Intel Core i7 4960X Ivy Bridge E Review
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The Ivy Bridge (IVB) architecture launched just over a year ago, but until now IVB had got their Extreme series makeover. The Ivy Bridge-E series processors launching today change this though, as we now have our first 6 core, 12 threaded processor based on the Ivy Bridge architecture.
(Meet Ivy Bridge-E!)
If you set your way back machine to 2012 you will remember that the performance difference between Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge was only around 5% to 15% depending on the application. However, with it being built on a 22nm process and including Intel’s revolutionary Tri-Gate transistor technology, Ivy Bridge was able to run at the same or higher clock speeds than Sandy Bridge with a lower power envelope. Since Ivy Bridge-E is based on the same architecture as processors such as the 3770K it too includes Intel Tri-Gate transistors, which improve the power efficiency. The top dawg in Intel’s lineup is currently the 3970X, which has the same core count and clock speed as the 4960X, but it consumes 20W more power. The power consumption of the new Ivy Bridge-E chips could be the biggest improvement over the previous generation, and we have to say 20W is nothing to sneeze at.
Ivy Bridge-E also addresses a bit of a controversy that surrounds the lower end processors in the 3000 series. We are of course referring to the generic thermal paste that is used to transfer the heat from the core to the IHS (integrated heat spreader). Ivy Bridge-E instead uses solder to connect the CPU to the IHS, which greatly increases the rate the heat can be transferred to the heatsink. This means heat should not be an issue when it comes to Ivy Bridge-E and let’s face it Intel had no other choice, but to use solder. With as hot as Ivy Bridge and Haswell run when at full load it would have been impossible to keep a 6 core processor with the same architecture within a safe operation temperature range with thermal paste being the middle man.
When it comes to pricing the 4960X is a league of its own, as was the 3960X and 980X before it. This chip is launching with an MSRP of $990 making it slightly less expensive than the 3970X and equal to the launch price of the 3960X. Most people will see the price and run for the hills, but the Ivy Bridge-E series does come with more affordable processors; the 4930K and 4820K, which are priced at $555 and $310 respectively. All the processors in the 39xx series are also unlocked, so even if you can only afford the 4820K the overclocking will not be limited as it was with previous generation “E” series processors that were at the lower end of the pricing spectrum.
Before we jump in the review we want to take a minute to talk about drugs. HAHAHA. That isn’t true at all. What we want to talk about is why extreme, or extremely rich gamers want Ivy Bridge E over Haswell. The reason is simple; 40 PCIe lanes. With 40 lanes the most powerful graphics cards on the market will not be saturated by the PCIe lanes and can run at highest performance level. In most cases this isn’t going to be an issue, but if you want to run 2, 3, or even 4 GTX Titan graphics cards and really unleash the beast you want more PCIe lanes than what any of the processors outside of the Extreme series can offer.