The New Flagship Platform for SLI: Intel's Sandy Bridge E and X79
November 14, 2011
By James Wang
There are two kinds of people who build PCs. The first kind builds PCs to play their favorite games. Building the best Battlefield 3 PC for your money is one of the hottest topics right now and we've devoted a detailed guide to it. The second kind of people is not really interested in reaching a happy medium between value and performance. Instead, their sole passion is building the fastest PC possible. These are the serious hardware enthusiasts, overclockers, and record setters. Since maximum performance is their goal, they invariably choose SLI as part of their setup. For these enthusiasts, Intel's new flagship platform is very exciting.
SLI has been very well served by Intel's existing high-end CPUs. A Nehalem based Core i7 is more than powerful enough for high-end setups such as two GeForce GTX 580s in SLI. But when three GeForce GTX 580s are put to work, the sheer graphical throughput of the GPUs begin to tax even the fastest CPU. In these cases, for the GPU to truly fly, a faster CPU is needed. Intel's new Sandy Bridge E processors do just that.
Intel's new flagship CPU is the Core i7 3960X. With six cores running at 3.3 GHz and 15MB of L3 cache, it handsomely beats its predecessor, especially in heavily threaded applications.
Compared to the Core i7 965 on X58, we found 3-way SLI performance improves almost by 30% in Mafia II, over 20% in Bulletstorm, and over 10% in Metro 2033.
In 3D Mark Vantage using the Performance Preset, 3-way GeForce GTX 580 SLI on the X79 platform scored 42,304 3DMarks, 30% higher than the fastest X58 platform.
X79 also brings full support for 4-way SLI. This allows you to connect four GeForce GTX 580s together for stupendous performance.
All major vendors will be shipping X79 based motherboards in the coming weeks including ASRock, ASUS, EVGA, Foxconn, Gigabyte, Intel, and MSI. Likewise, every boutique system builder is also refreshing their high-end offerings with X79 based systems. If you're looking to acquire a PC with equal parts class and power, the new SLI powered X79 systems from the likes of Falcon Northwest are going to be an absolute delight.
In the coming weeks we will interview the very best boutique vendors to give you an inside look at their new X79 based offerings and the thought that goes into building these highly refined machines. Stay tuned for more details.