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Intel Core i7-5960X Extreme CPU Performance Review

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Intel Core i7-5960X Extreme CPU Performance Review

By David Ramsey

Manufacturer: Intel Corporation
Product Name: Core i7-5960X Desktop Processor
Model Number: BX80648I75960X
Price: $1049.99 (Newegg | Amazon | B&H)

Full Disclosure: Intel provided the product sample used in this article.

Benchmark Reviews has now completed performance testing of our Intel Core i7-5960X Haswell-E processor. As this is Intel’s first 8-core consumer processor, we have high expectations for this top-end iteration of the new Haswell-E architecture. Equipped with Intel’s 22nm, “3D” transistors, 20 megabytes of on-chip cache, and a new DDR4 memory controller, the 5960X is unlike anything Intel’s ever done before.

intel_core_i7_5960x_press_shot

If you haven’t read our Intel Core i7-5960X Extreme Processor Preview article, please do, as it will give you the background you need to get the most from this performance review. However, here’s a quick look at the Haswell-E features and Intel’s family of unlocked desktop-class CPUs to get you started.

Haswell-E Features

Features and specifications courtesy of Intel

  • 8 Cores, 16 Threads
  • Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
  • Intel Hyper-Threading Technology
  • Supports LGA2011-V3 socket Intel X99 Express Chipset-based motherboards
  • Up to 20 MB Intel Smart Cache
  • Integrated Quad-Channel Memory Controller (also supports dual and triple channel)
  • 4 channels of DDR4 2133 MHz
  • Up to 40 PCI Express Gen 3 Lanes

Unlocked Intel 2014 Core i5/i7 Processor Family Specifications

Processor Base Clock Max Turbo Clock Cores/ Threads Cache PCI-E lanes Memory TDP Socket Price
i7-5960X 3.0gHz 3.5gHz 8/16 20MB 40 4 channels DDR4-2133 140W 2011-V3 $999
i7-5930K 3.5gHz 3.7gHz 6/12 15MB 40 4 channels DDR4-2133 140W 2011-V3 $583
i7-5820K 3.3gHz 3.6gHz 6/12 15MB 28 4 channels DDR4-2133 140W 2011-V3 $389
i7-4790K 4.0gHz 4.4gHz 4/8 8MB 16 2 channels DDR3-1600 88W 1150 $339
i5-4690K 3.5gHz 3.9gHz 4/4 6MB 16 2 channels DDR3-1600 88W 1150 $242

Prices are for trays of 1,000 CPUs; individual retail prices will vary.

All of these CPUs use Intel’s latest “Haswell” architecture, with 22nm, 3D transistors. The new LGA2011-V3 CPUs all have DDR4 memory controllers, while the other two get by with DDR3. The one to keep your eye on, though, is the Core i7-4790K. Note that its base frequency is more than 30% higher than that of the 5960X, and its price is about a third of its big brothers’. Will the extra cost of the Haswell-E CPU be justified by its performance?


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11 comments

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  1. Chris

    On the last page, you wrote 48 vs 24 PCI-E lanes. I believe that should be 40 or 28 PCI-E lanes versus 16.

    In terms of value, it’s hard to justify this processor for most people. Only people with multi-threaded work can really benefit from this.

    I think though that the 5820k might be a decent value though. For perhaps $80 in a CPU compared to a 4790K and around $50-$100, you do get another 2 cores, which might be useful, although there will be a premium you have to pay for DDR4.

    1. David Ramsey

      What I said was “48 (total) PCI-E lanes as compared to the 24 lanes of an LGA1150 system”. Since I was talking about systems rather than CPUs, I included the PCI-E lanes provided by the chipsets as well.

  2. Ethan

    1. Page 2, you say Z79 instead of X79
    2. Page 8 says the RAM on the 3960X is running at 1066 while on page 2, you say that you are running 1600. Which is it?
    3. Page 8, you typed 3096X instead of 3960X.
    4. Why no clock for clock comparison? I mean in both the CPU and RAM speed, especially since you are giving tests scores with the 5960X being overclocked?

    1. David Ramsey

      Thanks for the corrections; I’ve updated the article.

      Clock for clock comparisons are are interesting if you’re into CPU architecture, or like to make people think you are. But there are so many other factors– amount of cache, clock speed which varies based on number of active cores, and so forth– that I think real-world performance tests are more useful.

      Overclocking results are never guaranteed. Of course I always include overclock results for the CPU I’m testing, and I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to include overclocking results from previously-tested comparison CPUs. Currently I don’t include them since it introduces another uncertainty into the comparison.

  3. Tradesman

    Why 1600 DRAM on 1150 and X79 – 2133 would have been more appropriate?

    1. David Ramsey

      Two reasons:

      — Neither the 4770K nor 3960X officially support DDR3-2133. It is a supported speed for Haswell-E.

      — In any case I didn’t have any DDR3-2133 available.

  4. Tradesman

    If you can put your hands on some 2133 (decent sticks) you’d be surprised at the change you’ll see, and both the 4770K and the 3960X both easily run 2133…

    ” 46.5 gigabytes per second is about 20% higher than we see from the late-2011 Core i7-3960X. As usual, overclocking the CPU has no effect on memory bandwidth.”

    OCing won’t have any real effect, but it’s an apples and oranges difference in the 3960X results when also running at 2133 (and that’s where the bandwidth differences in your charts come from – 2133 vs 1600)…

    The slow CLs in DDR4 have caused many to reconsider moving to X99

    1. David Ramsey

      Benchmark Reviews has been testing memory for many years, and we’ve never seen much real-world difference with expensive, high speed enthusiast memory vs. standard memory. Synthetic benchmarks, of course, will be different.

      There’s another reason I wouldn’t do this, though: when we test components, we try to isolate the performance of the component as most users would see it, not as most users with lots of money who will equip their systems with high end memory, SSDs, and so forth. By sticking to the supported memory speeds for each platform, I’m providing a more accurate look at relative CPU performance, rather than “Haswell-E with stock memory vs. Sandy Bridge E with unsupported high speed memory”.

      Still, testing each CPU with high speed memory on enthusiast motherboards would make an interesting article in its own right. Maybe someday…

    2. Caring1

      I run 2133MHz Ram in an Ivy Bridge system with an i5K series, it has no problems running in that, but as David says, there is no appreciable difference to 1600MHz, but it does give me that warm and fuzzy feeling knowing I have fast Ram. 😉

  5. spikey27

    It’s looking like the end of the line has been reached, with regard to heat-related issues, the overclocking tied to the heat, cost, and actually performance.

    So, Intel’s predictions about the demise – or maybe more correctly, the end of the development road – is rapidly coming into view.

    Except for the guys who actually need a zillion of everything (cores, PCI-E lanes) and just about everything else that keeps climbing with each new chip issue, and maybe the highest calibre gamers, it looks like everything has been invented, and the gravy offered by Haswell-E, etc. may not be such a necessity after all.

    Just my 2cents worth.

    1. Olin Coles

      Your comment reminds me of an editorial I wrote for this website nearly four years ago:
      Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs Chill Aftermarket Cooling. I argued much the same, and lost some sponsors in the process. Read more: http://archive.benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13488&Itemid=8

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