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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?

Intel Ivy Bridge-E Slide Deck

As always, we will cover Intel's talking points about its new product, which has already been up for public purchase in many places in the world.

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The Ivy Bridge-E will replace Intel's Sandy Bridge-E product, and this new processor will represent a new 6-core Ivy Bridge architecture and a drop to a 22nm process technology. The new processor will fit snugly on the LGA 2011 socket which was introduced with the Sandy Bridge-E part back in November of 2011. While we know that enthusiasts gripe most about socket changes, the LGA 2011 socket probably points out that not much has changed with the new Core i7-4960X. Interestingly Intel makes no notes of ticks and tocks any more in its propaganda this time around.

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Front and foremost, and rightly so, Intel pegs this new processor as having "Ultimate Content Creation Multitasking Compute Performance," as desktop processors go. With 6 Core / 12 Thread execution it can surely get some work done for those of you looking to create digital content. Quad channel memory is of course again present but now Intel has verified its new Internal Memory Controller for 1866MHz memory operation up from the 1600MHz we saw on Sandy Bridge-E. As you will see in the following pages, the new IMC at 1866MHz is rock solid.

"Ultimate Overclocking" is noted, and Intel has unlocked a full range of multipliers on it entire line of Ivy Bridge-E processors. This is certainly a welcome thing to enthusiasts. Unlike the previous architecture, you can get a fair bit of BLCK tuning out of these new processors as well. Strapping is back and allows you to further fine tune your memory clocks should you find the need to do so.

Finally we have again have Intel pointing to "Ultimate Gaming." The company is not being as bravado about it this time as it was last time round with the Sandy Bridge-E. Here is what we thought about its statements last time.

But let me say this, while Intel has been beating the drum about this being the "Ultimate Desktop Processor for Gamers," I think that is a lot of horse shit. This Sandy Bridge E is not going to do much anything for gamers if I am making the right guess based on what I have seen, possibly with one exception, and that is multi-GPU, multi-display gaming.

I am happy to see that Intel has scaled back its marketing propaganda a bit this time, basically holding it to exactly what we pointed out last time around. There is little that this CPU is going to do for compared to other Intel processors when it comes to gaming, but assuredly those enthusiast with multi-card GPU configurations will find the 40 lanes of PCIe Gen 3.0 support a welcomed thing. And odds are if can afford three high end video cards to SLI or CrossFire, pricing on a new LGA 2011 "Extreme" processor and X79 motherboard are not likely going to be holding you back from making the jump.

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As you glance over the first slide directly above, you might think you have seen this before. That is because it is nearly identical to the slide used in the Sandy Bridge-E launch. As already mentioned above, now we have the full line of LGA 2011 parts that are unlocked and a stock RAM speed increase to 1866MHz.

The last two slides above define the process technology and architecture as well as lay out a die detail. The die detail pertains to all Ivy Bridge-E parts, but as you will see below, the lesser non-X skus do have a decreasing amount of shared L3 cache as to give some product differentiation beside stock clocks across the product stack.

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Above we can see how the Core i7-4960X at about $1000 shakes out with the i7-4930K at $555 and the i7-4820K at $310. The L3 shared cache is staggered down the stack at 15MB, 12MB, and 10MB. We do not have the other parts in had at this point, so we have no real-world data to tell us what the impact of this will be. The 4820K is also NOT a 6C/12T part, but rather a 4C/8T processor. Interestingly enough the 4820K has a higher base clock than either of the two more expensive parts. The 4820K might very well be a sweet spot for those needing more robust PCIe lanes than the Z87 or Z77 platforms offer. The other upside to the 4820K is that it of course will run on the X79 motherboards and many of those support 64GB of with a ton of bandwidth to offer. Lastly, seeing the cores are cut down in the 4820K, you will likely be able to overclock it a bit easier than the other two Ivy Bridge-E processors.

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From an overclocking perspective, the Ivy Bridge-E lineup is very robust. It has all the granularity that we have come to expect from overclocking Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge parts. Strapping is available on these processors as well if pushing a higher BCLK speed is in the cards for you. We could easily push our 4960X up to 133MHz without any difficulties at all, but we hit the wall, with what little time we had, at 166MHz.

While this will probably not be a dealbreaker for any of our readers, the Ivy Bridge-E line of processors does not come in its retail packaging with an included heatsink. Intel suggests using an all-in-one water cooling system supplied by the user.

The rest of the slides are basic marketing, but if you have not checked out the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility, AKA "XTU," it might be worth a look depending on how good your motherboard's software overclocking feature is. Compared to the likes of ASUS AI Suite III, you will likely want to stick with ASUS as it is simply more robust, but do not discount Intel XTU as it has some real value, both in terms of knobs and sliders, as well as being a solid monitoring program as well.

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