Broadwell-E Conclusion

Intel’s latest Broadwell-E platform is the next iteration of their high-end desktop strategy, which involves bringing the low-to-mid range professional processors into the consumer market and adding a few features (such as overclocking), but removing others (ECC). For this launch, Intel introduced four processors, ranging from six cores to ten cores and varying in price from $434 to $1723.

At AnandTech we have tested Intel’s Broadwell cores before, both in our Broadwell desktop processor review of the Core i7-5775C and the professional level Broadwell-EP Xeon E5-2600 v4 processor review. We noted a 3-5% increase in clock-per-clock performance compared to the previous generation ‘Haswell’ parts at the time. This review tests all the new Broadwell-E parts for direct comparison to the Haswell parts.

Performance

The move from Haswell-E to Broadwell-E is a change from 22nm to 14nm process technology but the microarchitecture is mostly the same, barring minor adjustments. These adjustments include an improved memory controller (now qualified on DDR4-2400), a faster divider, slightly improved branch prediction, a slightly larger scheduler, and a reduction in AVX multiply latency from 5 cycles to 3 cycles.

Due to this, the performance of the new Broadwell-E parts is somewhat predictable. Adding more cores and adjusting for frequency is a good marker, as is adjusting for the new memory speed. That means a move from the i7-5960X to the i7-6950X gives two more cores at the same frequency, or about 25% more performance. The downside of this upgrade is the price: the i7-5960X was launched at $999/$1049, whereas the new i7-6950X is $1723. That’s a big price increase by any standard.

Turbo Boost Max 3.0: A Troubled Implementation

For Broadwell-E, Intel introduced a new technology called Turbo Boost Max 3.0. With an appropriate driver, BIOS, BIOS settings, and software, this allows the system to pin a single threaded program to the best performing single core at a higher-than-listed frequency. It sounds as if it has potential, but the implementation means that very few users will ever see it.

Firstly, the driver/software implementation is perhaps easily overcome when the driver gets pushed through Windows 10 updates, similar to Speed Shift on Skylake processors which is now fully active. The part where it breaks down is in the BIOS and BIOS settings requirements. Ultimately the BIOS controls which P-states are in play (when the OS selects them), but the BIOS settings can override anything the processor might want by default. Because TBM3 involves an increase in frequency, this requires a number of settings in the BIOS to be enabled. But, because each processor is different, motherboard manufacturers are most likely going to run these options at a very conservative value so none of their users have a bad experience. In the end, whether it's used is going to depend on if the motherboard manufacturers enable it in the first place. In the motherboard we tested, we were told that it was a management decision to have it disabled by default. Because most users never touch the BIOS, especially in a prosumer/professional markets, it will most likely never be used in this case.

We didn’t get time to run a full benchmark suite with TBM 3.0 enabled, and will most likely follow up to see where in our tests it can make the most difference.

Market

The pricing will be prohibitive to most. Many enthusiasts who have played in the HEDT space for a number of years are used to the $999/$1049 price point for the most expensive processor, even when the number of cores has increased. However, this time Intel has decided to increase the top chip's cost by almost 70%. This has complications as to what product is best for prosumers looking to upgrade.

For $1721, if a user wants to invest in the i7-6950X but does not want the overclocking, they can invest in either the 14-core E5-2680 v4 for $1745 giving 40% more cores at a lower power with a slight decrease in frequency, or get double the cores in a 2P system and using the E5-2640 v4 processor: a 10-core 2.4 GHz/3.4 GHz part, running at 90W, for $939. Two of these runs a $1878, which is slightly more but having double the cores available might be the more important thing here. However because these CPUs are not often found at retail, it means that users may have to approach a system builder/integrator in order to source them.

One would assume that Intel is interested in retaining the long term HEDT hold-outs still on Nehalem, Westmere and Sandy Bridge-E processors. These prices (and the overclocking performance) might make these users feel that they should hold on another generation, or invest in Haswell-E. That being said, the low-end Broadwell-E pricing is higher than that of the low-end Haswell-E, which will extend the pricing gap between the mainstream and the high-end desktop platform.

Catching Up: How Intel Can Re-Align Consumer and HEDT
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  • unityole - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    well time to read Reply
  • Drumsticks - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    I've gotten through about half of it so far (and the conclusion) but man, those prices... Zen is supposed to be really, really close to Broadwell in IPC. Imagine that 8-core Zen part with 90-95% of BDW-E performance at 30% of the price. That would be really pretty nice.

    Great review so far, and I'm sure the rest is awesome!
    Reply
  • SunLord - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    If Zen is 90% the performance of BDW-E then it will be priced to match that though I doubt they'll break $999. AMD will try and under cut Intel but it's not gonna give a away a great performing chip like it had to with the crappy cores it has now Reply
  • jjj - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    lol 7$ per mm2 for top SKU is beyond outrageous. Anyone buying this deserves a nomination for the Darwin Awards.
    Zen can compete with Intel's 2 and 4 cores + pointless GPU on price, easily.
    Reply
  • Railgun - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    Because dying in a stupid way is akin to buying an expensive chip. And since when would price per area be any useful metric? Reply
  • Shadow7037932 - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    >Zen can compete with Intel's 2 and 4 cores + pointless GPU on price, easily.

    That's what you're hoping for. For all we know, there could be some serious issues with Zen. Remember the TLB issue with the original Phenoms?
    Reply
  • silverblue - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    ...and the AVX memory write performance issues with Piledriver. Still, what architecture doesn't have bugs? Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    I've been wanting to like AMD for a long time. I still remember the good old days of the Athlon 64 and 64 x2 when they used to beat Intel and at a lower price. but they keep on disappointing me. I'm taking an "I'll believe it when I see it approach" Reply
  • Azethoth - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    I think you mean we remember that one time the Athlon 64 beat intel and we bought it but everyone else stuck with Intel because Intel, or AMD is for gamers, or Intel being monopolistic.

    That is more than 10 years ago though and it seems that by stated policy those days are never coming back for AMD.
    Reply
  • usernametaken76 - Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - link

    Eh, I remember prior to Athlon 64, just plain old Athlon XP, the value was tremendous compared to Intel. There was no sense in buying Intel if you were building a gaming rig, something for yourself to do basic computing tasks, etc. Intel was for suckers who bought business class desktops. Reply

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