At the beginning of September Intel launched the Intel Core i7 4960X processor as the long-awaited upgrade for their LGA-2011 platform. The Core i7 4960X is not Haswell-based but an Ivy Bridge Extreme Edition processor for maintaining socket compatibility and being derived from the Ivy Bridge Xeon. Over the Sandy Bridge Extreme processors, the Ivy Bridge upgrade brings 22nm processors to the socket and the top-end i7 4970X EE model is running at 3.6GHz with 4.0GHz Turbo, 15MB L3 cache, and has a 130 Watt TDP. There's been plenty of Windows benchmarks out there already for the Core i7 4960X EE while coming out today is our full Linux review with plenty of Ivy Bridge Extreme benchmarks on Ubuntu.
Intel hadn't sent over our Ivy Bridge E review sample until later in September so we weren't able to provide launch-day Linux coverage. However, in the few weeks that we have had the i7-4960X around for testing, it's been an incredible (and very fast) experience. To no surprise given Intel's substantial yet still increasing investment in Linux and related open-source projects, the Intel Core i7 4960X "Ivy Bridge Extreme" experience on the open-source operating system isn't worrisome at all.
With LGA-2011 motherboards and the Intel X79 chipset having been around now for two years, early Linux hardware support kinks have been worked out in full. Then with Ivy Bridge processors having been around since last year, its kernel support and support by open-source compilers like GCC and LLVM/Clang are already in a well-optimized state. The i7-4960X has the same instruction set extensions of the desktop class Ivy Bridge CPUs with SSE 4.2, AVX, AES, etc. If using GCC 4.8 and LLVM/Clang 3.3, you should be in very good shape for taking full advantage of the Ivy Bridge Extreme processors when it comes to the compiler support. When it comes to Linux kernel versions, any version in the past year should be in good shape (or the recent versions of the Enterprise Linux kernel versions with their backports), but generally the newer the kernel the better the performance and features.
The Intel Core i7 4960X has six physical cores running at 3.6 / 4.0 (Turbo) GHz frequencies plus Hyper Threading to provide for twelve threads. This 22nm processor has 15MB of Intel Smart Cache, 130 Watt TDP, and supports up to 64GB of quad-channel DDR3 memory. While recent generations of Intel processors have vastly improved their graphics capabilities, there is no integrated graphics support on the Ivy Bridge Extreme due to LGA-2011 socket limitations.
Beside the top-end i7-4960X, other Ivy Bridge Extreme Edition processors that were released in September include the Intel Core i7 4930X that is a six-core CPU and runs at 3.4GHz or 3.9GHz in Turbo and the Intel Core i7 4820K that runs at 3.7GHz with 3.9GHz Turbo but is only a four-core processor plus Hyper Threading. All three of these Extreme Edition CPUs are fully unlocked to allow for some nice overclocking headroom. These lower-end i7-4930K and i7-4820K IVB Extremes also knock down the cache size to 12MB and 10MB, respectively. The Intel Core i7 4960X will set you back about one thousand dollars while the i7 4930K retails for about $550 USD and the i7 4820K for just over $300.