Intel’s roadmap goes through all the power and market segments, from ultra-low-power, smartphones, tablets, notebooks, desktops, mainstream desktops, enthusiast desktops and enterprise. Enterprise differs from the rest of the market, requiring absolute stability, uptime and support should anything go wrong. High-end enterprise CPUs are therefore expensive, and because buyers are willing to pay top dollar for the best, Intel can push core counts, frequency and thus price much higher than in the consumer space. Today we look at two CPUs from this segment – the twelve core Xeon E5-2697 v2 and the eight core Xeon E5-2687W v2.

Firstly I would like to say a big thank you to GIGABYTE Server for the opportunity to test these CPUs in their motherboard, the GA-6PXSV3. This motherboard is the focus of a review at a later date.

Intel’s Enterprise Line

High-end enthusiasts always want hardware to be faster, more powerful, and contain more cores than what is available on the market today. The problem here is two-fold: cost and volume. Were Intel to produce a product for the consumer market at more than $1000, a large part of the market would complain that the ultra-high-end is too expensive. The other issue is volume – it can be hard to gauge just how many CPUs would be sold. For example, the consumer level i7-4930K was the preferred choice for many enthusiasts as it was several hundred dollars cheaper than the i7-4960X despite being a fraction slower at stock frequencies. The ultra-high-end enthusiast also wants all the bells and whistles, such as overclockability, a good range of DRAM speed support and top quality construction materials.

At some point, Intel has to draw the line. The enterprise line of CPUs is different to the consumer in more ways than we might imagine. Due to the requirements of stability, overclocking is knocked on the head for all modern Intel Xeon CPUs. For clarification, the Westmere-EX CPU line (Xeon X5760 et al., socket 1366) was the last line of overclockable Xeons. The Xeon line of CPUs must also support enterprise level memory – UDIMMs and RDIMMs, ECC and non-ECC. This leads up to quad-rank DRAM support, such as 32GB modules that themselves can cost more than a CPU.

Some enterprise CPUs are also designed to speak to other CPUs in multiprocessor systems. On the Intel side, this means a point-to-point QPI link between each CPU in the system. Johan and I have recently tested several multiprocessor systems [1,2,3,4] and as such these features develop over time, cost R&D, and are focused purely on the enterprise sector.

Virtualization is also another feature Intel limits to certain CPUs, although both some consumer and some enterprise Xeons have them. The defining counterpart tends to be overclockability – if a consumer CPU is listed as overclockable, it does not have VT-d extensions for directed I/O. For users that want ECC memory and virtualization at a lower cost, the enterprise product stack often offers lower core/lower frequency parts at lower price points.

While not necessarily verifiable, there have been reports that Xeon processors are actually the better quality samples that come from the fabs. These are CPUs that have better frequency-to-voltage characteristics and have better chance of running cooler. The main reason this report exists is that when Xeons were overclockable back in Westmere, they were more likely to overclock further than the consumer versions. Also it would make sense from Intel’s point of view – the enterprise customer is paying more for their hardware, and as such a better product in terms of energy consumption or thermals would keep those customers happy.

The Xeon Product Line

Intel splits the naming of its Xeons up according to feature set and architecture. For single processor systems using the LGA1150 socket, we get the E3 line of Xeons which at this present time are based on the Haswell architecture and all come under the E3-12xx v3 line:

Intel E3 v3 SKUs
Xeon E3 v3 Cores TDP (W) IGP Base Clock Turbo Clock L3 Cache Price
E3-1220L v3 2/4 13 N/A 1100 1500 4 MB $193
E3-1220 v3 4/4 80 N/A 3100 3500 8 MB $193
E3-1225 v3 4/4 84 P4600 3200 3600 8 MB $213
E3-1230 v3 4/8 80 N/A 3300 3700 8 MB $240
E3-1240 v3 4/8 80 N/A 3400 3800 8 MB $262
E3-1245 v3 4/8 84 P4600 3400 3800 8 MB $276
E3-1270 v3 4/8 80 N/A 3500 3900 8 MB $328
E3-1275 v3 4/8 84 P4600 3500 3900 8 MB $339
E3-1280 v3 4/8 82 N/A 3600 4000 8 MB $612
E3-1285 v3 4/8 84 P4700 3600 4000 8 MB $662
E3-1265L v3 4/8 45 HD (Haswell) 2500 3700 8 MB $294
E3-1284L v3 4/8 47 Iris Pro 5200 1800 3200 6 MB N/A
E3-1285L v3 4/8 65 P4700 3100 3900 8 MB $774
E3-1230L v3 4/8 25 N/A 1800 2800 8 MB $250

With Intel’s enthusiast socket, LGA2011, the processors are now split according to their multi-processor capability. Due to the skip-tock cadence of architecture improvements at this level the enthusiast consumer and Xeon line are both one architecture behind the mainstream LGA1150 CPU line.  This results in all the LGA2011 Xeons being based on Ivy Bridge-E.

Single processor LGA2011 Xeons are under the title of E5-16xx v2. Dual processor system capable Xeons are E5-26xx v2, and quad processor system capable Xeons are E5-46xx v2.  As Johan pointed out in his excellent dive into the improvements over the older architecture, these CPUs come from three die flavors:

The three dies are aimed at workstations/enthusiasts, servers and high performance computing respectively. I’m not going to repeat what Johan already posted, but it is a really good read if you have a chance to look through it.

The final batch of processors are in the high performance category, using the LGA2011-1 socket. These have been recently released as the E7 v2 line (again I will point a link to Johan’s deep dive on the specifics) under the Ivy Bridge-EX moniker. We have E7-28xx v2 for 2P, E7-48xx v2 for 4P and E7-88xx v2 for 8P systems. Cores for these CPUs go all the way up to 15 due to the three banks of five used in the die.

Turbo Modes

As with the consumer line, the base clock speed of an enterprise CPU is usually not the be-all and end-all of performance. Intel’s Turbo Boost lets the CPU speed up when fewer cores are in use, exercising the difference in power consumption of one core, two core or all-core computation. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to the turbo modes – Intel will quote the top turbo bin in its CPU database but in order to find out the scale of multi-core (but not all-core) operation, one has to look into the specification pdfs, such as this one.

With over 50 different CPUs mentioned in that document, it is hard to see which CPUs are going to offer more than others. We extracted the data:

Intel E5 SKU Comparison
Xeon E5 Cores TDP (W) Base Clock Turbo Bins L3 Cache L3 Cache / Core Price
E5-4657L v2 12/24 115 2400 5/4/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3 30 MB 2.500 $4,394
E5-4650 v2 10/20 95 2400 5/4/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3 25 MB 2.500 $3,616
E5-4640 v2 10/20 95 2200 5/4/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3 20 MB 2.000 $2,725
E5-4624L v2 10/20 70 1900 6/6/5/5/4/4/3/3/2/2 25 MB 2.500 $2,405
E5-4627 v2 8/8 130 3300 3/2/2/2/2/2/2/2 16 MB 2.000 $2,180
E5-4620 v2 8/16 95 2600 4/3/2/2/2/2/2/2 20 MB 2.500 $1,611
E5-4610 v2 8/16 95 2300 4/3/2/2/2/2/2/2 16 MB 2.000 $1,219
E5-4607 v2 6/12 95 2600 0/0/0/0/0/0 15 MB 2.500 $885
E5-4603 v2 4/8 95 2200 0/0/0/0 10 MB 2.500 $551
E5-2697 v2 12/24 130 2700 8/7/6/5/4/3/3/3/3/3/3/3 30 MB 2.500 $2,614
E5-2695 v2 12/24 115 2400 8/7/6/5/4/4/4/4/4/4/4/4 30 MB 2.500 $2,336
E5-2687W v2 8/16 150 3400 6/5/4/3/2/2/2/2 25 MB 3.125 $2,108
E5-2667 v2 8/16 130 3300 7/6/5/4/3/3/3/3 25 MB 3.125 $2,057
E5-2690 v2 10/20 130 3000 6/5/4/3/3/3/3/3/3/3 25 MB 2.500 $2,057
E5-2658 v2 10/20 95 2400 6/6/5/5/4/4/3/3/2/2 25 MB 2.500 $1,750
E5-1680 v2 8/16 130 3000 9/8/7/5/4/4/4/4 25 MB 3.125 $1,723
E5-2680 v2 10/20 115 2800 8/7/6/5/4/3/3/3/3/3 25 MB 2.500 $1,723
E5-2643 v2 6/12 130 3500 3/2/1/1/1/1 25 MB 4.167 $1,552
E5-2670 v2 10/20 115 2500 8/7/6/5/4/4/4/4/4/4 25 MB 2.500 $1,552
E5-2648L v2 10/20 70 1900 6/6/5/5/4/4/3/3/2/2 25 MB 2.500 $1,479
E5-2660 v2 10/20 95 2200 8/7/6/5/4/4/4/4/4/4 25 MB 2.500 $1,389
E5-2650L v2 10/20 70 1700 4/3/2/2/2/2/2/2/2/2 25 MB 2.500 $1,219
E5-2628L v2 8/16 70 1900 5/5/4/4/3/3/2/2 20 MB 2.500 $1,216
E5-2650 v2 8/16 95 2600 8/7/6/5/5/5/5/5 20 MB 2.500 $1,166
E5-1660 v2 6/12 130 3700 3/2/1/1/1/1 15 MB 2.500 $1,080
E5-2637 v2 4/8 130 3500 3/2/1/1 15 MB 3.750 $996
E5-2640 v2 8/16 95 2000 5/4/3/3/3/3/3/3 20 MB 2.500 $885
E5-2618L v2 6/12 50 2000 0/0/0/0/0/0 15 MB 2.500 $632
E5-2630 v2 6/12 80 2600 5/4/3/3/3/3 15 MB 2.500 $612
E5-2630L v2 6/12 60 2400 4/3/2/2/2/2 15 MB 2.500 $612
E5-1650 v2 6/12 130 3500 4/2/2/2/1/1 12 MB 2.000 $583
E5-2620 v2 6/12 80 2100 5/4/3/3/3/3 15 MB 2.500 $406
E5-1620 v2 4/8 130 3700 2/0/0/0 10 MB 2.500 $294
E5-2609 v2 4/4 80 2500 0/0/0/0 10 MB 2.500 $294
E5-1607 v2 4/4 130 3000 0/0/0/0 10 MB 2.500 $244
E5-2603 v2 4/4 80 1800 0/0/0/0 10 MB 2.500 $202
E5-2470 v2 10/20 95 2400 8/7/6/5/4/4/4/4/4/4 25 MB 2.500 $1,440
E5-2448L v2 10/20 70 1800 6/6/5/5/4/4/3/3/2/2 25 MB 2.500 $1,424
E5-2450L v2 10/20 60 1700 4/3/2/2/2/2/2/2/2/2 25 MB 2.500 $1,219
E5-2450 v2 8/16 95 2500 8/7/6/5/4/4/4/4 20 MB 2.500 $1,107
E5-2428L v2 8/16 60 1800 5/5/4/4/3/3/2/2 20 MB 2.500 $1,013
E5-2440 v2 8/16 95 1900 5/4/3/3/3/3/3/3 20 MB 2.500 $832
E5-2430L v2 6/12 60 2400 4/3/2/2/2/2 15 MB 2.500 $612
E5-2418L v2 6/12 50 2000 0/0/0/0 15 MB 2.500 $607
E5-1428L v2 6/12 60 2200 5/4/3/2/2/2 15 MB 2.500 $474
E5-2420 v2 6/12 80 2200 5/4/3/3/3/3 15 MB 2.500 $406
E5-2407 v2 4/4 80 2400 0/0/0/0 10 MB 2.500 $250
E5-2403 v2 4/4 80 1800 0/0/0/0 10 MB 2.500 $192
Pentium 1405 v2 2/2 40 1400 0/0 6 MB 3.000 $156
E5-1410 v2 4/8 80 2800 4/4/3/3 10 MB 2.500 N/A
Pentium 1403 v2 2/2 80 2600 0/0 6 MB 3.000 N/A

But even this is hard to parse. Some CPUs start off at 3.0 GHz base frequency and have a 900 MHz turbo bin, whereas others move no more than 300 MHz from their base clock. A few CPUs are worthy of attention from our analysis:

The E5-2643 v2 has the most L3 Cache per core of any CPU, at 4.16 MB/core. This is a 10c die offering all 25 MB of L3 cache, but only six cores are active. Reasons for this include database applications that need a large amount of L3 cache per core. For licensing agreements that hinge on per-core pricing, having a larger amount of L3 per core could help save some money by needing fewer cores.

The E5-2667 v2 is a better chip than the E5-2687W v2. The latter gets attention due to its 150W TDP, high base clock and having a ‘W’ in the name. This is partly why I requested it for this review. But the E5-2667 v2 sounds better – a lower TDP (130W vs. 150W), and when you apply all the turbo bins into operation, both CPUs have the same frequency vs. core loading. Both CPUs have a maximum turbo bin of 4.0 GHz, moving down identically to an all-core loading of 3.6 GHz. The E5-2667 v2 is also a cheaper option, and according to the specification sheets can use 768 GB of memory per core, compared to the E5-2687W v2 which can only manage 256 GB.

Low power CPU additions keep their turbo speeds higher for longer. If we look at the turbo bin for a mid-range low power CPU, such as the E5-2628L v2, it goes in pairs: 5/5/4/4/3/3/2/2. The non-low-power processors often end up having a high turbo bin which decreases quickly, such as the E5-2680 v2, which goes 8/7/6/5/4/3/3/3/3.

Mac Pro Xeon Options, Test Setup, Power Consumption


View All Comments

  • lever_age - Monday, March 17, 2014 - link

    Ian, the Xeon E3-1220v3 and E3-1225v3 do not have hyperthreading. They're incorrectly listed in the table as 4c/8t. At those prices, if they did have 8t, more people would be buying them! Also, I think that "c3" by the E3-1230 is a typo. Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Monday, March 17, 2014 - link

    Correct, I missed that going through the data. Reply
  • psyq321 - Monday, March 17, 2014 - link

    "If the E5-2697 v2 was put in this position, we would have 12 cores at 3.5 GHz, ready to blast through the workload."

    I do not think this is possible. I have tried to force all cores to turbo mode with ThrottleStop on the 2697v2 Xeon (ThrottleStop bypasses the BIOS/UEFI and codes the limits directly using MSR registers), but the CPU will just refuse to grant this.

    I suppose the desktop CPUs simply have this option unlocked, while 2S/4S Xeons have much stricter operating point limits.

    The best I can do with 2697 v2 is to set the BCLK to 105 MHz with Z9PE-D8 WS and get 3.15 GHz maximum all-core turbo. This is as much overclock as the system can take.
  • Ian Cutress - Monday, March 17, 2014 - link

    I've managed to get 110 BCLK on both processors relatively stable (112 BCLK needs a push), but this boosts up from the lower multiplier rather than the high one, and there is still a deficit on the high end. Enthusiasts will always want more, and I'd love the chance to run all the cores at the top turbo mode. Given how this is on the consumer line, it makes me wonder why Intel doesn't allow it here. The downside on the consumer line of allowing this behaviour is every so often there is a motherboard that fails to implement any Turbo Core, which has happened in my testing already. Reply
  • psyq321 - Monday, March 17, 2014 - link

    I suppose some Intel marketing people just wanted to stop a possibility of lower-end Xeon cannibalizing higher-end Xeons by cheap overclocking. There are markets even in server business that are OK with overclocking (low latency trading, for example).

    It is interesting that you got it to 110 MHz BCLK. Did you use a server/workstation board or a HEDT (X79) board?
  • Ian Cutress - Monday, March 17, 2014 - link

    This was in the MSI X79A-GD45 Plus, an X79 board. There are some server market areas that do sell pre-overclocked systems in this way, while still using Xeons, if I remember correctly. Reply
  • psyq321 - Monday, March 17, 2014 - link

    I think HEDT boards are better when it comes to overclocking, probably due to higher component tolerances.

    Z9PE-D8 WS is not that good, but then again, it is a 2S board and apart from some Supermicro products (the "hyperspeed" series), the only 2S board that allows at least some overclocking of DDR3 and CPU.
  • Slomo4shO - Monday, March 17, 2014 - link

    I am perplexed by the gaming benchmarks... Any particular reason why the 4770K and A10-7850K don't show up on all of the single and double GPU benchmarks? Especially considering that you have some tri-fire benches of the a10-7850K... Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Monday, March 17, 2014 - link

    The AMD does not allow dual NVIDIA cards because the platform does not allow SLI. I need to re-run the 4770K in a PLX8747 enabled motherboard to get 3x SLI results across the board (you cannot get 3x SLI without a PLX chip), and I have not had a chance to run either CPU on my BF4 benchmark which has just been finalised for this review. The A10-7850K and i7-4770K numbers were taken from the Kaveri review and some internal testing - now my 2014 benchmarks are finalised I can run it on more platforms as the year goes on. Reply
  • et20 - Monday, March 17, 2014 - link

    Why aren't Xeon E3s the recommended CPUs for enthusiast desktops?
    They make more sense than the Core i5 and i7 which come with integrated graphics that never gets used.

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