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Intel Core i7 4960X EE CPU / Asus X79-Deluxe Motherboard Review

Intel Core i7 4960X Extreme Edition Processor

While Intel’s Ivy Bridge-E processor does provide a noticeable performance improvement over its Sandy Bridge-E predecessors (based on the 3930K’s performance, at least), it isn’t that huge leap that we were all (optimistically) hoping for. Decreased power consumption and reduced temperatures are nice, but they are not the performance improvements that enthusiasts had been wishing for.

Intel has achieved its goal of shrinking Ivy Bridge-E onto a 22nm fabrication process, and still offering a performance bump over Sandy Bridge-E. Unfortunately, based on our clock-per-clock results, the performance increase isn’t anywhere near the greater-than-15% level that would have been welcomed by many enthusiasts.

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CPU overclocking also seems more limited in comparison to Sandy Bridge-E, but we can’t confirm that point based on the frequency achieved by our sample alone. Given that 3930K chips generally seem to hit 4.7/4.8GHz without problems and our 4960X couldn’t reach much more than 4.6GHz, perhaps the huge headroom variations that are plaguing Haswell processors will be found on the IVB-E chips. Perhaps they won’t, and we just got not-so-great clocker.

On the other hand, IVB-E’s improved IMC seems to offer greater memory overclocking headroom than SB-E does. We managed to hit a 2666MHz memory frequency without any settings changes, which is very good given that SB-E needed tweaking once the 2400MHz-mark was passed.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some positives to expect from the Ivy Bridge-E chips, based on our 4960X sample. Temperatures seem to be far more forgiving than those of SB-E. Power consumption has also been decreased – and by a significant margin when a processor is overclocked.

Jumping back to the positive points of performance, memory bandwidth shows increases and the processors now support DDR3 1866MHz, natively. Our benchmark results also provided indications that IVB-E’s clock-per-clock performance is faster than SB-E’s. True PCI-E 3.0 support is another positive for the IVB-E chips.

With a retail price of $990 USD, which should translate into around £700-800 in the UK, the Intel Core i7 4960X Extreme Edition processor is a major investment. But then so is every other Extreme Edition part. Given that the 4960X should enter the market at the SB-E 3970X’s current price point, purchasing the IVB-E chip is a ‘no-brainer’ to customers formerly wanting the SB-E flagship.

If, however, you currently have a Sandy Bridge-E machine, there is little point in upgrading to Ivy Bridge-E for anything other than decreased power consumption and improved high-speed memory frequency support.

The bottom line is: if you want the fastest consumer processor that money can buy, Intel’s Core i7 4960X Extreme Edition processor is the chip to purchase. If you’re looking for strong performance in multi-threaded applications, the 4960X is a good choice, but its $435-cheaper (and largely identical) 4930K sibling will undoubtedly steal the show.

Pros:

  • Impressive power consumption figures.
  • Temperatures seem to be lower than those on SB-E processors.
  • Currently the fastest consumer processor on the market.
  • Fits in current LGA 2011 motherboards.
  • Improved memory controller.
  • Offers proper support for PCI-E 3.0.

Cons:

  • Very expensive.
  • Not much of a performance improvement over SB-E.
  • The significantly-cheaper 4930K will undoubtedly steal the show.

KitGuru says: The fastest consumer processor that money can buy, Intel’s Core i7 4960X Extreme Edition is a performance king with a price tag to match. Unfortunately the performance increases over Sandy Bridge-E chips aren’t worth upgrading over, and the cheaper 4930K will steal the limelight.

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Asus X79-Deluxe Motherboard

Asus’ refreshed X79-Deluxe motherboard is an excellent product that has a great UEFI BIOS implementation, solid overclocking performance, and plenty of features that bring the X79 platform into the year 2013.

Specifically refreshed for IVB-E performance tweaks and optimisations, the Asus X79-Deluxe had no problem taking our Core i7 4960X chip to a little over 4.6GHz. We managed an easy 5GHz using a 3930K, too. Memory overclocking performance was also strong; we were able to hit 2666MHz with ease.

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Retaining the support for 3-way SLI and CrossFire, the X79-Deluxe can be used to provide the foundation for a powerful system. With its numerous onboard features, many of which have entered the limelight subsequent to the X79 Express chipset’s introduction, Asus’ X79-Deluxe gives LGA 2011 users many of the ‘goodies’ that are found on premium Z87 motherboards.

Those modern features included dual-band, two stream 802.11ac WiFi, Realtek’s ALC1150 audio chip, and support for SSD caching with up to three drives. One of the more opinion-splitting updates is the board’s implementation of Asus’ newly-adopted black and gold colour scheme.

Asus’ UEFI BIOS has yet again proven its dominance on the X79-Deluxe. The interface is attractive, features an excellent layout, and is very easy to use. Plenty of tweaking options are also available for overclockers.

Our biggest annoyance regarding the X79-Deluxe is Asus’ positioning of the clear CMOS button. Access to the button will be hampered by the second graphics card for dual-VGA users. And given that the X79-Deluxe is likely to be housed inside a chassis, a clear CMOS button should have been placed on the rear IO panel.

Asus told us that the refreshed X79-Deluxe is expected to retail for the same price as its successor – the P9X79 Deluxe. That should make it available for around the £280-mark from retailers such as Overclockers UK.

Pros:

  • Solid overclocking performance, especially on the memory side.
  • Support for 3-way SLI/CrossFire and good two-card spacing.
  • Good added features for the refreshed version  (802.11ac WiFi and a high-end audio chip).
  • Supports Asus SSD Caching II with up to four drives.
  • Excellent UEFI BIOS implementation.
  • Tweaked for IVB-E support.

Cons:

  • No clear CMOS button on the back panel and the internal one is awkward to reach.

KitGuru says: An excellent high-performance motherboard that brings the X79 platform into the year 2013.

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