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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 ∼53%
Core i7-2700K
Radeon HD 6450 GDDR5, 2700K, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
7 Points ∼35% -33%
Core i7-2960XM (mobile)
Radeon HD 6990M, 2960XM, Crucial RealSSD M4 CT128M4SSD2
6.33 Points ∼32% -40%
Core i7-2670QM
GeForce GTX 570M, 2670QM, Intel SSD 320 Series SSDSA2CW120G3
5.25 Points ∼26% -50%
Core i5-2400
HD Graphics 2000, 2400
5.07 Points ∼25% -52%
Core i5-2410M (mobile Dual-Core)
GeForce GT 520M, 2410M, Samsung SpinPoint M7 HM321HI
2.35 Points ∼12% -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 ∼62%
Core i7-2700K
24564 Points ∼59% -5%
3DMark Vantage - 1280x1024 P Result (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
18100 Points ∼32%
Core i7-2700K
16777 Points ∼30% -7%
3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance (sort by value)
Core i7-3960X
4822 Points ∼17%
Core i7-2700K
4718 Points ∼16% -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

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.

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Redaktion, 2011-12-22 (Update: 2013-06- 6)