Intel Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E Review

👤by Richard Weatherstone Comments 📅05-11-13
Specification, Features & Architecture

There are very few changes to the feature set of the i7-4960X when compared to the i73960X. Both CPUs have a 6/12 core/thread (hyper-thread) ratio and the new chip retain Turbo Boost technology. Both cores are capable of controlling up to 40 PCI Express lanes and have 15MB of cache at their disposal. Apart from the die shrink the only stand out difference is the IMC rating which has been bumped from 1600MHz to 1866MHz.


Ivy Bridge is a refresh of existing architecture meaning that this generation is a tick in Intel's tick/tock upgrade strategy. Based on 22nm manufacturing process you could be forgiven for thinking this is cutting edge technology, especially as LGA2011 is heavily touted as 'Enthusiast' grade technology. The truth is though that the mainstream range is already enjoying the benefits of both Ivy-bridge and Haswell which have been on 22nm for quite some time. Odd then that the cheaper units enjoy benefits of 22nm considerably earlier than the enthusiast models. Normally we would see the high end technologies handed down to more mainstream parts but it appears the exact reverse has happened in this case. No wonder then that the mainstream parts have proven much more popular among 'enthusiasts' than the products designed for that market. Whoever dreamt up this marketing strategy at Intel surely shot the company in the foot with this one!

To the core

While the i7-3960X was a 6 core processor with 12 threads, it started out in life as 8 cores with 2 cores either being disabled or found defunct during the manufacturing process resulting in the final 6 cores going to retail. With the i7-4960X you get the same 6 cores but this is how it is designed from the ground up with no additional, wasted space spent on disabled silicon.

Intel will inevitably reap the benefits of higher profits by producing more cores per wafer while the end user could potentially see lower power consumption as no power is leaked to the defunct cores. There are of course more powerful processors with a higher number of cores but these are reserved for the ultra high end Xeon chips.

Current lineup

Above we can see the family comparison of i7 CPU's. Note that we will also see both 4930K and 4820K as with previous generation 3930K and 3820K chips which were more popular due to the huge reduction in price the further down the performance ladder you go.

Compared against the processor it replaces, the i7-4960X has the benefit of a slightly higher clock/boost speed of 3.6/4.0GHz compared to 3.3/3.9GHz. It is also interesting to note that the 4960X natively supports DDR3 rated at 1866MHz where previously 1600MHz was the limit. Of course, this made little difference to enthusiasts who regularly used memory with speeds up to 2400MHz in regular use. The baseline improvement may however hint at better memory control - good news to overclockers!

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