Intel announces Haswell-E processors & X99 chipset

Intel Haswell-E Die

Today is a big day for consumer CPU market as Intel announces their Haswell-E processors along with their companion X99 chipset. Both of these products are of high importance. The Haswell-E line-up brings Intel’s first ever consumer processor with 8-cores and the X99 chipset is the first consumer platform to support the new DDR4 memory. As for less important things, this launch also brings the new LGA 2011-3 socket to the table.

Intel Haswell-E Die

Intel Haswell-E processors:

We’ve been waiting for the Haswell-E processor since the start of 2014. It was initially expected to debut in June at Computex but it obviously got delayed. As previous HEDT line-ups, the Haswell-E also consists of only 3 SKUs. There is the Core i7-5960X which sits at top of the product stack, then comes the Core i7-5930K and lastly the Core i7-5820K. Apart from usual improvements in performance, these processors also bring some massive advantages over Ivy Bridge-E processors. First of all, these have support for DDR4-2133 MHz memory. Secondly, they come with as much as 40 PCIe lanes which enable motherboard manufacturers to provide x8 bandwidth on up to five slots.

 Intel Haswell-E Specifications

  Core i7-5960X Core i7-5930K Core i7-5820K
Cores/Threads 8/16 6/12 6/12
Base Clock 3 GHz 3.5 GHz 3.3 GHz
Turbo Clock 3.5 GHz 3.7 GHz 3.6 GHz
PCIe Configuration 2×16 + 1×8 2×16 + 1×8 1×16 + 1×8 + 1×4
TDP 140W 140W 140W
Socket LGA 2011-3 LGA 2011-3 LGA 2011-3
Memory Support DDR4-2133 DDR4-2133 DDR4-2133
Price $999 $583 $389

Intel Core i7-5960X:

As the name suggests, the Core i7-5960X is an Extreme Edition processor hence it comes with top of the line specifications. To begin with, it’s the only 8-core processor in the lineup and as mentioned earlier, its the first consumer-grade processor from Intel which comes with 8-cores. Prior to this, Intel launched the first quad core CPU in 2006 under the Core 2 Extreme name then the first hex core CPU was launched in 2010 under the Core i7 Extreme edition name. Now, the Core i7-5960X is another first for Intel.

Intel Extreme Edition History

It has 140W TDP, which is 10W higher than Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge, and in order to accommodate 8-cores in this power envelope, Intel had to keep clocks in limits. As compared to the Core i7-4960X’s 3.6 GHz base clock and 4.0 GHz turbo, the new Core i7-5960X comes with considerably lower 3.0 GHz base clock and 3.5 GHz turbo. It should really be an issue since there are eight cores and sixteen threads but it could lead to low performance in programs which aren’t optimized to take advance of extra cores.  The L3 cache is also bumped up to 20MB from 15MB.

As mentioned above, the Core i7-5960X comes with 40 PCIe lanes which are compliant with PCIe 3.0 standards. This enables dual GPU configurations in full x16/x16 mode, tri-GPU configurations in x16/x16/x8 mode and tetra-GPU configurations in x16/x8/x8/x8 mode. However, if motherboard manufacturers want, they can also enable their boards to run up to five graphics cards in x8/x8/x8/x8/x8 mode. I can’t think of any scenario where you would want to use this many graphics cards with this much benefits but its good to know that its there.

Lastly, all of this does not come cheap. As in the past, the top-end Extreme edition processors from Intel are priced at $999 and the Core i7-5960X is no different.

Intel Core i7-5930K:

The Core i7-5930K is a bit milder option from the Haswell-E line-up. It comes with six cores and twelve threads. The TDP is still at 140W however as the core count decreased, the clocks have slightly increased as compared to the top dog. The Core i7-5930K comes with 3.5 GHz base clock and 3.7 GHz turbo. The base clock is 100 MHz higher than its predecessor, the Core i7-4930K, however the turbo is 200 MHz lower. It has L3 cache of 15MB which is lower than the Core i7-5960X but 3MB higher than the Core i7-4930K.

Intel Haswell-E CPU

As its bigger brother, this processor also comes with support for DDR4-2133 memory and 40 PCIe lanes. At $583, this makes the most sense in the Haswell-E line-up as it comes with pretty respectable number of cores, decent clock speeds and 40 PCIe lanes.

Intel Core i7-5820K:

The cheapest of the Haswell-E line-up is the Core i7-5820K and it has gotten a decent upgrade as compared to its predecessor. Both the Core i7-3820 and Core i7-4820K came with only four cores but this one comes with no less than six core. This is something that was only limited to $500+ Intel processors prior to this and its pretty good to see a good six core processor for $383. The L3 cache is also bumped to 15MB from 10MB. It also comes with DDR4-2133 support and has 140W TDP.

However, there is one issue with the Core i7-5820K. It comes with only 28 PCIe lanes. Prior to this, all Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge-E processors had same number of PCIe lanes but this time Intel decided to skim on the bottom-most SKU and it makes a bit sense if product segmentation is taken into consideration. This isnt even that big of an issue. It can still do dual GPU at x16/x8 and tri GPU at x8/x8/x8. Tests have proved that moving down to x8 from x16 with PCIe 3.0 standards, the performance degradation is not much and its certainly not noticeable in everyday gaming.

Intel Haswell-E Die Map

Intel X99 Wellsburg Chipset:

Intel’s new X99 (codenamed: Wellsburg) chipset is the next big thing from today’s announcement. The major improvements on the X99 chipset include the new LGA 2011-3 socket and support for DDR4 memory. The new LGA 2011-3 socket, as the name suggests, is actually an iteration of the LGA 2011 socket which was utilized by Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge-E processor but its come with slightly different pin layout. Hence, the older processor are not comptaible with this socket. Its not just that, the new Haswell architecture moves the voltage regulation tasks to the IVR (integrated voltage regulator) which is present inside the CPU so even if the sockets were identical, the new processor would not have worked on older sockets and vice versa.

Intel X99 Block Diagram

Intel X99 also ups the ante on I/O front. It comes with no less than ten SATA III ports and six USB 3.0 ports. It also supports the M.2 and SATA Express-based storage solution. And if that’s not enough, motherboard manufacturers will also have the option to implement Thunderbolt 2 on X99-based motherboards. This brings another I/O channel to the table which is capable of 20 Gbps transfer speeds.

ASUS X99 Motherboard

Motherboard manufacturers have already prepared a number of X99-based motherboards ranging from mATX form factor all the way to the massive eATX form factor. You can have a detailed look at our coverage of all the X99-based motherboards that are released today.

DDR4 memory:

DDR3 memory has been among us for quite a while now and its finally being replaced with DDR4. Even though, the DDR4 is only being introduced in HEDT market right now but it’ll make it’s way to mainstream market as well by next year. The DDR4 memory sticks have 288 pins and notched different as compared to DDR3 memory hence it is not backwards compatible.

The biggest advantage of DDR4 memory is obviously the speed. At standard, it offers 2133 MT/s operation which is where DDR3 topped. However, motherboards support DDR4 memory with as much as 4000 MT/s. Now, it’s just up to memory manufacturers to make high speed kits. We’ve already seen some kits with as high as 3200 MHz speeds.

GSkill Ripjaws IV DDR4

Furthermore, the second advantage of DDR4 memory is lower power consumption. DDR3 has 1.65v at standard but the new DDR4 has only 1.2v. According to Samsung, DDR4 consumes 30-40% less power even when compared to DDR3L memory.

Lastly, DDR4 will also advance the memory density race. We’ll see 16GB sticks getting mainstream pretty soon.

Intel Haswell-E processor reviews:

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