When we covered the Haswell launch back in June it was pretty exciting because it was a brand new microarchitecture which brought many new improvements, a new chipset with new features and that meant new motherboards as well. With Ivy Bridge-E we are just moving from a 32 nm shrink die to a 22 nm shrink die. This means the new Ivy Bridge-E chips will work on the same X79 motherboards that have been out for quite some time. This does not mean Intel has not improved things, its just not as exciting.
Intel is claiming a 5% improvement over the previous generation and that is about what we saw in our tests. So yes you are going to see an improvement over the previous generation, but not something drastic. Intel’s yearly upgrade cycle does not really allow for major performance boosts. Where we did see a nice improvement was the power consumption and temperatures. The i7-4960X used far less power during load and was about 5-7 degrees cooler. This is going to make for a more stable system.
So if you have a Sandy Bridge-E system is it worth upgrading? Not really. The 5% increase in performance is not really worth the $990 pricetag. This is an extreme part so you are going to have a pretty extreme price. Remember this really is not a mainstream product. The Haswell chip we covered a few months ago is aimed at the mainstream crowd. It is really hard to truly push this chip to its limits. You are going to have to be doing some serious encoding or multi-monitor HD gaming to take full advantage of this processor. We are assuming if you are looking at this processor you are going to load your system up with video cards as well. Keep in mind you do get 40 PCI-Express lanes and quad channel memory. So throw a handful of video cards in the system and load it up with 64 GB of memory and you will have the ultimate system. Now if you have an older X58 system you may want to consider upgrading. You will have much more improved performance and you will move up from triple channel memory to quad channel memory.
If you look at the processors in the Ivy Bridge-E family the i7-4820K is pretty interesting. It will have only 4 cores and will be priced close to the i7-4770K Haswell processor. This will still give you quad channel memory and more PCI-Express lanes.
When it comes down to it the i7-4960X is a more powerful and efficient processor than the previous generation, but we can not really justify upgrading if you already have a system based on Sandy Bridge-E. If you have anything before that then we are all for it. The Ivy Bridge-E family of processors are set to launch in about a week. The i7-4960X we reviewed today will retail for $990. Overall ThinkComputers gives the Intel Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition Processor a 10 out of 10 score.
- Improved performance over the previous generation
- Better power consumption
- Runs cooler
- 40 PCI-Express lanes
- Quad channel memory
- None that I found