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... 

POST A COMMENT

55 Comments

View All Comments

  • hansmuff - Thursday, June 04, 2015 - link

    .. or a home server build that doesn't need the GPU. These new chips are $170-$200 over the 1231 v3, very expensive. Reply
  • ShieTar - Saturday, June 06, 2015 - link

    Seems obvious that they just do not want to replace Haswell by Broadwell, they keep selling it until Skylake comes out. Obviously the 14nm process is not all that well under control yet. Reply
  • nunya112 - Wednesday, June 03, 2015 - link

    look at that the memory controller got a speed bump, now native speed for 1866mghz!! yes!! DDR3 1600 is too slow. and it looks like they are getting better with the northbridge on chip! Nice.

    I hope broadwell/skylake get the bump in memory freq as well. if not ill still grab a zeon lol
    Reply
  • beginner99 - Thursday, June 04, 2015 - link

    Xeon-D might be better as server chip but not as workstation especially workstations that require high single-threaded performance. Here the higher clocks of the E3 are king. Reply
  • creed3020 - Thursday, June 04, 2015 - link

    So ready for that Xeon-D review Johan!!

    I'm ready to switch out my LGA1366 home server with a Xeon-D based system. Will be awesome to go from full size ATX to mITX mobo at the same time for a more compact chassis. Running my VMs will be easy with 16 threads :()
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, June 04, 2015 - link

    actually... will be postponing the virtualization testing to a later date, my apologies. It is so time consuming and hard to keep repetitive that I want to it in one big virtualization article instead of repeating that testing every time a new chip comes out. But all other tests will be included. Reply
  • nils_ - Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - link

    It may be that this stuff is already integrated in Phoronix Test Suite, I remember a few benchmarks being posted (also comparing Xen, KVM and VirtualBox on the same hardware). Makes for easily repeatable benchmarks, although it doesn't support Windows or VMWare. Reply
  • hingsun - Thursday, June 04, 2015 - link

    I AM DEARLY WAITING FOR THE E3 V4 SERIES, WITH THE IRIS PRO 6300 AS BASIC GRAPHIC, WHO NEED A SEPARATE WORKSTATION VIDEO CARD THAT ARE BELOW THE PERFORMANCE OF QUADRO K4000 OR AMD FIREPRO W5100 SERIES. ALL GOOD GRAPHICS THAT I DO CAN BE DONE AT NOT MORE THAN 200WATT FOR A COMPLETE SYSTEM WITH SSD RAID SETUP. Reply
  • nils_ - Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - link

    You can also save a bit of energy by disabling Caps Lock which will safe a few mW for the LED. Reply
  • vladpetric - Thursday, June 04, 2015 - link

    What kind of socket? Or is it board-soldered? Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now