Review: Latest Intel Core i7 Gives New Meaning To 'Extreme'


Intel DX79SI



At the Intel Developer Forum, 2011 in San Francisco last September, the chip maker unveiled the DX79SI, its most enthusiast-friendly motherboard to date. And with Monday's release of the Intel Core i7 3960X, there's now a processor and liquid cooling system to match.

The six-core 3960X is built around the LGA 2011 (a.k.a. Socket R), a new processor socket that's meant to replace the venerable LGA 1366 (Socket B). With 645 more pins, Socket R allows processors to take on memory management and other northbridge duties, and supports four channels of DDR3 memory at speeds up to 1600 MHz and a supported transfer bandwidth of 43GBps, an increase of about 66 percent from the prior generation. In its eight slots, the DX79SI motherboard's maximum RAM is 64 GB.

This busy new Socket R also facilitates 40x PCIe, as well as control of DMI and other functions, and facilitates Intel's QPI (QuickPath Interconnect), which is responsible for CPU-to-CPU and CPU-to-chipset traffic. The 3960X runs with the X79 Express Chipset (which replaces the DX58) and supports 10 SATA channels, PCIe 2.0 graphics processing and PCIe 3.0 for storage.

The 3960X turned in outstanding Geekbench scores, slightly higher than those of its predecessor, the Core i7 980X. With the processor at its default clock rate of 3.30 GHz, 32-bit Windows 7 Pro configured for maximum performance and all Windows notifications disabled, Geekbench returned a high score from the 3960X of 14,669, about 9 percent faster than the 980X's maximum score of 13,385. During heavy processor load, power consumption of both systems hovered mostly at around 120 watts.

Intel also sent its latest thermal solution, the RTS2011LC, which works with LGA-2011 boards as well as LGA-1155, LAG-1156 and LGA-1366. It's simple to put together and worked without a hitch. Testers especially liked the design of the Intel DX79SI motherboard, which does not require access to the underside to install or replace the processor cooling unit. The motherboard also has a "boot-to-BIOS" switch on the rear panel that glows red when depressed to indicate that the system will automatically enter the BIOS on boot. No more waiting to press the F1 key, or was it F10...DEL?

As for ports, the DX79SI includes six SATA ports, two of which support the 6Gbps transfer rate, 10 USB, of which four are USB 3.0, 10-channel audio, three PCIe x16 slots and dual Gbit Ethernet. All overclocking is unlocked, with maximum memory speed support of 2400MHz. As is typical of Intel parts, all slots, ports and connectors on the DX79SI are clearly marked and documented on the board itself and LEDs indicate POST errors.

For resellers targeting the PC gamer or enthusiast market, Intel's latest Core i7 3960X six-core processor and DX79SI motherboard is a killer combination, is by far the fastest desktop product we've tested, and is recommended by the CRN Test Center.