Intel Ivy Bridge-E Core i7-4960X IPC and OCing Review

We debut Intel's next $1000 Extreme Desktop processor, the Core i7-4960X, this time with Ivy Bridge architecture and a couple of extra cores thrown in for good measure. It is a beast of a CPU for those that can actually harness its power and bandwidth, but how much better is it than Sandy Bridge-E and Haswell at the same clocks?


Overclocking the Ivy Bridge-E

As you might have seen in our latest motherboard reviews, we have now standardized on 4.5GHz/1866MHz clock rates for testing, so we overclock every system as soon as we get the operating system installed. For the Ivy Bridge-E testing we used ASUS' new X79-Deluxe motherboard which should be on sale next week. We will have a full review published on this motherboard in a few weeks and from our experiences it might be one X79 motherboard to wait for if you are moving to an X79 chipset.

Getting the Ivy Bridge-E up and running at 4.5GHz/1866MHz was easy on the ASUS X79-Deluxe. I simply set the vCore at 1.35v in the BIOS and the processor multiplier at 45x. This motherboard does exhibit some fairly high voltage droop, or vDroop, which is not something we are used to seeing lately. We pulled out the handy multimeter and verified what CPUZ (v1.66.1) was showing us within .03 volts at 1.31v. This is something to keep in mind when overclocking on your own rig. The 4.5GHz/1866MHz setting at 1.31v kept rock stable under Prime95 with a full RAM load for 18 hours. Our per core temperatures stayed between 55c and 65c with the Koolance water cooling system.

Moving past 4.5GHz to 4.6GHz proved to require a good bit more voltage, but that was all; 1.4v. You could about ~4.6GHz several different ways. 36x129 (4.644GHz) with a 1722MHz memory bus at 1.4v was stable. Pushing to 4.7GHz got close to the edge of stability using Prime95. I could get the Ivy Bridge-E to 46x102.2 (4.701GHz) with a 1600MHz memory bus and vCore at 1.44v but also had to push the VCCSA to 1.4v (stock is 1.2v). At 4.7GHz the system would BSOD after about 40 minutes.

I worked with the Ivy Bridge-E using both the X79-Deluxe BIOS and ASUS AI Suite 3 software and both worked as well as the other in getting the processor to "the edge," at least with water cooling.

Power Consumption

The Ivy Bridge-E shows a much lower power consumption than the previous Sandy Bridge-E. These wattage numbers were taken with our 4960X at 4.5/1866 at 1.31v and our 3930K at 4.5/1866 at 1.40v.

The Ivy Bridge-E CPU package under full CPU and RAM load showed to be using 127.6 watts. The Sandy Bridge-E CPU package under full load showed to be using 174 watts. These numbers were taken from AIDA64 monitoring tools.

Using our tried and true Kill-A-Watt method at the wall, the 4960X was 166 watts at idle and 353 watts at full load. The 3930K was 201 watts at idle, and 378 watts at full load.

Comparing the results are a bit confusing, but obviously the big difference is the power gating at idle, so certainly the Ivy Bridge-E does a better job of managing power when it is not being used. The power efficiency at the top end is a bit soft, certainly better than its predecessor, but not as impressive as the power savings we have seen in the latest Haswell architecture.

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The Bottom Line

The general feeling I come away from the Ivy Bridge-E is that it is a good processor, but nothing stellar when compared to the Sandy Bridge-E predecessor. Is it better? Yes. It is a whole lot better? No. Should you ditch your Sandy Bridge-E system for a shiny new Ivy Bridge-E? No. If you happen to be coming from a sub-4GHz LGA 1366 "Gulftown" system, the Ivy Bridge-E is going to be a big step up. However if you are lucky enough to still be sporting a ~5GHz Gulftown processor, you are likely better off sticking with it.

I feel a lot better about the way Intel has presented this processor than it did the Sandy Bridge-E. The showboating about its Core i7-3960X six core Extreme processor being the "Ultimate Desktop Processor for Gamers," was "horse shit" as we pointed out last time. We all know that these $1000 Extreme processors are not for the average DIY computer enthusiast.

As we saw in our benchmarks, you need to be into the content creation or encoding business to actually push one of these 6C/12T monsters. Don't forget all that PCIe bandwidth available to you as well. The X79 platform is rife with PCIe lanes that are begging for huge raid arrays. You know who you are, and if this is you, you can surely speed up your production by pushing up your core and bandwidth count. Should you have the pocketbook, you can also install 64GB of RAM on these systems as well, which could very well be a great thing for the indy content producer.

Where the new Ivy Bridge-E will show its stripes to gamers will surely be on the high end, which is understandable considering the Intel product stack. It will not be for the high core count though. Games simply do not reach deep in the current desktop processors we have. While that is somewhat sad, we can be happy that gamers on the high end are still GPU limited, which simply makes the CPU a less important piece of the puzzle. The Ivy Bridge-E Intel Core i7-4820K processor will have "only" 4 cores with HyperThreading. We certainly want to get our hands on one of these. It will cost around the same price as a Core i7-4770K. The upside again will be for those gamers that want to build out a huge multi-video card system pushing rather large resolution Eyefinity/Surround display setups. While not as powerful as a Haswell system in terms of IPC per core, it will allow you tons of native PCIe bandwidth, which seems to be important to many with 3 or 4 card SLI/CrossFire configurations.