Intel X79 Core i7 4960X Review
The i7-4960X die has undergone a huge shrink. The Sandy Bridge-E i7-3960X CPU was on a 32nm process and not only measured a fairly whopping 435mm2 but had an barely believable 2.2 billion transistors. The i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E follows the LGA1155 Ivy Bridge in moving to a 22nm process which has almost halved the die size down to 257mm2 and reduced the number of transistors to a still huge 1.86 billion. Otherwise the design is similar with the L3 cache surrounded by the cores, with the IMC and I/O at the top and bottom respectively.
Support for PCI Express 3.0 comes with a whopping 40 lanes. You could run 2 GTX780s and a monster RAID card without compromising the bandwidth to either of them. If anything it's the chipset that's still slightly disappointing as the USB 2.0 ports and SATA 3Gb/s ports have long since been superseded on the Z87. We know that Intel haven't released a new chipset today so it wont detract from our thoughts on the CPU, but as the i7-4960X is finally up to date it shows how far behind the chipset is, especially for an ultra-high-end product.
As always with a new CPU architecture, or at least a new process and some tweaks, there are a few extra models that have come along with the main model. The i7-4960X is the top of the range, at a pretty hefty $999 which should equate to around the £500 mark. Below that is the version that replaces the excellent 3930K and then there is a quad-core, the i7-4820K. Similarly to the 3960/3930 and, for older readers, the Q6600/Q8400, the middle one is only a multiplier adjustment away and yet around half the price so it should be the one everyone gravitates towards.
For extreme overclockers there is some extra multiplier headroom as well as potential to adjust the BCLK, should you so desire. Alongside real-time overclocking and the reduction to a 22nm process, this should give us a big boost to our overclocks.
Demonstrating that the i7-4960X is a refinement rather than a revolution, Intel expect us to achieve around a 5% improvement over the i7-3960X. Of course that's what we're here to test, so enough with the preamble let's crack on.