When the LGA2011 processors and Intel X79 motherboards were released it was quite expensive to get into. The Core i7-3930K sells for about $600 and you will be paying over $200 for an Intel X79 motherboard. This does not leave much room for a decent video card, memory or solid state drives. The Core i7-3820 comes in at just over $300, about half the price of the i7-3930K. With that extra $300 you can get a great video card or get solid state drives instead of normal hard drives. The cost of the i7-3820 definitely makes the Intel X79 platform more affordable for many people.
With that said what is to stop you from purchasing a Core i7-2600K and a Z68 motherboard? We tested the Core i7-3820 directly against the Core i7-2600K and the differences were minimal. On many of the CPU-sepcific tests the Core i7-3820 came out on top this is partly because it is 200MHz faster, but you also have to keep in mind even though the core architecture is very similar on both chips the Core i7-3820 should perform better because of the additional memory and PCI-Express bandwidth.
Overclocking seems to be getting easier and easier as technology movies along and the Gear Ratio feature is a perfect example of that. It makes it incredibly easy to overclock your i7-3820 up to 4.5GHz without having to do much at all. Remember the i7-3820 is only partially unlocked so the max multiplier is set at 43x. So the Gear Ratio allows you to get around this. We were able to get a stable overclock of 4.75GHz over the stock speed of 3.6GHz.
The Core i7-3820 is setup to compete with the Core i7-2600K and i7-2700K parts so lets look at the differences. First the benefits of moving over to the Sandy Bridge-E platform means you get PCI-Express 3.0 and more PCI-Express lanes (40). So if you are running a multi-GPU setup your cards are going to operate at their maximum speed. You also have more cache on the chip and more memory bandwidth with the addition of quad-channel memory. So you can easily fill your system up with 32GB or 64GB of memory.
If you choose to go with the Core i7-2600K or i7-2700K you do get the on-die GPU so no discrete video card is needed, although consumers choosing either of these platforms are likely to go with a discrete video card. You get to keep Intel’s QuickSync technology so you will see better performance when it comes to video encoding. Also staying on this platform is going to be less expensive. While both the i7-2600K ($324) and i7-2700K ($339) are more expensive than the i7-3820 ($319) moving to the Sandy Bridge-platform is going to cost more because of the cost of X79 motherboards and you will have to purchase at least 4 sticks of DDR3.
Either choice is a good one at this point, but if you are building a multi-GPU gaming system the Core i7-3820 and Sandy Bridge-E is the way to go. Your graphics cards are going to perform to best on this platform. Also keep in mind we do have Ivy Bridge right around the corner and if you get on this platform now it will save you money down the road when Ivy Bridge-E is available. Overall ThinkComputers gives the Intel Core i7-3820 Quad-Core Core Processor a 9 out of 10 and our Recommended Award.
- PCI-Express 3.0 with 40 lanes
- Quad-Channel DDR3
- 10MB Cache
- Easy overclocking because of the Gear Ratio feature
- Not a fully unlocked processor
- You lose Intel’s QuickSync technology if moving from LGA1155