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X79 vs X99: What is new in X99 and Haswell-E

Written on August 29, 2014 by Matt Bach


Most computer technologies are only the latest and greatest for about a year or so before they are replaced with something new. The X79 chipset is somewhat of an oddity because it has been around for almost three years without a newer version being released. This makes it a very established chipset, but due to its age it lacks many of the newer features like that are present on other modern chipsets like Z97. For example, X79 does not have any native USB 3.0 support and only has two SATA 6Gb/s ports.

Because of how long X99 was under development, it brings a ton of changes and improvements over X79 including native USB 3.0, more SATA 6Gb/s ports and support for DDR4 memory. In addition, Intel is also launching the new Haswell-E CPUs to go along with the new chipset. Unlike X99, however, the Haswell-E CPUs are not quite as clearly superior to the Ivy Bridge-E CPUs they are replacing. They certainly have plenty of improvements, but at the same time have a drop in frequency which may result in little to no performance benefit in some applications.

In this article we are going to look at the specifications of the X99 chipset and Haswell-E CPUs and compare them to the previous generation X79 chipset and Ivy Bridge-E CPUs. If you are interested in benchmark numbers for the new chipset and CPUs, we recommend also reading our Core i7 5960X vs. 4960X Performance Comparison article.

X99 vs. X79

   X99 X79
Socket LGA 2011-3 LGA 2011
Graphics Support
2X16 + 1X8
or 5x8
2X16 + 1X8
or up to 4X8 + 1x8
Mem Channels/DIMM Per Channel 4/1 DDR4 4/1 DDR3
Intel Rapid Storage Technology Yes Yes
Intel Smart Response Technology Yes Yes
USB Total (USB 3.0) 14(6) 14(0)
Total SATA (SATA 6Gb/s) 10(all 6Gb/s) 6(2)
PCI-E 2.0** 8 8
CPU Core Overclocking Yes Yes
CPU Memory Overclocking Yes Yes

*In addition to the available PCI-E 3.0 lanes from the CPU

The X79 chipset is almost 3 years old, so it is not a surprise that X99 introduces quite a few improvements. Starting with the socket, both X79 and X99 use a socket that has 2,011 pins - hence the name LGA 2011. However, the X99 LGA 2011-3 socket is a slightly different shape than the LGA 2011 socket so Ivy Bridge-E CPUs will not physically fit in the newer LGA 2011-3 socket or vice versa.

Socket LGA 2011 Socket LGA 2011-3 2011v3
Socket LGA 2011 Socket LGA 2011-3

The next major improvement in X99 is the addition of DDR4 memory support, breaking out of the DDR3 slump we've been in since DDR3 was launched way back in 2007. For more information on DDR4 memory, check out our Tech Primer: DDR4 Memory article.

Moving on to the integrated controllers, X99 finally adds native USB 3.0 support. The total number of USB ports remains 14, but now 6 of those ports can operate at USB 3.0 speeds without the need for a third party controller. Similarly, X99 increases the number of SATA 6Gb/s ports to ten - up from the two SATA 6Gb/s ports found on X79. While not an official part of X99, we have also found that many X99 motherboards include a M.2 x4 slot that supports PCI-E x4 M.2 drives.

Overall, X99 adds everything we felt was lacking with X79 plus support for DDR4 memory. With the prevalence of USB 3.0 devices and high-speed SATA drives, native USB 3.0 and more SATA 6Gb/s ports is more important than ever before and we are very happy to see these technologies more thoroughly adopted in the X99 chipset.

Haswell-E vs. Ivy Bridge-E

Below is a quick breakdown of some of the major features of Haswell-E versus the previous generation Ivy Bridge-E with the notable differences in red:

  Haswell -E Ivy Bridge-E
Maximum Cores 8 6
Turbo Boost Version 2.0 2.0
L2 Cache per core 256KB 256KB
Smart Cache 15-20MB 10-15MB
Maximum TDP 140W 130W
Memory Support 4 channel (8 sticks) DDR4 2133Mhz 4 channel (8 sticks) DDR3 1866Mhz
Max PCIe Support 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes
Process Technology 22nm 22nm
Socket LGA 2011-3* LGA 2011
Instruction Sets
SSE4.1, SSE4.2, EM64T, VT-x,
SSE4.1, SSE4.2, EM64T, VT-x,
Chipset X99 X79

*Not compatible with Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge-E processors

Starting at the top, the biggest improvement with Haswell-E is that is can have up to eight physical cores. While eight cores on a CPU is not really new, this is Intel's first consumer-level eight core CPU. Haswell-E also features an integrated voltage regulator similar to the Haswell CPUs. This improves overall system efficiency and provides much more consistent power to the CPU components. This should both slightly improve performance and lower the overall system power draw a bit, but the disadvantage is that it increases the CPU's power draw so Haswell-E CPUs are rated to pull 10W more power than Ivy Bridge-E CPUs.

Like we discussed in the previous section, Haswell-E uses the new DDR4 memory and LGA 2011-3 socket with the X99 chipset. The socket change is really just to make sure you do not try to use Haswell-E CPUs in an X79 motherboard or Ivy/Sandy Bridge-E CPUs in an X99 motherboard since they would not be compatible.

The last major difference between Haswell-E and Ivy Bridge-E is that Haswell-E adds support for the AVX2 and FMA3 instruction sets. For the average user, these additional instruction sets are not going to result in any performance gains or losses, but programs that are specifically coded to use AVX2 and/or FMA3 (mostly for scientific calculations) should see a huge boost in performance. This is why in our 5960X vs. 4960X Performance Comparison article the 5930K and 5960X have a much higher benchmark score in Linpack than the 4960X. 

All these specifications are for Haswell-E versus Ivy Bridge-E as a product line and makes Haswell-E look very attractive. When we look at the individual CPU specifications, however, the waters become a bit muddy:

Haswell-E 5960X 5930K 5820K
Cores/Threads 8/16 6/12 6/12
Clock Speed 3.0GHz 3.5GHz 3.3GHz
Max Turbo Boost 3.5GHz 3.7GHz 3.6GHz
L2 Cache  8 x 256KB 6 x 256KB 6 x 256KB
Smart Cache 20MB 15MB 15MB
PCI-E Lanes 40 PCI-E 3.0 40 PCI-E 3.0 28 PCI-E 3.0
Ivy Bridge-E 4960X 4930K 4820K
Cores/Threads 6/12 6/12 4/8
Clock Speed 3.6GHz 3.4GHz 3.7GHz
Max Turbo Boost 4.0GHz 3.9GHz 3.9GHz
L2 Cache  6 x 256KB 6 x 256KB 4 x 256KB
Smart Cache 15MB 12MB 10MB
PCI-E Lanes 40 PCI-E 3.0 40 PCI-E 3.0 40 PCI-E 3.0

In general, the Haswell-E CPUs have a higher core count and more Smart Cache than Ivy Bridge-E, but run at a lower clock speed. Starting on the low end, the 5820K has two more cores and 5MB more Smart cache than the 4820K, but the frequency is .3-.4GHz lower. Unique to Haswell-E, the 5820K also only has 28 PCI-E lanes versus the 40 that are found on the other CPUs. While this shouldn't be a problem for the average system, if you are planning a SLI/Crossfire system - or simply want a lot of PCI-E devices - the 5820K probably isn't the best choice due to the limited number of PCI-E lanes.

The 5930K is the one model that doesn't get an increase in core count, but it does still have a 3MB increase in Smart Cache. This is also the only CPU that has an increase in the base clock speed (by .1Ghz), but it still has a .2GHz drop in the maximum Turbo Boost frequency.

Finally, the 5960X has two more cores and 5MB more Smart Cache than the 4960X but has a .5-.6GHz drop in frequency. Performance-wise, this means applications that are well threaded and can use all eight cores should perform better with the 5960X than the 4960X. If an application only uses one or two cores, however, the 5960X might actually be slower than the 4960X. For specific benchmarks, we recommend reading our 5960X vs. 4960X Performance Comparison article.


Any way you look at it, the X99 chipset is a major improvement over X79. Native USB 3.0 support, more SATA 6Gb/s ports, DDR4 support, and all the other little updates simply makes X99 a much stronger platform. Add in the fact that many motherboard manufacturers appeared to have waited for X99 to add features like M.2 support, there is little reason to use X79 over X99 in a new system. The only thing that might make you hesitate isn't the chipset itself, but rather the new Haswell-E CPUs that go along with X99.

Haswell-E is a bit strange because in most ways it is clearly superior to Ivy Bridge-E, but in terms of sheer clock speed Ivy Bridge-E is actually a bit better. Haswell-E has more cores and AVX2 and FMA3 support, but those improvements rely on an application to be coded to be able to take advantage of them. Even the addition of DDR4 support and more Smart Cache isn't likely to add much in the way of increased performance. As DDR4 matures that is likely to change, but right now the extra bandwidth possible with DDR4 simply is not much of a factor.

For applications that are not well threaded and simply need the highest clock frequency possible, you may actually want to stick with a X79/Ivy Bridge-E system. However, our Core i7 5960X vs. 4960X Performance Comparison clearly shows that many applications perform much better with the 5960X than the 4960X. In addition, we've found that a X99/Haswell-E system runs cooler and draws less power than an equivalent X79/Ivy Bridge-E system. Add in all the improvements found in the X99 chipset, and an X99/Haswell-E system is clearly much more future-proof than a system based on the previous X79 platform.

Tags: X99, Haswell-E, X79, Ivy Bridge-E, 5960X, 5930K, 5820K

I'm excited about the x99 chipset but wish the clock speeds were on par with Ivy Bridge-E. I guess with liquid cooling and overclocking, it's not so much a factor but Ivy Bridge still presents a better value...

Posted on 2014-08-30 21:27:12

basically x99 chips will run hotter, even with stock clocks a single 120mm AIO wouldn't really be enough, I own a 3960x which is 2 gen back and 240mm AIO isn't sufficient enough for 4.0 though the stock turbo clock is 3.9, this is even undervolted. This chips would really need enthusiast to put custom loops in their system to maximize the capabilities of this chip, maybe a 360 rad alone for this chip to make it run 4.0 since it is 8 cores with hyper threading.

Posted on 2014-09-05 02:59:50
Nathan Stahlwirth

I'm running an X-53 system, 1366 pin, 965 Extreme chip at 3.2 GHz, with 1866 XMS memory, a revo-3 X2 SSD on PCIe, and two 660s on SLI. I realize that I will have to swap out the board, chip and RAM all at once, to go to a 2011-3 system, but my question is more about manufacturer. I've had Asus systems, and they have been hit and miss, often running well, but often suffering from *STRANGE* symptoms that I could not diagnose, and only went away after I swapped the mobo. On the flip side, I have run EVGA boards that were simply UnReal performers, compared to anything else I'd built, clock for clock, as well as Abit boards, back in the 865 days, but I don't see an X99 offering from EVGA, and I don't know if Abit is even around anymore.
Question: can anyone suggest a mobo based on the X99 that has turned in decent test numbers, is holding up under daily use, and that is *NOT* made by Asus? I would be very grateful for your suggestions.
Dr. Nate

Posted on 2014-09-06 19:46:59
Siana Gearz

Abit went bankrupt 10 years ago.

I'm quite certain that EVGA does not design or manufacture its own mainboards, and the ones they offer appear to be from various sources. Some were reference designs by chipset manufacturer, presumably realized by Foxconn or FIC. Some boards looked as if they were designed by TYAN/Supermicro group. Perhaps they are good by the simple virtue of not having a lot of questionable experiments shoved into them, besides a decent quality grade ordered from OEM.

I too grew very wary of ASUS with time. According to a large retailer in France, Gigabyte had the lowest RMA rate in 2014, followed by MSI and then ASUS, then ASRock. High-end ASUS boards have displayed a particularly painfully high RMA rate.

Posted on 2015-05-17 07:40:00

28 pci-e lanes is perfectly fine for 2 graphics card, 8x on pci 3.0 will give same performance as x16 even at 4k resolution, even 4x pci 3.0 gives the same performance. The issue comes when trying to use 3 cards because it is not supported with 28 lanes.

Posted on 2014-12-04 16:27:17

It can also be an issue if you are doing things other than gaming with the video cards. Yes, for gaming an 8x connection is fine - but when you get into GPGPU computing and the like then you want to have all the bandwidth to the cards that you can get :)

Posted on 2014-12-04 16:29:45
Siana Gearz

For that, somebody needs to demonstrate that a GPU is able to do straight main memory -> VRAM copies at higher than PCIe x8 bandwidth, or that the copy speed actually drops with fewer available lanes. I don't have any up to date figures so things might have changed in the last 5 years, but traditionally this has not been the case, GPUs could not saturate the link due to internal complexity between the link and VRAM.

Actually perhaps i should write a benchmark program. I wonder, would Puget sponsor such a program, if it happens to be useful? Though i strongly suspect that such program might already exist and the effort might be unnecessary.

Posted on 2015-05-17 08:46:06

With 16nm coming out in the near future for graphics processors won't the motherboards and CPU's soon follow suit. I mean probably late in the year we will start seeing 16nm die sets so would that not open the door in 1-2 years time for new CPU's with 16nm. It seems like this CPU set will be replaced in a couple years with the 16nm ones. doesn't really make sense to me to get this mother board and CPU especially since the cost is so high and the improvement is not that spectacular. IMO

Posted on 2015-03-12 00:56:32

That's one of the hard things about hardware - there is always something new right around the corner. If 16nm comes out in a year, 14nm or 12nm will likely be about two years after that. Intel tends to work in a tick-tock cycle where they release an architecture one year, shrink the die the next year, release another new architecture the year after that, and so on. Based on that cycle, you could argue that any Intel CPU is replaced within two years so if you want a CPU that will be top of the line for more than 2 years you'll have to wait a long time.

I personally don't think we're going to see any huge leaps in CPU performance anytime soon. The days of a new CPU increasing performance by 200% are simply gone, replaced by more modest 10-15% improvement increments. Really, the area that is still seeing those huge performance increases right now is storage. 1GB/s read/write performance in a hard drive was really difficult and expensive just a few years ago, but now with M.2 and PCI-E storage you can easily hit 1.5GB/s or even as high as 3GB/s from a single drive.

Posted on 2015-03-12 15:40:50
Oliver Warren

Whilst you're right, the shrink from 22nm has definitely taken more than two years. It's still taking a long time - I think 14nm should have been out quite a while ago, but certain customers (ie. apple) are using all of the capacity and the consumer CPU market has not yet gotten hold of it.

Based on that, I think that after the shrink to 14nm, we might be waiting 4 years or so for the next shrink? If that's the case, its a lot better to wait? I mean, 14nm was due out in 2014 and you still can't buy an i7 in 14nm, right? Only some Core M parts, and a Macbook.

Posted on 2015-05-08 16:05:26

I'd like to know whether the Intel Chipset x99 AMD Crossfire compatible motherboard.

Posted on 2015-12-15 11:48:12

I still stick with my X79 rampage extreme with GTX 690 still work fine for me until now

Posted on 2016-10-20 06:37:48