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Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition Review
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by Rob Williams on November 28, 2011 in Intel Processors

To those looking to build the biggest, baddest high-end PC around, the wait for Sandy Bridge-E was no doubt painful. But, it’s finally here, and much to our expectations, Intel has once again solidified its position as the performance leader. So let’s take a look at what it offers, and compare it to the i7-990X, i7-2600K and AMD FX-8150.

Gaming: Futuremark 3DMark 11 & Civilization V

Game benchmarks stand to see the least amount of gain in comparison to our other tests, but they’re necessary for the sake of completeness. Also, while we benchmark hands-on for our graphics card content, we opt for synthetic testing here, as we’re utilizing the same GPU across each setup.

First up is the ever-popular 3DMark benchmark, which we run using the “Performance” (1280×720) profile. A major benefit of this benchmark is that it stresses not only the GPU, but the CPU as well, thanks to its heavy-duty physics tests.

Futuremark 3DMark 11

Intel DX79SI (Siler) X79 Motherboard

As expected, the i7-3960X proved its dominance with the physics test, but overall, gaming stands to see almost no improvement as long as a decent processor is used – if 3DMark is to be believed.

Sid Meier’s Civilization V

Real-time and turn-based strategy games tend to be the most stressful on both the GPU and CPU, and Civilization V does well to live up to that stereotype. The game is so stressful on a PC, in fact, that the developers included built-in benchmarks that are meant to test a PC in a worst-case scenario sort of way. For our testing here, we use what’s referred to as a “Units” benchmark, which as you can see by the screenshot below, is rather complex.

This benchmark doesn’t spit out an average FPS rating, but rather an overall score (which we believe are accumulated frames but we’re not certain). Because the game and this benchmark do stress the CPU quite a bit, it makes for a great overall motherboard benchmark. The “No Render” result refers to just the performance from the CPU, while the “Full Render” is CPU+GPU.

Sid Meier's Civilization V - Units Benchmark

Intel DX79SI (Siler) X79 Motherboard

Furthering for the most part what we saw with 3DMark 11, our GPU performance was only marginally improved based on the processor used, while raw AI computation does stand to see some nice gains on better processors.