Intel's server CPU portfolio just got more diversified and complex with the launch of the Intel Xeon E3-1200 V4 at Computex 2015.  It is basically the same chip as the Core i7 "Broadwell" desktop that Ian reviewed yesterday: inside we find four Broadwell cores and a Crystal Well-backed Iris Pro GPU, baked with Intel's state-of-the-art 14 nm process. The Xeon enables ECC RAM support, PCI-passthrough, and VT-D, the former two being features that the desktop chips obviously lack, and VT-D only being present in some desktop chips.

But the current line-up of the Xeon E3-1200 v4 based upon Broadwell is not a simple replacement for the current Xeon E3 1200 v3 "Haswell", which we tested a few months ago. Traditionally, the Xeon E3 was about either workstations or all kinds of low-end servers. 

It looks like the current Xeon E3-1200 v4 is somewhat a niche product. Besides being a chip for workstations with moderate graphics power, Intel clearly positions the chip as a video transcoding and VDI platform. It looks like - once again - Intel is delivering what AMD promised a long time ago. AMD's Berlin, a quad steamroller with Radeon GPU was supposed to address this market, but the product did not seem to convince the OEMs.

Intel claims that the 65W TDP E3-1285L v4 was able to decode 14 1080p (at 30 fps) 20Mbps streams, four or 40% more than on the Xeon E3-1286L v3, which could only sustain 10 video streams. Another use are virtual desktops that use PCI device passthrough to give the virtual machine (VM) full access to the GPU. That way of working is very attractive for an IT manager: it enables centralized management of graphical workstation in a secure datacenter.  

But it is should be noted that this kind of virtualization technology comes with drawbacks. First of all, there is only one VM that gets access to the GPU: one VM literally owns the GPU (unlike NVIDIA's GRID technology). Secondly you add network latency, something that many graphical designers will not like as adds lag compared to the situation where they are working on a workstation with a beefy OpenGL card. 

Below you can find the table of the 5 new SKUs. I added a sixth column with the Xeon-D, so you can easily compare.  

Intel Xeon E3 Broadwell Lineup For
comparison:
  E3-1258L v4 E3-1265L v4 E3-1278L v4 E3-1285 v4 E3-1285L v4 Xeon D-1540
Price $481 $418 $546 $557 $445 $581
Cores 4 4 4 4 4 8
Threads 8 8 8 8 8 16
Base CPU Freq. 1.8 GHz 2.3 GHz 2 GHZ 3.5 GHZ 3.4 GHZ 2 GHz
Turbo CPU Freq. 3.2 GHz 3.3 GHz 3.3 GHz 3.8 GHz 3.8 GHz 2.6 GHz
Graphics P5700
1 GHz
Iris Pro P6300 (GT3e)
1.05 GHz
Iris Pro P6300 (GT3e)
1 GHz
Iris Pro P6300 (GT3e)
1.15 GHz
Iris Pro P6300 (GT3e)
1.15 GHz
none
TDP 47W 35W 47W 95W 65W 45W
DRAM Freq.
(DDR3L)
1600MHz 1866MHz 1600MHz 1866MHz 1866MHz DDR4-2133
L3 Cache 6MB 6MB 6MB 6MB 6MB 12 MB
L4 Cache none 128MB (Crystal Well) 128MB (Crystal Well) 128MB (Crystal Well) 128MB (Crystal Well) none

It is pretty clear that the Xeon-D is a much more attractive server chip for most purposes: twice the amount of cores, twice the amount L3-cache, while remaining inside a 45W TDP power envelop. On top of that, the new Xeon E3 v4 still needs a separate C226 chipset and is limited to 32 GB of RAM. The Xeon-D does not need a separate chipset and supports up to 128 GB of DDR-4. 

In summary, the current Xeon E3-1200 v4 lineup is only interesting if you need a server chip for video transcoding, centralized workstation or a local workstation with relatively modest graphical needs. 

The Atom C2000 and hopefully the X-Gene 2 chips are the SoCs to watch if you want ultra dense and relatively cheap server cpus for basic server processing tasks (static web content, object caching). The Xeon E3-1240Lv3 is probably still the best "single/lowly threaded performance"/watt champion. And the Xeon-D? Well, we will be reviewing that one soon... 

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  • wintermute000 - Wednesday, June 03, 2015 - link

    re: Xeon-D.... *shakes fist at cloud companies* just shut up and take my money!!!

    seriously though its pretty bad if the only way you can find a part is to pay through the nose on fleabay, and even then there's only one listing!!!
    Reply
  • icrf - Friday, June 05, 2015 - link

    Yeah, and that Supermicro X10SDV-F runs for $1,000 from affiliate/partner vendors right now. I'm hoping when the major lower margin, high volume retailers get it, it will be closer to $800. I mean, the CPU costs $581. I don't understand how a mini-itx board around it WITHOUT 10 GbE could possibly add $400. Reply
  • TomWomack - Monday, June 08, 2015 - link

    My X10SDV-F board, which I ordered through a friend who runs a company with a Supermicro redistributor account, arrived this morning; should have it working by Wednesday (need to wait for SSD and case fan to arrive). Reply
  • nils_ - Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - link

    They are still very hard to come by, and I have yet to see a board with SFP+ 10GbE to hit the market. Asrockrack announced something like that but it isn't even listed on their web site. Reply
  • jjj - Wednesday, June 03, 2015 - link

    So what is exactly the Intel HD Graphics P5700 , can't find how many EUs that would be.
    The die shot in the slide seems to have maybe 16EUs and looks about 83mm2 (my guess for the i7-5775C is 164mm2).
    Interesting that they could make a quad with 8MB cache and no gpu inside 55-60mm2.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, June 03, 2015 - link

    Intel doesn't have any specifications that list the exact configuration. However all Broadwell GT2 parts have been 5000 series, and all GT3(e) parts have been 6000 series, so this is almost certainly a 23/24EU GT2 part, similar to the i7-5700HQ. Reply
  • jjj - Wednesday, June 03, 2015 - link

    I know that they don't, checked before asking but that die shot is not what it should be so it's either cut or this one is smaller than 24EUs. Reply
  • TrevorH - Wednesday, June 03, 2015 - link

    The E3 chips still have the highest per core speeds of any of the Xeon line up. Reply
  • freeskier93 - Wednesday, June 03, 2015 - link

    In other words, pick up the E3-1231 v3 while you still can for gaming! Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, June 03, 2015 - link

    Yup. Sigh. Why do they have to cut out the option to buy an Intel CPU without paying the extra die size cost of the graphics? So wasteful if you never use them, if you have a discreet card. Reply

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