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Intel i7 3960X EE / Asus Rampage IV Extreme / Corsair GTX8 (2400mhz) / Quad GTX590 Review

The new processor range features a design with up to 6 execution cores. Each core supports two threads, which we all know as ‘Intel Hyper Threading Technology'. This logical thread basis doubles the physical count, so a 6 core processor will have 6+6 for a total of 12. Each core has a 32kb instruction and a 32kb data first level cache (L1) and a 256kb shared instruction/data mid level (L2) cache. The new processors have between 10mb and 15mb of last level (LLC cache), up to 2.5 MB per core.

The processors support four DDR3 channels with a single unbuffered DIMM per channel. Officially they support memory of 1066mhz, 1333mhz and 1600mhz, although as we will see in another review today, this can only be used as a rough guideline.

The Direct Media Interface Generation 2 (DMI2) serves as the chip to chip interface to the PCH. The DM12 port supports a x4 link width and only operates in x4 mode when in DMI2. It operates at PCIe2 or PCIe1 speeds and is transparent to software. There is support for processor and peer to peer writes and reads with 64 bit address support.

Above, a CPUz overview of the Core i7 3960X processor. The processor has 6 cores and 12 threads, with 15MB of ‘Level 3' cache. The new chip has support for 40 PCI Express lanes.

The latest range of processors are based on Intel's ‘tock' cycle, before the 22nm Ivy Bridge chips hit retail in the near future.

Above, the Core i7 3960X processor Die detail, showing the 6 cores, which share the L3 cache. There are 2.27 billion transistors with this particular design and the chip measures 20.8mm x 20.9 mm.

Above, the 3960X EE engineering sample we were sent for review. These processors are noticeably bigger than the previous series. Intel say that when compared against the 990X that the new processor is 20% faster with video editing, 102% faster with memory performance, and 34% faster with 3D Game Physics. Sounds really good on paper, but the proof is in the testing.

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