Intel Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E CPU Review

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Ivy Bridge-E, and by extension the Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition, has a lot in common with the mainstream Ivy Bridge microarchitecture, which arrived last year with the Core i7-3770K and other members of the third generation Intel Core processor family. As we've mentioned, Ivy Bridge-E is a more powerful variant, however, with more cores and cache and a wider memory interface.

Due to the similarities to Ivy Bridge, we won’t be rehashing many of the architectural details again here, but we would suggest checking out a few previous articles if you’d like more details regarding the architecture and technologies at work here, like Intel’s Turbo Boost 2.0, Smart Cache, Hyper Threading, and AVX, among others.

In our Core i7-3770K launch article, we go in-depth on the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture and cover many details that are pertinent to today’s launch as well. In our Core i7-3960X coverage, we dig into Intel’s previous-gen Extreme Edition processor, which is quite similar to the Core i7-4960X, and also detail the X79 Express chipset, which remains the platform of choice for Ivy Bridge-E.

Intel Ivy Bridge-E Die Map

Ivy Bridge-E shares many of the same features of the Sandy Bridge-E and the more mainstream Ivy Bridge microarchitectures, but as the “E” denotes, IVB-E is more extreme derivative. What you see pictured above is a die map of an Ivy Bridge-E based Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition processor. The chip is manufactured using Intel’s advanced 22nm process node and features roughly 1.86 billion transistors, with a die size of approximately 257mm2 (15 mm x 17.1 mm). If you're keeping track, that's about 410M fewer transistors and a 41% smaller die than SBE.

The Ivy Bridge-E microarchitecture features up to 6 active execution cores that can each process two threads simultaneously courtesy of Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, for support of a total of 12 threads. The actual cores used in the chips are essentially identical to the original Ivy Bridge microarchitecture and support the same Intel AVX and AES instructions, along with SSE4.1, SSE4.2, etc.

The Core i7-4960X, Top and Bottom

Ivy Bridge-E based processors like the Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition are designed for Intel’s LGA 2011 socket, and require a compatible motherboard built around the X79 Express chipset (more on that later). The processors will support up to 15MB of shared L3 Intel Smart Cache and feature integrated quad-channel memory controllers with official support for DDR3 memory at speeds up to 1866MHz, although higher speeds are possible through overclocking.

Ivy Bridge-E based processors also feature 40 integrated lanes of PCI Express connectivity, that support speeds equivalent to the 8GT/s PCI Express 3.0 specification. Intel won’t be officially designating the lanes as PCIe 3.0 compliant, however.

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Kidbest100 one year ago

Exact same performance jump as last gen, and 'm not surprised. Maybe we will see a different story somewhere else along the product line.... Hopefully

Dave_HH one year ago

I think this CPU is more about power efficiency than it is flat out performance, though it has that too. It's time to move on to next gen hardware though. Haswell here we come.

realneil one year ago

So this is what to get if you just won the lottery!

Good review Marco, it must be fun to play with this awesome gear.

oubadah one year ago

There's an error in the Low Res Gaming section. I'm pretty sure the wording in the last paragraph has been inverted (Crysis ET Quake Wars), otherwise the graphs are incorrectly labelled.

And if the graph labeled 'Crysis' is in fact Crysis, then what is going on there? The 4770k has better IPC/performance per-core, and many other low res gaming benches I've seen with older games reflect this. Why would Crysis be the exception that performs better on the 4960x/3970x? The core count obviously isn't a factor here...

marco c one year ago

@oubadah - The graphs and commentary are correct. The reasons IVB-E outperformed the systems it did, despite similar IPC, are mostly likely a combination of it's higher turbo frequency, faster official RAM speed support, and the slightly updated platform (Asus' X79 Deluxe) which was optimized for IVB-E, not only in terms of its firmware but traces to the memory controller and power delivery.

Mike Coyne one year ago

Great review in new Intel i7 Extreme Edition 4960X. Less power and watts than Intel i7 990X. Smart moves from Intel to made a improved. I am hold for next gen Intel Extreme Edition with 8 cores. I better to save up $$$ for next one.

Stan Duncan one year ago

Where can anyone buy this?

Google shopping turns up links to products called 4960X for $320, and the vendors selling them are calling them 4960X, but then in the specs, they are only listing 4 cores and 8 megs of L3; it doesn't appear to be the correct product.

Very very confusing.

DarkoZoric one year ago

I using Athlon II X2 250 :D .. I must buy better processor :)

AfkToilet 8 months ago

Is it bad that the E-Wafer looks delicious to me? :D

I can only hope the tests improve with an Asus Rampage IV Black.

MADSKILLZ412 4 months ago

The 4930k is more for the price, but if you are going all out on the ultra gaming build, this is what you should go for. I use a 4770k, because it's about as high-end as I could get with my budget. (Bought before Devil's Canyon came out)

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