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Intel Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition (LGA 2011) CPU Review

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



We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Sapphire and Corsair.


We'll be comparing our new i7 3960X against the other big three processors on the market at the moment. From AMD that comes in the form of the FX-8150. Of course, considering that the processor doesn't really compete with the 2600k in a lot of areas, we're not expecting it to fair well today against the new 3960X from Intel. While we won't exactly be comparing it against the i7 3960X, it seemed silly to not include it. Because we have the results, we'll also be including the 1100T in our testing.


From the Sandy Bridge side of things we'll have our trusted i7 2600k that's been serving us extremely well since launch. Showing off clocks of in excess of 5.4GHz, this one runs day in and day out on our video card testbed at 5.2GHz. It's probably the biggest competition for the new X79 platform as people decide if they just go down the Z68 path and pair it with something like a 2600k or 2700k, or instead join the big boys club and fork out the X79 money. In the end, it's win / win for Intel as you'll no doubt end up on one of their platforms.


The final processor in the lineup is the 990X sitting on the X58 platform which we know and love. It's a platform that's been great for Intel, Gamers and Enthusiasts the world over, but we've been waiting a long time for its replacement.


Like when we looked at the FX-8150, we will be overclocking all our processors today. That means our FX-8150 will be running at 4.76GHz, 1100T at 4.06GHz, 2600k at 5.2GHz and our 990X at 4.2GHz


That leaves us with our 3960X and its overclock. Overclocking a new processor type is always a worry; you wonder what the safe voltages are, what you should be adjusting and all that kind of stuff. Fortunately, ASUS put together a really nice guide for the Rampage IV Extreme which is the board we're using today.


Before we went all manual overclocking on the board, we fired up one of the profiles that is on offer in the BIOS. Hitting "Load Extreme OC Profile (Low Current)", our machine booted up at 4.99GHz with our Quad Channel RAM kit running at 2100MHz DDR. At a click of just a single button this is really a massive overclock on offer and I found myself truly surprised with the overclock that was offered via the OC Profile.




Getting into Windows was not a problem and everything ran like a dream just as we'd hope. With that chugging along without any problems, I figured we'd go back into the BIOS to see if we could push our overclock further. The main thing I wanted to do was at least crack the 5GHz mark.


Leaving the settings alone, I just pushed our multiplier up by x2 - this brought us in at just over 5.2GHz and while our machine booted, we couldn't get into Windows. So I dropped the multiplier down by x1 and this brought our CPU in at just over 5.1GHz. While we managed to get into Windows, about 17% into Cyberlink MediaEspresso encode our system froze up.


Moving back to the 38x multiplier meant that we would be running at 4.99GHz again and just shy of that 5GHz mark. So we just ended up bumping our BCLK up ever so slightly and we ended up in Windows at 5001.73MHz.




The main thing I wanted to know was that it was stable. Firing up MediaEspresso again, which is normally the one program that will cause an overclocked CPU to fall over, we completed the full run. Of course, compared to the 14MHz lower clocked 4.99GHz clock we got, there was no difference in time, so we didn't worry about testing everything again.


Before we get into it, the last few things that probably need to be covered are the motherboard we're using today which is the Rampage IV Extreme from ASUS - the new top dawg motherboard from the company sporting the X79 chipset. As usual, on the video card front we're using the MSI GTX 580 which has been serving us very well over the past few months and on the RAM front we're using the new G.Skill RipjawsZ 2133MHz kit.


That really sums up everything today. From the benchmark side of things we'll be checking out all our CPUs on our CPU orientated benchmark line-up to see just what's going on with performance today.


Let's get started!

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