iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Intel Core i7-3970X Processor Extreme Edition

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Processors progressed much in 2012. The LGA1155 and AM3+ platforms were improved, and the whole new FM2 platform entered the market. As a result, the desktop version of LGA2011 was cannibalized and paled into insignificance. Its cheapest CPU, Core i7-3820, yields to Core i7-3770, which offers integrated graphics, four cores, and newer microarchitecture for the same money. Moreover, the prices of LGA2011 motherboards start from $200 when you can get a decent LGA1155 one for just $100 (or a simpler one for just $50).

The cheapest LGA2011 processor that makes sense is Core i7-3930K. It has no counterparts but costs a solid $600, staying above the middle range. Both Core i7-3930K and extreme Core i7-3960X remained the most powerful desktop solutions, even though they were released (and reviewed) a year ago. Today we can dust off those results: the brand new extreme Core i7-3970X is out!

The new Intel processor has six cores. The basic Sandy Bridge-E design features eight, but in our case two cores and a part of the L3 cache are locked. In Core i7-3970X the standard core clock is increased by 200 MHz to 3.5 GHz (vs. the 3.3 GHz of i7-3960X). Besides, the maximum core clock is increased by 100 GHz, reaching a psychological barrier of 4 GHz (AMD has done it first with FX-8150). Under full load the 12 threads of Core i7-3970X require much power, so the TDP is increased to 150 W, the highest for Intel desktop processors as yet (with the exception of Core 2 Extreme Q9775).

The new Intel Core i7-3970X can certainly attract gamers, because it officially supports PCIe 3.0, unlike the previous LGA2011 processors. Now, let's take a closer look at the novelty.


Our testbeds include the top processors for the LGA2011, AM3+, LGA1366, LGA1156, AM3, and even AM2+ platforms.

CPU Core i7-3970X Core i7-3770K Core i7-990X Core i7-880
Core Sandy Bridge-E Ivy Bridge Gulftown Lynnfield
Process technology, nm 32 22 32 45
Core clock (std/max), GHz 3.5/4.0 3.5/3.9 3.47/3.73 3.06/3.73
Cores/threads 6/12 4/8 6/12 4/8
L1 cache (sum), I/D, KB (per core) 192/192 128/128 192/192 128/128
L2 cache, KB 6 x 256 4 x 256 6 x 256 4 x 256
L3 cache, MB 15 8 12 8
Uncore clock, GHz 3.5 3.5 2.66 2.4
RAM 4 x DDR3-1600 2 x DDR3-1600 3 x DDR3-1333 2 x DDR3-1333
GPU - HD 4000 - -
Socket LGA2011 LGA1155 LGA1366 LGA1156
TDP, W 150 77 130 95

CPU FX-8350 Phenom II X6 1100T Phenom II X4 940
Core Vishera Thuban Deneb
Process technology, nm 32 45 45
Core clock (std/max), GHz 4.2/4.3 3.3/3.7 3.0
Cores/threads 8/8 6/6 4/4
L1 Cache (sum), I/D, KB 256/128 384/384 256/256
L2 Cache, KB 4 x 2048 6 x 512 4 x 512
L3 Cache, MB 8 6 6
Uncore clock, GHz 2.2 2.0 1.8
RAM 2 x DDR3-1866 2 x DDR3-1333 2 x DDR2-1066
GPU - - -
Socket AM3+ AM3 AM2+
TDP, W 125 125 125

In spite of Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge-E capabilities, we are still using DDR3-1333 RAM with Intel processors in our testbeds to simplify comparison. According to our tests, using DDR-1600 hardly changes anything anyway.

Socket Motherboard RAM
LGA2011 ASUS P9X79 (X79) Corsair Dominator Platinum CMD16GX3M4A2666C10 (4 x 1333; 9-9-9-24)
LGA1366 Intel DX58SO2 (X58) 12 GB DDR3 (3 x 1333; 9-9-9-24)
LGA1155 Biostar TH67XE (H67) Corsair Vengeance CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9B (2 x 1333; 9-9-9-24)
LGA1156 ASUS P7H55-M Pro (H55) Corsair Vengeance CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9B (2 x 1333; 9-9-9-24)
AM3+ ASUS Crosshair V Formula (990 FX) G.Skill [RipjawsX] F3-14900CL9D-8GBXL (2x1866; 9-10-9-28)
AM3 ASUS M4A78T-E (790GX) Corsair Vengeance CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9B (2 x 1333; 9-9-9-24-2T, Unganged Mode)
AM2+ ASUS M3A78-T (790GX) 8 GB DDR2 (2 x 800; 5-5-5-18; Unganged Mode)

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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, testbeds

Page 2: Tests

Page 3: Tests cont'd, final thoughts

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