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Intel Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition (LGA 2011) CPU Review - The new X79 Chipset

The much anticipated replacement to the X58 platform is here. We look at the 3960X EE and the associated X79 chipset!

| Intel CPUs in CPUs, Chipsets & SoCs | Posted: Nov 14, 2011 8:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 91%Manufacturer: Intel

The new X79 Chipset

 

A brand new processor line brings with it a brand new chipset and that comes in the form of X79. The replacement chipset for the previous generation X58 one and the big brother to the much loved Z68 chipset that we've been looking at for the last few months.

 

Looking below, we get a good idea of what's going on with not only the chipset, but also the CPU itself to see what it brings to the table. You can see that from the CPU itself we've got a total of 40 PCIe lanes which can be used in a number of configurations. Unlike Z68, the biggest note is probably the inclusion of dual x16 connectivity for SLI / CrossFire setups instead of x8 / x8 which is seen on non NF200 based Z68 boards. To the right you can see we've of course got Quad Channel memory support which is something we mentioned earlier - a few pages back you can see the image of the memory controller on the 3960X die.

 

TweakTown image content/4/4/4414_07_intel_core_i7_3960x_extreme_edition_lga_2011_cpu_review.png

 

Between the CPU and X79 chipset we've got a 20 GB/s link and off that we've got 14 USB 2.0 ports, along with integrated Gigabit networking directly off the Intel chipset. Also supported is Intel Management Engine Firmware and BIOS support along with Intel Extreme Tuning support.

 

Also running off the X79 chipset is Intel HD Audio, eight PCIe 2.0 slots which can run at x1 each along with six SATA / eSATA ports. You can see off the bottom two are SATA III while the others are SATA II. Intel Rapid Storage Technology Enterprise is also on offer, but comes in the form of an option and to be honest, it's not a bad thing since people going down the X79 path are more likely to have a larger SSD.

 

Intel at launch are also offering their own Desktop Board in the form of the DX79SI. While we won't be using that today, instead we've opted for the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme which looks like an absolute beast of the board. We'll be checking out the Intel Desktop board in the coming weeks.

 

TweakTown image content/4/4/4414_11_intel_core_i7_3960x_extreme_edition_lga_2011_cpu_review.png

 

Looking above, you can see some of the main features that are on offer like three PCIe x16 slots, 8 DIMM slots and a clean heatsink setup, Intel boards have never been the strongest in terms of overclocking, but have been considered as one of the most stable boards on the market. The board will no doubt be a hit for certain people who are looking for another quality board from the company.

 

I think the only thing I find slightly disappointing about the new X79 chipset is the lack of native USB 3.0 support. It's not a huge deal since we look at the native USB 3.0 support from AMD which lines up with other controllers from the likes of ASMedia and NEC with almost identical performance.

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