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Closer Look at Core i7-3970X

Since the new Core i7-3970X processor is built on the exact same semiconductor die as the previous flagship LGA 2011 six-core CPU, it is fairly easy to describe the new processor in just a few short paragraphs. In fact, we are dealing with a legally overclocked Core i7-3960X, which nominal clock frequency has been increased from 3.3 GHz to 3.5 GHz, and the frequency in Turbo mode – from 3.9 GHz to 4.0 GHz. Besides the frequencies, the heat dissipation characteristics have also changed: the thermal envelope of the new Core i7-3970X is set at 150 W, while the predecessor had a TDP of only 130 W. These are the only differences between the old and the new flagship LGA 2011 processors. Just as before, the CPU is based on a 32 nm Sandy Bridge-E processor die with six computing cores, a gigantic 15 MB L3 cache and quad-channel memory controller. Besides, it also supports Hyper-Threading that enables Core i7-3970X to process up to 12 threads simultaneously.

The table below sums everything up for your convenience:

Although there are very few differences in the specifications of Core i7-3960X and Core i7-3970X, Intel could have made a few lower-level changes, but they chose not to. Just like its predecessor, the new Core i7-3970X uses C2 processor stepping with eight computing cores, two of which are disabled. You can clearly see that from the diagnostic utilities reports:

I would like to remind you that the distinguishing feature of the C2 processor stepping is the operational CT-d technology, which was originally disabled in the first LGA 2011 processors because of some implementation errors. This is exactly why they refreshed the core design a little later. So far there are no other core steppings for Sandy Bridge-E processors, so we can’t really expect any surprises from the Core i7-3970X.

Core i7-3970X Extreme Edition semiconductor die: eight-core Sandy Bridge-E with two disabled cores and inactive part of the L3 cache.

Even the increase in the typical heat dissipation is not a surprise at all. Intel has already played this card in their symmetrical Xeon E5 family, so they chose the time-tested route for the enhancement of their desktop processor line-up. In the server CPU family Intel increased only the TDP of the top eight-core Xeon E5-2687W processor. However, they believe that the desktop Core i7 do not (yet?) deserve to have eight cores. So, in our case it was solely because of the increases clock frequency.

The increase in the maximum TDP limits hardly changes anything for the flagship desktop LGA 2011 systems. The mainboards voltage regulator circuitries and LGA 2011 cooling systems have been designed for overclocking purposes right from the start. Therefore, Core i7-3970X is fully compatible even with the first-generation components, with only one exception, which is … Intel’s own RTS2011AC air-cooler, which was offered originally with LGA 2011 processors. In other words, the new Intel processor should have no compatibility issues of any kind.

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