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Aug 31 2014

Intel Powers Desktops with 8-Core Processors

Despite ongoing industry efforts to create energy-efficient, 'greener' products, there are still a few scenarios left where performance matters more than carbon footprints. These are the jobs that Intel's latest line of Haswell processors, the Core™ I7 Extreme Edition, was created for.

Even if many analysts see them vanish into obscurity, the so-called power users are anything but a dying breed. These days, they are labeled 'PC enthusiasts' – a term that denotes how these people remain relatively unaffected by all types of smart gadgetry and still prefer the traditional platform for work and entertainment. In other words, the target groups for Intel's latest additions to the Extreme Edition lineup – dubbed Core™ i7-5960X, Core™ i7-5930K, and Core™ i7-5820K, respectively – are developers, content creators, and avid gamers. According to some enthusiastic reports, these deliver up to 79% more "multi-threaded compute performance" than the rest of the Haswell family. Intel's own PR seems moderate at first sight – the official slides only claim performance boosts between 14% and 32% for the flagship model i7-5960X. However, as usual the devil's in the details, and Intel's assertions turn out to be far less demure when you notice that the new flagship ran against its immediate predecessor in areas like real-time graphics, 3D rendering, and 4K video editing, where server-like performance requirements are the norm. So while we're waiting for the first 14 nm chips to appear, let's take the time to marvel one last time at what's possible with a 22nm process in place:

  • The Core™ i7-5960X comes with 2.6 billion transistors, 8 cores that may process 16 threads, a 20 MB Smart Cache, and 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes; it supports up to 64 GB DDR4 main memory and runs at a base speed of 3.0 GHz (3.5 GHz with Turbo Boost turned on). Like all other Extreme Edition CPUs, the processor is unlocked and 'ready for overclocking' – so there's always the possibility to squeeze out even better performance values if necessary. Independent tests have shown that the i7-5960X may deliver as much as 384 Gigaflops – in 1997 that would have been enough for a supercomputer.
  • The Core™ i7-5930K features 6 cores (for 12 threads) with roughly 2 billion transistors, a 25% smaller Smart Cache and the same number of PCIe 3.0 lanes; its base and turbo clock speeds are set to 3.5 and 3.7 GHz, and it supports 64 GB of RAM.
  • The 'junior' Core™ i7-5820K also has 6 cores and a 15 MB Smart Cache, but 'only' 28 PCIe 3.0 lanes; at 3.3/3.6 GHz, it also runs a little slower than the second variant, but works with 64 GB main memory as well.

Along with Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost, all three support the bulk of Intel's Advanced and Data/Platform Protection Technologies, with the exception of vPro, Demand Based Switching, and Trusted Execution. Altogether, the new trio should easily attract the desired user base; yet unfortunately for these customers (and perhaps Intel as well), upgrading won't be quite as simple as they may wish, for various reasons. First off, pricing stops just short of being prohibitive – even the most performance-hungry users may not be willing to spend between just under 400 and nearly 1,000 dollars for a single CPU. Second, these high-end processors also require new motherboards with LGA2011-v3 sockets and new X99 chipsets – in fact, Intel explicitly warns against any attempts at using them with older technology because of fire hazards; so the additional investments are inevitable. And third, all three come with a maximum TDP of 140 watts – and that's quite a lot, even where going green isn't a top priority.

For more details, check out Michael Brown's report at PCWorld.

 
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