Intel Core i7-3960X CPU
Intel's latest Extreme Edition CPU is a worthy successor to the throne, but this US$1000 processor is strictly for the enthusiast set
- Good performance increases from standard Sandy Bridge processors
Is Sandy Bridge E worth it? Even at $1000, the answer is a resounding yes--if you're using the right apps, are a dedicated overclocker, or have barrels of cash that you simply can't spend fast enough.
Intel Core i7-3960X: Media and power
When I put Sandy Bridge to the test earlier this year, I was especially impressed by Intel's Quick Sync technology. Quick Sync was designed to speed up video transcoding efforts without requiring a discrete graphics card, and it works well — but it doesn't show up on Intel's higher-end wares. The company's rationale is that, if you're buying a $300 (or $1000) processor, you probably plan to pair it with a proper graphics card.
I converted a 1080p version of Big Buck Bunny to an iPad friendly 720p, using Arcsoft's Media Converter 7 software. As Quick Sync wasn't available, I went with AMD Stream hardware acceleration technology, built for AMD's graphics cards. The results: The Core i7-3960X transcoded the video in an average of 2 minutes, 13 seconds, while the Core i7-990X took 3 minutes, 12 seconds, and the Core i7-2600K took 2 minutes, 17 seconds.
Usually, with great performance comes great power consumption. That said, though the Core i7-3960X sports a 130W TDP, those specs don't represent too much of a leap over the Core i7-2600K and its 95W TDP.
When sitting idle, the Core i7-3960X drew 112 watts of power, the Core i7-990X drew 119 watts, and the Core i7-2600K drew 93.6 watts. That works out to a 20 percent jump over the 2600K for the 3960X — considerable, but hardly beyond the pale. The greater offender against power efficiency here is the Core i7-990X, but again this result just goes to show Sandy Bridge's improved power savings.
Power consumption while under load maintained roughly the same pattern for the three CPUs. Over the course of a strenuous workload, the Core i7-3690X used 5 percent less power than the Core i7-990X, and 24 percent more power than the Core i7-2600K.
Intel Core i7-3960X: Conclusion
The Core i7-3960X is a worthy successor to last year's Extreme Edition processors, but the same caveats apply to it as to them. You'll see the greatest benefit in programs that are heavily threaded — computation-heavy spreadsheets, video encoding applications like Sony Vegas Pro, and 3D rendering applications like Maxon Cinema 4D, for example.
On the gaming front, whether you use Intel's excellent overclocking assistant or muck about in the BIOS, you'll be able to cobble together a nauseatingly potent performance machine. And if a $1000 CPU is within your gaming budget, you can't go wrong. This processor is poised to be the foundation of many of 2012's performance desktop juggernauts, and a few early efforts that have already trickled into the lab are sure to make waves. But if you aren't overclocking — or looking to get some gaming done — you don't need this much power.
Ivy Bridge does throw a wrench into the works. At the moment, we know very little about the platform: It'll be shrunk down to the 22nm processor, which should cut power consumption a bit.
Is Sandy Bridge E worth it? Even at $1000, the answer is a resounding yes — if you're using the right apps, are a dedicated overclocker, or have barrels of cash that you simply can't spend fast enough.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 HTC U11 phone: Full, in-depth review
- 2 Gigabyte Aero 15 corporate gaming laptop review
- 3 Huawei P10 smartphone review
- 4 Huawei P10 Plus phone: Full, in-depth review
- 5 Motorola Moto G5 smartphone review
Latest News Articles
- What the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition's specs and pricing mean for PC gamers
- AMD Threadripper exclusive: Only Alienware's Area-51 will have it in 2017
- Intel's revealed the Core i9 ship dates, but you won't like them
- Hands-on: Creative Labs' Sound BlasterX AE-5 ups the audio for gamers
- Logitech's Powerplay mousepad wirelessly charges your mouse while you use it
PCW Evaluation Team
The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.
Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
- MSI GL62M 7RDX gaming laptop review
- Alcatel A3 XL phone: Full, in-depth review
- Sony X9300E 2017 TV: Full, in-depth review
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- TPSenior Change ManagerACT
- FTERP Business AnalystOther
- FTSenior Infrastructure Business AnalystVIC
- FTSenior Project Manager- Cloud- AWS, Office 365- PRINCE2Other
- FTSoftware EngineerOther
- FTSolution Architect l MS Exchange, O365NSW
- FTSenior Siebel Integrator/Developer - Canberra/MelbourneACT
- CCNetwork Architect - part time contract, Sydney Western SuburbsNSW
- CCCloud Architect - AWSVIC
- TPBusiness AnalystQLD
- FTConsultant Business AnalystQLD
- FTSEO ExecutiveOther
- FTService Delivery ManagerOther
- TPBI DeveloperNSW
- FTDigital Business Analyst | PermanentQLD
- FTSenior Software Engineer - Positive Vetting, NV2 or NV1 required!!!!SA
- FTSenior .NET DeveloperOther
- CCICT Training ManagerNSW
- FTICT Procurement and Contracting SpecialistOther
- FTSenior Business Analyst l GROUP LIFE INSURANCE l SydneyNSW
- FTICT Support OfficerNSW
- FTData Analyst/DeveloperNSW
- CCMigration Project ManagerNSW
- CCBusiness Analyst / Scrum MasterWA
- FTSoftware Engineer - Content Design NetworkOther