Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition Sandy Bridge-E CPU - HotHardware

Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition Sandy Bridge-E CPU

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Performance Summary: The Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition is the fastest desktop processor we have tested to date, bar none. In all of our multi-threaded benchmarks, the higher Turbo Boost frequencies and additional compute resources of the six-core Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition allowed it to easily overtake every other processor we tested, including the six-core Core i7-990X and pseudo eight-core AMD FX-8150. In our single and dual-threaded tests, the Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition also offered excellent performance and outpaced every other processor, save for the Core i7-2700K which features a similar microarchitecture and peak Turbo Boost frequencies. The Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition also proved to be an excellent overclocker.

Intel Core i7 and Core i7 Extreme Processor Packaging


Intel will initially be releasing two Sandy Bridge-E based desktop processors, the Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition we featured here and the slightly lower-clocked Core i7-3930K. Both of the processors are unlocked for more flexible overclocking, and they both feature six cores (12 threads), 130W TDPs, and quad-channel memory controllers. The Core i7-3930K, however, is outfitted with “only” 12MB of L3 cache, whereas the Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition has 15MB, and the Core i7-3930K’s base and peak Turbo Boost frequencies are 100MHz lower. As such, the Core i7-3930K will be somewhat more affordable at $555, while the flagship Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition will command $990. As has always been the case with top-of-the-line desktop processors, you’ll have to pay to play with the Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition. A higher clocked quad-core variant with 10MB of L3 cache is also coming at some point in Q1 of next year.

Intel Desktop Processor Line-Up

Put simply, the Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition is the most powerful desktop processor available on the market. Period. When paired to its companion X79 Express chipset, the two make for the most potent foundation of a desktop system yet, whether it be for gaming, content creation or productivity. Even so, there are still a couple of execution cores lying dormant in the processor which will likely be unleashed at some point in the future, when / if Intel re-spins the chip to tame its power requirements. Considering how powerful the platform is now, we shudder to think what the next version of SBE will do, if Intel takes that route, of course. And why wouldn't they?

  • Killer Performance
  • 6 Cores / 12 Threads
  • 40 PCI Express Lanes
  • Highly Overclockable
  • PCI Express 3.0 Ready
  • Insane Memory Bandwidth
  • Turbo Boost 2.0

  • Uber-Expensive
  • High Power Consumption when Overclocked
  • No Included Cooler
  • Another New Socket


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Absolute kick-ass CPU and platform!

Intel seems to have hit it out of the park with this new Tech.

Great review Marco, as always,.......

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makes me even more excited for ivy

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I am underwhelmed by the Single Threaded performance. It is the same or slightly better than the normal Sandy Bridge.

How about some high end gaming benches?

I am concerned that the high end gaming with be about the same on the SB and SBE chips. And if that is the case, it wouldn't be worth it to spend all the extra money for SBE when you can have the same performance in MOST of the things you'll be doing anyway for a lot less.

Great multi-thread performance tho. About a 50% performance increase on some of those test which is about right considering it has 50% more cores.

Also, if you plan on overclocking these things, you're gonna need a pretty beefy PSU.

Anyway, I will probably wait until they unlock the extra 2 cores, and add in all those other features we were promised before I consider one of these. :-)

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Great chip, but doesn't seem to be worth $658 more than an i7 2700. $600 total maybe, considering the i7 would still be half that price.

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I think that the value is in the ~combination~ of the CPU and the more advanced platform that it resides on. Quad Channel Memory for one will be significant once it tweaked for better performance. There are other benefits to the new chipset as well.

I agree that it will take better PSU's to run it and better heat mitigation as well. But there are many very capable PSU's out there now and a whole lot of great coolers too. These tests were done with an Intel branded Water Cooler with a 120MM radiator.

What result would we see with a H100 on it? How about a top of the line Noctua cooler? How about a custom water cooling loop?

Maybe if it was tweaked the way that many enthusiasts will want to tweak it we would see even better performance?

It's interesting to me and I can't wait for more reviews to roll in.

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I went out and found some other reviews and my concerns for high end gaming have been confirmed.

It is the same and even sometimes slower than the current Sandy bridge. There are also times when it excels.

The only game it held a clear lead in was WoW.

So with better optimization for multi-core chips, i'd assume the advantages of the new SBE will become more apparent.

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I think that the value is in the ~combination~ of the CPU and the more advanced platform that it resides on. Quad Channel Memory for one will be significant once it tweaked for better performance. There are other benefits to the new chipset as well....

if it was tweaked the way that many enthusiasts will want to tweak it we would see even better performance?...

Sure do appreciate an excellent review.& what I like too is about adding the info about the memory available.This would be a must when considering the latest SB-E and carefully select the optimal memory for a build.Looks the the G.Skill's that were used "4GB, DDR3-1866 sticks of memory (total 16GB), model number F3-14900CLQ9-16GBZ" would be an excellent choice. no wonder there is a New Intel  XMP 1.3 memory profile and some further tweaking would be possible.

Looking forward to reading more as more becomes available with the new Sandy Bridge -E platform.

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I really like the split memory (2 slots on either side of the CPU socket), not to mention this is I think the first I have seen like this.

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"@Marco, I think your intro to this article really set the tone for what's unarguably the most powerful and exciting processor ever made. Really impressive and the bandwidth advantage of  Quad channel memory is incredible. For workstation purposes there is no better choice. For gamers, I still say that the 2600K is the best value hand down."

"One thing that's against it already is Why did Intel not decide to make available the 3820 at launch, its really going to hurt the platform sales until January. " 

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the memory split is cool, but why? lol

Loving the chip, sadly i will never get it nor need it but would love to have it :( lol.

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