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Intel Core i7-5960X Extreme CPU Performance Review

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Processor Testing Methodology

I compared the Core i7-5960X with its Sandy Bridge forebear, the Core i7-3960X, and the LGA1150-based Core i7-4770K. The test setups were as follows:

Intel X99 Express Test Platform

  • Motherboard: ASUS X99-DELUXE
  • Processor: 3.0GHz Intel Core i7-5960X
  • System Memory: 16GB (4x4GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2166 at 15-15-15-36
  • Primary Drive: Seagate ST3500 500GB drive
  • Graphics Adapter: NVIDIA GTX580 reference card
  • CPU cooler: Corsair H100i

Intel X79 Express Test Platform

  • Motherboard: ASUS Sabertooth X79
  • Processor: 3.3GHz Intel Core i7-3960X
  • System Memory: 16GB (4 4GB DIMMs) Corsair Vengeance CMZ16GX3M4A1600C9 DDR3-1600 (9-9-9-24)
  • Primary Drive: Seagate ST3500 500GB drive
  • Graphics Adapter: AMD Radeon 6850
  • CPU cooler: Intel High Performance Liquid Cooling System RTS2011LC

Intel Z87 Test Platform

  • Motherboard: MSI Z87 MPower Max
  • Processor: 3.5GHz Intel Core i7-4770K
  • System Memory: 8GB DDR3-1600 (two 4GB DIMMs) at 9-9-9-27
  • Primary Drive: Seagate ST3500 500GB drive
  • Graphics Adapter: AMD Radeon HD6850
  • CPU cooler: Thermalright Silver Arrow

Benchmark Applications: CPU

  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit
  • Finalwire AIDA64 Engineer
  • Maxon CINEBENCH R11.5 64-Bit
  • x264Bench HD 5.0
  • SPECapc LightWave 3D v9.6
  • Handbrake 0.96 video transcoding
  • Blender 3D rendering
  • POV-Ray 3D rendering

I tested the 5960X at both stock and overclocked speeds. Intel’s press material say that exceptional CPUs will overclock to 4.6GHz, many CPUs will overclock to 4.5GHz, and pretty much all of them will overclock to 4.4GHz. Although I’ve had good luck with Intel CPUs in the past, with my Core i7-5960X sample, 4.4GHz was the best I could get. I could boot into Windows at 4.5GHz, but the system was very unstable and would crash with any benchmark. Let’s see what kind of performance we can get from synthetic benchmarks…


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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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