Intel Core i7 3820 extreme CPU lineup

By Muhammad Faisal 0 comments
Intel Core i7 3820 extreme CPU

Intel Core i7 3820 extreme CPU

This is a bit more like it - a bit more with in the reach of us mere mortals. It's a Sandy Bridge E CPU that doesn't cost the same amount as a complete PCs.

Intel, with even less of a fanfare than that which accompanied the muted launch of the Sandy Bridge E platform, has now unleashed the quad-core iteration of its top-end chips. This is the Intel Core i7 3820.

Before this, the cheapest Sandy Bridge E chip was the $714 to 784 Core i7 3930K, with the crazy expensive $1,270 Core i7 3960X taking its place at the top of the Intel extreme CPU tech tree. Both those parts are full-blooded hex-core chips, with the hyperthreading technology enabling 12 threads of processing power - but they're not really hex-core chips at all. The i7 3930K and i7 3960X both have octo-core server chips with a couple of cores disabled to fit into the desktop segment.

The cynic would say Sandy Bridge E represents a great opportunity for Intel to sell broken Xeons to the desktop crowd for a tidy profit. Intel obviously refutes this, making the case that the consumer would rather have higher clockspeeds over those extra cores, and it needed to sacrifice two cores to hit the 3.3GHz speed of the top chip. However, with the imminent release of E5 Xeons, Intel has managed to hit 3.1GHz with a Sandy Bridge E-based server chip designed for the LGA 2011 socket. Suspicious.

So what about the Core i7 3820? Is this hug processor the same, is it really carrying four dead cores in its innards? If so it's a bit ghoulish.

New die, thanks

Thankfully no, the Intel Core i7 3820 isn't just another eight-core chip with half of its goodness turned off. The i7 3820 is a different die entirely compared with its bigger brothers. And they most definitely are bigger - by around a billion of the wee 32nm transistors, in fact.

That still gives the i7 3820 a huge 1.27 billion transistors in its make up. That means it's still bigger than the previous generation's Gulftown hex-core CPUs, the entire Sandy Bridge lineup and even AMD's chunky chips. The extreme CPU die is rattling around in that massive LGA 2011 package, being over 100m square smaller than the die size of the other two Sandy Bridge E processors.

There is one other key difference between this straight Core i7 3820 and the X- and K- suffixed extreme CPUs from Intel, and that's the unlocked nature of the other chips. This processor has a partially locked multiplier that limits it to 43x compared to the 57x multiplier offered by both the other Sandy Bridge E chips, plus the top-end K-series i7 and i5 CPUs of the plain Sandy Bridge range.

The key battle for the Intel Core i7 3820 is the head-to-head with the Core i7 2700K, the top Sandy Bridge extreme CPU. At $413, they're both priced in the same ballpark (or stadium if you prefer) and the 3.6GHz compared to the 2700K's 3.5GHz, they are both around the same sort of the clockspeed.

Raw performance

Predictably, things are quite close in terms of raw performance - but not identical. The Intel Core i7 2700K actually still maintains a lead at stock clocks over the Sandy Bridge E Core i7 3820. In single-threaded performance the 2700K is actually quicker than even the i7 3830K.

Thanks to the BCLK strap, the Sandy Bridge E chips are able to withstand a good tweaking of the base clock. The base clock is still limited to 100MHz, 125MHz, 166MHz and 250MHz, but it does give you some leeway.

In overclocking stakes, the partially locked multiplier doesn't do it a lot of harm. With a decent motherboard you should be able to get up to the same sort of overclocking performance as the i7 2700K - around 4.7GHz - but no more.

Head-to-head

So the Intel Core i7 3820 performs at around the same sort of levels as the top-end standard Sandy Bridge. This chip is supposed to be the serious enthusiast platform for Intel's desktop faithful, but the more mainstream, soon-to-be-replaced Sandy Bridge setup is just as good at the quad-core level.

There will be instances where the i7 3820 and X79 combo will be beneficial, for example, for the offline 3D rendering workstation or other serious productivity tasks that don't necessarily require heavy multi-threading. But that's a corner of an already miniscule niche.

The low price of the i7 3820 is pleasing though, and means that if you want to build an excellent workstation, you can pick up a reasonably priced processor now and then splash the serious cash on a hex-core CPU if you can afford, or actually need, the extra cores at a later date. But you have to ask yourself if you really need the extra memory support or PCIe 3.0 tech.

Vital Statistics
Price $413
Manufacturer Intel
Socket LGA 2011
Production process 32nm
Clock speed 3.6GHz
Turbo 3.9GHz
Cores 4
Threads 8
Cache 10MBL3
TDP 130W

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