X99 has been here a few days and we’ve been able to read up a few reviews and thought it was time to compile our impressions. If you’ve been hiding in a cave this is the low down –

5960X – $999 – 8 cores + hyperthreading – 40 pci lanes ($899 at Microcenter)
5930K – $589 – 6 cores + hyperthreading – 40 pci lanes
5820K – $389 – 6 cores + hyperthreading – 28 pci lanes ($299 at Microcenter)

This of course was heavily rumored over the last few months and is no surprise. The big change of course from ivy bridge-e is that the high end X part finally gives us something more for our money. The other big change is the 5820K having slimmed PCI lanes rather than cores. We like this differentiation. It makes a lot more sense than the 4820K/4930K/4960X product differentiation.

Haswell-E

As expected it delivers – at the base level We see real if minor IPC improvements. Overclocking is right where we expected for this point in time. 4.5GHz@1.3V on a 4960X with maybe a bit more on the hex core parts. Like the regular haswell parts, heat grows quickly over 1.3v and the power density makes cooling still a concern despite the IHS still being welded.

The die itself is a bit different in layout because the cores are no longer symmetrically placed. We’ll have to see if any crafty CPU block designs come out with offset cooling designs to match:

HSW-E Die Mapping Hi-Res_575px

The other interesting design item is the socket. Asus are using a non standard socket in their boards in order to be able to disable and override some of the internal voltage regulators on the CPU. This might mean better overclocking, but there is also a small risk of incompatibility with coolers. Read more on that here.

DDR4

Yes DDR4 is faster. No you shouldn’t care simply because very little was memory limited on X79. While memory speeds mattered on haswell because it was dual channel, quad channel DDR3 already solved any memory issues that most normal users would have. Yes you might want to wait for prices to come down as availability increases. Currently halfway decent 4x8GB sets can be had for $550. While that’s not cheap, to be honest we did expect worse prices.

More of the same

Yes you get more USB3 built in, yes you get intel lan built in, yes you get more Sata ports and built in raid support now expands to 6 Sata III connectors. Most good boards also have Sata Express and M.2 support.

Should you upgrade?

To be honest it all depends on what you have already, what you use your computer for and how much spare money you have to throw around. If you are still on a 920 D0 then I would say it’s a good time to upgrade. However if you had a high overclocking 4930K there is much less incentive. Let’s assume you have some recent rig that was well suited to the task:

Professional workstation users with multi core applications – Yes if this is your job and those extra two cores will help then you should upgrade. However you might want to look at 2p systems instead if they scale well.

Prosumer workstation type tasks e.g. photo/video editing. Yes if you have the cash. However you may want to also look at open gl/cuda acceleration of your tools also as this may have a bigger effect.

Single Monitor Single GPU gaming e.g. FPS/LAN gaming – No – the 4790K + 780TI classy/lightning is probably your best bet instead.

Lightboost/ULMB gaming – Yes – ULMB and Lightboost not only need high frame rates which require lots of GPUs, but lots of CPU power to ensure that the CPU is never throttling the game to <120fps even during more intense sections of the game High Resolution Multi Monitor Gaming - No - High resolution multi monitor gaming will require quad GPUs, but unless you're playing old games, high enough fps to cause cpu bottle necks will not be achievable even with quad GPUs. The only exception is if you're still on PCIE 2 in which case the extra bandwidth of PCIE 3 might help, but that doesn't require haswell-e to get that of course. In addition a 4790K with a quad GPU supporting motherboard (with PLX) will handle the games almost as well. If you have the money and will be keeping the rig for a long time I'd heavily recommend the 5960X over the 5930K. The 5820K however makes a compelling price argument for those that don't need 8 cores and don't need quad GPUs. It will still run 3 way SLI/CFX and as we know 4 way scaling is often poor anyway. Which motherboard should you get?

We always try to avoid being the earliest of adopters and like to let others make the bad decisions for us. It’s really too early to say which the best motherboards are yet, but if we had to pick one we would suggest that the best choice would be the Rampage V Extreme simply based on the feature set that we’ve seen and the success on X79. ROG hasn’t dropped the ball in a long time and we suspect they haven’t this time either. We really hope that EVGA won’t repeat the mistakes of X79 as we really do prefer their warranty over ROG’s unreliability in their RMA support.

Overall haswell-e is a good improvement, and the 5960X really is the best high end desktop CPU you can get today. Sadly it’s not the kind of jump in performance we had coming from nehalem/westmere to sandy bridge but Intel is still delivering good reasons to spend money and consistent small gains in performance technology. If you need to buy today I wouldn’t hesitate, if you are upgrading and have time to wait, I’d suggest giving it a bit more time! Personally I won’t be upgrading my 4930K right now. However when I need to buy a new rig, I’ll be most likely to get the valuelicious 5820K.

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