When we reviewed the i7-3960X it was clearly an absolute behemoth of a thing. In nearly every test we threw at it we saw numbers far beyond anything we'd previously attained. In fact it's so good that we now use it as the foundation for our stock test rig for GPUs.
Of course the problem with it was the same problem that we see in all high-end Intel CPUs, and that's the eye-watering price-tag that it comes with. One of the big downsides to a high price-tag is that we can all dream about owning one, but very few can actually afford it.
Being very aware of this Intel always release a few more affordable processors that are based upon the big daddy and that's what we have here today in the guise of the Intel Core i7-3930K. It goes without saying that "affordable" is a relative term with the i7-3930K being a pretty big £450, but does the performance match the 40% price reduction when compared to its i7-3960X brother?
Certainly looking at the specifications table we're only losing a tiny bit of speed and a little bit of cache when compared to the i7-3960X, so the i7-3930K shouldn't be too badly hindered.
|# of Cores||6|
|# of Threads||12|
|Clock Speed||3.2 GHz|
|Max Turbo Frequency||3.8 GHz|
|Intel® Smart Cache||12 MB|
|Instruction Set Extensions||SSE4.2, AVX|
|Max TDP||130 W|
Apart from the Processor switch, the test rig remains the same as for our i7-3960X review.
Intel Core-i7 3930K
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
As always with a new processor we want to try and find our maximum stable overclock, as well as trying to push it as far as possible in a banzai run. With the i7-3930K we obtained a very nice 4.6GHz overclock @ 1.4v which will be the settings we'll use for the overclocked results.
Never satisfied without seeing exactly how far we could push it, by adjusting the CPU VCore to a pretty hefty 1.46v we obtained 5GHz. There certainly isn't any doubt that the i7-3930K is a very capable processor.
As we would expect from the slightly slower stock speed and slightly lessened overclock, the 3930K is edged by the 3960X, but it's still capable of some excellent results.
At stock the i7-3930K is amazingly close to the i7-3960X when we consider there relative price differential. When overclocked it's clear that the higher performance and extra cache of the 3960X is just too much for the 3930K, but realistically it's still far beyond anything else in the graph.
Sandra is fantastic at separating the CPU from the rest of the components and we really can see how well the i7-3930K performs. It's within a gnats nadger of the range-topping i7-3960X at both stock and overclocked speeds, and in both the Arithmetic and MultiMedia tests. Very impressive indeed.
PC Mark Vantage
If the early synthetic results brought us hope that the i7-3930K would out-perform its price-point, then PC Mark Vantage demonstrates how true that feeling is. The two processors are so close that in real-terms you wouldn't notice the difference.
PC Mark 7
PC Mark 7 replicates the results of PC Mark Vantage, with the i7-3930K being as near as makes no difference to the i7-3960X. There is a small gap between them, but it's the smallest of margins.
The heavy demands that rendering place upon the CPU are a good test of the pure calculation power of the i7-3930K. At stock it's only .3 Pts behind the i7-3960X and when overclocked only .6 Pts behind. In anyones book that is amazingly close for a processor that's nearly half the price.
Utilising the different rendering philosophy behind the Freeware POV-Ray, the results remain the same with the Core i7-3930K being a very fine performer indeed.
wPrime brings no great surprises, apart from the constant one of how amazing the performance of the 3930K is of course. It's ridiculously close in all honesty.
x264 Benchmark v4
Video conversion is as processor intensive as anything you're ever likely to do, so it's reassuring that the Intel Core i7-3930K continues to wow us with its level of performance.
Although 3D Mark is far more about the GPU than the CPU, if you're world record hunting then it's definitely a case of 'More Dakka', and the i7-3930K provides all the horsepower you could require.
3D Mark Vantage
3D Mark 11
Unigine similarly tests the GPU more than the underlying power from the CPU, which is why the two big LGA2011 processors are inseparable.
Far Cry 2
Between the bottom and top results from the two i7-39x0 processors we have a single frame per second. Even the minimum frame-rate doesn't vary. Exceptional performance.
Again the GTX570 has more than enough data fed to it from the CPU to produce a perfectly playable experience in Empire Bay.
Resident Evil 5
Our i7-3960X review was done with the WHQL 285 Forceware drivers and our 3930K review today is using the latest 295 beta drivers. The difference is pretty clear. Of course in Resident Evil 5 a teapot will provide a playable experience.
Direct X 9
Direct X 10
It would be easy to point out how tiny the difference between the two CPUs is, especially when even the i7-950 gives comparable frame-rates, but the i7-3930K has been close throughout our testing.
The Witcher 2
Even the adventures of Geralt cannot put a dampener on our thoughts about the i7-3930K.
Does anyone want to guess how the conclusion will go?
So the Intel Core i7-3930K. Following exhaustive and extensive testing we only have one question uppermost in our mind.
Who on earth would bother to buy the i7-3960X?
When we tested the i7-3960X it was a quantum leap ahead in all of our CPU based results and we were left stunned by how much Intel had managed to improve upon the already excellent i7-990X. Of course it was brutally expensive as all top-end Intel CPUs are.
The Core i7-3930K is, and let there be no doubt at all about this, just as mind-blowing in performance but for only 60% of the cost.
At stock we're talking a couple of percentage points behind its bigger brother. You could buy this, drop it in to a X79 board of your choice, and have more power available than you could know what to do with. Overclocking is a similar story and although it doesn't hit the same heights as the i7-3960X it's still unquestionably within touching distance despite the 150MHz deficit.
If you looked at the £800 i7-3960X and dreamt about owning that power but couldn't afford it, the £450 i7-3930K is, as far as we can tell, the same processor. There is no reason to spend the extra money. What exactly is your £350 buying? Well it's buying a 6 instead of a 3, a X instead of a K, and 3MB of cache. Do you want to pay £100 per megabyte of cache for no discernible difference? Us neither.
Yes we could go on about how great it is, but what's the point. It's stunning. Sell your granny and a kidney. You're getting so much performance it's almost a bargain and so near to its bigger brother it has nearly rendered it pointless. We're delighted to award the Intel Core i7-3930K our Gold Award.
Thanks to Intel for supplying the i7-3930K for review. Discuss in our forums.