Today marks the launch date for Intel’s Sandy Bridge-E line of processors, a new family of high-end Core i7 products based on the LGA 2011 platform. This new socket is poised to replace the existing LGA 1366 specification used by the more powerful Nehalem and Westmere parts from the past couple years, specifically Bloomfield and Gulftown, the Core i7-9xx+ line of CPUs. That’s not to be confused with the LGA 1156 socket that was also used by some Nehalem Core i7s (Lynnfield), nor its successor, the LGA 1155 socket used for existing Sandy Bridge processors from the Core i7-2x00 series. LGA 1155 will stick around for at least another year to support the upcoming 22 nm Ivy Bridge processors, which should become available in early 2012.
Indeed, this is all becoming a bit confusing with now three different families of Core i7 processors to keep track of. Luckily, the model names are at least sufficiently dissimilar to help us keep them straight -- the brand new 6-core Sandy Bridge-E CPUs are still considered 2nd-Generation Core processors, but they’ve graduated to the i7-3xx0 designation. What we’re looking at today is the crème de la crème (for now) of the Sandy Bridge architecture, the Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition processor. Here’s a comparison table to show you how it stacks up to other chips that will also be shipping soon, as well as the existing Sandy Bridge parts and others that you might be more familiar with:
|Intel's Core i7 CPU line-up|
|Available as of the release of Sandy Bridge-E|
|CPU||Process||Code-name||Clock Speed||Max Turbo||Cores / Threads||L3 Cache||Memory||Max TDP||Unlocked?||Graphics?||Price|
|i7-3960X||32-nm||Sandy Bridge-E||3.3GHz||3.9GHz||6/12||15MB||4-channel DDR3-1600||130W||Yes||No||$1050|
|i7-3930K||32-nm||Sandy Bridge-E||3.2GHz||3.8GHz||6/12||12MB||4-channel DDR3-1600||130W||Yes||No||$600|
|i7-3820||32-nm||Sandy Bridge-E||3.6GHz||3.9GHz||4/8||10MB||4-channel DDR3-1600||130W||Partially||No||TBD (Q1 2012)|
|i7-2700K||32-nm||Sandy Bridge||3.5GHz||3.9GHz||4/8||8MB||2-channel DDR3-1333||95W||Yes||Yes||$370|
|i7-2600K||32-nm||Sandy Bridge||3.4GHz||3.8GHz||4/8||8MB||2-channel DDR3-1333||95W||Yes||Yes||$320|
|i7-2600||32-nm||Sandy Bridge||3.4GHz||3.8GHz||4/8||8MB||2-channel DDR3-1333||95W||No||Yes||$300|
|i7-2600S||32-nm||Sandy Bridge||2.8GHz||3.8GHz||4/8||8MB||2-channel DDR3-1333||65W||No||Yes||$310|
|All prices cited from Newegg as of 11/14/11|
As you can see, the new Core i7-3960X carries a similar price tag (slightly inflated over Intel’s citation of $990 per 1,000 units) and TDP rating as the i7-990X 6-core Gulftown CPU it is replacing, but brings more aggressive Turbo boosting, a higher cache, and of course the support for quad-channel memory. There will also be a much more attractively-priced 6-core Sandy Bridge-E chip, the i7-3930K, with nearly as much L3 cache and an unlocked multiplier. On the next page, you’ll read more about the features of Sandy Bridge-E processors and what the numbers in this chart actually mean.