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Intel Core i7-3960X review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £840
inc VAT

Hugely fast, but very few people regularly run enough applications at once to need a processor with this many cores

The Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition is the first processor we’ve seen from the new Intel Sandy Bridge Extreme, or Sandy Bridge E, range. It’s a six-core 3.3GHz processor with a fully unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking, and is squarely aimed at power users and enthusiasts.
Sandy Bridge E die
There will be three processors in total in the Sandy Bridge E range, all of which require a new socket type – LGA2011 – and a new chipset – Intel X79 Express. The specifications are below.

Sandy Bridge E comparison

The differences between the top two chips are fairly small – both have six cores with Hyper-Threading (so the processors show up as having 12 cores in Windows) but the cheaper £480 i7-3930K has 12MB of level 3 cache rather than the 15MB on the top-end chip. Like normal Sandy Bridge chips, the E series’ level 3 cache is shared between all the cores, and each core can grab cache from the pool as it needs it.

The i7-3820 chip is a very different beast, with just four cores and 10MB of level 3 cache, but its higher 3.6GHz clock speed should go some way towards compensating for this. In this regard it doesn’t seem much different from the Sandy Bridge-based Intel Core i7-2600K, which has four cores running at 3.4GHz and 8MB of level 3 cache – look out for our full comparison soon.

A major difference between Sandy Bridge and Sandy Bridge E is that the Extreme chips don’t have on-board graphics; anyone spending this much on an enthusiast chip would most certainly have a dedicated graphics card. However, the lack of on-board graphics does mean that you won’t be able to use Intel’s Quick Sync hardware video-encoding technology.

Next page: Benchmark testing

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Basic Specifications

Processor coreSandy Bridge-E
Processor clock speed3.3GHz
Processor socketLGA2011
Processor process32nm
Processor number of coressix
Processor supported instructionsMMX, SSE 1, 2, 3, 3.3, 3S, 4.1, 4.2, EM64T VT-x, AES, AVX
Processor multiplierx33
Processor external bus100MHz
Level 1 cache6x 32KB
Level 2 cache6x 256KB
Processor level 3 cache15MB
Supported memory typeDDR3 1066, 1333
Processor power rating (TDP)130W

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