Intel Sandy Bridge E review

Price when reviewed

Intel has had its own way in the high-end desktop CPU market for a couple of years but, since the six-core i7-980X and i7-990X, it hasn’t released any Extreme Edition chips to tempt tweakers. That’s all changed with the arrival of the second generation of Core i7 chips, its X79 chipset and LGA2011 socket.

The three-chip range, also known as Sandy Bridge E, is topped off by the Core i7-3960X – a 3.3GHz monster that delivers six cores (servicing twelve threads) of processing grunt. One step down is the i7-3930K, which has six cores running 100MHz slower, and those on tighter budgets will have to settle for the i7-3820, which is slated for release in the spring. It will be cheaper still and, despite a higher stock speed of 3.6GHz, it will “only” have four cores.

Intel Sandy Bridge E comparison chart

So, what makes Intel’s new chips worthy of the Second Generation name? There’s nothing revolutionary here – the underlying 32nm architecture is unchanged over the previous generation – but a range of improvements to key features promises to boost performance in a variety of ways.

Turbo Boost 2 has been, well, boosted. Whereas the last generation of Sandy Bridge chips saw the high-end Core i7-2600K gaining up to 400MHz across a single active core, the new i7 CPUs-3960X can add 600MHz. If all six cores are active, you’ll get an extra 300MHz of juice per core – an improvement over the additional 100MHz the i7-2600K provided.

There’s more L3 cache on offer, too: the older Sandy Bridge chips have a maximum of 8MB, but that’s almost doubled to 15MB on the top-end i7-3960X, with 12MB and 10MB available on the two lesser processors.

Chipset changes

The new processors are also around twice the size of older Sandy Bridge chips, and Intel has developed a new socket – dubbed LGA 2011 – to house them. The new motherboards built around this socket have a new high-end chipset, too: X79.

Intel X79 Chipset

One of the big changes introduced with the X79 chipset can be found either side of the socket: two banks of four DIMMs. They’re indicative that the X79 chipset can handle a massive 64GB of quad-channel RAM – so that’s more gigabytes and more bandwidth than we’ve ever seen on a consumer systems, with Intel’s own calculations claiming a maximum bandwidth of 51.2GB/sec.


Cores (number of)6
L3 cache size (total)15MB
Thermal design power130W
Fab process32nm

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos