Intel Core i7-6950X Arrives With 10-Cores!

Intel Broadwell-E processors are finally here and sadly before I even started to type this review most of the details have been leaked out around the web this month and some have already made it up on eBay. It's getting harder to keep a secret these days and it certainly impacts traffic on sites like Legit Reviews that just so happens to play by the rules. While we are bummed by leaks, we are still excited that Intel is launching new enthusiast desktop processors today! Intel X79 Versus X99 Platform Intel Broadwell-E series processors are LGA 2011-v3 socketed for the Intel X99 platform. The Intel X99 platform was released in late August 2014 along with Haswell-E processors and has proven to be a very robust and powerful platform over the past two years. The good news is that after a UEFI/BIOS update most all existing Intel X99 chipset powered boards should be able to support the new Broadwell-E processors if one should choose to drop on in their existing board. We don't see too many enthusiasts upgrading their Haswell-E processor to a new Broadwell-E processor though as the generational performance gains between Haswell-E to Broadwell-E are modest at best. Those that have been happily using their Intel X79 platform with a Sandy Bridge-E (2011) or Ivy Bridge-E (2013) processor are those that itching to update. Those users are still running 4-6 core processors, quad-channel DDR3 memory and are running motherboards that lack USB 3.1 ports, Thunderbolt 3, SATA Express, M.2 PCIe SSD slots and more. Motherboard manufacturers are releasing updated Intel X99 boards with all the latest technologies, so those using 3-5 year old platforms can get a significant performance boost with the new 6, 8 and 10 core Broadwell-E processors as well as a modern platform with all the features they've been missing. Intel Broadwell-E Processor Series Intel’s Broadwell-E processors will be available in four flavors ranging from $434 for a base 6-core model all the way up to the flagship 10-core model that runs $1,723.  The Intel Core i7 6900K, 6850K, and 6800K are direct successors to the current generation 5960X, 5930K, and 5820K processors, respectively. The main differences would obviously be the newer Broadwell-E CPU core that uses 14-nanometer technology and run at slightly higher frequencies out of the box thanks to new Turbo Boost 3.0 technology that we will hit on a bit later. Intel Core i7-6950X Die Map The brand new addition to this processor series would be the Intel Core i7-6950X. This is the first consumer-grade 10-core processor released by Intel! Intel Core i7-6950X Processor The Intel Core i7-6950X has 25MB of cache, a 3GHz base clock and up to a 3.5GHz Turbo Boost clock speed. It also supports Intel Turbo Boost Max 2.0 technology, quad-channel DDR4 2400MHz memory, 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes. The Core i7-6950X processor appears to be a beast, but so is the price tag of $1,723.
Processor Core Count Lithography Launch Date 1ku Tray Price
 Intel Core i7-975X  4 Cores 8 Threads 45nm Q2 2009  $1039
 Intel Core i7-980X  6 Cores 12 Threads 32nm Q1 2010  $999
 Intel Core i7-990X 6 Cores 12 Threads 32nm Q1 2011  $999
 Intel Core i7-3960X  6 Cores 12 Threads 32nm  Q4 2011 $990
 Intel Core i7-4960X 6 Cores 12 Threads 22nm Q3 2013 $990
 Intel Core i7-5960X  8 Cores 16 Threads 22nm  Q3 2014  $999
Intel Core i7-6950X 10 Cores 20 Threads 14nm  Q2 2016 $1,723
I looked back seven years and found that Intel Extreme Edition processors have ranged from $990 to $1,039 on their launch date regardless of the addition of cores and whether or not there was a die shrink. To see Intel raise the price of their flagship processor by ~72% was very shocking to me, but this is what happens when a company has absolutely no competition in a segment of the market.   I've been writing PC hardware reviews for nearly 14 years now and it seems like an odd time for Intel to raise the price and drastically to boot. I'm fine with corporations making money and profiting from what they do, but I've never been a big fan of huge price jumps with no clear answer as to why. I questioned Intel about this directly and they said it was due to the additional cores. Clearly the chart above shows that historically, adding cores doesn't impact the price and way back in the day the price when down when a 6-core processor was introduced! The value-for-the-money will be interesting as how many applications today or in the near future use 10 cores/20 threads in the consumer market? Broadwell-E versus Haswell-E Here is a look at the Intel Core i7-5960X processor (Haswell-E) on the left and the new Intel Core i7-6950X (Broadwell-E) processor on the right. As you can see there have been some changes to the Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS), but it still shows the model number, S-Spec and Batch number. This particular Intel Core i7-6950X processor has an S-spec of QKVN, a batch number of L552C735. Broadwell-E versus Haswell-E Let's take a closer look at Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0!

Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0

Turbo Boost 3.0 Technology One of the most noteworthy changes to Broadwell-E is the addition of Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0. Intel Turbo Boost was introduced way back in 2008 and temporarily increases the clock speed of the chip to improve performance. Broadwell-E is the first series of processors to feature Turbo Boost Max 3.0 Technology that needs a Windows driver to work properly and an application to work properly. Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 Intel identifies at the factory which CPU core is the 'best' on your particular processor and then thanks to the UEFI, Windows Driver and Application and runs it at a higher clock speed than the others. The driver MUST be present on the system and configured correctly in order for this benefit to be realized as current operating systems cannot effectively route workloads to ordered cores. After installation, the Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 Application / Driver will automatically load when the system starts. Core i7-6950X Better Core The UEFI BIOS Utility on our ASUS X99 Deluxe II motherboard places an asterisk next to the core that has the better overclocking headroom as determined by Intel. On our particular processor Core 2 is the best performing core. When enabled Intel Turbo Boost Max 3.0 direct single-threaded applications to that one higher-performing core, for a performance boost of up to 15 percent! Notice that there is now an UEFI setting for 'AVX Instruction Core Ratio Negative Offset' now. This is a brand new feature for Broadwell-E that has been around in server platforms for the past couple years. Intel is giving end users control of this feature now because AVX workloads consume a lot more current than ones that use the default instruction set. The AVX Offset mechanism is designed to work in conjunction with Auto mode for voltage; when an AVX workload is detected, the processor reduces its frequency, which is followed by a reduction in core voltage via the on-die power control unit (PCU).  The adjustment option is nice to have, but by having it default to Auto it means that the processor voltage gets decreased to reduce operating temperatures under AVX workloads, and this can have negative implications for overclocking. We'll look into this feature down the road as we get more familiar with the platform, but it is a new feature that is certainly worth noting. Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 In Windows, you’ve been able to bind a certain program or process to a particular core or thread by changing the affinity. Turbo Boost Max 3.0 does it for you automatically (once set up). Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 The Advanced Settings menu allows you to adjust the evaluation interval, utilization threshold and affinity controls. The evaluation interval is how often the Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 Application / Driver looks for demanding work. The interval is specified in 100 millisecond units and the Intel default value is 10 (once per second). When the box for 'Affinitize All Demanding Work' is checked (Intel default), the software takes actions to run the demanding work of all applications on processor cores listed in the Core List in an ordered fashion with the following priority: 1) Foreground Applications (if Foreground App Has Priority control is checked), 2) Applications in the Turbo Boost Max Applications list, 3) Other applications. When the box is un-checked, the software takes actions to run the demanding work of Foreground Applications (if Foreground App Has Priority control is checked), and applications in the Turbo Boost Max Applications list only. Affinity Controls specify whether the Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 Application / Driver places demanding work in priority order on all cores in the core list or whether it only places demanding work on higher performance (diverse) cores, which results in OS scheduler policy placing work on the residual cores. As you can see there is a fair amount of fine tuning that you can do to get the most from Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0.

Intel Core i7-6950X Processor Overclocking

6950x-cpuz The Intel Core i7-6950X processor runs up to 3.5GHz out of the box, but we wanted to see how much higher that we could get. The big question is, how well does Broadwell-E overclock compared to previous gen processors? From what we have been told, the average overclocked frequency for 6950X processors is 4.3-4.4GHz. 6950x 4ghz We didn't have much time to overclock since we had to benchmark over the memory day weekend, so we played it safe and ran a simple 4.0GHz overclock by raising the CPU multiplier up to 40 and running all cores at 4,000MHz. We hope to get more time to overclock this processor in the future, but 500MHz overclock is a 14.3% increase in the core clocks and should give a very nice boost to performance numbers. We ran all of our benchmarks at stock speeds and then again at 4GHz to give you a good idea of how the 6950X performs at stock speeds and then with a moderate overclock!

SiSoftware Sandra 2015 SP2

Sisoftware Sandra 2011 SP5

The Sisoft Sandra 2015 SP2 benchmark utility measures pretty much all of your system components, but we'll be using it to focus on memory and CPU performance!

sandra-memory

Results:  The Intel Core i7-6950X has about 53 GB/s of memory bandwidth at default clock speeds when running a 2400MHz DDR4 quad-channel memory kit with CL16 timings and a 1T command rate. 

sandra-multi

Results: The Intel Core i7-6950X scored over 500 MPixels/s in stock form and that jumped up to nearly 580 MPixels/s when overclocked to 4.0 GHz on all cores! sandra-crypto Results: The Intel Core i7-6950X scored 13.40 GB/s for this AES benchmark test, which is really good and that score improved to 14.53 GB/s when the 6950X was overclocked.

sandra-cpu

Results: In the Sandra 2015 SP2 CPU Arithmetic Benchmark the Intel Core i7-6950X Broadwell-E processor scored 253.43 GOPS in stock form and when overclocked we were able to get 289.44 GOPS. This is an improvement of 14.2% due to the overclock. It looks like the Intel Core i7-6950X is off to a strong start!

x264 HD Encoding

x264
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.
x264 HD Encoding Benchmark
This application scales across many threads and is ideal for processors with Intel Hyper-Threading or a bunch of cores. x264 Benchmark Results: The x264 HD v5.0.1 benchmark showed the Intel Core i7-6950X was able to average 130 FPS on pass 1 and 36 FPS on pass 2. With the processor overclocked up to 4.0GHz we were able to get 146 FPS on pass 1 and 41 FPS on pass 2, which is faster than anything we've ever tested before.

Euler3d CFD Benchmark

Next up is the STARS Euler3d CFD benchmark. The benchmark is intended to provide information about the relative speed of different processor, operating system, and compiler combinations for a multi-threaded, floating point, computationally intensive CFD code. The benchmark test case is the AGARD 445.6 aeroelastic test wing. The wing uses a NACA 65A004 airfoil section and has a panel aspect ratio of 1.65, a taper ratio of 0.66, and a 45 degree quarter-chord sweep angle. This AGARD wing was tested at the NASA Langley Research Center in the 16-foot Transonic Dynamics Tunnel and is a standard aeroelastic test case used for validation of unsteady, compressible CFD codes.
euler3d-benchmark
The benchmark CFD grid contains 1.23 million tetrahedral elements and 223 thousand nodes. The benchmark executable advances the Mach 0.50 AGARD flow solution. The Intel Fortran compiler (ifort 10.0) is used and all floating point variables are Fortran's double precision (8 bytes). Parallelization is through OpenMP. The benchmark score is reported as a CFD cycle frequency in Hertz and that is what we used to make out chart.
euler
Benchmark Results: We arranged these benchmark results differently this time and instead of arranging them by the highest overall score (giving the most threaded processors the lead) we arranged them by single threaded performance. Once you get to 8-threads and beyond the Intel Core i7-6950X is pretty much untouchable and is in a league of its own!

Handbrake

handbrake-gui 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.
Big_buck_bunny
We used Big Buck Bunny as our input file, which has become one of the world standards for video benchmarks. The 1080P clip was used in the MP4 format and the workload is encoded into h.264 output format using the preset - high profile. This benchmark test was setup to give you an idea of how these processors can take a 1080p BD rip and turn it into a 1080p H.264. HandBrake version 0.9.9 was used for benchmarking and we highly encourage you to download this MP4 clip and compare your system to ours with Handbrake!

handbrake-6950x

Benchmark Results: HandBrake version 0.9.9 showed that the Intel Core i7-6950XK is a very capable mainstream desktop processor as we were able to average 82.02 FPS on the render in stock form and 91.68 FPS when overclocked. That is a nice 11.8% improvement thanks to the overclock!

POV-Ray 3.7

Processor Performance on Pov-Ray 3.7: 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.

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 and a score in PPS. We are using the final CPU score for our benchmarks and a higher value indicates faster system performance.

povray-695-x

Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-950X scores 3755.0 PPS in the POV-Ray multi-CPU benchmark and when overclocked up to 4.0GHz we were able to get up to 4205.7 points!

Cinebench R15

MAXON; CINEBENCH R15:

MAXON CINEBENCH Release 15 is 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. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Iron Man 3, Oblivion, Life of Pi or Prometheus and many more. 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.

cine

Cinebench R15 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. cinbench Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-6950X processor scored 1873 points when using all of the available cores and had a score of 166 on just one. With the Intel Core i7-6950X processor overclocked the multi processor test score went up to 2102!

TrueCrypt

TrueCrypt is sort of discontinued, but it was once a widely available freeware utility used for on-the-fly encryption (OTFE). It can create a virtual encrypted disk within a file or encrypt a partition or (under Microsoft Windows except Windows 8 with GPT) the entire storage device (pre-boot authentication). On 28 May 2014, the TrueCrypt website announced that the project was no longer maintained and recommended users to find alternate solutions. Since that announcement was made Thomas Bruderer and Joseph Doekbrijder have stepped forward with plans to revive the project through the truecrypt.ch site, which is offering downloads of TrueCrypt 7.1a – which can encrypt and decrypt data, and was the latest version prior to 7.2. truecrypt 6950x We are using the benchmark built-in TrueCrypt 7.1a with default settings to figure out the mean AES speed for each of the processors being tested with a 50MB buffer size. truecrypt Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-6950X does well on the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) benchmark test and scored 10.5 GB/s in stock form and 12.0 GB/s when overclocked up to 4.0GHz.

Intel Core i7-6950X CPU Temperature Testing

Intel no longer comments on the Thermal Interface Material (TIM) material that they use on processors, but we are fairly certain that the Intel Core i7-6950X uses Next-Generation Polymer Thermal Interface Material (NGPTIM). Let's take a look at the processors thermal performance. idle-temp We used the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility v6.0.2.8 to monitor the temperatures on our X99 test system with the Corsair H105 water cooler along with Gelid Extreme Thermal Compound. The Intel Core i7-6950X processor sitting on the desktop had a package temperature of 32C and the voltage was set to 0.8060V. The room temperature was 24C. 6950x-load-temp When we ran a run of Prime 95  and found that the processor temperature topped out at 61C and the voltage jumped up to 1.107V during this workload,. We are pretty impressed with these temperatures as they are quite good considering this is a 10-core processor. overclock-xtu   After manually setting the voltage to 1.27V and set all cores to a 40x multiplier for a 4GHz clock speed we were seeing 68C load temps. Sure the temperature was 7C higher for the same test, but that isn't had considering the Core i7-6950X is running 500MHz faster and has a higher voltage set!

Power Consumption

test-system Power efficiency remains important to PC users and Intel and AMD have both made great strides to improve power efficiencies. Today we will be looking at a few high-end desktop processors on our Watts Up Pro ES power data logger on the three platforms with each running Windows 8.1 on the balanced power option. power-consumption-6950x Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-6950X didn't do that bad when it came to the power numbers, which is great. The new Intel Broadwell-E series appears to have a pretty efficient idle power efficiency as we were right around 77.3 Watts at idle on the ASUS X99 Deluxe II motherboard with UEFI 0601 along with a 16GB kit of DDR4 memory running at 1.2V and a GeForce GTX Titan video card and the Corsair AX860i digital power supply. When running Prime 95 we hit 219 Watts and then when running 3DMark we hit 321 Watts. Overclocking increased the voltage from 1.1V to ~1.25V, so the power consumption was up rather drastically for Prime95 and Handbrake where the CPU was put to full use. Futuremark 3DMark doesn't use all 20 threads, so the power wasn't up too much there.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

Intel Core i7-6950X   The Intel Core i7-6950X Broadwell-E CPU features 10-cores that absolutely thrash multi-core benchmarks. This processor is indeed a monster and after using this processor and seeing how fast it tears through tasks we are left impressed. Even the boring single-threaded workloads were made fun to watch thanks to Intel Turbo Boost Max 3.0 Technology that helps the 'best' core in the processor do the simple tasks at the highest clock speed possible. The benchmark numbers for this processor speak for themselves as this is the fastest processor that Intel has ever released to the consumer market. If you have big workloads that have you impatiently waiting at your desk for them to complete then this processor is what you need. The bad thing about the Intel Core i7-6950X is the price tag. I know that this is the flagship processor and that it does deserve a premium price tag, but $1,723 is tough to swallow. I sure wish Intel would have kept this monster at the $1,000 price point like most all Intel Extreme Edition processors have been over the past decade, but they did not. In fact when we were briefed on this processor the price was slightly lower on all Broadwell-E processors and Intel raised the price even more. When pricing leaked on Broadwell-E it made me laugh as they had the pricing wrong. Only yesterday did I check with Intel and figure out that leaked pricing was right. With the price point this high it is starting to get up into the Intel Xeon territory. For example the Intel Xeon E5-2640 v4 processor has 12-cores/20-threads with 25MB cache for the LGA 2011-v3 platform and only costs $989.99. Sure, it is only clocked at 2.4GHz rather than 3.5GHz, but it's nearly half the price! It also supports Error-Correcting Code ECC memory and is only 90W TDP! Intel Broadwell-E Processor Pricing On Newegg: At the end of the day the Intel Core i7-6950X is amazing, but the price tag is brutal and is reserved for those with rather deep pockets. We won't give it our recommended award due to the price point, but I will give it the Editor's Choice Award where price isn't a concern and the award is given to something above and beyond the rest. The Intel Core i7-6950X is certainly in a class of its own and so is the price. LR Editors' Choice This is a fitting end for the X99 platform and we can't wait to see what Intel does with their next generation Skylake-E processor next year. It is rumored to be using a new LGA 3647 socket and obviously an entirely new platform.

Legit Bottom Line: The Intel Core i7-6950X Broadwell-E processor is a beast and the new Intel X99 refresh boards have all the latest features!