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Intel Core i7 3820 and ASrock Extreme4-M review

The Intel Core i7 3820 is launched to target the audience who want the benefits of the X79 platform without having to spend £850 for a Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition, or £500 for a Core i7 3930. We haven’t been given official prices yet, but insiders have told us that the 3820 will cost around £260 when it hits the United Kingdom, and should be released shortly.

We have been extremely impressed with the performance from Intel’s 3820 and the system felt just as fast as the last 3960X EE system we built for general duties and even gaming. The performance is enhanced by the Quad Channel memory architecture, which is a significant improvement when compared against the P67 and Z68 platform’s dual channel configuration.

For gaming duties, we didn’t notice much in the way of a tangible difference between the Core i7 3820 system and the Core i7 2600k/2700k rigs, but if you also encode video or render 3D scenes on a regular basis, then the new architecture has benefits as shown with some of the results today. Improvements were easily noticeable with 3D Studio Max 2011, Media Espresso and Handbrake.

Overclocking proved a positive experience, and the ASrock Extreme4-M is a fully loaded loaded Micro ATX board which suffers very few compromises. Achieving 4.5ghz required minimal work and more should be possible with better cooling than we used in our Lian LI PC60 chassis. That said, the hardcore overclocking audience will be slightly disappointed to see that unlike the 2500k, 2600k and 2700k the new chip is partially locked, limited to a ratio of x43. QuickSync and integrated graphics are not supported, which may prove a problem for a small portion of the audience.

For those people who already own a high performance 2700k, 2600k or 2500k system, the move to a 3830 X79 system will be expensive. Unless you really need Quad Channel memory, and the benefits of improved future proofing it may be a hard sell.

If you are in the market for a new system build and want to move to the X79 platform, then the 3820 is a fairly cost effective solution. The biggest issue would be the price of the motherboards, which are often in the region of £250, around the same price as the processor itself. The ASrock Extreme4-M we reviewed today is cheaper than most, being sold on Scan for £170 inc vat, offering good value for money. It also means you can look at a variety of Micro ATX cases, if you fancy downsizing without compromising. We have no hesitations recommending the Extreme4-M, it didn’t cause us a problem over a week of stress testing and delivers fantastic discrete graphics performance, as highlighted with our HD7970 and HD7970 Crossfire results today.

Both Intel Core i7 3820 and Asrock Extreme4-M earn our ‘WORTH BUYING’ award, scoring 8.5/10. The Core i7 3820 may not be an ideal investment for gamers who already own a high performance 2600k or 2700k system, but for those building a new system from scratch and who want access to the X79 architecture then the system we built today is very stable, overclocks well and more importantly doesn’t cost a fortune.

Kitguru says: We managed to build an ultra high performance system in a small form factor Lian Li case today. A 3820 and ASRock Extreme4-M is a powerful foundation for a system that doesn’t cost the earth.

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Rating: 8.5.

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