For users who demand unprecedented performance and are looking to build a high-end desktop that will last them a few years, Intel‘s latest Haswell-E is a good foundation. This new X99 series features CPUs with up to 8 cores and takes advantage of the fast DDR4 RAM.
With the Haswell-E, Intel really is stepping on the gas: The ‘E’ stands for ‘Extreme’, and the existing Haswell platform was developed further to meet this direction. Haswell-E is totally geared towards high computing speed, as evidenced by its peak score in the CPU performance category and its top rank in the CHIP high score list. The main characteristic of the new platform is that it offers more of everything: Up to eight cores, a cache memory of up to 20MB (level 3) and up to 40 PCI Express lanes.
Let’s consider the features one by one: In addition to the new processors [there are three models so far: the Core i7-5960X (eight cores), the Core i7-5930K (six cores) and Core i7-5820K (six cores)], the Haswell-E series also features the corresponding X99 chipset. The two components are connected via DMI (Direct Media Interface) 2.0; data flows through this interface at the rate of 2GB per second.
There is also a new version for the CPUs: Those who want to switch over to the extreme Haswell need a new motherboard with the LGA2011-3 socket. Even though there is only one successor to the previous LGA2011 Haswell-socket, and even though Intel has specified the same PIN assignment for both sockets, the two are not interchangeable. The reason: The voltage transformers have now been integrated into the Haswell-E CPUs (fully-integrated voltage regulator), which means that they are no longer attached to the motherboards. What’s odd is that it occurred to the ASUS motherboard specialists that the new Haswell-E CPUs have 2,084 PINs, instead of just the 2,011 PINS that have been documented. Although the LGA2011-3 socket fits into the system from a mechanical point of view, it does not take this particular fact into consideration.
Consequently, ASUS produced a version of its own, namely, the OC-socket. It incorporates the new PINs and provides overclockers with more options (such as the option of increasing the core voltage of the CPU or jacking up the storage cycle). On the subject of overclocking: As indicated by the name affixes ‘K’ and ‘X’ that are present in the CPU names, the multiplicators in the Haswell-E CPUs are not limited out of the box.
Eight cores on the desktop
The top-model, i.e. the Core i7-5960X, is the first CPU to feature eight CPU cores in a single desktop processor. Those who want more cores will have to go for server-CPUs, which now come with up to 18 cores (Haswell-EP). Furthermore, each of the eight cores features a hyper-threading function. This means that 16 threads can run in parallel. However, only special software can make full use of this feature.
The latest programmes are content with two cores, and quad-core processors are good enough for games. However, Intel has cut back in terms of the clock frequency: The top model officially features a clock frequency of 3.0GHz. In turbo mode (with just one or two active cores), the Haswell-E reaches a clock frequency of 3.5GHz. If additional cores are activated, it decreases to the level of 3.3GHz.
Luscious 128GB DDR4 RAM
The actual highlight is somewhat overshadowed by the new record that has been set in terms of the cores: Haswell-E is the first platform to support the fast DDR4 RAM, so it also features a new memory interface.
There are four storage channels, and two RAM modules can be attached to each one of these. The RAM modules are actuated with a maximum of 1,066MHz. This is where the name ‘DDR4-2,133’ comes from. The new 16GB modules, which will hopefully become available soon, can be used to upgrade a Haswell-E system to a 128GB RAM. Anyway, the 8GB modules that are already available can provide a Haswell-E system with a 64GB RAM. A DDR4-RAM enjoys an impressive speed-related bonus, primarily because of the higher clock frequencies. At the same time, it also features the advantageous ability to make use of lower voltages.
However, Intel has held back a few interesting features. For example, Haswell-E can only handle unbuffered memory modules without ECC (error checking and correction). RAM error protection facilities and registered DIMMs are withheld from Xeon CPUs. Those who want to fall back on the predecessor on account of the high prices of DDR4 memories are out of luck: Haswell-E only works with DDR4-RAM modules. Haswell-E also scores big in terms of the rest of the equipment: There are 40 PCI Express lanes, which are compatible with the 3.0 standard. They can be allocated in a flexible manner, depending on the motherboard. Consequently, you could build a desktop PC that has five graphics cards (5 x 8-fold). From a gamer’s point of view, this could be more valuable than a system featuring eight CPU cores.
Even when it comes to SSDs and HDDs, users can be equipped with plenty of space, considering the fact that there are ten SATA 3.0 ports. Previous Intel chip-sets could only offer a maximum of six such interfaces. A minor drawback: A RAID operation cannot be carried out on all ten SATA ports, since the interior accommodates two controllers, which activate six or four SSDs. However, slots for the new M.2 SSDs are now feasible.
These are connected directly to the CPU via PCI Express. Haswell-E also offers a good 14 USB ports. However, the xHCI controller (which is responsible for USB 3.0) only provides a maximum of six USB 3.0 ports. The other eight are USB 2.0 ports. Finally, the various new components take a long time to boot up, and only after the boot-up process has been completed can their performance be enjoyed.