Some More Models
Although we only have one Sandy Bridge-E chip here, today’s embargo lift unveils two more non-extreme models based on Sandy Bridge-E. These carry the same 130W TDP, but have a few features chopped off a bit to split them apart from the Extreme Edition flagship. Here is what the main lineup of Sandy Bridge processors looks like now:
|Model||Cores/Threads||CPU Base||CPU Turbo||TDP||L3 Cache||Price|
|Core i7 3960X||6/12||3.3 GHz||3.9 GHz||130W||15MB||$990|
|Core i7 990X||6/12||3.46 GHz||3.73 GHz||130W||12MB||$999|
|Core i7 3930K||6/12||3.2 GHz||3.8 GHz||130W||12MB||$555|
|Core i7 3820||4/8||3.6 GHz||3.9 GHz||130W||10MB||TBD|
|Core i7 2600K||4/8||3.4 GHz||3.8 GHz||95W||6MB||$317|
|Core i5 2500K||4/4||3.3 GHz||3.7 GHz||95W||6MB||$216|
|Core i5 2320||4/4||3.0 GHz||3.3 GHz||95W||6MB||$177|
|Core i3 2120||2/4||3.3 GHz||NA||65W||3MB||$138|
The Core i7 3930K is the next highest, slated to sell at $555 in lots of 1000. It is clocked just 100 MHz below the Extreme Edition, but comes fully unlocked. It still has 6 cores supporting 12 threads, and in fact the only thing missing from this model is 3MB of L3 cache (so it has 12MB total).
The Core i7 3820 is not fully unlocked (we’ll get to that later), and has two of its six cores disabled, so is a 4/8 core/thread chip. However it is clocked at 3.6 MHz base, higher than any other Core i7 model, and reaches up to 3.9 GHz at turbo, which is the same turbo peak speed as the Extreme Edition. It has another 2MB of its cache lopped off, so has 10MB total, still higher than normal Sandy Bridge. Both these non-Extreme Edition chips support quad channel DDR3 1600 memory.
In my opinion, the star of the Sandy Bridge-E lineup is likely to be the 3930K, which was not sent out to reviewers. The 3960X is certainly a beast, but with a model just 100 MHz slower (but still fully unlocked) available for roughly half the price, it would probably be hard to recommend the 3960x over it. Since you can not disable parts of cache individually, I could not replicate these other chips for this review, so we’ll just be looking at the 3960X today.
A New Platform
As you can guess, with 40 lanes of PCI-E and a quad channel memory setup, a new platform will be required for Sandy Bridge-E, dubbed LGA2011. Yes, this is Intel’s fourth new CPU interface in the last three years, but it’s clear that they want to keep the ultra high-end platform completely separate from the rest of their lineup.
The first desktop LGA 2011 platform will be the X79 chipset, and it looks strikingly familiar:
Compared to the P67 chipset that was introduced with Sandy Bridge in January, apparently nothing has changed on the chipset itself. Since all of the changes are on the CPU (the PCI-E and Memory controllers), the bottom part of the diagrams look identical. So while X79 will be touted as the “Extreme” enthusiast desktop, it still only supports USB 2.0, and only has a pair of SATA3 ports out of six. Oddly, “Smart Response”, which was introduced with the Z68 and allows an SSD to be used as a cache for a mechanical drive, is absent from this chipset. With so many extra PCI-E lanes though, motherboard manufacturers should be expected to justify the expected $300-400 “Extreme” price range with some extra onboard features.
By the way, LGA 2011 is not compatible with any existing heatsink mounting devices that I know of; the socket will come with mounting screws fixed to the board itself. This means that you will need to buy a heatsink specifically designed for LGA 2011 if you are upgrading. The good news is, most heatsink makers are offering free LGA 2011 upgrades for recent purchasers of many models. I used a Thermaltake Frio OCK for part of this review, and the LGA 2011 installation kit Thermaltake sent was just four double-sided screws which actually made installation easier than ever.
It is also worth mentioning that none of the Sandy Bridge-E processors come shipped with a heatsink, even at retail, so it really is up to you to decide on your own cooling solution. Intel does offer a standard $20 heatsink for running at stock speeds, but as you will see later in this review, you will need a robust cooling solution to get very far with overclocking. These chips are rated at 130W at stock speeds, and draw a LOT of power when going beyond the 4 GHz barrier. We’ll get to that later.
Intel has also done the exact same thing as AMD, going to Asetek to create their own branded liquid cooler.
Intel’s solution, dubbed “Intel Thermal Solution RTS2011LC”, is actually a slightly lighter model than AMD’s. It is a single fan model, rated at 74 CFM at 2200 RPM (making 35 dBA which is pretty loud but not excruciating), sitting on a radiator that measures in at 150x118x37 mm. It will sell for around $85-100 which puts it in line with other single fan liquid coolers like the Corsair H80, Cooler Master Aquagate, and Antec H20 620.
Now that we’re acquainted with Sandy Bridge-E, let’s get to testing!