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If you think Haswell-E has been a long wait, just think about DDR3, which made its debut as main memory in systems since 2007. Yes, 2007. The only component that has lasted seven years in most enthusiasts systems might be the PSU, but it’s even rare to find anyone kicking a 500-watt PSU from 2007 these days.
DDR4 has been in gestation seemingly as long, so why the delay? From what we can tell, resistance to yet another new memory standard during a time when people thought the desktop PC and the PC in general were dying has been the root delay. It didn’t help that no one wanted to stick their head out first, either. RAM makers didn’t want to begin producing it DDR4 in volume until AMD or Intel made chipsets for it, and AMD and Intel didn’t want to support it because of the costs it would add to PCs at a time when people were trying to lower costs. The stalemate finally ends with Haswell-E, which integrates a quad-channel memory controller into its die.
Initial launch speeds of DDR4 clock in at DDR4/2133. For those already running DDR3 at 3GHz or higher, a 2,133 data rate is a snooze, but you should realize that anything over 2133 is overclocked RAM. With DDR4, the JEDEC speeds (the body that sets RAM standards) already has target data rates of 3200 on the map. RAM vendors we’ve talked to are already shopping DIMMS near that speed.
The best part of DDR4 may be its density message, though. For years, consumer DDR3 has topped out at 8GB on a DIMM. With DDR4, we should see 16B DIMMs almost immediately, and stacking of chips is built into the standard, so it’s possible we’ll see 32GB DIMMs over its lifetime. On a quad-channel, eight-DIMM motherboard, you should expect to be able to build systems with 128GB of RAM using non-ECC DIMMs almost immediately. DDR4 also brings power savings and other improvements, but the main highlights enthusiasts should expect are higher densities and higher clocks. Oh, and higher prices. RAM prices haven’t been fun for anyone of late, but DDR4 will definitely be a premium part for some time. In fact, we couldn’t even get exact pricing from memory vendors as we were going to press, so we’re bracing for some really bad news.
Over the years, we’ve come to expect Intel to clock-block core counts, clock speeds, Hyper-Threading, and even cache for “market segmentation” purposes. What that means is Intel has to find ways to differentiate one CPU from another. Sometimes that’s by turning off Hyper-Threading (witness Core i5 and Core i7) and sometimes its locking down clock speeds. With Haswell-E though, Intel has gone to new heights with its clock-blocking by actually turning off PCIe lanes on some Haswell-E parts to make them less desirable. At the top end, you have the 3GHz Core i7-5960X with eight cores. In the midrange you have the six-core 3.5GHz Core i7-5930K. And at the “low-end” you have the six-core 3.3GHz Core i7-5820K. The 5930K and the 5820K are virtually the same in specs except for one key difference: The PCIe lanes get blocked. Yes, while the Core i7-5960X and Core i7-5930K get 40 lanes of PCIe 3.0, the Core i7-5820K gets an odd 28 lanes of PCIe 3.0. That means those who had hoped to build “budget” Haswell-E boxes with multiple GPUs may have to think hard and fast about using the lowest-end Haswell-E chip. The good news is that for most people, it won’t matter. Plenty of people run Haswell systems with SLI or CrossFire, and those CPUs are limited to 16 lanes. Boards with PLX switches even support four-way GPU setups.
Still, it’s a brain bender to think that when you populate an X99 board with the lowest-end Haswell-E, the PCIe configuration will change. The good news is at least they’ll work, just more slowly. Intel says it worked with board vendors to make sure all the slots will function with the budget Haswell-E part.
There have been clock-blocking rumors swirling around about the Haswell being a 12-core Xeon with four cores turned off. That’s not true and Intel says this die-shot proves it.
Ivy Bridge-E’s main advantage over Sandy Bridge-E was a native six-core die and greatly reduced power consumption. And, unfortunately, like its Ivy Bridge counterpart, overclocking yields on Ivy Bridge-E were greatly reduced over its predecessor, too, with few chips hitting more than 4.7GHz at best.
Sandy Bridge-E and Sandy Bridge will long be remembered for its friendliness to overclocking and having two of its working cores killed Red Wedding–style by Intel.
Click the next page to read about X99.