Haswell-E Debuts: Intel Core i7-5960X Processor Review

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Performance Summary: The Haswell-E based Core i7-5960X’s performance is somewhat of a mix between kick-ass and meh. In general, the Core i7-5960X is faster overall than Intel’s previous-gen flagship, the Ivy Bridge-E based, 6-core Core i7-4960X. In single threaded tests, where the Core i7-5960X's additional cache and memory bandwidth aren't fully utilized, however, the 4960X's higher clocks can usually push it ahead. In multi-threaded tests though, the 5960X's two additional cores make it significantly faster, despite its frequency deficit. Our gaming and graphics tests also showed the Core i7-5960X to be mostly superior to the previous-gen, though there are going to be times where its additional compute resources are under utilized and higher-clocked processors will be faster.

Intel Core i7 and Core i7 Extreme Processor Packaging

The Core i7-5960X and X99 chipset mark the first major overhaul to Intel’s enthusiast-class desktop line-up since 2011, when Sandy Bridge-E and the X79 Express first hit the scene. In many respects, Haswell-E and the X99 are leaps and bounds better, as evidenced by our multi-threaded benchmark results and the plethora of additional features offered by X99. On some levels though, it feels as if Intel hasn’t—or wasn’t able too—push the boundaries too much further. Considering Haswell-E features updated, more power-efficient execution cores, and Intel has had a long time to tweak their manufacturing processes, we expected Haswell-E to be an across the board improvement. It is still an extremely impressive powerhouse of a processor, but depending on your particular use-case, Haswell-E may not be an upgrade over the older Core i7-4960X, or even the Core i7-3960X for that matter.

Initial Haswell-E Line-Up -- Click To Enlarge

The Core i7-5960X isn’t the only Haswell-E based processor coming down the pipeline; Intel also has the six-core / 12-thread Core i7-5930K and six-core / 12-thread Core i7-5820K in the works as well, with prices ranging from $389 for the 5820K to $999 for the flagship Core i7-5960X. We should also point out that the 5820K has fewer PCIe lanes—28 vs. 40 in the higher-end parts. As has always been the case, if you want to enjoy the benefits of Intel’s top-of-the-line desktop processor line-up, you’ll have to shell out some big bucks, but we’re sure you already knew that. Flagship processors from Intel have never been cheap. And neither are compatible motherboards, and in this case, DDR4 memory kits.

In the end though, it is fair to say the Core i7-5960X is Intel’s fastest desktop processor to date. But because its clocks aren’t quite as high as the Core i7-4960X, Intel’s new flagship is not the undisputed performance champion. The Core i7-5960X is still an impressive piece of kit, there are just some caveats to consider if you’re in the market for an extreme processor like this one. With that said, if money was no object, the Core i7-5960X is the king of the hill. It’s just not the absolute beast it could have been if Intel had decided to crank things up to 11.

  • Killer Multi-Thread Performance
  • Huge Cache
  • Haswell-Based EUs
  • Lower Power
  • Pricey
  • Relatively Low Clocks
  • Lower Single Thread Perf In Some Tests

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mike coyne 4 months ago

Great review on new Intel i7 5960X. I am stay up to date on 22 nm processor technology (i already have my I7 4960X IVB-E also is 22 nm) . I was very impressed by read the review about new 8 core CPU from Intel. I knew there can be mixed reaults between I7 4960X and 5960X but 5960X is still new.

BrianSmith 4 months ago

Maybe a proofreader would be beneficial. "But because its clocks aren’t quite as high at the Core i7-4960X" as high AT? "extreme processor like this on." ON? "It is still an extremely impressive powerhouse of a processors" -- processors? really? wow. Maybe go back and get your GED you loser.

altshep123 4 months ago

Nice thorough review guys. I'm a novice at best when it comes to detail like this, but I was confused by two things:

First you mentioned needing some pretty heavy liquid cooling to get any OC speeds above 3.5, but then explained you got your tests to 3.6mhz with only air (albeit throttled and running very hot). I'm assuming that's just to test limits and not something anyone would want to do continually?

Second, I get confused when I see "Supports 4 channels of DDR4-21330 memory". Is that referring to the LOWEST frequency supported?  We'll see support for over DDR4 3300Mhz right?

(one more typo on p6 (quad-channel DD44-based memory kits). Not a huge deal. So much hate above : /

marco c 3 months ago

@bsdect - There are video encoding tests in both of the PCM suites.

Also: "there are going to be times where its additional compute resources are under-utilized and higher-clocked processors will be faster."

"On some levels though, it feels as if Intel hasn’t—or wasn’t able too—push the boundaries too much further."

"It’s just not the absolute beast it could have been"

Intel pays people to point out shortcomings now? Seems like a good strategy.

@BrianSmith - Kudos to you for finding a handful of typos in a 6500 word, self-published piece at an independent publication. Let me return the favor. Here are yours: You forgot the question mark after the first sentence. You didn't capitalize the “R” in really or the “W” in wow. You forgot the comma before “loser” and again failed to end the last sentence with a question mark. Getting a GED is a good idea, though. Just tell me where you got yours so I can steer clear. They obviously didn't do that great of a job.

@alshep123 - I think you got the numbers a little mixed up. We could get into Windows at 4.6GHz, but the CPU would overheat quickly at that speed, hence the mention that you’d need powerful cooling. We had to bring it down to 4.4GHz to complete benchmarks without overheating / throttling.

As for the DDR-2133 reference, that's the "official" top speed Intel has set in the processor's specifications. Lower speeds are supported as well. And higher speeds are possible with overclocking. Hitting DDR4-3300 may be possible with some chips / memory kits / motherboards, but I can't say for sure just yet. (Typo also fixed--thanks!)

A750gixr 3 months ago

Wow, why all the trolling? I thought it was a very good article that didn't deserve that kind of bulling.

smithrd3512 3 months ago

Debating if this processor or just get a Xeon instead. You are approaching the cores of standard Xeon processors. Plus get the advantage of ECC and other features.

YogeshKumawat one month ago

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