Intel beast unleashed: Ivy Bridge-E CPU under the scope

Intel engineer CPU hardware

Intel has announced a new lineup of processors for enthusiasts and power users on the LGA2011 platform. Ivy Bridge-E has finally arrived and with it a new set of extensions, improvements to power consumption, and a slight performance boost over the outgoing Sandy Bridge processors.

Intel says that worldwide availability will follow, although it offers no time frames for countries outside the US, Canada, the UK, and Europe.

Motherboards based on the X79 platform will be compatible with the Ivy Bridge-E family, but will require a BIOS update to function normally.

Intel has further confirmed that their in-house-designed LGA2011 motherboards will not support the new processor family. If you’re planning to upgrade, you need to be on another name brand motherboard.

Ivy Bridge-E consists of three processors: top dog is the Core i7-4960X (or Extreme Edition); the Core i7-4930K sits in the middle; and the unlocked Core i7-4820K is at the low-end of the LGA2011 offerings.

Clock Speed Turbo Speed Cores Threads L3 cache TDP Price (US $)
Core i7-4960X  3.6GHz  4.1GHz  6  12  15MB  130W  $990
Core i7-4930K
 3.4GHz  3.9GHz  6  12  12MB  130W  $555
Core i7-4820K
 3.7GHz  3.9GHz  4  8  10MB  130W  $310
Core i7-4770K
 3.5GHz  3.9GHz  4  8  8MB  84W  $340

There are few changes between Sandy Bridge-E to Ivy Bridge-E. Both families use the same socket and offer enough PCI-Express lanes for four graphics cards in SLI or Crossfire, along with a staggering 64GB of memory support at speeds of up to DDR3-1866.

The biggest changes are base clock speeds and power consumption thanks to Intel using the 22nm production process to make the Ivy Bridge-E family. Power use drops by an average of 50W depending on the usage scenario and we’re also seeing the move to the Tri-gate process, Intel’s method of stacking transistors to save space.

Performance-wise, there’s not a lot to add. Because LGA2011 chips are based on the premium Xeon server families, the biggest improvements here are always to adding more cores and reducing power consumption. Most server workloads do scale quite well when written to take advantage of multiple threads.

In the end, Ivy Bridge-E is only about as good as Sandy Bridge-E, but not substantially better. If you were looking at a Sandy Bridge-E system, then Ivy Bridge-E is the better way to go.

There’s more scope for overclocking and using higher-frequency memory as well as the often-touted benefit of properly supporting multiple GPUs. If you’re currently using the Core i7-3820, upgrading to a Core i7-4820K comes highly recommended.

In addition, PCI-Express 3.0 is now fully validated on the LGA2011 platform, which was a problem with Sandy Bridge-E because that platform made all cards run at PCI-E 2.0 speeds. Those of you planning to run four GTX Titans together are going to want to buy into this as soon as possible.

But note that this is the end of the line for X79. When LGA2011 gets updated again, it’ll be on a new chipset with the Haswell-E architecture and possibly DDR4 support.

Reviews don’t show much excitement

PC Perspective said in their review that Ivy Bridge-E was a welcome addition to the Intel family, but didn’t feel like much of an upgrade. They cautioned buyers that the LGA2011 platform makes little sense if you’re not going to be taking full advantage of it – in that case, they recommend a Core i7-4770K. Despite this, they gave the Core i7-4960X a Gold award.

The Tech Report has much the same to say, lamenting how little performance there was on offer right out of the box. They also noted that despite the extra two cores offered by the Core i7-4960X, there wasn’t much of a benefit to them as games move to become much more GPU-reliant. They gave it a thumbs-up, but not much more than that.

Tom’s Hardware said that overclockers would be delighted with the stability and power improvements as well as the new overclocking options, but doubted if anyone would need it with Haswell and the Z87 chipset offering more features for less money. The Core i7-4960X nontheless received a honorary mention as a recommended buy.

Anandtech rated the Core i7-4960X as a good buy and welcomed the improvements to efficiency and Turbo Boost. They didn’t give it an award either, only giving it the slightest of nods as a possible choice for high-end enthusiast rigs.

Guru3D noted that while the Core i7-4960X was impressive, it was Intel’s mid-range that was going to be receiving all the attention, especially the Core i7-4820K withthe extra 2MB of cache and an unlocked multiplier.

Reviews: PC Perspective, Tech Report, Tom’s Hardware, Anandtech, Guru3D

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Intel beast unleashed: Ivy Bridge-E CPU under the scope

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