There is no doubt that this is a crazy system build, delivering ludicrous performance results when paired up with specific software packages.
As we already knew beforehand, this system is completely overkill for a gaming rig and it is definitely a better move to invest in multiple graphics cards and a less expensive Core i7 3770k with 8GB of 2,666mhz memory. For a fraction of the price.
Intel have a wide range of Xeon E5’s currently available and today we reviewed the two flagship models, which not coincidentally also consume the most power. Two of these when tasked at 100% consume around 430 Watts.
That is before you even consider installing a high end graphics card (or more) for the latest Direct X 11 games.
The review also shows a current limitation of many software packages. The newest version of Cyberlink Mediaespresso crashed constantly when starting an encoding task (above image). Many other software packages don’t even use the secondary processor at all, and a wider range utilise only a percentage of overall processor time. This allows a processor such as the Intel Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition to claim back a lot of performance deficit, particularly when overclocked.
Adobe Photoshop still only uses several cores for their filtering algorithms, so the massive power on tap from the 2687W’s is barely touched. This program responds much better to a large amount of fast memory with a tweaked system bus and overclocked processor. The Core i7 3770k performs particularly well in Adobe Photoshop for instance with 2,666mhz memory, especially when overclocked to 4.8ghz.
We did find the 2687W slightly faster than the 3960X at reference speeds in Adobe Photoshop, possibly due to the fatter level 3 cache.
The main strength for the Xeon E5 2687W when configured in a pair, is with 3D rendering programs such as 3D Studio Max and Cinema 4D.
The insane memory bandwidth and 32 core processing power allowed our build today to pull out way ahead of the other flagship systems we benchmarked against. An overclocked i7 3960X Extreme Edition manages to break the 14 point barrier in Cinebench for instance, but it still feels positively pedestrian when compared against the staggering 25.41 points we achieved with two Xeon E5 2687W’s.
The Asus Z9 PE-D8 WS is a fantastic motherboard that is supplied fully loaded with 14 SATA ports, and dual x16 bandwidth PCI-e performance, if an ultra high end Crossfire or SLI system is important. The board will in fact support a x8/x8/x8/x8 configuration, if you want to play around with QUAD Nvidia or AMD configurations.
As stated earlier in the review, we had planned to focus on the EVGA Classified SR-X motherboard, but we experienced so many issues we just sent it back. Not only is the BIOS a mess, but it was also unstable and actually slower at reference clock speeds than the Asus Z9 PE-D8 WS board we used today.
The only notable negative we could mention during testing was that when we installed 64GB of Kingston Predator 2,133mhz memory, the maximum speed we could achieve was 1,600mhz. Anything higher would result in a no post, and force a manual CMOS reset via the jumper switch. That said, the board did post a 64.2GB/s memory bandwidth result, which is our highest result ever … by around 10GB/s.
EDIT: I learned today that memory cannot be configured higher than 1,600mhz on Xeon motherboards regardless of the XMP profiles.
In closing, if you need a system for high end 3D rendering duties and have software that you know will fully utilise 16/32 cores, then you will be in for a hell of a ride.
- insane performance with supported software.
- memory bandwidth.
- For 3D rendering and CAD work, nothing comes close.
- The cost.
- Most people would be better off with overclocking a 3960X.
Kitguru says: A solid, kick ass system that produces benchmark figures to make every other system we have tested pale into insignificance. Just be prepared to dig deep into your wallet. Unmissable for a specialised audience who need every ounce of CPU power.