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Despite the price and other better value options, there will still be a portion of the community who will buy the best of the best despite what the vox populi and reviewers/early adopters recommend.

The 6950X (and its 5960X sibling, plus the rest of the i7-69xx/68xx line) are meant for the top 1%, the ultra-enthusiasts with disposable income. Those complaining about the price were never the target market. In all discussions I (and other media) have had with Intel in the past years, Intel themselves have never meant for the Extreme Edition to be aimed at the mass market, hence the high price. The mass market has affordable, performant and highly overclockable quad core i7 and i5 parts to satisfy their cravings.

While we do not have a sample at launch time, we really don’t need one to give you an evaluation on performance.

Broadwell was intended to be more of a platform evolution, including 14nm Finfet manufacturing process, better graphics,a 3% improvement in Instructions per clock (efficiency), and other minor enhancements throughout the CPU and platform. We discount graphics for the HEDT and Xeon parts involved in this article.

On the High-End DeskTop implementation which we are writing about today, Cache sizes remain the same for the 6 and 8 core parts while the new 10 core part gets an extra 5MB to 25MB to accommodate its extra cores. Improved minimum memory support to DDR-2400 across the board but Haswell-e could already support 2400 in a stable fashion with a suitable motherboard.

Then comes clock speeds. 6950X mirrors the 5960X but adds two more cores. This allows Intel to claim certain large % increases for popular productivity and content creation applications as well as modern multi-threaded games due to the additional cores.

For the new 5th gen 8 and 6 core parts, the 8 core part is 200MHz faster across the board and the 6 core is 2-300MHz Faster across the board, plus the improvements we have mentioned. These are minor improvements well within the safe limits of what Intel is able to achieve through the manufacturing of various processors that meet these specifications.

For those who already own a 4th Gen Haswell-E or even an Ivy Bridge-E and overclock would know that 200MHz is easily achieved ‘with the turn of a knob’ with little impact on stability and temperature , so such spec improvements are meaningless.

The improved parts are relevant to new buyers of the Intel HEDT platform and not to existing owners. Those should wait another two years for Skylake-E or if it is viable the FX enthusiast edition of AMD’s ‘Zen’ Core. Broadwell-E is not meant to be a sought after general upgrade path for Haswell-E owners, unless you have the entry level 5820K and need more cores, which of course is only a BIOS update away as the new processor just drops into the existing X99 motherboard.

Intel has added a few conveniences to this generation which were inevitable due to their presence on their Xeon Siblings. Per-Core overclocking, AVX Ratio Offset, VccU voltage Control and Turbo Boost Max 3.0. Per Core overclocking allows users to extract the most top end performance and efficiency from their chip, AVX Ratio offset finally helps alleviate an issue known to enthusiasts who encounter throttling when running an AVX heavy application such as Prime95 or Linpack, VccU voltage control adds the ability to voltage tweak the Ring Bus or Uncore mainly for extreme liquid nitrogen overclocking and finally Turbo Boost Max 3.0 Technology is a software solution that allows the user to ‘peg’ certain older, likely single threaded applications to a particular faster core so that the application can run and complete faster. Overcoming a limitation that a user can have either single threaded or multi-core performance rather than both.

These features have a minimal overall impact for the product and are included to appease overlocker’s/enthusiasts and because these features are part of the Xeon line anyway. Turbo max 3.0 is a desperate attempt to save face because very high clock speeds are not possible on Intel’s very-multi core parts such as the 8 and 10 compared to their quad-core parts.

Skylake-E (and what will almost definitely be a new socket and new chipset based on the server ‘Purley’ platform) will bring significant CPU and Platform enhancements and get rid of some caveats with the Haswell/Broadwell-E/EP platform. New technologies will also be in the mix such as Intel Optane/3DXrosspoint storage technology, Non-Volatile DIMMs and hopefully, free integrated Thunderbolt 3 within the system chipset.

Despite Intel’s claims, there is not much to see here and dedicate enthusiasts have long settled on the Skylake unlocked K parts with a heavy overclock. Intel is banking on the ever increasing community of content creators, meaning amateur filmmakers, YouTubers, vloggers and streamers who need the multi-core horsepower to render their work in times order of magnitude faster than a quad core part even with a heavy 30% overclock. There is no replacement for displacement. So keen and desperate is Intel that they even had to make up a new buzzword to justify this market segment, ‘mega-taskers’, an evolution of multi-taskers. Something that was the first time I have heard in 25 years of Windows computing.

Professional users such as scientists, engineers, and filmmakers typically use Single or Dual-Xeon powered workstations from a supported OEM vendor such as HP, Lenovo, Dell, and Apple; some of which can have up to 22 cores making Broadwell-E moot for such customers who have no use for overclocking or tweaking.

We have a variety of readers who read our stories. Ultra-enthusiasts have already made up their minds on whether 5th Gen Core i7 Extreme Edition passes the muster, no thanks to the specs for this launch which were stolen and leaked from some unknown source and posted on hardware rumour websites who have zero regards for the law and other publishers; and those who are casual computer users who need to read up on what the latest developments are.

Intel’s latest Extreme Edition is a minor update, typical of the company in recent years leveraging its already existing processor developments. Based on what this i7 Extreme Edition and Mainstream i5 and i7 K-Series unlocked processors are capable of when paired with a high-performance mainboard in the hand of even an amateur overclocker, very high clock speeds are possible much more easily than ever before. This is, even more, evidence that Intel plays it safe when determining the clock speeds for their processor lines in order to maximise revenue, actual chips and to upsell end users to a higher spec processor, even though its lower end parts can overclock way past what their best part is capable of.

Intel has been sticking to its now 10+-year-old 130-150W thermal limit despite introduction to the market of more powerful and efficient air and liquid cooling solutions which can support up to 200-600 Watts depending on the size of the radiator.

Intel has the manufacturing capability to make processors that will amaze and outstand even the harshest of enthusiast critics, but the firm is not willing to accept the burden to make this happen, and is too preoccupied on its bottom line and results for shareholders, as a responsible company should be.

When all an end-user has to do is literately flick a switch and their processor is now running 30% faster that is a clear sign a company is sandbagging and innovation of previous years/decades is lacking.

With Intel now the only game in town, the days when a yearly processor update brought significant new performance or functionality improvements are gone. The firm does not need to do anything drastic engineering wise, which can backfire. Intel has learnt from his previous lessons of trying to do too much too soon. Those days are gone. The days of regular price cuts for processors are long gone too.

Meanwhile, enthusiasts, bathe in the fact that Intel is asking you to pay $1500 US or $2500 AU for their best-unlocked processor and hope, pray that the next AMD FX based on the ZEN core will not be US $999. ZEN is supposed to offer Skylake like performance at what we hope is a lower price. After all, there are some people who despite desiring the best of best, do care about money especially when top end performance computing is getting more expensive year on year.

Other reviewers have got it wrong. The i7-6950X is not an expensive processor compared to other High End Intel CPUs in the firms's product stack. In the past there have been consumer processors in the four digit price range and the 6950X repeats this. Yes on its own it is expensive, especially in Australia but for reviewers to say 'there is no reason to buy this processor' is wrong, as the alternatives with 10 or more cores have caveats such as being locked processors being not suitable for overclockers, even higher price or lower turbo boost clock speeds.


Hardware parts featured in this article may have been provided for review purposes on a sample or loan basis. No vendor has paid us or provided any incentive to feature any supplied products in this article.

Dual Xeon E5 Server -, Sydney, AUS

5960X CPU, DZ87 noard - Intel Australia

Gigabyte X99 Board - Gigabyte Australia

ASUS X99 Board - ASUS Australia

Corsair DDR4 Memory - Corsair

Crucial DDR4 Memory - Crucial ANZ

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