Intel Xeon E3-1230 V5 Review
The Xeon E3-1230 V5 is something of a curiosity in the Intel range of CPUs. For generations since the original Sandy Bridge, Intel processors have always been temptingly priced and performing way above what you might expect them to. There is a model for every pocket and use. If you don't care to do anything but game, then the i3s are fantastic value and plenty good enough. Hardcore Youtubers, or people who just need to render massive amounts of video, are well suited by the range-topping models such as the i7-5960X, or even the regular "how much?!" multi-core Xeons. For everyone else there is almost nothing bad about any of the Core i5 or Core i7 processors. So where exactly does the Xeon E3-1230 V5 fit in?
Certainly on paper it promises much. You have the 3.4GHz clock speed that turbos up to 3.8GHz. There are four cores with Hyperthreading so it certainly has the numbers. Plus it's pretty cheap for a HT Quad Core, and very very cheap for a Xeon. The performance though doesn't really back up this paper performance. It's fine. It's not awful. However the fact it's a Xeon means that it requires the C232 chipset, and that has plenty of limitations. Memory bandwidth is unquestionably the one element that stands out as being lacking. It wasn't that long ago that we would have bit your hand off for 2133MHz memory, but times have rapidly changed and all modern Intel arrangements are pumping out over 3GHz. Even if you're stuck with a DDR3 motherboard you can easily hunt out figures far beyond those the Xeon E3-1230 V5 achieves. With memory performance becoming a bit of a limiting factor the Xeon E3-1230 V5 falls back into the clutches of many similarly capable and/or much more affordable options. The lack of overclocking also hurts the Xeon E3-1230 V5 when it comes to comparing it to equivalent Intel options. A Core i5-6600K can be rung out well towards 5GHz and the resulting improvements put it far beyond the reach of the Xeon.
If you were on a tight budget and did want all the benefits of hyperthreading then the Xeon E3-1230 V5 is still difficult to recommend. In fact the main thing that has been the downfall of Xeons in the past, 3D performance, ends up being its strength. Sure there isn't any onboard graphics, but as a pure gaming processor it is capable enough. Unfortunately a Core i3, vastly more affordable, is equally capable. So, again, the Xeon ends up sitting in a no-mans land. This isn't helped by the fact it needs the C232 chipset and thus a different motherboard. If you want a Core i3, i5 or even i7 there are dozens and dozens of motherboards to choose from, all of them with their own positives and in a raft of different designs. Whilst we can't fault ASUS for the things that the C232 chipset has to offer, we definitely can fault them for the design of the E3 Pro Gaming V5, which reminds us of old X58 Biostar motherboards, rather than something befitting the ASUS name. It's like they knew that almost nobody is going to end up buying it so gave the design to the trainee who banged it out late on a Friday afternoon. A bit more attention to detail and it might have been easier to recommend. Its made worse when you put the board along side other Asus boards at the same price like the Z170 Pro Gaming and the Z170-A both of these boards look amazing in comparison, we may have banged on about it but if the V5 looked better it may have been an easier pill to swallow.
All in all the Xeon E3-1230 V5 is neither one thing nor the other. It's not so blisteringly powerful at CPU tasks than we can recommend it to the renderers in the same way we can the full-fat Xeons, but neither is it quick enough to displace a Core i3 for a gaming system, or Core i5 and Core i7 for a well-rounded offering. Add to this the fact you're extremely limited in memory and motherboard choice, and it ends up being such a curiosity that we can't imagine who on earth would possibly want it. We never mind a niche product here at OC3D. We understand that some products are, by design, only going to be desirable to a select few. That isn't negative at all. The trouble with the Xeon E3-1230 V5 is that it's desirable to nobody at all, and that is a problem.
If you were here hoping this was going to be a cheap way to get some hyperthreading as an upgrade from a possible 6600K purchase then everyone here at OC3D would say in this instance just don't. There are far too many compromises that need to be made and amazingly performance is one of them. This Xeon is one to be left with the 3D designers and isn't something we think belongs in a gaming system.
To close on a good point though, if you are a 3D designer that wants a board with a few more gaming features for a lunchtime session then this does look better than your average Xeon board, that's an incredibly niche sector though so we have gone hard to discourage any people looking at this as a possible option to a Z170 system.