Blimey, the Sandy Bridge-E platform is a power-house and it is bound to set some new records.
I'll start off the conclusion a bit weird though; in contrast to say Z68 and a Core i7 2600K processor, I'll probably hesitate a little to really recommend Sandy Bridge-E unless you really need it. See, it will require a new, very expensive, motherboard and a new processor for which the top model is gonna cost you 950 EUR / 990 USD. The 3930K is going to cost you 500 EUR / 555 USD. You can purchase the processors seprately, and if you are looking for the Liquid Cooling solution as well you must add another 85 to 100 USD.
So that difference might be a little too much versus what you gain features and performance wise.
However, have to acknowledge that Intel's six-core processors are as fast as a lightning strike (in a very positive way of course), it's just seriously fast stuff. Here again though I do need to note down that it's nothing out of the ordinary compared to say a Core i7 980X/990X at baseline performance (not overclocked).
But ... the dynamic changes fast once you start to overclock though, as that 5 GHz, it took merely a few minutes to set up, verify and monitor. The potential there is just much better than Gulftown based processors.
Somewhat of a worry is X79, we definitely do like the extra PCIe lanes, yet we are still puzzled about PCIe Gen 3 compatibility. We know the motherboards support it, yet the processors remain an unknown, and yeah ... it does double up on bandwidth once it kicks in. Let's just hope it will get supported with the final launch.
Per core performance is really nice, the Turbo kicks in nicely. So for the professional user who uses heavily threaded software like content creation, that's where Sandy Bridge-E will make a difference. Add to that Quad-channel memory with near silly bandwidth and plenty of PCIe lanes and you'll have a platform that will be hard to beat.
The Intel X79 chipset is by all means sufficient, but just that. We expected more, PCIe gen 3, SATA3 ports and native USB 3.0 amongst others. Luckily the manufacturers will adapt and react to that, the MSI X79A-GD65 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 very expensive.
The regular 4 DIMM GD65 will cost you 279 USD whilst the eight DIMM version will cost 299 USD in retail. We expect EURO prices to be slightly lower though.
Sandy Bridge-E however seems to be a ridiculously fast platform. MSI's X79A-GD65 motherboard was working fantastic, even when we popped in the GSKILL RipjawsZ 2133MHz quad channel memory, all we did was flick a BIOS XMP switch and boom, it was working 100%. The platform as tested comes with additional controllers, a plethora of them. So you will gain USB 3.0, SATA3 options and little extras like the quality component selection, overclock tools and implementation at hand.
That said, the Sandy Bridge-E performance is impressive, but not that different to X58/Gulftown if you leave overclocking out of the equation. If you are the proud owner of a P67/Z68 and a Core i7 2600K, you really probably will not miss out on much either, unless you really need two more cores of course.
In closing, though untested we think that the Core i7-3930K will be the most interesting product in terms of price versus tweaking. Exciting times are ahead of us. Remember though, Sandy Bridge-E is looking to be merely a half way station in-between Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge. But take it from this editor, if you leave out pricing then from A to Z it was a brilliant experience testing and tweaking this platform. And that's really what high-end gear is all about.
We like to award the Core i7-3960X, G.Skill RipjawsZ 2133 MHZ DDR3 DIMMs and MSI X79A-GD65 8D with our recommend award.
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