Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

Intel Core i7-3960X - Sandy Bridge E Processor Review

Intel debuts its $1000+ Extreme Edition 3960X processor parroting how great it is for the gamer and enthusiast. With 6 cores and 12 threads, a new motherboard and chipset platform, and quad channel DDR3, Intel has done the impossible, given us everything we don't want, and nothing we do want.

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System Setup

Below you will find the systems and processors that we have analyzed. Given that we are stretching over seven different models of processor, we have to use different motherboards.

For all STOCK CLOCKS and our Apples-to-Apples 4GHZ testing we used 1333MHz DDR3 clock speeds, with the exception of the i7-920 system which has the advantage of a 1603MHz memory speed due to us having to adjust the bus speed of this multiplier locked processor in order to reach our 4GHz App2App speed.

For our STOCK CLOCKS on all our non-4GHz Clock to Clock testing, the 3960X memory bus speed is 1600MHz as is STOCK for this new CPU. The rest of our field is stock at 1333MHz.

For all our OVERCLOCKED testing we have used a 1600MHz memory clock with the exception of the Core i7-920 system which used a 1680MHz memory clock due to it being a multiplier locked processor that required raising the processor bus speed in order to overclock the processor to 4GHz.

All STOCK CLOCKS are utilizing the Turbo features found on both AMD and Intel processors. See notes at the bottom of the page to better explain how AMD Turbo clocks react to load.

For all OVERCLOCKED processor speeds, Turbo is disabled so there is no dynamic down-scaling of the processor under load, so the OC processor speeds are \\"locked\\" under load.

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The latest motherboard/chipset drivers were used for all boards. AMD Catalyst 11.10 Preview dated September 26th and Intel 9.2.0.1030 drivers were used.

For this testing we have disabled all add-on controllers and other devices on the motherboards possible. We have used a Thermaltake 1200 watt PSU.

Processor cooling used on all test systems is a Corsair H100 self-contained water cooling system. We moved away from using this system on the 8960X due to the fact that we were constrained on time after waiting on Asus to deliver mass production BIOS flashes to us.

Words about AMD Turbo Scaling & Power Savings Features

First and foremost, due to ASUS Intel based motherboards "cheating" by disabling true Turbo scaling, our ASUS motherboard, even with an Intel specified memory bus speed either runs at 1200MHz at idle or 3900MHz when it detects a load.

We have run all of our stock processor clocks with Turbo turned on and power saving features enabled. On our overclocked processor tests, we have turned off these features. We think this is how you are most likely to use the processors in a real world situation.

As you can see on the charts above, AMD FX processors have three clock speeds listed. These speeds outline the stock clock and Turbo clocks the processors use.

We are using the Corsair H100 for all testing here today. Certainly, a different cooling solution could change possibly change the scaling you would see at home as the processor temperatures ramp up.

AMD FX-8150 Turbo Scaling - 8/7 thread load = 3.6GHz - 6/5 thread load = dynamic scaling between 3.6GHz and 3.9GHz - 4 thread load = 3.9GHz - 3 thread load = dynamic scaling between 3.9GHz and 4.2GHz - 2/1 thread load = 4.2GHz.

AMD FX-8120 Turbo Scaling - 8/7 thread load = 3.1GHz - 6/5 thread load = dynamic scaling between 3.1GHz and 3.4GHz - 4 thread load = 3.4GHz - 3 thread load = dynamic scaling between 3.4GHz and 4GHz - 2/1 thread load = 4GHz.