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Core i7-3960X and i7-2700K Desktop CPUs in Review

Redaktion, 12/22/2011

We throw a glance at the two new high-end desktop CPUs from Intel called Core i7-2700K (Sandy Bridge Quad-Core) and Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge Extreme Six-Core) in our short review

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Intel has launched the new top-of-the-range chips from the Sandy Bridge series with a bit of delay. The Intel Core i7-2700K is however just a higher clocked Core i7-2600K. On the other hand, the Core i7-3960X is a real innovation. It is a 6 core processor with a tremendous 15 MB level 3 cache and a clock of 3.3 – 3.0 GHz (Turbo Boost 2.0). In contrast to the quad core Sandy Bridge models, the new chips, named Sandy Bridge E, have a quad channel memory controller and more cache. In return, the integrated graphics has been omitted.

Core i7-3960X Core i7-2700K
Cores/Threads 6/12 4/8
Base clock 3,3 GHz 3,5 GHz
Max. Turbo 3,9 GHz 3,9 GHz
Last level cache 15 MB 8 MB
TDP 130 W 95 W
Price 999 Dollars 332 Dollars
Memory 4 channel DDR3-1600 2 channel DDR3-1333
Graphics card n/a Intel HD Graphics 3000
Socket FCLGA2011 LGA1155
Package size 58,5 x 51 mm 37,5 x 37,5 mm

Benchmarks

Intel's six core chip fares extremely well in our selection of synthetic processor benchmarks. With an averagely 21% higher performance, the selected tests could exploit the two additional cores well. The scores are on a par with the equally clocked Core i7-2700K in the single core benchmarks, such as Cinebench R10 or Super Pi.

Core i7-3960x, GeForce GTX 470, SSD
GeForce GTX 470, 3960X, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
Core i7-3960x, Radeon HD 6450
Radeon HD 6450 GDDR5, 3960X
Core i7-2700K, Radeon HD 6450
Radeon HD 6450 GDDR5, 2700K, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
Core i7-2700K, GeForce GTX 470, Samsung SSD 470
GeForce GTX 470, 2700K, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
Super Pi mod 1.5 XS 1M
--- *
9.7
9.844
-1%
Super Pi mod 1.5 XS 2M
--- *
21.7
22.11
-2%
Super Pi Mod 1.5 XS 32M
--- *
541
552
-2%
Cinebench R10
0%
-14%
Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
6190
6305
2%
6248
1%
Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
32763
32120
-2%
23767
-27%
Rendering Single 32Bit
5032
4995
-1%
4967
-1%
Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
27087
27292
1%
19675
-27%
Cinebench R11.5
CPU Multi 64Bit
10.5
10.54
0%
7
-33%
3DMark 06 - CPU
---
8330
6792
-18%
6882
-17%
3DMark Vantage
1280x1024 P CPU no PhysX
36985
24459
-34%
3DMark 11
1280x720 Performance Physics
12028
8552
-29%
wPrime 2.0x
9%
-36%
1024m *
159.1
146.5
8%
219.5
-38%
32m *
5.351
4.88
9%
7.15
-34%
wPrime 1.55
-50%
1024m *
142.96
214.56
-50%
32m *
4.87
7.269
-49%
WinRAR
Result
4198
4211
0%
3537
-16%
TrueCrypt
0%
-33%
Serpent Mean 100MB
0.481
0.488
1%
0.325
-32%
Twofish Mean 100MB
0.868
0.866
0%
0.577
-34%
AES Mean 100MB
5.2
5.2
0%
3.5
-33%
X264 HD Benchmark 4.0
-1%
-24%
Pass 2
54.8
54.8
0%
37.5
-32%
Pass 1
173
171
-1%
147
-15%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
1% / 1%
-21% / -23%
-27% / -27%

* ... smaller is better

The i7-3960X clearly stands out in a direct comparison with current notebook and desktop processors in Cinebench R11.5. The gap between the new Core i7-2700K and the mobile top model Core i7-2960XM is a lot lower in comparison. Please see our CPU benchmark chart for more benchmarks and comparisons with the latest processors.

Cinebench R11.5 - CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
GeForce GTX 470, 3960X, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
10.5 Points ∼15%
Core i7-2700K
Radeon HD 6450 GDDR5, 2700K, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
7 Points ∼10% -33%
Core i7-2960XM (mobile)
Radeon HD 6990M, 2960XM, Crucial RealSSD M4 CT128M4SSD2
6.33 Points ∼9% -40%
Core i7-2670QM
GeForce GTX 570M, 2670QM, Intel SSD 320 Series SSDSA2CW120G3
5.25 Points ∼7% -50%
Core i5-2400
HD Graphics 2000, 2400
5.07 Points ∼7% -52%
Core i5-2410M (mobile Dual-Core)
GeForce GT 520M, 2410M, Samsung SpinPoint M7 HM321HI
2.35 Points ∼3% -78%

Looking at the system tests, PCMark 7 and Vantage, the two additional cores hardly offer any benefits. The differences are within the limits of the measurement uncertainties and confirm the subjective impression that 4 cores still supply enough reserves for most present applications.

Core i7-3960x, GeForce GTX 470, SSD
GeForce GTX 470, 3960X, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
Core i7-2700K, GeForce GTX 470, Samsung SSD 470
GeForce GTX 470, 2700K, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
PCMark Vantage
-7%
1024x768 HDD Score
29079
27794
-4%
1024x768 Productivity Score
22004
20932
-5%
1024x768 Communications Score
17931
18404
3%
1024x768 Music Score
20626
18863
-9%
1024x768 Gaming Score
21346
17129
-20%
1024x768 TV and Movies Score
7716
6852
-11%
1024x768 Memories Score
12122
11470
-5%
1024x768 Result
19560
18764
-4%
PCMark 7
2%
System Storage
4179
4609
10%
Computation
5540
5034
-9%
Creativity
5120
5131
0%
Entertainment
4649
4664
0%
Productivity
4319
4391
2%
Lightweight
4364
4680
7%
Score
4692
4833
3%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
-3% / -3%

One main application field for the fastest processor model is, logically, high-end 3D gaming. The 3D Mark tests from Futuremark show a slight impact of the 6 core CPU. However, an impact of 2 – 7% is insignificant.

3DMark 06 - 1280x1024 Standard AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
25881 Points ∼68%
Core i7-2700K
24564 Points ∼64% -5%
3DMark Vantage - 1280x1024 P Result (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
18100 Points ∼33%
Core i7-2700K
16777 Points ∼30% -7%
3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
4822 Points ∼19%
Core i7-2700K
4718 Points ∼19% -2%

Legend

 
Core i7-3960x, GeForce GTX 470, SSD Intel Core i7-3960X, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
 
Core i7-2700K, GeForce GTX 470, Samsung SSD 470 Intel Core i7-2700K, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
Discussion

We want to check if Intel's top model can be fully exploited with three up to date games. It quickly becomes evident that the four cores of the Core i7-2700K are fully sufficient in Battlefield 3 and Shogun 2. No higher performance can be achieved with the two additional cores. Only the latest F1 2011 race game can benefit from these and extract a small performance gain in the test.

Battlefield 3
1920x1080 ultra AA:4x MS AF:16x (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
30 fps ∼29%
Core i7-2700K
30 fps ∼29% 0%
1366x768 high AA:- AF:16x (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
61 fps ∼43%
Core i7-2700K
61 fps ∼43% 0%
Total War: Shogun 2
1920x1080 high AA:ML AF:16x (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
34.2 fps ∼34%
Core i7-2700K
34.2 fps ∼34% 0%
1280x720 moderate AF:trilinear (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
94.1 fps ∼76%
Core i7-2700K
94.1 fps ∼76% 0%
1024x768 low (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
426.6 fps ∼100%
F1 2011
1920x1080 Ultra Preset DX11 AA:4xMS (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
61 fps ∼71%
Core i7-2700K
60 fps ∼70% -2%
1366x768 High Preset DX11 AA:2xMS (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
102 fps ∼98%
Core i7-2700K
97 fps ∼93% -5%

Legend

 
Core i7-3960x, GeForce GTX 470, SSD Intel Core i7-3960X, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
 
Core i7-2700K, GeForce GTX 470, Samsung SSD 470 Intel Core i7-2700K, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU

Verdict

Intel's new top model bids a lot of power with six processor cores and a gigantic last level cache. This allows the CPU to score significantly in optimized software and fares very well compared to the Core i7-2700K quad core.

Nevertheless, we have to remember that most up to date programs and games don't need more than 4 cores. Therefore, the quad core i7-2700K is a much lower priced and energy efficient alternative for most power users. However, users who can fully exploit the 6 cores (rendering, scientific calculations, etc.) and don't have to look at the price can unhesitatingly buy the Core i7-3960X.

The Core i7-2700K is still recommendable for high-end gamers and the price-performance winners are still the inexpensive Core i5-2500K and 2400.

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Core i7-3960X and i7-2700K Desktop CPUs in Review
Redaktion, 2011-12-22 (Update: 2013-06- 6)