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Intel Core i7 5960X Haswell-E (8-core) CPU Review

There’s no other way to say it; Intel’s Haswell-E Core i7 5960X is a technological masterpiece. It shows multi-core performance that is unparalleled on the consumer scene – not even the six-core flagship that preceded it can show any hint of keeping pace. And what’s more impressive is that the 5960X does all of that while staying cool and providing deceivingly-good overclocking capacity.

Focusing first on performance, there’s nothing else in the consumer domain that will come close to the numbers output by Intel’s flagship 5960X. Cinebench and WinRAR performance levels were up by over 30% compared to the 4960X, and Handbrake video conversion showed a sizable performance leap also.

And with the higher core count and heaps of cache also comes the goodness of Intel’s latest-and-greatest desktop microarchitecture inside Haswell-E. Some of the benefits of a modern under-the-hood feature set were shown in Sandra’s benchmarks, especially those making use of Haswell’s AVX2 instruction set. DDR4 helps from a memory bandwidth perspective too.

Overclocking the 5960X was a surprisingly pleasant and entirely beneficial experience. I couldn’t help but foresee frequency limitations when pushing the clock speed on an eight-core part, but I am very pleased to report that overclocking capacity is very good. While I didn’t manage to get past 4.3GHz with stability in my brief overclocking session, the ease at which 13 multiplier bumps were surpassed gives me confidence that the chip can go even further with a little more time and effort.

With 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes, the 5960X (and 5930K for that matter) is ideal for enthusiast-grade multi-GPU machines. Before sticking three to four GPUs in your system though, make sure that your games and resolution will benefit from Haswell-E’s immense computational power. Our 1920×1080 tests did not show any performance advantages for Haswell-E, although it is highly unlikely that many gamers will be joining a £760 CPU with a 2 Mega-pixel display.

There’s very little to say about temperatures which is always a good sign. Our Corsair H100i had no problem keeping the processor below 80°C even when 1.30V was fed through it. Power consumption, on the other hand, is a little higher than we would have expected from a processor using Haswell microarchitecture. In all honesty we are probably being a little harsh in expecting lower energy usage numbers from an eight-core chip.

Asking price for the Core i7 5960X is not for the faint hearted at 5p under £760. That’s enough money to buy a respectable gaming system. The 5930K is noticeably cheaper at £429.95 a piece. Add in the cost of (currently) expensive DDR4 and a far-from-cheap X99 motherboard, and Intel’s latest iteration of its HEDT platform follows the underlying trend of being a sizeable investment.

On a positive note, for the first time in the past three generations of the HEDT platform, I can actually see a viable reason for purchasing the highest-priced processor of the Haswell-E line-up. No longer does that extra £300+ buy a pointless frequency boost and some more cache. With the 5960X you’re getting more cores for the upgrade, and to many users that fact alone will be enough to warrant the purchase.

While it’s very difficult (and could almost be perceived as insulting) to give a £760 processor our highest ‘Must Have‘ award, I genuinely feel that the Core i7 5960X thoroughly deserves it. We enthusiasts complained that Intel didn’t care about us, and the chipmaker has responded in the form of an eight-core powerhouse with excellent overclocking capacity based on its most modern microarchitecture, as well as a new standard of memory and chipset to sweeten the deal. I once again feel like there’s a place above the mainstream platforms for hardcore enthusiasts, and that place is with Haswell-E.

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Pros:

  • Fastest consumer processor on the market.
  • Eight hyper-threading cores deliver excellent multi-threaded performance.
  • Strong overclocking potential on all eight cores.
  • Uses the latest-and-greatest Haswell microarchitecture.
  • Support for DDR4 memory.
  • Huge multi-GPU and expansion potential.
  • Temperatures are not an issue (as they have been with some LGA 115x CPUs).

Cons:

  • £760 for a CPU.
  • Stiff competition from lower-priced Haswell-E chips.
  • Needs to be overclocked to maintain competitiveness in single-threaded workloads.

KitGuru says: Intel’s 5960X is the fastest overall consumer chip on the market, and this time that extra £330 over its cheaper sibling actually buys something physical in the form of a pair of cores, in addition to extra cache. If you have demanding multi-threaded workloads and want the fastest consumer processor to push through them, the 5960X is the part to buy.

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Rating: 9.0.

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