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Intel Sandy Bridge Extreme Core i7 3960X-EE Print E-mail
Written by Michael Schuette   
Nov 24, 2011 at 08:02 AM

It used to be “War is the father of all things” and even if this is not a point of view that I personally subscribe to, the same motto still applies in a modified version, specifically: “competition fosters progress”. Of course, this begs the question what the father of all things is or even how to define progress. Merriam-Webster defines progress as:

  • a (1) : a royal journey marked by pomp and pageant
  •    (2) : a state procession
  • b : a tour or circuit made by an official (as a judge)
  • c (1): an expedition, journey, or march through a region
  •    (2) : a forward or onward movement (as to an objective or to a goal) : ADVANCE
  •    (3): gradual betterment; especially : the progressive development of humankind

    Quite honestly, I didn’t know what terms M-W would return but there are a number of choices that well describe what we are going to cover today and we’ll leave it to our readers to pick the most appropriate one.

    Regardless of what definition of progress is used to describe SandyBridge Extreme, it seems fair to say that if it hadn’t been for AMD’s Bulldozer as the latest secret weapon against the Intelfidels, the latest iteration of Intel’s desktop flagship would probably not have seen the light of the day. Sandy Bridge Extreme is finally an Extreme Edition that fully deserves the EE moniker in every respect, starting with the number of lands, the transistor count, the number of memory channels, the power density and, before we forget it, the performance. To make a short story even shorter, SNBe performance dwarfs everything we have ever seen. Attributes to the speed of this CPU range from abominable to ridiculous and scary but the same applies to the cooling requirements and power consumption. Or maybe not. Time to separate the facts from myth!

    Some Tech Specs

    ProcessorCore ClockCores / ThreadsL3 CacheMax
    Intel Core i7 3960X3.3GHz6 / 1215MB3.9GHz57x130W$990
    Intel Core i7 3930K3.2GHz6 / 1212MB3.8GHz57x130W$555
    Intel Core i7 38203.6GHz4 / 810MB3.9GHz43x130WTBD
    Intel Core i7 2700K3.5GHz4 / 88MB3.9GHz57x95W$332
    Intel Core i7 2600K3.4GHz4 / 88MB3.8GHz57x95W$317
    Intel Core i7 26003.4GHz4 / 88MB3.8GHz42x95W$294
    Intel Core i5 2500K3.3GHz4 / 46MB3.7GHz57x95W$216
    Intel Core i5 25003.3GHz4 / 46MB3.7GHz41x95W$205

    The Sandy Bridge Extreme Architecture

    Below we show a dis shot labeled with the officially disclosed details and we further added a few details. In short, the entire die consists of ~ 2.27 billion transistors crammed into 435 mm2. Center piece of the die is the massive L3 cache that we assume to be 16 20 MB total with variable portions thereof disabled for the different product SKUs. The L3 weighs in at approximately 108 mm2 with a total of roughly 1.13 billion transistors (based on 6-T-SRAM cells). The L3 cache is flanked on both sides by four cores, each of which adds another 21.5 mm2 for a combined 190 mm2. Note that two of the cores are disabled to offset the consumer version from the future release of the 8 core 16 thread server edition. The queue, uncore and I/O portion of the die is at 87 mm2 roughly the size of a midsize sedan and even the memory controller serving no less than four channels throws in an addition al 66.6 mm2. Speaking of the devil, the cores, L1 and L2 caches are the same as those used in the original Sandy Bridge architecture.

    To put things into perspective, we have listed some of the most current µProcessors and their vital data. If you thought Zambezi was large, then SNBe is no less than XXL.

    CPUTransistor CountDie SizeManufacturing ProcessCores
    AMD Zambezi~2B315mm232nm8
    AMD Thuban904M346mm245nm 6
    AMD Deneb758M258mm245nm4
    AMD Regor235M117mm245nm2
    Intel Sandy Bridge E2.27B 435mm232nm6*
    Intel Gulftown1.17B240mm232nm6
    Intel Nehalem/Bloomfield731M263mm245nm 4
    Intel Sandy Bridge (i7/i5)995M216mm232nm4
    ntel Lynnfield774M 296mm245nm4
    Intel Clarkdale384M81mm232nm2

    *as shown in the die call-out Sandy Bridge Extreme has in reality 8 cores, however, two of them are disabled in the desktop version.

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