Intel just launched its new family of X99 high-end CPUs, using LGA2011-v3 socket. Those new processors are codenamed “Broadwell-E”, and the most high-end model on this platform is the Core i7-6950X, which has 10 physical cores (20 threads thanks to the Hyper-Threading technology), 3.0 GHz clock (3.5 maximum clock due to the Turbo Boost 3.0 technology) and supporting four-channel DDR4 memory. Let’s test this monster and check its performance.
Until the launch of “Broadwell-E” processors, the only models available for the X99 platform were the “Haswell-E”, manufactured under 22 nm technology, and the most high-end model was the Core i7-5960X (which we already tested). On the new line, the main differences are the 14 nm manufacturing process, some optimizations on the architecture, and the launch of a ten-core model (which is recognized by the operating system as a 20-core CPU thanks to the Hyper-Threading technology).
Like the “Haswell-E” processors, the “Broadwell-E” models use the X99 platform, which uses the LGA2011-v3 socket. They are compatible with quad-channel DDR4 memory.
The table below presents the new CPUs launched for this platform. All the models have TDP of 140 W and support DDR4-2400 memory and Hyper-Threading technology.

Model Base clock Boost clock Cores L3 Cache
PCI Express lanes
Price*
Core i7-6950X 3.0 GHz 3.5 GHz 10 25 MiB 40 USD 1,569
Core i7-6900K 3.2 GHz 3.7 GHz 8 20 MiB 40 USD 999
Core i7-6850K 3.6 GHz 3.8 GHz 6 15 MiB 40 USD 587
Core i7-6800K 3.4 GHz 3.6 GHz 6 15 MiB 28 USD 412

* Price suggested by Intel on the launch, for 1000 unit.

The Core i7-6950X is sold without a cooler, so you need to buy a compatible cooler (or liquid cooling system) separately. Figure 1 unveils the Core i7-6950X CPU.

Core i7-6950X benchmarkFigure 1: the Core i7-6950X processor

Figure 2 shows the Core i7-6950X at the side of the Core i7-5960X. Notice that the edges of the heatspreader are different, even using the same socket.

Core i7-6950X benchmarkFigure 2: the Core i7-6950X (left) and the Core i7-5960X (right)

To have an idea of the performance of the Core i7-6950X, we ran some tests comparing it to the Core i7-5960X. Unfortunately, AMD doesn’t offer a CPU that could be considered a competitor to the Core i7-6950X, since their most expensive CPU, the FX-9590, costs eight times less. And even the Core i7-6700K, the most high-end CPU for the LGA1151 platform, costs five times less.

Core i7-6950X benchmarkFigure 3: underside of the Core i7-6950X (left) and of the Core i7-5960X (right)

One detail we can notice is that the substrate (fiberglass base where the CPU die is mounted) of the Core i7-6950X is thinner than the Core i7-5960X’s.

Core i7-6950X benchmarkFigure 4: Core i7-6950X (left) and the Core i7-5960X (right)

Let’s compare the main specs of the reviewed CPUs in the next page.
[nextpage title=”The Reviewed CPUs”]
In the tables below, we compare the main features of the CPUs included in our review.

CPU Cores HT IGP Internal Clock Turbo Clock Core Tech. TDP Socket Price

Core i7-6950X

10

Yes

No

3.0 GHz

3.5 GHz

Broadwell-E

14 nm

140 W

LGA2011-v3

USD 1.750

Core i7-5960X

8

Yes

No

3.0 GHz

3.5 GHz

Haswell-E

22 nm

140 W

LGA2011-v3

USD 1.016

Below you can see the memory configuration for each CPU.

CPU L2 Cache L3 Cache Memory Support Memory Channels

Core i7-6950X

10 x 256 kiB

25 MiB

Up to DDR4-2400

Four

Core i7-5960X

8 x 256 kiB

20 MiB

Up to DDR4-2133

Four

[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions, the only variable device was the CPU being tested.
Hardware Configuration

Operating System Configuration

  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit

Driver Versions

  • AMD driver version: Crimson 15.11

Software Used

Error Margin
We adopted a 4% error margin. Thus, differences below 4% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 4% should be considered as having similar performance.
[nextpage title=”PCMark 8″]
PCMark 8 is a benchmarking software that uses real-world applications to measure the computer performance. We ran three tests: Home, which includes web browsing, writing, light gaming, photo editing, and video chat tests; Creative, that includes web surfing, video editing, group video chat, video conversion, and gaming; and Work, which runs tasks such as writing documents, web browsing, spreadsheets, editing, and video chatting. Let’s see the results.
Core i7-6950X benchmark
The Core i7-6950X obtained a score that is 4% superior to the Core i7-5960X on the Home benchmark.

Core i7-6950X benchmark

On the Creative benchmark, the Core i7-6950X was 5% faster than the Core i7-5960X.

Core i7-6950X benchmark

On the Work benchmark, the Core i7-6950X obtained the same performance of the Core i7-5960X.
[nextpage title=”3DMark”]

3DMark is a program with a set of several 3D benchmarks. Fire Strike runs a “heavy” DirectX 11 simulation. Sky Diver also measures DirectX 11 performance, and is aimed on average computers. The Cloud Gate benchmark measures DirectX 10 performance, and the Ice Storm Extreme measures DirectX 9 performance and is targeted to entry-level computers, so we don’t ran it.

Core i7-6950X benchmark

On Fire Strike benchmark, the Core i7-6950X wasn’t significantly faster than the Core i7-5960X.

Core i7-6950X benchmark

On the Sky Diver benchmark, the Core i7-6950X was 8% faster than the Core i7-5960X.

Core i7-6950X benchmark

On the Cloud Gate benchmark, the Core i7-6950X was also 8% faster than the Core i7-5960X.

[nextpage title=”Processing performance”]

Photoshop CC

The best way to measure the performance of a CPU is by using real programs. The problem, of course, is to create a methodology that offers precise results. For Photoshop CC, we used a script named “Retouch Artist Speed Test,” which applies a series of filters to a standard image and gives the time Photoshop takes to run all of them. The results are given in seconds, so the less, the best.
Core i7-6950X benchmark
In this test, both CPUs take the same time.

Cinebench R15

Cinebench R15 is based on the Cinema 4D software. It is very useful to measure the performance gain obtained by the presence of several processing cores while rendering heavy 3D images. Rendering is an area where a bigger number of cores helps a lot, because usually this kind of software recognize several processors (Cinebench R15, for example, can use up to 256 processing cores).
We ran the CPU benchmark, which renders a complex image using all the processing cores (real and virtual) to speed up the process. The result is given as a score.
Core i7-6950X benchmark
On Cinebench R15, the Core i7-6950X was 35% faster than the Core i7-5960X.

CPU-Z

On its current version, the well-known hardware identification software CPU-Z comes with a benchmarking tool, which measures CPU performance for one core and for all available cores.
Core i7-6950X benchmark
On the single thread benchmark, the Core i7-6950X was 3% faster than the Core i7-5960X.

Core i7-6950X benchmark

On the multiple thread benchmark, the Core i7-6950X obtained a score 31% higher than the Core i7-5960X.

WinRAR

Another task where the CPU is very demanded is on file compacting. We ran a test compacting a folder with 12 GiB on 9,646 files to a file, using WinRAR 4.2. The graph below shows the time taken on each test.
Core i7-6950X benchmark
On WinRAR, the Core i7-6950X was 4% faster than the Core i7-5960X.
[nextpage title=”Video encoding performance”]

DivX

We used the DivX converter, a tool included in the DivX package, in order to measure the encoding performance using this codec. The DivX codec is capable of recognizing and using all available cores and the SSE4 instruction set.
We converted a Full HD, six-minute long .mov video file into an .avi file, using the “HD 1080p” output profile. The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the better.

Core i7-6950X benchmark

On DivX encoding, the Core i7-6950X was 12% faster than the Core i7-5960X.

Media Espresso

Media Espresso is a video conversion program that uses the graphics processing unit of the video engine to speed up the conversion process. We converted a 1 GiB, 1920x1080i, 23,738 kbps, .mov video file to a smaller 320×200, H.264, .MP4 file for viewing on a smartphone. The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the better.

Core i7-6950X benchmark

It is important to say that, with 10 cores enabled, MediaEspresso 6.7 refused to run on the Core i7-6950X. Then, we disabled two cores and the program ran perfectly, which makes us believe this version supports no more than 16 threads. So, the results were using “only” eight cores.
On this test, both processors performed the same way.
[nextpage title=”Gaming Performance”]
The Core i7-6950X is aimed on professional tasks, not on gaming. However, as many hardware gamers can be thinking about buying it, we test it on games too. We pick two games that we know demand a lot of CPU power, since most games simply don’t take advantage of a high-end CPU, as we proved in our article “Is a high-end CPU a real need for a gaming computer?

Dirt Rally

Dirt Rally is an off-road racing game released in April 2015, using Ego engine. To measure performance using this game, we ran the performance test included in the game, in 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) resolution and image quality configured as “medium” and MSAA off.
The results below are expressed in frames per second (fps).
Core i7-6950X benchmark

On Dirt Rally, the Core i7-6950X was 10% faster than the Core i7-5960X.

Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V, or simply GTA V, is an open-world action game released for PCs in April of 2015, using the RAGE engine. In order to measure the performance on this game, we ran the performance test of the game, measuring the framerate with FRAPS. We ran GTA V at Full HD, with image quality set as “normal” and MSAA off.

The results below are expressed in frames per second.

Core i7-6950X benchmark

On GTA V, the Core i7-6950X was 7% faster than the Core i7-5960X.

[nextpage title=”Overclocking”]
The Core i7-6950X has an unlocked clock multiplier, which means it is possible to overclock it just by changing the multiplier on the the motherboard setup.
We were able to run it rock-solid stable up to 3.8 GHz, with 100 MHz base clock and x38 multiplier, maintaining the cache at 3.0 GHz. At 3.9 GHz, we detected some instability.
However, keep in mind that we didn’t change any tensions or advanced options, which means that, with some patience, you may reach higher rates.
[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]
Due to its specifications, the Core i7-6950X taken from the Core i7-5960X the title of most high-end desktop CPU available, mostly because of the 20 threads. Its price also reinforces this title. By the way, it is interesting to notice that, by now, Intel always priced their flagship CPU around USD 1000, but now the second model (Core i7-6900K) is around this price and the highest-end model costs almost twice.
But is it the fastest desktop CPU available today? Depends on your use. Its score on CineBench R15 states that, in 3D rendering tasks, it is unbeatable. Our tests also show that it is excellent for video editing, since the software you will use is ready for using 20 threads simultaneously. Actually, on any task where the 20 threads are fully used, the Core i7-6950X will beat any desktop processor.
Our tests indicated that, besides being faster than the Core i7-5960X because it has 25% more cores, Intel also worked well at the architecture optimization and the performance per thread also was increased. So, in tasks that use all the cores, the performance gain of the Core i7-6950X can be higher than 30% when compared to the Core i7-5960X.
But for the typical user? And for the gamer who wants to build a gaming computer? In this case, the conclusion is the same we found on the Core i7-5960X: it is not a good deal, since it is much more expensive than a mainstream CPU and will not present a performance gain that justifies it. For most users (including heavy users) the Core i7-6700K, for example (which is a high-end CPU from LGA1151 platform) costs five times less and will probably perform almost the same way on games or common tasks. And, with the money saved, you can buy a better video card, memories, or a high-end SSD, for example.
The Core i7-6950X can be the most high-end desktop processor available today, but thanks to its elevated price, it only worth for professional applications like 3D rendering or video editing, where the performance gain can raise productivity.