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Intel Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition Review

Intel Core i7 Six-Core IHS
by Rob Williams on September 25, 2013 in Processors

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.

Compile & Execution: SPEC CPU2006

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.

Intel Core i7-4770K - SPEC CPU2006

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.

CINT2006 i7-4960X i7-3970X i7-4770K i7-3770K
400.perlbench 33.5 33.0 39.8 32.8
401.bzip2 26.7 25.8 28.9 26.8
403.gcc 30.6 29.8 35.6 33.9
429.mcf 78.6 75.2 83.9 82.0
445.gobmk 25.0 25.1 26.5 26.0
456.hmmer 65.5 60.4 68.5 65.5
458.sjeng 31.2 30.8 36.3 31.4
462.libquantum 1380 1350 1100 1100
464.h264ref 42.0 40.9 46.6 44.7
471.omnetpp 28.7 27.6 30.8 30.5
473.astar 33.5 32.6 35.7 32.8
483.xalancbmk 48.1 46.5 56.1 46.8
CFP2006 i7-4960X i7-3970X i7-4770K i7-3770K
410.bwaves 181 178 143 132
416.gamess 28.8 27.7 32.8 30.2
433.milc 69.3 64.9 78.0 77.1
434.zeusmp 122 115 107 111
435.gromacs 32.2 31.0 36.8 35.5
436.cactusADM 242 240 232 178
437.leslie3d 120 119 89.4 86.7
444.namd 27.4 27.3 28.9 27.2
447.dealII 51.6 49.8 55.8 53.7
450.soplex 50.1 44.1 47.7 46.2
453.povray 50.6 49.3 60.9 50.2
454.calculix 42.4 42.5 48.2 45.1
459.GemsFDTD 89.5 88.0 71.3 67.7
465.tonto 31.9 30.2 34.9 33.4
470.lbm 228 219 162 156
481.wrf 88.5 86.1 88.2 86.3
482.sphinx3 62.6 60.9 64.8 64.4

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.

  • BarackMcBush

    No in-depth overclocking on an extreme cpu? That is rather lazy and lacking.

    • Rob Williams

      I might include overclocking reports in time, but it’s not my forte, so to include it at all would be doing a disservice to the CPU.

      • Hubert J Farnsworth

        I use to overclock once a long time ago. Most will until the have stability issues or meltdowns. Now i just by a better CPU.

  • Hubert J Farnsworth

    Great review. I think Intel is more worried about power consumption then in performance. Intel is screwing the power users just to get into phone and tablets.

  • Michal ┼áimonek

    nice review with practice tests