Core i7 6950X / 6900K / 6850K & 6800K Processor Review

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Meet Broadwell-E

Meet Broadwell-E

Let's start with the technology hidden behind that heatspreader, the Broadwell-E architecture. You'll see a few new features added and even some others stripped away. Does Broadwell ring a bell for you? If you remember it, correct - that would be the Core i7-5775C, very few have been put into the market channel as Intel really quickly moved to Skylake in a slope market. But let's step back a few generations and start at Sandy Bridge, which was fabbed at 32 nm. Sandy Bridge really was a completely new architecture with core elements still being used today, its successor Ivy Bridge did share a lot of common denominators. When we look at Sandy versus Ivy Bridge, the foremost complicating factor was moving the architecture towards a smaller production node; Ivy Bridge is a 22 nm processor series. Haswell then, is a 22 nm product yet based on a FinFET process that uses a non-planar transistor that sits around the gate on three sides. Built using a 22 nm process, Haswell is the "tick" in Intel's "tick-tock" development cycle, so Ivy Bridge was just a process size shrink from Sandy Bridge's 32 nm to 22 nm. Now we land at Broadwell which is a Tick in the release schedule, which was followed by a Tock, Skylake. For Broadwell (the desktop non E models) several things changed, an increasingly powerful graphics engine and that fabrication shrink at the 14 nm node. This is where we are today with Broadwell-E. These 5th generation processors there will of course be a distinction per processor segment (i3/i5/i7). Simply put, you take all the good ingredients from Haswell-E and place it on a smaller die. Compared to the regular mainstream Sandy Bridge / Ivy Bridge / Haswell processors, add more cores, a tweak or two and add a pinch of quad-channel memory. Hip and trendy is of course the move to that oh-so popular 14 nm fabrication node. Have a peek below, that would be the Broadwell-E die.



The Broadwell-E Core i7 6950X die with its 10 cores and huge 25 MB L3 cache. 

In this wave of Broadwell-E processors Intel is going to release four E class SKUs, namely the the i7-6950X, i7-6900K, i7-6850K and i7- 6800K. Each will have different clock frequencies and a slightly changed L3 cache. The Core i7-6850K and i7- 6800K are 6-core processors, the flagship product is the 6950X which is a 10-core processor. So all processors will have up-to ten cores, turbo boost 3.0, Hyper-Threading, up-to 25 MB of L3 smart cache, Four channels of DDR4 2,400, AVX2, AES SSE 4.1 and 4.2 instruction sets etc. Below, an updated overview of the main specs per processor.

ProcessorCores/ThreadsClock / BoostL3-cacheSocket
Intel Core i7-6950X 10/20 3.0 GHz / 3.5 GHz 25 MB LGA2011-v3
Intel Core i7-6900K 8/16 3.2 GHz / 3.7 GHz 20 MB LGA2011-v3
Intel Core i7-6850K 6/12 3.6 GHz / 3.8 GHz 15 MB LGA2011-v3
Intel Core i7-6800K 6/12 3.4 GHz / 3.6 GHz 15 MB LGA2011-v3

Historically, from a naming point of view, Intel chooses three different suffixes for the processors; we have an X model, a K model and, although not released, typically a "regular" model.

  • The X suffix is for Intel's Extreme Edition processors, this means the top-of-the-line unlocked processors.
  • The K suffix denotes a slightly lower end processor yet with its multiplier unlocked.
  • And the normal editions are pretty much mainstream without any enthusiast grade overclock options, meaning a locked multiplier.

The flagship CPU is the Core i7-6950X packed with 10 cores and 20 threads and thus features a core clock of 3.0 GHz base and 3.5 GHz Turbo boost with 20 MB of L3 cache. This Extreme Edition CPU costs a whopping $1,569 and boasts a 140W TDP. The other models have different base and Turbo clocks and, as you can imagine, the Intel Core i7-6850K for gaming should be the fastest kid on the block with its 3.6 GHz base-frequency and a 3.87 Ghz Turbo on its six active cores. We'll test that all out in the benchmarks of course.

Cache wise the L1 and L2 caches are 100% similar to previous generations:

  • 32 KB data and a 32 KB instruction L1 cache per physical core.
  • 256 KB L2 cache per core.
  • The six core processors have 15 MB of L3 cache, meaning 2.5 MB per core
  • The eight core processors have 20 MB of L3 cache, meaning 2.5 MB per core
  • The ten core processors have 25 MB of L3 cache, meaning 2.5 MB per core


Intel has adapted pricing for the two "cheaper" SKUs, the 10-core 6950X flagship SKU however turbo-boosts (and sorry for the pun here) itself upwards towards a staggering 1,569 USD. The 6900K costs 999 USD and the 6850K and 6800K are $587 and $412 USD per 1,000 SKU tray respectively, so yes, prices have risen. All processors will have a 140W TDP.  And now the cool money shot:  


Admittedly - that is a pretty cool looking screenshot, right? :) Sexy even?

If you are wondering what the big difference is (aside from the number of cores and L2 cache) in-between SKUs (stock keeping unit), the answer is clock frequency differences. However, make note that the top three SKUs offer 40 Gen 3.0 PCI Express lanes whereas the 6800K has support for just 28 PCI Express lanes. So if you are planning for multi-GPU solutions and thus graphics cards, that might make a difference. Then again, 28 PCIe Generation 3.0 links still offer way more bandwidth than you probably ever need. In that scenario it means you'd have one x16 Gen 3.0 slot and then your second card at x8 Gen3. It's still a truckload of bandwidth that will not really effect performance to be honest.

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