-E and NVIDIA SLI

The Intel X79 Express chipset doesn't have that many new features, but it does bring quad-channel memory and 40 PCI Express lanes to the table. When it comes to SATA and USB the new chipset doesn't bring anything new to the table compared to the Intel Z68 chipset. Intel has yet to integrate a USB 3.0 controller into their chipset and the board still has just two SATA III 6Gbps ports for storage drives. In this review we tested single card gaming performance and didn't find much difference between Z68 and X58 platforms. If you run a multi-GPU setup like NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFire you should see some rather nice performance gains thanks to the full x16 PCI Express 3.0 slots that are being used on these boards. NVIDIA is allowing motherboard makers to buy licenses for SLI on the Intel X79 chipset, which is great news for NVIDIA fans. NVIDIA sent over some slides showing that they are seeing between 10-30% performance improvements when running 3-way SLI with GeForce GTX580 video cards thanks to the extra bandwidth. If you are a gaming and run a multi-GPU setup then you might want to take a closer look at this platform. 

Intel DX79SI Siler motherboard

Our use of the Intel DX79SI 'Slier' motherboard was limited, but we found it to be a feature rich platform. As with any new platform we ran into some memory compatibility issues and we are hopeful that this will be fixed in future BIOS releases. Intel has a few kinks to work out, but minor issues like this are normal as we are dealing with beta BIOS revisions that will likely never be public. We'll hold our final thoughts on this board for a later date when we have our motherboard tester take a look at it. 

At the end of the day we have discovered that Intel has released yet another powerful platform that is sure to power high-end enthusiast systems for years to come.

Legit Bottom Line: The Intel Core i7-3960X 6-core processor is menacing and it's a shame that AMD's Bulldozer 8-core processor couldn't compete at the same in many of the benchmarks!