Top of the line performance in gaming can mean the difference between a split second of graphics lag that gets you killed and a clutch play that wins the round. A great processor is one of the key components in overall gaming performance, and we will be taking a look at two of the best Intel Processors available on the market that will push your gaming experience to the next level : the i7 3930K, and the i7 3960X.
Sandy Bridge-E for Gaming
Both the 3930K and 3960X are built on the Sandy Bridge-E — E for Extreme — microarchitecture. The Ivy Bridge Quad architecture is the latest from Intel, but the Sandy Bridge E Hexacore released before it is a top rated performing design. It is intended for an eight core chip, though all the current offerings run just six cores. It can also support two to four GPUs, depending on configuration. Of specific interest to gamers is the increased performance this brings on SLI, Crossfire, and multiple monitor setups.
PCI-E 3.0 for Gaming
Since you will be upgrading your motherboard to the X79 line, you will get the side benefit of at least a couple of new and improved PCI 3.0 slots. The PCI 2.0 architecture has been around since 2007, making it long overdue for an upgrade. At a glance, the 3.0 and 2.0 appear the same. The 3.0 slots are also backwards compatible with components designed to work with 2.0. The performance of the 3.0 slots is roughly twice that of the 2.0 across the board. The only reason not to receive a flat doubling was the bit rate because of the increasing overhead that minimizes the potential gain. Still, the increase from 5 GT/sec to 8 GT/sec is definitely significant, and when combined with the other enhancements it results in a much needed interface upgrade for add-ons. Because of the Sandy Bridge-E architectures 40 pci-e lanes, this can net a performance gain on high resolution gaming 2560×1440 monitors and advanced multi-monitor setups up to 40% over pci-e 2.0 lanes which bottlenecks hardware intensive games.
Best Processor for Gaming
The first thing you will notice when looking at the 3960X is the price tag. It comes in at around $1000, putting it out of consideration for less dedicated gamers or those on a tighter budget. The chip requires a X79 motherboard with a LGA2011 socket, which adds to the overall cost unless you happen to have one on hand. Negatives aside, you get what you pay for: the 6 cores run at 3.3 GHZ, a maximum turbo speed of 3.9 GHz, support for up to 64 GB of RAM, a 15 MB Cache, and most of the latest bells and whistles Intel offers. It does not come with integrated graphics, but this is unlikely to be an issue for gaming rigs that need powerful GPUs. In gaming it will provide the maximum speed to and from the graphic cards with all 40 pci-e 3 lanes at full speed, without a hickup. For those that have dual,tri or quad Sli/Crossfire X setups will be happy to now that moving from the pci-e 2 architecture, that it will produce around 40% difference in frame-rates. The 3960X is an amazing piece of technology, but be sure to look at the costs and additional hardware requirements before purchasing it as it is the best money can buy. Getting the Intel Performance Tuning Protection Plan with an extra $25 you can overclock it to the limits and if you destroy the chip Intel replaces it with no extra cost.
Best Gaming Processor for the Money
Starting with the cost again, the 3930K is significantly more affordable than its bigger brother. Despite being almost half as expensive, you will not see much performance reduction. The chip runs 6 cores at 3.2 GHz, 3.8 GHz turbo, which is not too noticeable outside of extremely taxing processes. The cache size is also slightly smaller at just 12 MB. Beyond that, the specifications between the two chips are nearly identical. Noted above as the two chips are very alike that the performance on multi gpu setups will be similar if not exactly the same as the 3960x. If you must absolutely have the best chip available, go with the 3960X, but if you want to save some cash and still get great performance, then 3930K with a small overclock is the way to go. Intels Performance Tuning Protection Plan is available for this cpu aswell.