The $285 Sandy Bridge-E Processor
Intel's high-end LGA2011 platform has been out for a number of months now and since the platform's introduction there have only been two SNB-E processor choices available, the six-core Intel Core i7-3960X (review) and Core i7-3930K. These hexa-core processors are costly, though, as the Intel Core i7-3930K runs $683.40 and the Core i7-3960X Black Edition is $1049.99! In years past the most popular desktop processor for the flagship platforms have always been around $300. An example of this on the previous generation LGA1366 platform would have been the Intel Core i7-920 processor and then the Core i7-930 when it came out. Both of these processors were hands down the best sellers for the LGA1366 platform and you can argue that it was due to price and overclockability. Intel launched LGA2011 without a value minded processor and that caused many of our readers to put off buying this platform and we don't blame them. Later this month Intel plans on solving this issue with the introduction of a quad-core processor called the Intel Core i7-3820 for a mere $285. We are hearing that the Core i7-3820 should be made available the week of February 12, 2012.
A quick look at the specifications of the Intel Core i7-3820 LGA2011 processor and it looks like it should be a contender. It uses the same 32nm manufacturing process as the Intel Core i7-3960X, supports Hyper-Threading, has an integrated quad-channel memory controller, 40 integrated PCI-E lanes, support for PCI-E 3.0 graphics cards and Intel Turbo Boost Technology that maxes out at the same 3.9 GHz clock speed. The main difference with the Intel Core i7-3820 is that it has two less cores, making it just a quad-core processor. The Core i7-3820 has 10MB of L3 shared cache, so you are losing more than just the physical cores. Intel tries to make up for this by setting the base clock speed of the processor at 3.60 GHz, which is 300 MHz faster than the Intel Core i7-3960X. This might prove to be interesting as the Core i7-3820 may end up beating the flagship desktop processor on certain workloads that aren't threaded for high-end processors that have up to 12 threads available.
Intel Core i7-3820 Processor Specifications:
- Model #: BX80619I73820
- S-spec: QBM0
- Launch Date: Q1'12
- Processor Number: Core i7-3820
- Supported Socket: LGA2011
- # of Cores: 4
- # of Threads: 8
- Base Clock Speed: 3.60 GHz
- Turbo Clock Speed: 3.90GHz
- Intel Smart Cache: 12 MB
- Bus/Core Ratio: 36
- Instruction Set: 64-bit
- Instruction Set Extensions: SSE4.1/4.2
- Turbo Core: Yes
- Hyper-Threading Technology: Yes
- Lithography: 32 nm
- Processor Graphics: No
- Graphics Base Frequency: N/A
- Graphics Max Dynamic Frequency: N/A
- Max TDP: 130 W
- Recommended Channel Price: $285.00
As you can see, the Intel Core i7-3820 'Sandy Bridge-E' chip that we were sent for review is an Engineering Sample (ES) processor with a batch number of L139B866. You can also see the S-Spec number QBM0 on the integrated heat spreader (IHS) and that it was made in the country of Malaysia.
Flipping the processor over we can see the capacitor arrangement and thousands of pins. We will be taking Intel's word that all are present!
Now that we know a little bit about the Intel Core i7-3820 processor we can move on to the test system and then the performance benchmarks!
The Test Systems
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 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
The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the Intel LGA 2011 processors
was running the Intel DX79SI motherboard with BIOS 0380 that came out on 11/28/2011. 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 Z68 Platform
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.
The AMD FM1 'Llano' 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 AM3+ Platform
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.
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|
A8-3850 / A6-3650
|8GB GSKILL Ripjaws 1866
AMD Radeon HD 6950
Crucial C300 256GB SSD
AMD Retail Boxed
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit
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!
Results: The Intel Core i7-3960X and 3820 both use quad-channel DDR3 memory and the memory bandwidth numbers are impressive. If you need tons of memory bandwidth for what you do, then there is no other platform to choose. The IntelCore i7-3820 processor that we are focusing on today was running Corsair quad-channel DDR3 1866MHz memory and had ~37.4GB/s of memory bandwidth. The Intel Core i7-3960X had 39.5GB/s of memory bandwidth, but this is likely due to the extra cores and L3 cache.
The Sandra Processor Multi-Media benchmark has been a long time favorite of ours to look at floating point performance on processors.
Results: The Intel Core i7-3820 performed decently in the Sandra processor multi-media benchmark, but as you can see it was only marginally faster than the Core i7-2700K.
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 v4.0 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
The x264 HD benchmark showed the Intel Core i7-3820 doing really well with an average of 38.4 FPS on the more time consuming second pass. This was just slightly faster than the Core i7-2700K, but slower than the two hexa-core processors that beat it.
CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5
CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5 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 6.5 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.
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.
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 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.
POV-Ray 3.7 RC3Processor 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.
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 i7-3820 finished the POV-Ray benchmark in 205.77 seconds and while it beat the Core i7-2700K, it was only 4.67 faster. The Core i7-3820 was 76.29 seconds slower than the Core i7-3960K Extreme Edition processor, so the flagship processor is the clear winner when it comes to threaded applications that can use them all.
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: When it comes to multi-core performance the Intel Core i7-3820 scored a respectable 7.26 points. That was enough to beat out the Core i7-2700K, but not by much!
Benchmark Results: A quick look at the single core CPU benchmark revealed that the Core i7-2700K and 3820 were basically performing the same!
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.
Benchmark Results: Talk about a photo finish! The Intel Core i7-3960X finished only 94 points ahead of the Core i7-3820! It looks like the faster clock frequency on the Intel Core i7-3820 helped make up for the missing cores and cache in this test. Let's take a closer look at the results to see what the deciding factor was.
Intel Core i7-3960X Detailed Benchmark Results:
Intel Core i7-3820 Detailed Benchmark Results:
Looking at the detailed test results between the Intel Core i7-3960X and Core i7-3820 processors we
can see that the Core i7-3960X looks to have won thanks to better performance in the video playback and transcoding downscaling test.
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.
The Performance settings were used for testing, so a resolution of 1280x1024 was used.
Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-3960X beat all the other processors in 3DMark Vantage, but the Core i7-3820 wasn't that far behind. Less than a hundred 3DMark points separate the Core i7-3820 and the 2700K.
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.
Benchmark Results: The CPU benchmark results in 3DMark Vantage clearly show the Intel Core i7-3980X in the lead, but look how close the Core i7-2700K and 3820 are once again.
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.
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.
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.
Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-3820 did really well in Resident Evil 5 benchmark and was significantly faster than the Core i7-2700K.
H.A.W.X. 2 Benchmark
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.
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.
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.
Benchmark Results: Here we see the Intel Core i7-3820 losing to the Core i7-2700K in a game test that is obviously coded different and with more graphics intensive settings enabled. The difference between scores here is minor, so saying it lost might be a bit extreme. The difference is really not significant.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
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.
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.
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.
Benchmark Results: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat doesn't exactly scale well across multiple cores and with the image quality increased it appears that the GPU is the bottleneck.
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. 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 was on that.
Benchmark Results: The Intel Core i7-3820 Sandy Bridge-E platform used significantly less power than the Core i7-3960X platform in load situations. For example, in Prime 95 it used 94 Watts less power! The Core i7-3820 was slightly faster than the Core i7-2700K in most of the benchmarks and here you can see that it also uses a little more power across the board as well. The idle power numbers for the entire LGA2011 platform with the Core i7-3820 was 57 Watts, on average.
Intel Core i7-3820 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.
We have been using the Intel DX79SI 'Siler' motherboard as our CPU test bed and so far it has been working great. This board has a feature called 'overclocking assistant' that helps beginners and experienced users when it comes to overclocking!
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. We picked the 1.25x profile as it goes up to 4.63 GHz versus the 1.00x profile that it went up to.
The CPU overclocking assistant allows for selections that range from 4.00 GHz to 4.63 GHz. It sets all the voltages, turbo ratios, power and current limits for you automatically. We tried to get the Intel Core i7-3820 to run at 4.63 GHz, but it would blue screen during the Windows loading process. We had to back it down to 4.50 GHz and then it was rock solid and able to run Prime 95 overnight.
The default memory setting with the Intel Overclocking Assistant is a measly 1000MHz and that is way too slow for us. You can enter the override the memory clock speed and you can select from 1600, 1867 or 2133 MHz when using the 1.00 gear ratio or 1667 or 2000 MHz with the 1.25x ratio. For our overclocking we went with the 1667 MHz memory option.
At the end of the day we were able to take the partially locked Intel Core i7-3820 processor all the way up to 4.5 GHz with the Intel Overclocking Assistant. The system was stable when running stability tests like Prime95 and it was noticeably faster. By using the 1.25x 'strap' we were able to bump the base clock up to 125 MHz and this was critical for reaching this overclock! We could have increased the multiplier up to 37, but our processor did not like that setting.
|Intel Core i7-3960X||Stock Settings
||4500MHz OC Profile
| Load Watts
| Cinebench Score
| X264 Pass 2
|| 46.14 FPS
| 3DMark Vantage Overall
| 3DMark Vantage CPU Score
As you can see, the temperature was up 2C at idle and 16C at load despite the fact that we were using the Zalman CNPS12X CPU cooler. If the temperature increased that much you know the power usage is up, and indeed it was. Power consumption was up by ~9 Watts at idle and 70 Watts under full load (Prime 95). 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.
The performance of the Intel Core i7-3820 was significantly better thanks to overclocking as one could imagine. Our Cinebench 11.5 score was 21% faster, the second pass of X264 HD was 20% faster and the CPU test in 3DMark Vantage was also 21% faster! Seeing at least a 20% performance gain is nice, but it increased the load power consumption of the entire platform 43% to get those gains.
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
The Intel Core i7-3820 quad-core processor might be just partially unlocked, but it was a blast to use and overclock. By reaching 4.5 GHz with minimal effort and with only aftermarket air cooling how can you not have fun with the Core i7-3820? This processor is going to sell extremely well and that is due to the low $285 price tag that it will be launched with. Most consumers and enthusiasts are okay with spending ~$300 on a desktop processor and for this platform there is only one Sandy Bridge-E processor close to that price.
The performance of the Core i7-3820 processor was right where we expected it to be. The Core i7-3820 easily fell behind the Core i7-3960X, but remember it has 50% fewer cores and that does matter in threaded applications. That said, the Core i7-3820 still did well and the 3.6 GHz base clock means that this processor has the fastest base clock of any of the three SNB-E processors available for the LGA2011 platform. That said, we would be lying if we didn't say that we wish it performed a little bit faster as it was too close to the Core i7-2700K for our liking. Since the Core i7-3820 and the Core i7-2700K perform so closely to one another it will most certainly cause some confusion as to what platform people should invest in. Now the question becomes, "Should I build an LGA1155 system or an LGA2011 system?" Newegg currently offers 223 motherboards for socket LGA1155 and they start at just $49.99 plus shipping. If you look at Intel socket LGA2011 boards, Newegg offers 42 boards with prices starting at $209.99 plus shipping. Looking at just the motherboards you have more options and lower costs with LGA1155. Not to mention you need just a dual-channel memory kit and not a quad-channel memory kit. When it comes to processor pricing the Intel Core i7-2700K costs $356.35 shipped, which is obviously more than the Intel Core i7-3820 at $285. Which to pick it a tough call and ultimately up to you.
If we were building a high-end desktop system today and wanted to do so on a budget we would go with LGA2011 and the Intel core i7-3820. For starters you have Ivy Bridge processors coming out in the months to come along with the new Z77 chipset. Motherboard makers tell us that Z68 boards should be able to support Ivy Bridge processors when they are released, but they aren't certain that 100% of the boards will. We don't like uncertainty and since Intel X79 boards just came out, you are getting the latest and greatest platform out there. Gamers and enthusiasts that need more than the 16 lanes of PCI-Express that Sandy Bridge processors offer should also look to LGA2011 as it has 40 integrated PCI-E lanes along with native PCI-E 3.0 support. This is something that those running NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFire need to take note of. If you don't need PCI-E 3.0 or that many PCI-E lanes then a lower cost LGA1155 platform is the better choice. Either way, Intel has you covered!
We did check with Intel and the Core i7-3820 will be part of the Performance Tuning Protection Plan (PTPP) for those that were curious. Intel told us the cost will be $25 and with that you are in the hassle-free replacement program. Not a bad idea for those that have a tendency for blowing up processors when overclocking.
Legit Bottom Line: The Intel LGA2011 platform finally has an affordable processor with solid performance numbers and a great overclocking potential!