Intel’s latest processor series has arrived, and we’re looking to find out if it becomes the company’s greatest. Compared to Intel’s latest mainstream part, Haswell, IV-E avails a quad-channel memory controller, a far more robust PCIe configuration, and the only place to get six-core parts. Are there other perks to be found? Let’s find out.
SPEC’s CPU2006 is the most comprehensive benchmark in our test suite. Its goal is to test both the general execution performance of a machine and also the chosen compiler, and as such, it makes great use of all available threads across one or more CPUs along with the memory sub-system.
You might not have heard of SPEC before, and if so, it’s likely because the non-profit group creates benchmarks targeted at the enterprise rather than the desktop. The folks responsible for each one of its benchmarks take things extremely seriously, and nothing gets released without extensive review. Many companies belong to SPEC as members, offering input and other insight. Some of these include AMD, Intel, Apple, ASUS, HP, Fujitsu, IBM, Lenovo, Microsoft, NEC, NVIDIA, Novell, Red Hat, Super Micro, VMware, Dell and EMC.
The CPU2006 suite is a about as complicated to explain as it is to run. We’ve prepared what we feel to be the best possible configuration for use with the tool, and as the result of much testing, we use Intel Compiler version 12 coupled with Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 for our testing. This is one of the few current configurations that can deliver submittable results, as Intel Compiler supports the most recent C standard, C99, whereas most compilers do not (in Linux, gcc would be a good replacement).
Due to its inherent design to run each test three times over, we do not run the entire CPU2006 more than once, as it would be redundant. At the same time, a full run on an Intel Core i7-2600K takes just over 13 hours to complete, so it’s not feasible to run the entire suite multiple times over. Because all current CPUs include AVX acceleration, we enable that in here in our testing.
More information on the suite and how we use it can be read about in this forum post.
Before diving into testing the i7-4960X, I had guessed that CPU2006 might be a benchmark where rather substantial gains would be seen – but again, no. The 4770K outperforms it overall, which really says more about the excellent architecture of Haswell than it does the downsides of IV-E. SPEC is putting the final touches on the next iteration of its CPU benchmark, so it’ll be interesting to re-test these CPUs when that gets released.
The performance improvements we saw the 4770K deliver over the 3770K in our look at that CPU last month didn’t seem overly impressive, but it’s too bad we didn’t see at least that sort of gain with the 4960X over the 3970X.