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Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition CPU E-mail
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Written by David Ramsey   
Monday, 14 November 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition CPU
Features and Specifications
Sandy Bridge Extreme Architecture
Processor Testing Methodology
SiSoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth
AIDA64 Extreme Edition Tests
PCMark Vantage Tests
CINEBENCH R11.5 Benchmarks
CPU-Dependent 3D Gaming
PassMark PerformanceTest
Media Encoding Benchmarks
SPECviewperf 11 Tests
SPECapc Lightwave
Blender and POV-Ray
Core i7-3960X Overclocking
Sandy Bridge Extreme Final Thoughts
Intel Core i7-3960X Conclusion

Intel Core i7-3960X Features

The following information is courtesy of Intel

  • 6 Cores, 12 Threads
  • Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
  • Intel Hyper-Threading Technology
  • Supports LGA2011 socket Intel X79 Express Chipset-based motherboards
  • Up to 15 MB Intel Smart Cache
  • Integrated Quad-Channel Memory Controller (also supports dual and triple channel)
  • 4 channels of DDR3 1600 MHz
  • Intel AVX and AES
  • 40 PCI Express 1 Lanes
  • SSE4.1 & SSE4.2 Instructions

Intel (SKU) Specifications

It's getting confusing in Intel-land, with the "Core i7" brand now straddling no fewer than three platforms: LGA1155, LGA1366, and now LGA2011. The LGA2011 group initially comprises three processors, two of which are available now, and one scheduled for the first quarter of 2012. I've added the current top of the LGA1155 line, the Core i7-2700K, for comparison.

Processor i7-3960X i7-3930K i7-3820 (avail. Q1 2012) i7-2700K
CPU Base clock (GHz) 3.3 3.2 3.6 3.5
CPU Turbo clock (GHz) 3.9 3.8 3.9 3.9
Cores/Threads 6/12 6/12 4/8 4/8
Cache 15MB 12MB 10MB 8MB
Memory Support Quad-channel DDR3-1600 Quad-channel DDR3-1600 Quad-channel DDR3-1600 Dual-channel DDR3-1333
TDP 130 watts 130 watts 130 watts 95 watts
Socket LGA2011 LGA2011 LGA2011 LGA1155
MSRP $990.00 $550.00 TBD $332.00

As you can see, the new LGA2011 CPUs are all quite similar, with differences in cache, cores, and "unlockability" being the main differences. All require new motherboards with the X79 chipset, and all of them boast Intel's new Turbo Boost 2.0 technology (introduced with the original Sandy Bridge processors). In the case of the Core i7-3960X, this means a boost of up to 300MHz when five or more cores are under load, and to 600MHz when fewer than five cores are under load.

And just in case you're wondering: yes, X79 motherboards again change the spacing of the cooler mounting holes, so you'll need either a new cooler or an adapter for your existing cooler. This is understandable, though, since the new chip is absolutely gigantic, at 52.5 x 45mm. The picture below shows a Core i5-2500K on the left and a Core i7-3960X on the right.


If someone had shown me this chip without telling me what it was, I'd have assumed it was an eight-core Xeon or something! Intel does not provide a standard cooler with any Sandy Bridge Extreme CPU, but will make air and water coolers available. For this review they provided their Asetek-sourced "Thermal Solution RTS2011LC", which they estimate will go for between $85 and $100 at the retail level. This cooler appears almost identical to the Antec KÜHLER H2O 620, but Intel says Asetek made changes specific to this model.


Join me in the next section as I take a look at the Sandy Bridge Extreme architecure, and how it differs from the LGA1155 Sandy Bridge processors.



# RE: Intel Core i7-3690X Extreme Edition CPUDoug Dallam 2011-11-14 01:01
This says it all for me:

"For most of us, though, the Core i7-3960X makes as much sense as a 1,000 horsepower street car. It's fun at the dragstrip (running benchmarks), but a Core i7-2700K on a nice Z68 motherboard will be a fraction of the price and just as fast in "real world" terms."

This is a new era in power that will remain almost completely unused and unnecessary for most people, like you say, even us enthusiasts will need to think twice, except those who have money to needlessly burn.

You would think in these economic times, R&D of high dollar items like this would slow down. Interesting. At the same time, my i7 920 cost 1000.00 back in 2008, so the price to power ratio has dramatically fallen too.
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# RE: RE: Intel Core i7-3690X Extreme Edition CPUDavid Ramsey 2011-11-14 04:20
Doug, the Core i7-920 was (I believe) $279 at introduction. It was certainly nowhere near $1,000. Are you talking about your complete system?
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# RE: Intel Core i7-3690X Extreme Edition CPUDoug Dallam 2011-11-14 04:29
Opps, no you are right; The 920 was the lower end that you could OC and get 960 performance from, or better. I think the top end was 960 back then. In any event, the price stays the same for the top end and the performance gets better.
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# home runrealneil 2011-11-14 06:32
I think that this platform and some of it's future iterations will dominate for the next couple of years. They've hit one out of the park with this.
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# depends ...Jimbo Jones 2011-11-14 17:05
Depends on what this means "hit one out of the park" -- and what "dominate" means if you mean "make money for Intel", consider that Intel's ee chips are about 0.005% of their sales, and in the big picture of comparisons you could easily say that almost no one buys these, nor needs these, when a $150 fusion or SandyM proc is satisfying most people's needs.

But rich fanbois have big egos to satisfy so there will always be market for for stuff priced way out of line with what it is really worth. Useless - if I'm paying $1000 for a CPU it better be a multi CPU server chip in a render farm - something where you can get a return on your money at least. just my 2 cents for an alternate perspective.
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# RE: depends ...theUglyMan0war 2011-11-15 06:42
because egos get stroked when you mention the size of yer renderfarm?
I think petty envy speaks always more to one's ego state. Anyone's needs that are "really satisfied" by todays computing power will probably have a "cute device" for their "cute needs" soon enuff. and good riddance.
My needs are far from even close to being satisfied... though cinebench over 12 is at least progressing ( not enough knowing the Ivy Extreme will be released in 2012. And hopefully that benchmark gives more distance )

Catch 22 is really depressing! There is an army of artists whose talent could bring yer boss machine to it's knees given the chance. Instead they compromise to console greed economics. And instead of buying hardware that can push the boundries a market without that entertainment actually believes that we are at "good enuff".

Thanks for the consolitic ball and chain!

Buy it and they will make it/ Make it and they will buy it.

What do "most" users do with their computers that does not desperately need more computing power? Don't they have an app for that yet?
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# stupid reviewTechman 2011-11-14 10:29
I'm sorry to say,but this review is a little stupid.The majority of the people buying this platform are not going to be able to buy a 1000.00 dollar cpu.What you should have reviewed and what most people wanting to build a new setup want to see is the 3930k compared to the 2600 or 2700k.It makes much more sense to buy a 550 dollar 6 core oc it and cook along than buying a 1000.00 6 core which probably only has a minimal increase in performance.I can tell you I would rather build a system with a 2600k if fps's are higher than building one with the 3930k.But we don't know the answer to this question because you decided to review the new hot rod that no one can afford.
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# RE: stupid reviewOlin Coles 2011-11-14 10:41
Hmm... I'm leaning towards stupid reader here. If you're shopping for a Kia you don't start reading Ferrari reviews. My point being that this particular article obviously doesn't match your needs, and nobody forced you to read it.

Also, if by FPS you're referring to frames per second, I suggest you do a bit MORE reading here at Benchmark Reviews... so you'll learn that the CPU has very little to do with frame rates.
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# RE: RE: stupid reviewtheUglyMan0war 2011-11-14 12:40
I think when everyone has bought their idevices it will be alot better. Computers will be sold to people who need computing power again. And articles will simply be written for a market that needs that power.
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# litte harshTechman 2011-11-14 13:45
I know the cpu only minimally increases frame rates but when your building a high end gaming system every frame counts and some games are more cpu dependant.Your going to get better frames out of a system with a 2600k and a 590 over a system with a 8150 and a 590,other specs the same of course.I do admit I was a liittle harsh,sometimes these companies send you whatever they want,not what you request.I think intel should be strung up by their toes,I'm tired of this greedy monopoly they have,but thats also amd's fault for not handling their end of things properly.
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# RE: litte harshOlin Coles 2011-11-14 14:18
After working night and day for a full week to produce several deep-tech articles for the launch, we tend to take destructive criticism personally. Add to this that David and I both worked through illness to meet the deadline, and well, let's just say we hope to get paid for our extra efforts in constant praise. We cross our fingers, but...

Look on the bright side: now that Intel's Core i7-3960X has significantly raised expectations, you might soon find AMD processors selling in the blue-light section over at K-Mart. I understand they fired their entire marketing staff of 1400 workers after Bulldozer launched, so the only people saying anything good about them these days are the fan boys, and even they're unhappy.

You're right about frame rates with some games, and I over-simplified my statement. Battlefield 3 is one such game, and DirectX-11 effects drive all processor cores to nearly 50% usage even when played with a GTX 590. Obviously, there are times when the CPU will make a difference in game performance, but that requires advanced technology at a time when most developers are keeping to console (a la Modern Warefare 3).
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# RE: RE: litte harshJimbo Jones 2011-11-14 17:14
When fanboism and (supposed) editorial writers collide, time to leave. subscription cancelled.
Amatures ... This David R guy sounds like he has it together though ...
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# RE: litte harshDoug Dallam 2011-11-14 15:16
Dude. I live in Northern California. I know it when I see it. Are you high?
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# NopeTechman 2011-11-14 17:35
I'm from humboldt so I would know if I was.
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# RE: RE: stupid reviewDans 2011-11-14 20:06
FPS is everything to me, yet i dont play games.. ;)
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# RE: stupid reviewDavid Ramsey 2011-11-14 11:23
We'd have loved to review a 3930X, but that's not what Intel sent us...
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# RE: stupid reviewDoug Dallam 2011-11-14 15:14
What about readers who have a different set of criteria than you, say systems managers wanting to get the most power for a large (or smaller) design company? What about the person who is thinking about buying the 2600, but wants to know how it stacks up against the best? What about a review site that doesn't test the latest and the greatest? What about, actually, trolling?

This was a very comprehensive review. It left me with no questions about the comparison of power.
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# criterieaTechman 2011-11-14 17:33
What criteria do you think most of their readers fall under?I would think gamers.As I said I was being too critical.I have read thousands of reviews and sometimes,I am too critical.Not trolling though.
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# Neededj0nx 2011-11-14 14:03
"For most of us, though, the Core i7-3960X makes as much sense as a 1,000 horsepower street car. It's fun at the dragstrip (running benchmarks), but a Core i7-2700K on a nice Z68 motherboard will be a fraction of the price and just as fast in "real world" terms."

FSX: enough said.
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# Good review - thanks for the infoRodriguez 2011-11-14 15:24
The inclusion of the SPECapc Lightwave benchmarks in your reviews is awesome. Really helps put things in perspective. Thank you.

For example, my 2600K at 4.9Ghz + water can run the SPECapc rendering suite in 443 seconds. From your chart in the review it shows an overclocked 3930X does it in 408 seconds.

Simply put, that would be a 10% improvement from what I have now for a 300% price tag. :-)
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# RE: Good review - thanks for the infoDavid Ramsey 2011-11-14 15:30
Yeah, SPECapc Lightwave doesn't keep all of the cores going all the time. Back when I reviewed the 2600K, I got 519 seconds for the rendering suite for a 2600K running at 4.7GHz, but that was with an NVIDIA GTX 280 video card rather than the Radeon 6850 I was using this time around, so the results aren't directly comparable.
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# RE: RE: Good review - thanks for the infoRodriguez 2011-11-15 10:20
Hmm, well I only test the rendering suite and my cores stay pegged once each scene is loaded and rendering begins. I can get pretty consistent results between 440-445 seconds at 4.9G. Also, at a couple of suicide runs that I knew weren't stable at 5.0G, it completed at 431 and 433.

I just wanted to say the fact you include this test in your reviews is very helpful to me, so thanks again. :-)
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# RE: Good review - thanks for the infoDoug Dallam 2011-11-14 22:11
But if you multiply that 10% over X employes by X renders per day over a year, it might far make up for the price of the CPU. Let's say a project, like a modeling program, takes 10 minutes to complete every run. That's 1 minute each run time saved. If you do 120 runs in 24 hours, that's a total time savings of 2 hours each day? If you can run everyday, that's an extra moth of time each year.

So yes, you pay 300% more, but that is a one time cost compared to getting that 10% every single time you run a model.
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# ivy bridgegodrilla 2011-11-14 15:34
I wonder how ivy bridge will perform against sandybridge. Which is out soon! The extreme sandybrdige chips are out almost 2 years later than westmere extreme chips. The perfomance gain is expected.
I believe the 3d ivybridge will be a better bargain than these.

Idont know if ivybridge extreme will be compatible with x79 mobo but P67 mobos will all for ivybridge upgrades making the 2600k chips a better deal from the getgo.
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# RE: ivy bridgeDans 2011-11-14 20:08
Wheres the 6 core SB's, thats what im asking.
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# RE: RE: ivy bridgeDavid Ramsey 2011-11-14 21:21
I don't understand. The 3960X and 3930X _are_ six core Sandy Bridge processors.

If you're asking about six core non-extreme Sandy Bridges, well, there aren't going to be any.
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# RE: RE: ivy bridgeRodriguez 2011-11-15 10:24
Maybe you are wondering (as I am) where the 6 core SB LGA1155 CPU are. :-)
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# RE: RE: RE: ivy bridgeDavid Ramsey 2011-11-15 10:36
Um, in your fevered imagination? There aren't going to be any 6 core LGA1155 CPUs...
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# RE: Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition CPUtheUglyMan0war 2011-11-15 14:04
Speaking of more articles catering to higher end cravings...
The NVIDIA Maximus announced release sounds pretty sexy ( quadro and tesla sandwich please!). Kind of makes me wonder if the mercury engine might deserve a second look.

Would appreciate a review if could score a copy.
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# RE: Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition CPUtheUglyMan0war 2011-11-16 05:38
Just saw the following:

Still will probably wait for ivy bridge - E as the cinebench numbers do not justify dropping $1500 for x79 porn. But if the 3 way scaling is even close to the truth then I am very happy that the IVY Bridge solution will most likely do as much.

Makes waiting a few more seasons for my new dragster pretty hard though.
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# RE: Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition CPUBurton Taylor 2011-11-16 21:14
No doubt it is best brand in the market who is satisfying the customers for a long period of time.
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# SatisfiedNexodus 2012-05-30 03:39
I recently bought a computer, with i7-3960X Extreme, with Liquid cooling, two Geforce GTX 680, 16GB ram, 3 SSD HD's and two 3TB Hard drives.

I must say I am very satisfied!
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# RE: SatisfiedDavid Ramsey 2012-05-30 08:38
Yeah, most people would be!
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