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Intel i7 3960X EE / Gigabyte GA X79 UD3 / 16GB GSkill Ripjaws Z (2133mhz) Review

Rating: 9.0.

Today we have multiple reviews focusing on the new Intel X79 launch, featuring two high end motherboards from Asus … the £280 P9X79 Deluxe and flagship £335 Rampage IV Extreme … for those with deeper pockets. That said, we know that many people won't want to spend £300 (or more) on a new motherboard so our third article today focuses on the Gigabyte GA X79 UD3, which retails at a modest £199.

Our other reviews today feature some insanely high powered graphics solutions, such as the HD6990, twin GTX 580's and Quad SLI 590's – paired up with the i7 3960X EE, when it is overclocked to the limits. Great fun, but not always practical.

This article targets the enthusiast who might overclock a little, while using a reference cooler and without increasing core voltage. That user will probably want a good gaming experience, but won't necessarily want to spend between £500 and £1,300 for the pleasure.

If you have read our other reviews today then you may want to skip over some of the pages in this review, as we have to recap on the new technology for those readers who have found this editorial first.

Intel have had it all their own way in 2011 with Sandybridge dominating both the performance and sales charts. When AMD released the FX8150 in October it failed to ignite the hearts and minds of the enthusiast audience, being launched to a mixed, but mainly negative reception. Intel’s 2600k still held the performance crown in the sub £300 sector, being quickly superseded by the clock ramped Intel Core i7 2700k. The gulf just widened even more.

To make matters worse, AMD have had nothing to target Intel’s ultra high end Core i7 970, 980x and 990x processors … so it is up to Intel to replace them with a new range of high performing silicon. X58/LGA1366 has now been replaced by X79/LGA2011.

Today Intel are launching three new Core i7 processors. The Core i7 3820 @ 3.6ghz, The Core i7 3930k @ 3.2ghz and the Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition @ 3.3ghz. We are looking at the latter model, pairing it up with the high end Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard.

Intel Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition Core i7 3930k Core i7 3820
Number of Processor Cores 6 6 4
Number of simultaneous threads with Intel Hyper Threading Technology 12 12 8
Intel Smart Cache Size 15 MB 12 MB 10 MB
Processor Base Frequency 3.3ghz 3.2ghz 3.6ghz
Memory Frequency 1600 mhz 1600 mhz 1600 mhz
Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 2.0 2.0
Number of DDR3 Memory Channels 4 4 4
Overclocking Enabled YES YES YES (partial)
Intel Express Chipset X79 X79 X79
Socket LGA2011 LGA2011 LGA2011

As the table above highlights, both 3960X and 3930K are unlocked processors, while the cheaper 3820 allows for ‘partial’ overclocking. This means the user can adjust the core multiplier to a preset maximum. UK pricing has yet to be confirmed, but the 3960X should cost around $1,000 in the states and the 3930k at $610. We would make an educated guess that the 3960X will cost around £800 inc vat in the UK, directly replacing the 990X at the same price.

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