Final Words

There are two aspects of today's launch that bother me: the lack of Quick Sync and the chipset. The former is easy to understand. Sandy Bridge E is supposed to be a no-compromise, ultra high-end desktop solution. The lack of an on-die GPU with Quick Sync support means you have to inherently compromise in adopting the platform. I'm not sure what sort of a solution Intel could've come to (I wouldn't want to give up a pair of cores for a GPU+QuickSync) but I don't like performance/functionality tradeoffs with this class of product. Secondly, while I'm not a SAS user, I would've at least appreciated some more 6Gbps SATA ports on the chipset. Native USB 3.0 support would've been nice as well. Instead what we got was effectively a 6-series chipset with a new name. As Intel's flagship chipset, the X79 falls short.


From left to right: Intel Core i7 (SNB-E), Core i7 (Gulftown), Core i5 (SNB), Core i5 (Clarkdale), Core 2 Duo
LGA-2011, 1366, 1155, 1156, 775

The vast majority of desktop users, even enthusiast-class users, will likely have no need for Sandy Bridge E. The Core i7 3960X may be the world's fastest desktop CPU, but it really requires a heavily threaded workload to prove it. What the 3960X doesn't do is make your gaming experience any better or speed up the majority of desktop applications. The 3960X won't be any slower than the fastest Sandy Bridge CPUs, but it won't be tremendously faster either. The desktop market is clearly well served by Intel's LGA-1155 platform (and its lineage); LGA-2011 is simply a platform for users who need a true powerhouse.

There are no surprises there, we came to the same conclusion when we reviewed Intel's first 6-core CPU last year. If you do happen to have a heavily threaded workload that needs the absolute best performance, the Core i7 3960X can deliver. In our most thread heavy tests the 3960X had no problems outpacing the Core i7 2600K by over 50%. If your livelihood depends on it, the 3960X is worth its entry fee. I suspect for those same workloads, the 3930K will be a good balance of price/performance despite having a smaller L3 cache. I'm not terribly interested in next year's Core i7 3820. Its point is obviously for those users who need the memory bandwidth or PCIe lanes of SNB-E, but don't need more than four cores. I would've liked to have seen a value 6-core offering instead, but I guess with a 435mm2 die size it's a tough sell for Intel management.

Of course compute isn't the only advantage of the Sandy Bridge E platform. With eight DIMM slots on most high end LGA-2011 motherboards you'll be able to throw tons of memory at your system if you need it without having to shop for workstation motherboards with fewer frills.

As for the future of the platform, Intel has already begun talking about Ivy Bridge E. If it follows the pattern set for Ivy Bridge on LGA-1155, IVB-E should be a drop in replacement for LGA-2011 motherboards. The biggest issue there is timing. Ivy will arrive for the mainstream LGA-1155 platforms around the middle of 2012. At earliest, I don't know that we'd see it for LGA-2011 until the end of next year, or perhaps even early 2013 given the late launch of SNB-E. This seems to be the long-term downside to these ultra high-end desktop platforms these days: you end up on a delayed release cadence for each tick/tock on the roadmap. If you've always got to have the latest and greatest, this may prove to be frustrating. Based on what we know of Ivy Bridge however, I suspect that if you're using all six of these cores in SNB-E that you'll wish you had IVB-E sooner, but won't be tempted away from the platform by a quad-core Ivy Bridge on LGA-1155. 

I do worry about the long term viability of the ultra high-end desktop platform. As we showed here, some of the gains in threaded apps exceed 50% over a standard Sandy Bridge. That's tangible performance to those who can use it. With the growth in cloud computing it's clear there's demand for these types of chips in servers. I just hope Intel continues to offer a version for desktop users as well.

Overclocked Performance
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  • Valitri - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Good review as always.

    Turns out to be slightly less than I was expecting. The performance "jump" from an 1155 SB just isn't there for generic enthusiasts and gamers. Perhaps encoders, renderers, and mathmaticians will enjoy the performance but it doesn't do much for me. Makes me very happy I stepped to a 2500k and I look forward to Ivy Bridge early next year.
    Reply
  • Gonemad - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    If there are 16GB DIMMs, and this sucker has 8 DIMMs sockets... 128GB in a home system... hmmm. It makes SSDs all the less appealing. (Specially because you just blew lots of money in DIMM memory, but still...). Pop in a Ramdrive, wait 5 minutes to boot... don't wait anymore. I can see some specific usage that could benefit of this kind of storage subsystem speed. Even if it is a 'tiny' 64GB ramdrive.
    It may not entirely replace a small SSD, but you can do some neat tricks with that kind of RAM at home. I know only one module is many times more expensive than a SSD, but just the fact that you can do it is remarkable.

    Too bad this chip costs a lot, and IT. IS. HUGE. The thing has the size of a cup-holder, or at least the socket. With that amount of die you could build 2 * i7- 2600k and with the amount of money you blow on one, you can still pay for 3 * i7s.

    Oh yes, check for yourselves. That's your premium profit margin right there.

    This sucker has 435mm2 while the Sandy Bridge 4c has 216mm2. Twice more!
    This behemoth will nick your pockets in $999, when a i7-2600k cuts you $317.

    Nearly 3 times more. More than 3 times in fact. It is almost pi() times more. Wait, it is pi times more expensive, up to the third decimal. Hmm. I bet you are paying for the lost wafer too. Or it is just a wild coincidence. It doesn't perform twice as better, only 50% better, in some benchies. And it is so big that you can almost call it a TILE, not a CHIP. I am betting that on the same die you build 3 * 2600k, you can build only 2 of these and lose the difference. It should squash the competition. It is a bomb.

    Some chip.
    Diminishing returns indeed.
    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    "All of this growth in die area comes at the expense of one of Sandy Bridge's greatest assets: its integrated graphics core"

    Whaaaaat? Greatest assets? It's a waste of space. It should be used for more cache or another core or whatever on the quad version. I can't believe this site...Anandtech of all places...has ANYTHING positive to say about integrated graphics!~
    Reply
  • noeldillabough - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    For laptops the integrated graphics is AWESOME however on my gaming machine with top end graphics cards eating space for integrated graphics seems silly. Reply
  • jmelgaard - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    The fact that you still talk about X number of cores shows you haven't understood my posts.

    Your thinking: "How many cores can I make my game utilize"

    My model: "How many small enough jobs of processing can I split my game up into"

    Number of cores have no relevance in modern architectures, while in a Game engine you properly wan't to take control over the execution of those jobs, priority jobs etc.

    The funny thing is, your BF3 already runs on 500+ cores when it comes to the rendering, lighting, polygon transformations and so on... All by chopping the big job of rendering a screen into little bits of work... just like i suggest you can do with the rest of a game, just like we do with so many other applications today.

    "I doubt it. There's a reason why game engines are modified as they get older."

    Almost every single corp only sees ahead to the next budget year...
    Reply
  • seapeople - Saturday, November 19, 2011 - link

    Of course it's inevitable you would resort to personal attacks and profanity in an argument you are losing.

    It's a different mindset... do you think graphics work is programmed by thinking "Ok, today's GPU's have 500 cores, so let's optimize our game to use exactly 500 threads..."
    Reply
  • abhicherath - Sunday, November 20, 2011 - link

    Why?Why are those 2 fused off....seriously for a 1000 buck CPU, you don't expect intel to hold stuff back....gosh, this is competition crap. If AMD's bulldozers were powerful as hell and outperformed the i7's i sure as hell expect that those 2 cores would be active....
    what's your opinion?
    Reply
  • jmelgaard - Sunday, November 20, 2011 - link

    "This doesn't involve a diatribe about number of cores in modern architectures."

    What what?... Do you even know what you are writing anymore?

    What I am talking about is software architecture, which is highly relevant to the discussion.
    Reply
  • Flerp - Sunday, November 20, 2011 - link

    Even though there are very healthy gains in specific areas, I find the Sandy E to be a bit underwhelming, especially compared to how badly the X58 slaughtered the 775 platforms when it made its debut. I guess I'll be holding on to my X58 platform for another year or so and see what kind of improvements Ivy will bring. Reply
  • jmelgaard - Monday, November 21, 2011 - link

    @rarson

    The whole reason I begin to talk about software architectures is because you are so hell-bend on sticking to your idea of "optimizing to a number of cores", I had to have you realize that you need to let go of that idea, your refusal to do so only makes me hope that you don't actually work with software development. No offence intended, because I would never be fit building a house either, it's not my field.

    If you had ever gotten to understand that, the next discussion would be if it was beneficial to adopt this strategy within games, if it was viable and if it had a ROI that was worth pursuing if you could choose outside the bounds of this years budget, would it be an architecture that might cost us 2 to 3 times to pursue now, but saved us 20% development costs on our next games or engines for the next 10 years.

    Of-course this could be a swing-and-miss if someone revolutionized how we look at our processors, much like they have done with GPU's, but as we have "barely" entered the multi-core-cpu-era, I don't expect this to happen within the next 10 years.

    However that is all irrelevant because 10 years is not the time-frame, it is not even 5 or 3... the time-frame is a year at a time, and the cheapest solution in the time-frame of this years budget, that's the chosen one, that's the reason you are looking for, that is why they do it. And this is how almost, if not all, stock-based corporation operates. Why?... Because they have to satisfy stockholders... There is no other reason or rationalizations behind it.

    DICE it self is not a stock-based company, but it is a fully owned by Electronic Arts, which is. And so EA's financial numbers is directly impacted by DICE as it counts towards EA's assets (not necessarily Revenue though).

    With that, I am done with you, your best argument seems to be "They did it, so that must be the right thing to do"... When was anyone's choice ever evidence of it being the best one?
    Reply

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