I'd say we've compiled enough performance data. Let's summarize with a couple of our infamous price-performance scatter plots. The first one is based on a geometric mean of all of our non-gaming application tests, and the second one focuses on our frame-time-based game performance results. As ever, the best values will tend toward the top left corner of the plot.
The fact that we've split up our results between gaming and non-gaming applications is convenient, since the story of the Core i5-5960X really does break along those lines.
For general desktop use, the 5960X is easily the fastest CPU we've ever tested, and it's a healthy generational improvement over Ivy Bridge-E. This chip's eight cores and 16 hardware threads really shine in heavily CPU-intensive applications that can make use of them—things like video encoding, image processing, and compiling large software projects. No, this CPU is not cheap. If you do the right sort of work, though, the 5960X could be well worth the investment, because it burns through large jobs much faster than anything short of a Xeon-based workstation.
That said, Core i7 Extreme processors have always been aspirational products. You pony up a grand for one of these things, you want the very best. For PC gamers, the 5960X marks the end of an era, of sorts. The best CPU you can buy for gaming is pretty clearly the Core i7-4790K; its combination of four cores, eight threads, and high clock speeds fares best overall in our gaming tests. The 5960X isn't bad for gaming. Heck, the only thing it's probably bad at is not being awesome. But the 5960X isn't the best at everything—mostly because Intel chose to add more cores this time around. I suspect that fact matters to some folks.
If you want to build the finest multi-GPU gaming rig, there's no denying the Haswell-E platform's superiority in terms of PCI Express connectivity. I suspect that the Core i7-5930K, with six cores and a 3.7GHz Turbo peak, might be an ideal choice for a gaming rig based on this platform. Also, you know, the 5930K costs about 60% of what the 5960X does. Intel didn't supply us with a 5930K to review, but it's almost certainly the best value among Haswell-E CPUs.
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