Intel took the wraps off its most powerful consumer CPU at the PAX video-game conference in Seattle, WA, today. Intel's Core i7 High-end Desktop Processor Family, code-named Haswell-E, consists of three unlocked processors that support hyperthreading, DDR4 memory, and Intel's all-new X99 chipset.
The top-of-the-line Core i7-5960X boasts eight cores (16 processor threads), 20MB of cache, and 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes. This $999 processor runs at a base clock frequency of 3.0GHz and torques up to 3.5GHz in turbo mode.
The Core i7-5930K provides six physical cores (12 processor threads), 15MB of cache, and 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes. Its base clock frequency is 3.5GHz (up to 3.7GHz in turbo mode) and costs $583. The Core i7-5820K is also a six-core (12 processor threads) CPU with 15MB of cache, but it supports only 28 PCIe 3.0 lanes. It runs at a base clock of 3.3GHz and a turbo frequency of 3.6GHz. Intel is pricing this chip at $389.
Since all three processors are unlocked, system builders and end users can tweak the PC's BIOS to run the CPUs at even higher clock speeds.
When Intel launched the original Haswell family of processors in June 2013, its messaging was all about power consumption, integrated graphics, and cooling. In other words, Intel was most interested in pursuing the laptop, hybrid, and tablet markets. Sure, the fourth-generation mobile and desktop Core processors were somewhat faster than the third-generation Core processors that preceded them (with a notable exception that I'll explain in a moment), but that chip family's biggest improvements were reduced power consumption (to extend battery life), better graphics (to reduce the need for outboard GPUs and to extend battery life), and lower thermal design power or TDP (to reduce cooling requirements and extend battery life). TDP specifies how much electrical power a computer must be able to dissipate in a worst-case scenario: while the CPU is operating at its maximum speed for a sustained period.
Did I mention Intel's focus on battery life?
Power users had to wait (and wait) for Ivy Bridge-E parts to get their next fix. Those unlocked processors, based on Intel's third-generation Core architecture, hit the market in September 2013. The best of that family of three maxed out at six cores (with hyperthreading to support 12 processor threads).
Like Ivy Bridge-E, Haswell-E CPUs don't waste any die space on integrated graphics. Anyone who buys one of these parts, or a complete desktop PC built around one, will rely on one or more discrete video cards for graphics.
And that's where Haswell-E's support for up to 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes comes into play: It enables a motherboard to support up to four discrete video cards (Ivy Bridge-E boasted the same feature). As you've probably guessed, anyone looking to upgrade from Ivy Bridge-E to Haswell-E will also need to buy a new motherboard and memory.
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