Ever since the first dual-core desktop CPUs started rolling out in 2005, the race to bring more computing cores to desktop processors has been on. Now, nearly a decade later, Intel has pushed ahead further than ever before with the release of the Core i7 5960X, their first ever consumer socketed eight-core CPU. While, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a consumer grade eight-core CPU (AMD has been making them since 2012), this is first one with Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology which allows for 16 multiple threads per core that should increase overall performance in multi-threaded tasks greatly.
Today, we’re very excited to be given the opportunity to check out the Intel Core i7 5960X. We’ll start with a detailed platform overview, do a bit of overclocking, perform a series of productivity and gaming benchmarks and finish with our final thoughts and analysis. …let’s get to it!
HASWELL-E SPECIFICATIONS AND PRICING
With the launch of Haswell-E and the enthusiast grade X99 platform, Intel has released three new processors. The flagship Core i7 5960X that we’re looking at in this report, as well as the 5930K and 5820K which fill out the mid and lower priced tiers respectively.
As we can see in the chart below, the top of the line Core i7 5960X features 8 hyper-threaded cores, a base clock speed of 3.0 GHz, which Turbo Boosts up to 3.5GHz, 20MB of Cache, 40 PCI Express 3.0 lanes, quad-channel DDR4 memory support and a price of $999. The mid-tier 5930K takes a step down with 6-cores, a base clock of 3.5GHz which turbo boosts to 3.7GHz, and 15MB of cache for $583, with the lower priced 5820K only dropping a bit in core frequency to 3.3GHz-3.6GHz and a significantly lower 28 PCI-E 3.0 lanes for $389.
We can see that the increase in core count from 6 to 8 requires a fairly significant reduction in core clock frequency. This is undoubtedly an effort to keep thermals low and may impact day-to-day performance.
Haswell-E represents two major shifts for Intel’s enthusiast line. Not only is this the first time in quite a while that Intel’s flagship Extreme series processor has offered anything more than just an increase of core clock speed and cache compared to the mid-tier offering, it’s also the first time Intel has released a six-core part for under $400. Of course, this comes with the slight drawback of having fewer PCI-E 3.0 lanes which we’d say is a fair trade for such a seemingly fantastic price-to-performance ratio. This is especially the case when you consider that it is only a 15% increase in price compared to the 4790K for a 50% increase in core count, and nearly double the cache. That being said, the high price of DDR4 will no doubt play a large part in overall system costs. Still, it is something to consider if you’re in the market for a high-end computer.
The fewer number of PCI-E lanes will only effect multiple GPU setups, dual graphics configurations will be limited to x16/x8 (instead of x16/x16) and three-way configurations will be x8/x8/x8. Considering how rarely games are effected by PCI-E 3.0 x8 versus PCI-E 3.0 x16, this won’t really be an issue for most gamers making Core i7 5820K a great value for content creators and enthusiasts alike.
HASWELL-E DIE OVERVIEW
Below we can see that the Haswell-E chips feature a full native eight-core die configuration with four cores on each side of a large pool of shared L3 Cache. In the six-core models, the 5820K and 5930K, a pair of cores and their respective L3 Cache is disabled, which pair is dependent on yields but it is always from the same row from left-to-right.
Haswell-E also features 2.6 billion transistors, compared to the 1.86 billion of Ivy Bridge-E (an increase of 40%). To accommodate for this, the die size has also increased a whopping 39% from 257 mm² to 356 mm². This is no doubt due to both the 33% increase in core count as well as the addition of the new DDR4 memory controller. The increase in die size and core count also comes with an increase in TDP, Haswell-E chips have a 140w TDP compared to the 130W from their predecessors.
With this increase in TDP, Intel recommends using an all-in-one liquid cooling solution for enthusiasts that are looking to achieve higher overclocks and want to keep temperatures down. In order to accommodate, they’ve released their TS13X 120mm liquid cooler, which features a 2,200RPM 120mm PWM fan with a max noise rating of 35 dB, 120mm x 120mm x 25mm radiator, and support for 2011, 115x and 1366 sockets. Retail pricing is between $85 and $100. Of course, at this price there are plenty of other options for AIO coolers.