Intel Core i7-3820 Sandy Bridge-E CPU Review

Author: MAC
Date: February 22, 2012
Product Name: i7-3820
Part Number: BX80619i73820
Warranty: 3 Years
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Feature Test: Turbo Boost 2.0

Since we don't have a fancy Intel-provided graphic to demonstrate how Turbo Boost functions on the i7-3820, here is a wordy explanation of how it works. Turbo Boost is a performance enhancing feature that automatically unlocks additional speed bins (multipliers) and allows the processor to self-overclock based on thermal conditions and workload. For example, if the Power Control Unit (PCU) senses that only one core is active and the other three are in an idle state, it will use the unused power and thermal headroom to overclock that single active core to ensure superior single-threaded performance. Conversely, if you are running a multi-threaded application, the PCU will measure the thermal headroom and if the processor is running cool enough it will overclock all six cores. On the Core i7-3820 processors, Turbo Boost can provide a 300MHz frequency boost when 1 is loaded, 200MHz when two cores are in use, and 100MHz in applications that utilize 3 or 4 cores.

Turbo Boost Off - Click on image to enlarge - Turbo Boost On

Although the i7-3820's version of Turbo Boost is nowhere as aggressive as on the i7-3960X, it really doesn't need to be. With a very high default clock of 3.6GHz, there wasn't much headroom for many additional Turbo Boost bins. Furthermore, we don't think Intel wanted it's baby SB-E chip to overshadow the flagship i7-3960X in any area.

It should be noted that although the i7-3820 is capable of hitting 3.9GHz in single-threaded workloads, we almost never saw it, whereas it was consistently achieved on the flagship six-core part. We noticed this same behaviour on two seperate motherboards with the latest available bioses, so it's a little unusual.

To check out the performance gains that Turbo Boost can provide on this part, we selected a nice mix of benchmarks with both light and multi-threaded workloads.

As you can see, the overall performance gains are quite minimal no matter what type of workload. Having said that, the i7-3820 does have a high default clock speed, and we would always choose that over a more aggressive form of Turbo Boost and a lower default clock speed.

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