After Much Waiting, Intel’s Ivy Bridge-E Processors Have Arrived

Posted on September 3, 2013 3:00 AM by Rob Williams

Enthusiasts looking to build high-end PCs featuring Intel’s beefiest processors have been in a rough spot lately. It’s become the theme that when a top-end part gets released, it’s behind the mainstream parts architecturally. When Sandy Bridge-E came out two years ago, this problem wasn’t too evident – not at least until a couple of months later when Ivy Bridge came out on the mainstream side. At the start of the summer, we saw things get even worse for the high-ender, with the release of Haswell. At that point, the mainstream offerings were 4th-gen Core parts, while the enthusiast offerings were 2nd-gen!

With today’s launch of Ivy Bridge-E, we edge a bit closer to the newer base architecture on the mainstream side – but when you consider that Haswell’s biggest features are power and mobile-related, the sting in knowing that this is a 3rd-gen part is almost non-existent.

Intel Ivy Bridge-E Wafer Close-up
Extreme close-up of an Ivy Bridge-E wafer

For reasons I’ll get into in a moment, our review will be coming later – either at the end of this week, or next. That said, Intel has given us some percentages of what we should expect to see when comparing SB-E to IV-E: +7% in 3D gaming, +5% in data / financial analysis and +10% in 3D modeling. Compared to the i7-4770K, the quad-core Haswell-based part,we can expect gains of +36% to 3D gaming, +8% to number crunching and +37% in 3D modeling.

As with the launch of Sandy Bridge-E, three models will be available at launch:

Core i7-4960X3.60 GHz4.00 GHz6 / 1215 MBIvy Bridge-E$990
Core i7-4930K3.40 GHz3.90 GHz6 / 1212 MBIvy Bridge-E$555
Core i7-4820K3.70 GHz3.90 GHz4 / 810 MBIvy Bridge-E$310
Core i7-4770K3.50 GHz3.90 GHz4 / 88 MBHaswell$317
All three Ivy Bridge-E processors require an LGA2011 socket, are spec’d at 130W TDP, and support up to DDR3-1866 memory speeds with a quad-channel controller.

So what is it about Ivy Bridge-E that might warrant a purchase over Haswell? Namely, the six cores (twelve threads), quad-channel memory controller (it’s up to you to know whether you need this), beefier PCIe lanes for multi-GPU purposes and a fair bit more cache per core.

As the table above states, IV-E will work in the LGA2011 socket, which you might recall launched two years ago. However, in order to actually use these CPUs, your vendor has to release an EFI update for your particular board. Unless you happen to be using a fairly recent one, and it’s nearly top-of-the-ladder, don’t automatically expect that you’ll get one.

While planning for IV-E, I expected that I’d have no problem in getting our chip tested and reviewed – after all, we basically know what to expect. Well, I had also thought that our newly-adopted ASUS P9X79-E WS motherboard would have IV-E support added by this point, but alas, it hasn’t happened. This isn’t ASUS’ fault, as the WS boards require much more validation than enthusiast motherboards – if the EFI isn’t ready, it’s simply not ready. But this issue showcases just how oddly rushed the release of Ivy Bridge-E is. Judging by the fact that advertising embargoes are placed a week ahead of review embargoes, I have to imagine that it’s for a reason: Vendors still need to get their products ready before consumers jump all over IV-E.

Intel Core i7-4960X One Core
Go ahead, laugh.

That all said, IV-E looks to be a good follow-up to SB-E, although it does seem to deliver just what we expected, with no surprises (some might call that a good thing). While I got burned in our attempted testing, not everyone did. If you can’t wait for our look, we’d recommend checking out the reviews at HotHardware, PC Perspective and The Tech Report.

  • Hubert J Farnsworth

    I pretty excited for your review!!!! Hurry hurry Asus

    • Rob Williams

      ASUS just hit me with a fresh EFI, so I should be good to go.

      • Hubert J Farnsworth


  • Kougar

    I can’t believe Intel is not going to update their X79 boards to accept Ivy-E chips, anyone with an Intel board is SOL. Anyone that dumps $1k on a 4960X may be unhappy to learn there’s a chip in the works with literally twice everything that’s gonna hit the Xeon market soon, too.

    The BIOS thing was also an Intel problem, Intel waited until just a couple weeks ago to deliver final BIOS code to motherboard vendors, other sites have had stability issues with 32GB of kit.

    • Rob Williams

      The excuse from Intel will be the same excuse from most vendors… older X79 boards wouldn’t see an EFI release if not for IV-E, so it’s not going to see one because of IV-E (it’s not common to see new BIOS releases 2 years after-the-fact).

      Some vendors might also decide that it’s not needed for some boards. They’re limited to the amount of code that can go into an EFI, so if they add support for IV-E, they might have to remove some other feature that people have come to expect from their board. It’s a fine-line.

      As for the final BIOS code getting sent to vendors, that’s true, and a little disturbing. I was talking to a vendor a few weeks ago – two weeks before we received our Core i7-4960X sample – and they didn’t have the final BIOS code yet. It seemed at that point that the IV-E launch wouldn’t take place at the very start of this month, but lo and behold :D

      As for IV-E’s allure, I do wish it was released as an eight-core part.

      • Kougar

        Had a nice reply typed up, then the auto-page reload wiped it as I was finishing.

        Not going to retype it, but suffice to say any size-excuses would be total BS for any one of a half-dozen reasons. Intel only made the decision because they are exiting the motherboard business and no longer have new boards coming out.

        Also, I’m not aware of anyone else except Intel that isn’t updating their X79 hardware. Only one manufacturer has done this that I know of within recent launches, so I’ll keep on eye on them.

        • Rob Williams

          This vendor I spoke to disagrees, but I am not an EFI designer so I can’t state with certainty how off-the-mark they are.

          Also, AFAIK, not all X79 boards are going to support IV-E. I was told my ASUS, GIGABYTE and MSI that it’d be on a per-board basis, and it was generally going to be the higher-end boards that would have IV-E support added.

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