Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: The Core i7-3820 performed very well throughout our battery of benchmarks. Versus AMD’s flagship FX-8150, there was no contest; the Core i7-3820 was dominant. Versus Intel’s other processors, the story isn’t quite as clear. We’ll start with the Core i7-3820 / Core i7-3960X comparison. When compared to Intel’s flagship six-core Core i7-3960X processor, the quad-core Core i7-3820 offers virtually identical performance in single-threaded workloads or workloads that will tax four or fewer cores, due to the two processor’s identical peak Turbo mode frequency (3.9GHz). In highly-threaded workloads, however, that can leverage the additional resources of the Core i7-3960X, the six-core processor offers significantly more performance.
Although it has a number of technical advantages (more cache, more / faster PCIe lanes, newer platform, etc.), the Core i7-3820 performs almost identically to the Core i7-2700K, at least with the applications we used for testing. This is to be expected considering their core architecture similarities, but with workloads that can take advantage of the additional memory or PCIe bandwidth offered by the 3820, it will likely put up better numbers than the Sandy Bride-based Core i7-2700K. Conversely, the Core i7-2700K supports Intel’s QuickSync technology, whereas the SBE-based Core i7-3820 does not. So, for video encoding, the Core i7-2700K (or other Sandy Bridge-based CPU) will be superior.
Intel’s initial line-up of Sandy Bridge-E-based processors is outlined in the chart below. The line-up (for now) consists of three processors: the flagship Core i7-3960X, the unlocked but slightly pared down Core i7-3930K, and the Core i7-3820 we’ve shown you here. Pricing for the three processors is $990, $555, and $285, respectively.
At its $285 price point, the Core i7-3820 actually comes in somewhat cheaper than the similarly performing Core i7-2700K. That may seem like a clear win for the 3820, but when the entire platform is considered, the Core i7-3820 will actually be somewhat more expensive due to the higher cost of X79 Express chipset-based motherboards versus the Z68 and the need for quad-channel memory (versus dual-channel) to attain peak performance.
Ultimately, whether or not the Core i7-3820 makes sense for you, over the somewhat more affordable Sandy Bridge platform, is going to depend on the type of applications you run or the configuration you’re after. If you have a need for the additional memory bandwidth offered by SBE or a need for more than 32GB of memory, SBE is the way to go. Hardcore gamers who plan to run two or more high-end graphics cards would also be better served by Sandy Bridge-E’s additional PCI Express lanes and due to the fact that Intel integrated graphics aren't required. Or if you just want the latest Intel chipset, namely the X79 Express, SBE is for you.