As usual, we use the Bapco SYSmark suite to estimate performance in everyday computing tasks. It emulates a user working in popular office and digital content creation and processing applications. The test produces a single score indicative of the computer’s average performance across different applications. SYSmark has been updated recently, so we use the latest version, SYSmark 2014, for our tests.
The Haswell-E processors have higher SYSmark 2014 scores than their Ivy Bridge-E predecessors largely due to improvements in their microarchitecture. It is less important that the Core i7-5960X has more x86 cores. As you can see, the quad-core Devil’s Canyon is ahead of the new 8-core flagship. It is clear that popular applications which are used in this benchmark prefer a higher clock rate to the number of execution cores. Indeed, the majority of everyday programs cannot run effectively on multicore CPUs.
Overclocking may help with the Core i7-5960X because it accelerates better than the rest of Intel’s flagship CPUs. When overclocked to 4.2 GHz, the 8-core Haswell-E beats the Core i7-4960X and Core i7-4790K (with six and four cores, respectively) which work at 4.5 GHz.
The 6-core Haswell-E models look good, too. Even the junior Core i7-5820K outperforms the ex-flagship i7-4960X, both at their default settings and in overclocked mode. The $400 6-core processor for the LGA2011-v3 platform seems to be a most attractive deal.
Now let’s take a closer look at the performance scores SYSmark 2014 generates in different usage scenarios. The Office Productivity scenario emulates typical office tasks, such as text editing, spreadsheets, email and web-surfing. This scenario uses the following applications: Adobe Acrobat XI Pro, Google Chrome 32, Microsoft Excel 2013, Microsoft OneNote 2013, Microsoft Outlook 2013, Microsoft PowerPoint 2013, Microsoft Word 2013, and WinZip Pro 17.5.
The Media Creation scenario emulates the creation of a video clip out of prepared materials (digital images and videos) using Adobe Photoshop CS6 Extended, Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 и Trimble SketchUp Pro 2013.
The Data/Financial Analysis scenario is devoted to statistical and market analysis. It processes a lot of numerical data in two applications: Microsoft Excel 2013 and WinZip Pro 17.5.
The individual scenarios highlight the benefits and downsides of the multicore CPU design. Typical office applications don’t call for processors like the Core i7-5960X. Such CPUs have a relatively low clock rate, so if the application cannot generate a heavy multi-threaded load, they turn out to be slower than simpler and cheaper alternatives which have fewer x86 cores but higher clock rates. Even overclocking doesn’t help: the Core i7-4790K for LGA1150 platforms delivers higher performance anyway.
Media content authoring and processing is quite a different story. The Haswell microarchitecture and the sheer number of x86 cores are both highly important for this kind of job. As a result, the Haswell-E models turn out to be much faster than their Ivy Bridge-E predecessors as well as the senior Devil’s Canyon which, by the way, is ahead of the Core i7-4960X thanks to having a more progressive microarchitecture.
Statistical analysis is a computing task that can be easily performed in parallel on multiple CPU cores. And the new 8-core i7-5960X has more than enough raw power to cope with that. The 6-core Haswell-E models are not that impressive, though. Working at lower clock rates, the Core i7-5930K falls behind the Core i7-4960X whereas the Core i7-5820K is inferior to the Core i7-4930K. On the other hand, the new CPUs are still better in terms of the price/performance ratio.