Intel Core i7-3960X Review
Hopefully you've read all of our LGA2011 reviews today. This particular one focussed upon the stock performance of the Core i7-3960X, but the conclusion will encompass our knowledge of its overclocking capabilities too, which you can see in the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme and Gigabyte X79 UD5 reviews.
When we originally reviewed the X58 i7-990X the results were so outstanding that we wondered if Intel had almost set an untouchable benchmark. Especially when you consider that we knew the next top of the range LGA2011 CPU wouldn't be a reduction in the nanometre process, nor would have extra cores, and Intel are notorious for not pushing their processor speeds to the levels they can actually obtain. All we can say to that is, oh ye of little faith.
The Intel Core i7-3960X is as far ahead of the i7-990X as that is ahead of the i7-950.
Even a cursory glance through our stock results shows how capable the i7-3960X is. Probably the most surprising ones are when it's up against the heavily overclocked processors, because even the stock speeds of the i7-3960X are sufficient to stay close to them, or in some tests even pass. The Sandra Processor tests are particularly indicative of this, as is the CineBench result. It doesn't really matter what you throw at the i7-3960X, it handles everything with aplomb. The harder the test, the better it seems to perform. If that wasn't sufficient then when it's overclocked it's even more amazing, smashing nearly every record we have.
A small word about the motherboard too. Despite their claims about "Extreme" boards, we all know that Intel motherboards tend to be on the conservative side. We love the looks, we like the comprehensive labelling and we absolutely adore the 'Back to BIOS' button which is so far ahead of the other "recovering from a failed overclock" solutions we've ever seen that we want it on every future board please.
In fact we can only think of two things that are slightly disappointing. Firstly the memory performance on this particular board, and to a certain degree in general, isn't as stunning as we hoped it would be. It fits in between the scores from the Z68 and X58 chipsets and the RAM speed doesn't seem to change the bandwidth available to write actions. Secondly we've got greedy with the Sandy Bridge CPUs and would have liked to have seen the 5GHz barrier broken on air. Although considering we've still got a 4.7GHz 12 thread CPU, it's a tiny complaint.
No we're not going to complain about the eye-watering price. All premium Intel CPUs have always been around the £1000 mark, and in the case of the i7-3960X its performance absolutely justifies such a high price tag. Even better it's actually retailing for a, relatively, reasonable £770. The long and short of it is that if you absolutely must have the very best, and even if you've just brought a shiny i7-990X, the i7-3960X is still fast enough to warrant a purchase.
It's an absolutely stunning CPU and, despite the premium price, definitely worthy of our Gold Award.