Originally Posted by nleksan
Honestly, I would not bother with Haswell. The only significant upgrade available is to SandyBridge-E, but for many people the extra performance isn't worth the price of admission. Many people also will say that it's overkill for gaming, I have to disagree. With the next generation of consoles preparing to invade living rooms across the globe, packing an AMD "8-Core" CPU that is common to both (AMD FX cores are not, by themselves, traditional completeCPU cores; the architecture is more akin to 4x primary cores with an extra half a core tacked on to each, or 4 cores w hardware hyperthreading), I am confident that we are finally going to see games not restricted to 2, 3, or even 4 cores, but instead are coded so as to take advantage of as many parallel coprocessors as is available. Obviously, I can't say that is absolutely going to happen, but I will call it a very educated guess.
Ivy Bridge, for all its quibbles and faults, is a very fun architecture (in the form of the 3770K, at least), thanks to the drastically improved memory controller, fondness for being frozen, and the very high clock speeds attainable if you get a decent chip. Even though the IPC improvement over Sandy Bridge is not anything to write home about, sitting around 0-7% higher clock for clock depending on the metric, it brings with it a much improved chipset (Z77), sporting native PCI-E 3.0 lanes, SATA 3, USB3.0, and for the first time in the history of the human race, an Intel integrated GPU that doesn't make people jump off buildings from sheer terror.
It's when you delid your chip, however, that it will really show what it is packin. Temperature drops of 18-26C are the norm, and despite the common misconception, do not require Coollaboratory Liquid Pro/Ultra to attain; I can attest to the efficacy of Prolimatech PK1 and PK3 used both on-die and on the IHS, both giving 21-26C drops across the four cores. All you need is a bench vise, a hammer, and a pair of brass ones to successfully perform this "CPU liposuction" and enjoy a nice, cool, 4.6 to 5Ghz chip.
The other big advantage is the support for absolutely insane memory speeds, far beyond the 2133 of the Sandy Bridge chips. I have been working on testing a huge variety of memory speeds and timings combinations in terms of their relative performance not only in the regular array of benchmarks but specifically how they affect game performance in terms of frame time and minimum framerate. I have yet to see a 3770K that won't run 2400 9-11-11-30 1T with an absolute minimum of effort, and most will do 2600 10-12-12-31 1T or better. The combination of a high CPU clock and very high speed memory with tight timings results in massive amounts of memory bandwidth, enough that you will never have to worry about it becoming a bottleneck. While far from finished, I can tell you that so far, I have seen increases in minimum FPS ranging from 3 to 12 (excluding the outliers). I would consider this to be fairly significant, and I have yet to test Starcraft II or Civ V, two of the most CPU bound games I can think of.
The fact that for $99 you can get some of the best memory on the market, the G.Skill Trident X 2400 9-11-11-31 2x4GB kit, makes having such a strong IMC more than just a bragging right, but rather a formidable weapon in the war against poor performance. The fact that the Trident X kits overclock quite well is just awesome, with the 2400 9-11-11 kit I have able to reach beyond 2666 9-11-11-30 1T with a miniscule increase in voltage and plenty of extra room for more.
With the release of Haswell fresh in the minds of fellow enthusiasts across the world, and the 8th Wonder of the World known as "Micro Center", now is actually a pretty good time to scratch that upgrade itch. You can have your very own brand new 3770K for around $240, or you can get someone else's sloppy seconds for even less money while also knowing ahead of time what kind of overclocking headroom to expect. The choices for a board to mate with the processor are plentiful, and some of which are in my opinion worthy of "legendary status". While I typically use Asus ROG boards, I have yet to see a better board option than theGGigabyte GA-Z77X-UP7, second only to the Rampage IV Extreme in my list of "Bestest most awesomest Motherboards in the whole wide world". I was actually disappointed in the Maximus V Extreme in comparison, and the MVE is certainly no slouch. The UP7 simply does everything better, although Asus has a vastly better UEFI BIOS implementation...
Rarely is there a motherboard that is truly the best in every usage scenario, from sitting in an air cooled number cruncher with stock CPU/RAM speeds to perched on a test bench with a quartet of GTX Titans filling the PCI-E area and 8-16GB of hand binned DDR3-3000 IC's filling the DIMMs while a 3770K man's the helm, propelled by four 1200W PSU's, all of which are obscured by so many LN2 pots that people confuse it with a pipe organ. It's perfectly at home at either extreme and anywhere in between, although I have to say that a water loop is the best favor you can do for it. XSPC actually makes a great one piece block for the board, which is surprisingly cheap, very effective, and quite attractive with its very modern brushed aluminum and POM face. Sure, with over 30 individual power phases it doesn't NEED a block, but actually yes, yes it does. Why have "barely warm to the touch" when you can have "are you sure it's on?" temps....?
Obviously, I like the the delidded 3770K, Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP7, and G.Skill Trident X 2400 9-11-11-31 2x4GB (or 2666 10-12-12 or 2800 11-13-13) kit combination, not going to hide it. It's one of the most fun overclocking setups I have owned, period. I am actually slowly working on a two stage phase change cooler that will cool up to 5 blocks in semi-parallel, specifically for this setup (CPU + RAM + 2x GTX680 Lightning 2GB/2x GTX670 FTW 2GB/2x R7970 Lightning 3GB/and hopefully soon 2x GTX780 Lightning 3GB).
That said, there is a reason that my 3930K + RIVE setup is my main rig, and that is because it is simply the most outrageous, over the top, and absolutely perfect setup I've ever had the fortune to own. Take everything I said about the Z77 above, add 50% more cores, 24 more PCI-E lanes, twice as many memory channels and twice the maximum capacity, and the best UEFI BIOS implementation on the market, and you begin to get the picture... The only thing that Ivy does unquestionably better is memory clocking, with SB-E chips typically running out of steam around 2133, but the exact speed limit depends on the amount of memory as well as the individual chip's IMC. Some may not do any better than 1866 (uncommon), most will do 2133 (very common), and a small percentage will be able to push speeds above 2400 (rare); I got lucky, as mine will run >2400 9-10-10-28 1T with 4x4GB and do so with no loss in CPU clock speed.
Unlike Ivy, Super Sandy doesn't require a physical beating with a blunt object in order to do what you tell it to, and that means what you get out of the box is what you get: 12 threads at very high speeds, but able to keep temps in check... Assuming that you are not trying to run this masterpiece of silicone using something as pedestrian and inadequate as a CM H212+ or Corsair H50, because while these may be fine for some, if you have the overclocking fever, you are gonna need more cowbell! Dollars to degrees, the Swiftech H220 is the way to go, assuming you have not quite summoned the courage to do a custom loop (and with the H220, when that courage arrives in your mailbox, you already have the foundation as the H220 is fully modular). If you are stuck back in the "air age", the conveniently named Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme is the way to go, especially once you add a third fan, keeping the TY -143s on either side and sticking a much manlier 120x38mm Koolance/San Ace or 140x38mm Silverstone FHP-141 in between the two towers to ensure that, when needed, your PC's hovercraft functionality is fully intact.
Anyway, sorry if I bored you to death, I try not to but I also know that when making a decision such as this, it's hard to ever feel like you are completely confident in your choice. We're all there, some more frequently than others, but I know that I like having as much information as possible before pulling the trigger on a big purchase, so I hope that my experiences with what are in my opinion the only worthwhile upgrades to your setup have been helpful, even if just a wee bit.
It comes down to, if you can afford it then a 6 core SB-E with a top notch board like the Rampage IV Extreme is the best way to go, period. It's got years left in it, and it's simply the best performing setup you can get, especially with multiple GPU's.
If you are on a tighter budget, or don't believe that 6 cores is beneficial (remember what people said when dual core processors came out? What about quads? Yeah, exactly....), or simply have an aversion to non-prime numbers, then the 3770K and GA-Z77X-UP7 motherboard, and nothing less than a pair of G.Skill Trident X 2400 9-11-11-31 4GB DIMMs, is an extremely capable setup that is just a barrel of fun (and megahertz-es).
Either way, you win and the only losers are the countless electrons sizzling away beneath the surface of the die.