CPU Guide

Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition review

Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition - Sandy Bridge-E has Arrived

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Overall rating 8.5/10
Performance:
8.5
Features:
8.5
Value:
7
THE GOOD
Great performance for those who can wield its power
Easy to overclock
Frugal power consumption
Integrated 40-lane PCIe controller with Gen 3 support
THE BAD
Very expensive
No bundled cooler
Quad-channel memory architecture offers little advantage to enthusiasts


Test Setup

Test Setup

The main supporting cast of our test setup is the Intel desktop board, the DX79SI which is also known as 'Siler'. We have decided to bump up the memory capacity to 8GB as we are using two sets of Kingston HyperX 4GB Memory Kit. This is so that we will fill up the first four DIMM slots of the board and due to the fact that the Intel Core i7-3960X is the first CPU we are testing with quad-channel memory support. We changed the clock frequency of the memory modules to its rated frequency of 1600MHz for the initial run of our benchmark suite to see if the increased memory frequency offers any assistance in performance. In another run, we obtained a separate set of results with the memory modules’ clock frequency set lower to 1333MHz - this will better align with findings from the rest of our comparisons which also have memory set at 1333MHz.

In our test setup, the cooling solution is provided by the Intel Active Thermal Solution RTS2011LC, a closed liquid cooling system. For comparisons, we brought out the Westmere-based 6-core Intel i7-980X along with the Sandy Bridge-based Core i7-2600K/Core i5-2500 and contenders from AMD such as the recent FX-8150 and the Phenom II X6-1100T. Although Intel has a speedier Core i7-990X, we stuck with the 980X as it's clock compatible with the Core i7-3960X which we're pitting it against. This will really help us show the difference from the new generation versus the previous generation of processors.

Our full test setup for all the platforms are as follows:-

Intel Core i7-3960X Test Configuration

  • Intel Desktop Board DX79SI (Intel X79 Express chipset), BIOS version 0280
  • 4 x 2GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1600 (CAS 9-9-9-27) (Also ran at DDR3-1333MHz, CAS 7-7-7-20)
  • Zotac GeForce GTX 260 (ForceWare 197.45)
  • Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA 6Gbps hard drive (one single NTFS partition)
  • Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
  • Intel INF 9.2.3.1022

Intel P67 Test Configuration

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-2600K, Core i5-2500
  • ASUS P8P67 Deluxe (BIOS: 0602)
  • 2 x 1GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1333 (CAS 7-7-7-20)
  • Zotac GeForce GTX 260 OC (ForceWare 197.45)
  • WD Caviar Black 1TB, SATA 6G (Intel SATA 6G)
  • Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit)
  • Intel INF 9.2.0.1015

For our comparison, we have a number of Intel processors, from the Core i7 to the Core i3 and on both X58 and P55 chipsets. There's even a H55 chipset for the integrated graphics segment, not to mention the AMD contingent.

Intel Core i7-980X Test Configuration (LGA1366)

  • Gigabyte X58A-UD3R (BIOS: FD)
  • 3 x 1GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1333 (CAS 7-7-7-20)
  • Zotac GeForce GTX 260 OC (ForceWare 197.45)
  • WD Caviar Black 1TB, SATA 6G (Marvell SATA 6G)
  • Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit)
  • Intel INF 9.2.0.1015

 AMD FX-8150 Test Configuration

  • ASUS Crosshair V Formula (AMD 990FX + SB950, 0813 BIOS)
  • 2 x 2GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1333 (7-7-7-20)
  • Zotac GeForce GTX 260 OC (ForceWare 197.45)
  • AMD Chipset driver
  • WD Caviar Black 1TB SATA 6G (AMD SATA 6G)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit)

AMD Phenom II X6-1100T Test Configuration

  • ASUS Crosshair IV Formula (AMD 890FX + SB850, 0702 BIOS)
  • 2 x 1GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1333 (7-7-7-20)
  • Zotac GeForce GTX 260 OC (ForceWare 197.45)
  • AMD Chipset driver
  • WD Caviar Black 1TB SATA 6G (Marvell SATA 6G)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit)

 

Benchmarks

The following benchmarks were used to test the CPUs:

CPU Benchmarks

  • BAPCo SYSmark 2007 Preview (ver 1.06)
  • Futuremark PCMark Vantage (ver 1.03.1, 64-bit)
  • Lightwave 3D 9.0 (64-bit)
  • 3ds Max 8 (SP2)
  • Cinebench 11.5 (64-bit)
  • Handbrake 0.9.4
  • Futuremark 3DMark Vantage (ver 1.03.1)
  • Far Cry 2
  • Battlefield Bad Company 2