Intel Core i7 3930K (LGA 2011) CPU Review

Don't want to spend Extreme Edition money, but want to get in on Sandy Bridge-E? Maybe the i7 3930K is your weapon of choice.

Manufacturer: Intel
12 minutes & 32 seconds read time

Introduction and Package


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The new Sandy Bridge-E platform from Intel really is a different kind of beast. When you throw it through those CPU intensive benchmarks, the performance of the new i7 3960X is amazing with performance at stock being better at times than when our 2600k is running at 5.2GHz.

The issue with the 3960X isn't the performance, though; it's the price. At $1,049 US, there's nothing cheap about the new 3960X and when you start to throw in a new X79 performance motherboard and a Quad Channel RAM kit, the price of a new Sandy Bridge-E system becomes really expensive.

In steps the 3930K, 100MHz lower on both the Base and Turbo clocks and 3MB less Cache are only minor differences. Six cores and Twelve threads means that it lines up with the 3960X alongside the Quad Channel 1600MHz DDR3 RAM support and 130W TDP. There's one big difference between the 3960X and the 3930K, though; the price. At $599 US the 3930K comes in at considerably less than the 3960X, and really, you can see we've otherwise got little difference between the two models.

There's not much that really needs to be said about the new i7 3930K that we haven't already said. For that reason if you want to find out more about the Sandy Bridge-E platform, I highly recommend you read our original review on the Intel i7 3960X which covers the different processors while also going into more detail on the new Sandy Bridge-E platform on a whole. If you're interested in reading more about the motherboard we're using today, I'd highly recommend you head on to our review on the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme.

For the most part, that really covers everything that we need to cover at the moment. From here we'll be moving straight into our testbed setup followed by a look at the overclocking side of things to see just what we could get out of the i7 3930K. Once that's done we'll get into the performance of the processor against a number of other CPUs we've got here today. We'll cover all that in the next page, though, so let's move on.

Test System Setup and Overclocking

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital and Corsair.

On the testbed side of things there's nothing that you wouldn't have already seen from our original launch coverage. The few things that probably aren't mentioned that need to be, though, are the motherboards we're using. All are ASUS ROG ones with the AMD sitting on the Crosshair V Formula, 2600k sitting on the Maximus IV Extreme-Z and the new Sandy Bridge-E processors sitting comfortably on the Rampage IV Extreme.

Like our other CPU testing we've done lately, we've tested all our CPUs here today at both stock and overclocked. We won't really get into that, though, as you'll be able to see the numbers all our CPUs are running at when you get into the graphs. Outside of stock, though, we wanted to make sure we offered people an idea of what they could achieve with a maximum stable overclock.

Which brings us onto our 3930K here today. From what we've seen so far on the new 3930K, the overclocking performance on the CPU has been strong with retail models actually seeming to overclock better than the Engineering Samples (ES) that most reviewers get.

With 3930K in hand, though, it was time to go into the BIOS and see what we could do on the overclocking side of things. We moved to the "Low Current" profile again and that pushed us up to 4.98GHz with no dramas. We started to mess around with everything and as you can see below, we ended up coming in at 5GHz via a 40 x 125 BCLK setup.

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This lines up pretty much even with our 3960X overclock when we tested originally in our launch coverage. Again, though, it sits a little lower than our 2600k which runs really well at 5.2GHz. Before we get into the performance side of things, let's just cover the overclocking side a little more.

Since the launch of the Sandy Bridge-E platforms, we've seen a few 5.2GHz 3930K CPUs pop up and we had hoped we'd be sitting around that point as well. We messed around in the BIOS for ages trying a different combination of BCLK and Multiplier. We could actually get into Windows at around the 5.1 to 5.15GHz mark. While we had the ability to run some programs, we found a lot wouldn't.

We moved down a little bit to around the 5.05GHz mark via adjusting the BCLK a bit and we ended up in Windows and most stuff seemed to be going well. Firing up MediaEspresso, though, to convert a video we found the CPU give us a BSOD. Cyberlink MediaEspresso has quickly become one of my favorite benchmarks; it's a great one from the perspective of the real world benefits of a CPU or an overclock, but it's also extremely intensive and is a fantastic indication of whether or not our system is stable.

We ended up finally getting our video encoded at 5GHz flat and once that happened we knew we wouldn't have an issue in any of the other programs. So with everything said and done, there's only one thing left to do now.

Let's get started!

PCMark 7 and HyperPi

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

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PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

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Originally we found PCMark 7 performance to be a bit wobbly on the new platform, but it's seemed to even out a little over the last few weeks. Outside of the Lightweight stock score on the 3960X, we get a really good idea with what's going on with performance. Still, some of our numbers are a little all over the place so we won't put too much emphasis on this benchmark. Instead we'll get into HyperPi to see what's going on.

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

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HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

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Looking at Hyper Pi, we see that the 3930K sits in line with our 2600k when running at stock and performs a few seconds faster overclocked even though the 2600k is running an extra 200MHz. Of course, next to the older 990X EE, the new 3930K offers superior performance.


Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

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Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking at CPU Cache performance under AIDA64, we can see it's strong and sits very close to the 3960X with it only falling a little back in the L3 write department. Apart from that, the 3930K sits only a little behind the 3960X. Clocked in line with the 3960X, though, we can see that performance between both setups is extremely close. We see that in this case the 2600k manages to sneak ahead, though, thanks to its slightly higher overclock.

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Memory performance lines up exactly as we'd expect. If you're interested in reading a bit more on the Quad Channel side of things, though, I recommend you read our Intel X79 Quad Channel and Z68 Dual Channel Memory Performance Analysis article.

PassMark PerformanceTest

Version and / or Patch Used: 7.0.1021

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Fast, easy to use, PC speed testing and benchmarking. PassMark PerformanceTest allows you to objectively benchmark a PC using a variety of different speed tests and compare the results to other computers. Twenty-eight standard benchmark tests are available in six test suites plus there are seven advanced testing windows for custom benchmarking.

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Looking under PerformanceTest we get a really good idea of what's going on with the performance of the new CPUs. You can see that the new Sandy Bridge-E models offer us superior performance, especially under areas like Physics and Floating Point.

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Like I just said when looking at RAM performance under AIDA 64; Memory performance lines up exactly as we'd expect. If you're interested in reading a bit more on the Quad Channel side of things, though, I recommend you read our Intel X79 Quad Channel and Z68 Dual Channel Memory Performance Analysis article.

CINEBENCH, Adobe Lightroom and MediaEspresso


Version and / or Patch Used: R11.5

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CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

CINEBENCH is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms (Windows and Mac OS X). And best of all: It's completely free.

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You can see while the 3930K sits a little behind the 3960X, its performance is superior to the 2600K and other processors we have here. Overclocking our 3930K, though, and lining those clock speeds up with the 3960X EE, we can see that performance is extremely close between the two CPUs here.

Adobe Lightroom

Version and / or Patch Used: v3.4

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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 software helps you bring out the best in your photographs, whether you're perfecting one image, searching for ten, processing hundreds, or organizing thousands.

Create incredible images that move your audience. Experiment fearlessly with state-of-the-art nondestructive editing tools. Easily manage all your images. And showcase your work in elegant print layouts, slide shows, and web galleries, as well as on popular photo-sharing sites. All from within one fast, intuitive application.

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Adobe Lightroom performance is also very strong with it only falling behind the more expensive 3960X.


Version and / or Patch Used: v6.5

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MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheaterâ„¢ video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

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As for MediaEspresso video converting, we continue to see the new Sandy Bridge-E platform dominate in this test. We can see the 3960X does manage to shave a bit more time off our encode when compared to the 3930K, but you can see against the other processors here the performance continues to be extremely strong.

3DMark 11 and Aliens vs. Predator

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

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3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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3DMark 11 performance lines up as we'd expect; the extreme Preset is pretty much even across the board. Comparing the X79 platform to the Z68 and X58 one, we can see that the Performance preset leans towards the newer X79 one. It's not by a huge margin by any means, but for overclockers out there, the X79 is of course going to be the more attractive option.

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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You can see under a really intensive game like Aliens vs. Predator, though, there's nothing between all the setups.

Power & Temperature Tests

Power Draw Tests

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While power draw comes in a little lower on the 3930K when compared to the 3960X, we can see that the platform continues to draw a lot of power when compared to the Sandy Bridge platform.

Temperature Tests

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In the temperature department we can see that the idle temp on the 3930K looks better and lines up with our other processors, but in the load department it continues to run a bit warmer than our other setups. Of course, overclocking bumps the heap up even further and while again coming in lower than the 3960X, we see it's still breaking the 80c mark.

Final Thoughts

Really, this is the CPU to buy if you're going to get in on the Sandy Bridge-E action and to be completely honest, we knew that before we had even tested it. We knew that before we had even gotten a sample of it. The "X" / "Extreme Edition" processors from Intel have never represented value, instead they're represented the best performance possible.

The model below that, though, represents performance that's only slightly slower, and value. Combined with good overclocking thanks to the "K" nature of the 3930K, it's the processor to buy if you're going to go down the path of X79.

It might even be the CPU worth considering if you're looking at going down the Z68 / 2700k path. Sure, it will mean a move over to the X79 platform, but the extra $230 US associated with the $599 US 3930K isn't that much, especially if you're interested in significantly improved performance outside your games and in CPU intensive tasks.

The 3960X is a tough buy, and we said that originally. The price associated with it makes it look extremely scary and when you consider the extra VGA power you could throw into that system with the $500 US saved on the CPU, you're going to end up with a much faster system.

If you demand the higher cache on the 3960X, sure, get that. If you're also buying four HD 6970s or four GTX 580s with the CPU; again, get the 3960X. If you're only looking at getting one HD 6970 with the 3960X, or one GTX 580 and you're going to be doing a lot of gaming, step back for a second and think about the extra video card you could throw into the mix if you moved to the 3930K instead. Two GTX 580s on a 3930K are of course going to offer superior gaming performance to a single GTX 580 on a 3960X and both setups are near identical in costs.

The 3960X will continue to be the CPU that everyone wants, and for good reason. It's got a bucketload of Cache and offers the highest performance of any processor out of the box. The 3930K will be the CPU that everyone actually buys, though, and all for good reason.

If you're set on the 3960X, outside of maxing out every component in your new system via 64GB of RAM, RAID 0 SSDs and three or four Video Cards, you need to just sit back for a second and see what you could do with the money if you picked up the 3930K over the 3960X.

The 3960X and 3930K are both absolutely fantastic processors and if money doesn't matter, buying the 3960X is an easy choice. Want similar performance, though, and really want to save some serious money? The 3930K is an easy choice.

In the end you've got two fantastic processors from Intel which accompany the new X79 motherboards perfectly. Outside of a 100MHz down clock out of the box and 3MB less cache, the only major difference between them is one will leave an extra $500 US in your bank account.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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