Intel’s Core i7-5960X Versus the i7-4790K

Are workstation chips really that much better?

Intel Haswell-E in mobo (2 of 2)

It’s now after IDF now and we’ve finally managed to complete our Haswell-E testing with Intel’s Core i7-5960X. With 8 cores, 16 threads, 20 megabytes of cache, a quad channel DDR4 memory controller, and a TDP of 140 Watts this chip is a force to be reckoned with. The one place where the spec sheet on this monster looks less than impressive is its base clock speed of 3.0 Ghz and its top turbo bin of 3.5 Ghz. A far cry from processors like the Core i7-4790K which has a base clock of 4.0 Ghz and a top turbo bin of 4.4 Ghz. Which brings us to the question that we’ve gather here today to answer: is a workstation chip really worth the extra money over a mainstream chip?

Haswell-E benchmarks

The short answer is no. But with the i7-4790K priced at $339 and the i7-5960X at $1049 Intel has very effectively made its priciest socket LGA 1155 processor look like a real value proposition. As always Intel’s socket LGA 2011 platform only caters to a very select group of buyers. As a processor for general applications the i7-5960X certainly  isn’t slow, but its single threaded performance leaves room for the i7-4790K to swoop in and steal the show in consumer applications like web browsing, gaming, and audio encoding. Of course when you toss a multithreaded application the i7-5960X’s way it gets a chance to put its eight cores to use and put some distance between itself and its quadcore sibling. Alas the performance gap in multithreaded applications still isn’t enough to to justify the extra cost of the i7-5960X.

Haswell-E test bench

Here’s our test benches specifications and you can check out our raw data on OneDrive.

Intel Haswell-E in mobo (1 of 2)

Intel’s Core i7-5960X is an excellent chip and the X99 platform offers the latest and greatest of everything but unless you spend all day encoding videos, rendering movies, or editing photos the i7-4790K will be a better choice for consumer applications than this workstation chip. That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice for you, or that’s it’s at all a bad choice, but you should know exactly what applications you run that demand this kind of multithreaded monster before you throw down your cash.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.