Intel Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E CPU Review

Ivy Bridge-E and the Core i7-4960X

Ivy Bridge-E, and by extension the Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition, has a lot in common with the mainstream Ivy Bridge microarchitecture, which arrived last year with the Core i7-3770K and other members of the third generation Intel Core processor family. As we've mentioned, Ivy Bridge-E is a more powerful variant, however, with more cores and cache and a wider memory interface.

Due to the similarities to Ivy Bridge, we won’t be rehashing many of the architectural details again here, but we would suggest checking out a few previous articles if you’d like more details regarding the architecture and technologies at work here, like Intel’s Turbo Boost 2.0, Smart Cache, Hyper Threading, and AVX, among others.

In our Core i7-3770K launch article, we go in-depth on the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture and cover many details that are pertinent to today’s launch as well. In our Core i7-3960X coverage, we dig into Intel’s previous-gen Extreme Edition processor, which is quite similar to the Core i7-4960X, and also detail the X79 Express chipset, which remains the platform of choice for Ivy Bridge-E.

Intel Ivy Bridge-E Die Map

Ivy Bridge-E shares many of the same features of the Sandy Bridge-E and the more mainstream Ivy Bridge microarchitectures, but as the “E” denotes, IVB-E is more extreme derivative. What you see pictured above is a die map of an Ivy Bridge-E based Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition processor. The chip is manufactured using Intel’s advanced 22nm process node and features roughly 1.86 billion transistors, with a die size of approximately 257mm2 (15 mm x 17.1 mm). If you're keeping track, that's about 410M fewer transistors and a 41% smaller die than SBE.

The Ivy Bridge-E microarchitecture features up to 6 active execution cores that can each process two threads simultaneously courtesy of Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, for support of a total of 12 threads. The actual cores used in the chips are essentially identical to the original Ivy Bridge microarchitecture and support the same Intel AVX and AES instructions, along with SSE4.1, SSE4.2, etc.

The Core i7-4960X, Top and Bottom

Ivy Bridge-E based processors like the Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition are designed for Intel’s LGA 2011 socket, and require a compatible motherboard built around the X79 Express chipset (more on that later). The processors will support up to 15MB of shared L3 Intel Smart Cache and feature integrated quad-channel memory controllers with official support for DDR3 memory at speeds up to 1866MHz, although higher speeds are possible through overclocking.

Ivy Bridge-E based processors also feature 40 integrated lanes of PCI Express connectivity, that support speeds equivalent to the 8GT/s PCI Express 3.0 specification. Intel won’t be officially designating the lanes as PCIe 3.0 compliant, however.

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