Throughout the entire test session we had a hard time getting rid of the feeling that we are getting acquainted not with a new enthusiast platform, but with a new server and workstation solution. The server roots of the LGA 2011 platform show themselves way too obviously. The server origin is noticeable in the design of the semiconductor die with eight computational cores, in the processor characteristics including enormous l3 cache, in the support of quad-channel but relatively slow memory controller.
The results of the performance tests can also be interpreted accordingly. LGA 2011 processors have more computational cores than their LGA 1155 counterparts, but they work at lower clock speeds. Therefore the ideal application for the Sandy Bridge-E based newcomers will be multi-threaded tasks, such as digital content creation and processing, for example. In other words, these are the tasks typical of high-performance workstations in the first place.
As for the role of a general-purpose platform, LGA 2011 doesn’t fit in too seamlessly. Mainboards and processors that are part of the platform are very expensive, but in reality they don’t deliver too many advantages. Moreover, the flagship platform doesn’t really do better than LGA 1155 in a number of usage models that could be of interest to regular users, such as gaming, for example. Also the new platform doesn’t support Quick Sync technology. Moreover, its power consumption is through the roof and overclocking poses additional challenges and requires super-efficient cooling.
In other words, there are not so many real advantages that could make the new LGA 2011 platform a dream come true for advanced users. In fact, there can be only two significant arguments in favor of this platform. They are unprecedented multi-threaded performance and support of the fastest implementation of multi-GPU configurations. However, these arguments will be convincing enough only for a small number of enthusiasts, while the majority of users will still prefer LGA 1155 processors and mainboards. Especially since Core i7 family in LGA 1155 form-factor has recently been refreshed again and its performance rose to a higher level.
However, it will be psychologically difficult for the owners of LGA 1366 based systems to migrate to LGA 1155, and this is when LGA 2011 may come in very handy. The introduction of progressive Sandy Bridge microarchitecture in six-core processors turned out very fruitful: Core i7-3960X and Core i7-3930K outperform Core i7-990X by about 10% on average, but in some cases this advantage reaches as far as 30%. The new platform has become more interesting due to a fourth memory channel, PCI Express 3.0 controller integrated into the processor and simpler single-chip core logic set.
But even if you are determined to upgrade to LGA 2011, you should keep in mind the downsides of this decision, which result primarily from the rushed platform launch. By releasing desktop Sandy Bridge-E processors ahead of their server modifications Intel accepted a number of compromises. They used an old chipset under the new “X79 Express” name as an LGA 2011 core logic set, which not only has limited functionality in terms of interfaces support, but differs significantly and in a negative way from what has been initially promised. Today’s Core i7 from the new 3000-series are based on Revision C core with significant power consumption and not very high overclocking potential. Intel is planning to eliminate these issues, but only after the launch, so we are in for some processor line-up refresh and maybe even a chipset upgrade. We'll see.