What’s new with the Intel Sandy Bridge-E processor?

If you are looking for the most powerful processor in the world, your search is over because the Intel Sandy Bridge-E (Extreme) has arrived. The battle for supremacy is on the rise for two giants, Intel fans have seen a small loss with the launch of AMD’s Octa-Core Bulldozer processor. Intel has a big comeback with the new Sandy Bridge-E, although it doesn’t have an equal or greater core number, but it promises extreme performance for power user enthusiasts.

However, with a similar name applied to the previous Sandy Bridge processor, surprisingly their physical appearance is totally different, in a way that they do not share the same socket. The introduction of the Sandy Bridge processor earlier this year was aimed at the general user and consumers are happy about it. It gave us fast enough performance for a more affordable price for anyone.

New plug platform

The Sandy Bridge-E processor comes on a new LGA-2011 socket platform; They use a completely different socket from the previous Sandy Bridge LGA-1155. This means there is no way you can use this new processor if you have an older socket 1155 motherboard.

Considering the same architecture design, the main reason Intel created the new socket is that they need to provide more pins for more graphics and memory lines. These take up some space within the processor itself.

More cores and L3 cache

The SB-E is available in 6-core configurations as an introduction and we look forward to the possibility of quad and Octa Core next year. The same matrix used for the future SB-EP processor for the next generation of Xeon, which is dedicated to servers.

As you can see from the shot figure, there are actually eight cores, with two cores disabled to produce the SB-E processor. The 32nm array design is huge, making it the largest processor available for desktop PCs with 2.27 billion transistors compared to AMD’s eight-core bulldozer with 1.2 billion.

A larger L3 cache at 15MB is available on the Core i7 3960X, which sits noticeably in the center of the die. The L1 and L2 cache sizes remain the same. This main performance is also identical to the previous Sandy Bridge.

If you are thinking of buying this processor, you are limited with just two options, the Core i7 3960X with a base clock speed of 3.3GHz and the Core i7 3930K with 3.2GHz. They both have 6 unlocked cores that differ only in L3 cache sizes. The 3960X has 15MB while the 3930K has 12MB, a slight decrease in its size but a big difference in its price, you have to pay an extra $ 400 for 3MB and 1GHz.

Four channel memory

Another distinctive difference here is the memory channel. This new processor requires a four channel memory, you have to buy four memory cards for this. The good news is that more vendors are selling 4-DIMM assemblies exclusively for SB-E. It is possible to use less memory, such as dual channel configuration, but you should be aware that this will reduce your performance at maximum bandwidth. This offers more speed up to DDR3 1600MHz, while its dual channel predecessor is capable of only 1333MHz.

More graphic lines and bandwidth

The main advantage of the Sandy Bridge-E is the support for multiple graphics card configurations, it provides up to 40 lanes in contrast to only 32 that can be found in the older socket 1155. The older Sandy Bridge limits it to 16X or a dual 8X / 8X, with the new SB-E this leaves you more options like a double 16X / 16X single 8X, single 16X triple 8X / 8X / 8X, single 16X dual 8X / 8X dual 4X / 4X.

Intel not only improves the number of graphics lines, but also its bandwidth. However, this processor is compatible with the newer PCIe 3.0 GPUs; not available on the market yet, this is reserved for the next future standard that gives you double bandwidth.

Total overclocking potential

The Sandy Bridge-E is made for overclockers, hence the name Extreme. On the older Sandy Bridge processor, you can only overclock with the K-series versions (unlocked) and the base clock is set at 100MHz. With this new SB-E processor you can take it further with more options available from 100MHz, 125MHz, 166MH and 250MHz. If you combine this frequency with the desired multiplication, you can easily get the final results of stable speed. Of course, you may want to increase the voltage a bit.

No integrated graphics

When the first Sandy Bridge processor was introduced, one of its best assets was the integrated graphics and QuickSync. If that’s what you’re looking for and you can’t find it here, it was unfortunately removed. As you may recall, QuickSync is very useful in any of your transcoding applications, such as for fast video conversions. This is a small loss for anyone who needs it.

No CPU cooler

Another drawback is that a CPU cooler is not included in any of these SB-E processors. The high-end Extreme edition is made for overclocking, maybe Intel is thinking that you should choose your own cooler to properly match your desired OC frequency. Intel made a specific thermal solution liquid for this processor, like the RTS2011LC, which will cost you another $ 80. For the $ 1,000 asking price on the Core i7 3960X, this definitely deserves a CPU cooler package.


The second-gen Core i7 Sandy Bridge-E processor definitely rules as the fastest processor to date, as various sites are doing their own benchmark to prove it. The revision of the previous Sandy Bridge creates more improvements, so you ended up on a new socket platform. This creates something tedious for some users, but so it is to make way for new technology.

A high-end processor made for gamers and power user enthusiasts, hence the name Extreme, if you are one of them, it is definitely for you. There are two current versions available to choose from, the Core i7 3960X and the 3930X. Value-wise, the 3930K is a smart choice, with a slight 3MB L3 and 1GHz difference in base clock speed, save $ 400. If the price doesn’t hurt and you’re craving a bad processor, get the Core i7. 3960X.

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