Sandy Bridge-has been proven to be a powerhouse of a processor series from the very beginning. The biggest caveat however was pricing, with the 3960 and 3930 costing 500 to 1000 EUR people simply looked the other way and sensibly bought the P67 / Z68 series motherboard with a Core i5 2500 and Core i7 2600/2700 series processor. And we can't blame them.
The Core i7 3820 could be an interesting alternative, the processors is extremely fast along the lines of the Core i7 2600 and 2700 (in baseline performance). However these processors (the K editions) can overclock much more easily.
Admittedly, the overclock based on a X43 multiplier we have been able to apply on today's tested 3820 processors did not disappoint either.
For whatever vague reason we could do apply the following method though. Proper overclocking with this CPU will need to be done on the baseclock, with a 1.25 bus multiplier, but granted .. it is the more complex way to go.
So why should you opt the Sandy-Bridge-E / X79 platform over the 'regular' Sandy bridge with P67 or Z68 you might wonder. It's a good and valid question, one that is not easy to answer really. First and foremost the infrastructure might be more appealing to you, you get 40 PCie lanes for the raw dedicated graphics card horsepower you might fire off at it. Secondly the board of course supports quad-channel memory. Though admittedly, the difference in-between dual and quad-channel in the end does make very little difference.
In the end the decision for you to opt a setup like tested today would be more relevant in terms of what you gain features and performance wise in the overall platform.
SB-E and X79, we definitely do like the extra PCIe lanes, the Turbo kicks in nicely. So for the professional user who uses heavily threaded software like content creation, that's where Sandy Bridge-E could make a difference albeit there's also where I'd recommend a six-core processor and not so much a quad-core. Add to that Quad-channel memory with near silly bandwidth and plenty of PCIe lanes and you'll have a platform that remains hard to beat though.
The Intel X79 chipset is by all means sufficient, but just that. Initially at launch we expected more, full PCIe gen 3 support, more SATA3 ports and native USB 3.0 amongst others. Manufacturers adapted and reacted to that though, the motherboard used in today's review offers everything you wish and much more. However, the minute the manufacturers have to add ICs and compensate for the chipset, the more components are used driving prices upwards -- and that will make a Sandy Bridge-E PC's more expensive.
Sandy Bridge-E however is an incredibly fast platform, and if you get it working, with a small bypass the 3820 should overclock well. It however is a missed opportunity for Intel to not unlock the processor as this segment of the market is interested in performance tweaking, X79 is for the pro-sumers, then enthusiast crowd. Why limit them ? Next to that, Ivy Bridge is getting closer to its release and a valid question obviously is whether or not you should invest in X79 and the 3820 or simply wait and see how the upcoming chipset and will perform and what it'll be priced at.
In closing, we think that an unlocked Core i7-3930K will be the most interesting product. However it is expensive at 500 EUR. The next thing in line is today's tested 3820 -- but it comes with the enthusiast limiting features that will drive the tweaking crowd away and in this segment of the market we do not understand that call, as without it .. you get the very same performance and nearly all features on a much cheaper P67/Z68 motherboard and say a Core i7 2600 or 2700.
That said, the Core i7 3820 does offer great performance at an okay price in it's default baseline configuration. As you can tell from the complicated explanation the 3820 just is a little bit difficult to position and thus recommend. Well, go with what you think is best features and price wise we say.
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