Regardless of whether you like the new Haswell-E series or not, their announcement is a milestone for Intel’s enthusiast-targeted products. They introduce a number of important innovations including the first-ever desktop 8-core CPU, the up-to-date Haswell microarchitecture, the new DDR4 SDRAM, and the feature-rich X99 chipset. CPU developers have been far from innovative in terms of desktop products, so any of these improvements would deserve our interest. But Intel has packed them all into a single release, so the LGA2011-v3 platform makes a strong first impression.
But let’s try to be objective. The X99 chipset is indeed a big step forward in comparison with the downright outdated X79 but doesn’t differ much from the mainstream Z97. It doesn’t offer any fundamentally new features but has two downsides: a low-bandwidth chipset-CPU bus and lack of PCIe 3.0 support. Thus, the X99 seems to be a good upgrade but nothing more.
DDR4 SDRAM can hardly provoke our enthusiasm, too. Its benefits can only be felt with server applications where low power consumption and large amounts of system memory are indeed important. For high-performance desktop PCs, DDR4 doesn’t really offer much. Its clock rate isn’t higher compared to DDR3 while its high latencies make it even worse in terms of real-life performance. The biggest downside is that the Haswell-E is compatible with no other memory type and the high price of DDR4 SDRAM makes the whole LGA2011-v3 platform more expensive.
As for the Haswell-E series itself, we should talk about the 8-core i7-5960X Extreme Edition separately from its 6-core cousins i7-5820K and i7-5930K. The new 6-core models are an improvement over their Ivy Bridge-E predecessors. The $600 Core i7-5930K offers the same speed as the Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition whereas the $400 Core i7-5820K is comparable to the Core i7-4930K. Their advantage is only due to the Haswell microarchitecture because the 6-core Haswell-E have somewhat lower clock rates compared to the Ivy Bridge-E.
The Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition is quite a different story. Although working at a rather low clock rate, it is as good as its predecessor Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition even in applications which are not optimized for multithreading. And it becomes unrivalled in heavy applications capable of utilizing multiple CPU cores. The Core i7-5960X is the perfect choice for enthusiasts who are into creative work with audio, photo, video, heavy computations and 3D modeling.
The 8-core Haswell-E may not be the best choice for a gaming platform, though. We guess that Devil’s Canyon CPUs on the LGA1150 platform are more suitable for gaming even if you have a multi-GPU configuration (despite the fact that such a configuration cannot use the full bandwidth of the PCI Express bus on the LGA1150 platform).
The new Haswell-E series aren’t impressive in terms of overclocking. They are definitely worse than their predecessors in this respect, and the problem is about their microarchitecture rather than thermal interface or something. Ivy Bridge-E CPUs could be typically overclocked to 4.5 GHz and higher whereas the top frequency for the Haswell-E seems to be 4.2 or 4.2 GHz.
So, summing everything up, we should confess that the LGA2011-v3 platform isn’t something extraordinary despite the numerous innovations. Yes, it is better than anything Intel has produced so far in some aspects but it is not a breakthrough. It is just another step in the steady unhurried progress that has been going on with desktop PCs in the past few years. Upgrading to the Haswell-E may only be worthwhile if you want maximum computing performance, but the majority of desktop PC users don't really need it. But if your case is exceptional, you should know that the Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition is undoubtedly the fastest desktop CPU today while the Core i7-5820K is the most optimal choice among the 6-core products. That’s our recommendations for all who are planning to transition to the LGA2011-v3 platform in the near future.