[Pro] Intel Xeon E5-2640 v4 review: 10-core for a grand

Efficient 10-core processor for servers and workstations



The introduction of Broadwell-E marked the release of the first 10-core consumer processor from Intel, however it turned out to be even more expensive than the normal 1000 dollars you pay for the Intel flagship. An alternative for this processor is the 10-core Xeon E5-2640 v4, that is available right now for under a grand. In this review we're taking a look at the pros and cons of this processor.

In addition to the 'mainstream' quad-core Xeons, Intel also has models for heavy-duty workstations and servers. In contrast to the quad-cores, these models are not based on the 'normal' Skylake processors, instead they are similar to the high-end desktop (HEDT) platform - the variants with 10 cores or less even share the same specifications as the Broadwell-E processors. This also means that they are one generation behind in terms of technology: the quad-core Xeons are on the Skylake architecture, whereas the more powerful models are still on Broadwell.

The Xeon E5-2640 v4 that we are discussing today, is based on the Broadwell architecture. Intel's name for these processors is Broadwell-EP. The 'v4' in the name means that this is a fourth generation E5 processor, with Sandy Bridge as the first generation. Moreover the model number of a Xeon processor does not change with each generation: there are also other E5-2640s, with the v3 being a Haswell-EP processor.

Intel Xeon E5-2640 v4 Boxed

The Xeon differs in many areas from the Intel i7 6950X, the most important differences being clock speed and TDP. Workstation and server processors are specifically developed with power efficiency in mind, which means that more cores at a lower clock frequency are much more desirable than a small number of fast cores. For this reason the clock speed is quite a bit lower: the clock frequency of the E5-2640 is 2.4 GHz, compared to the 3 GHz of the i7 6950X. 

The difference in turbo speed is very small however: 3.4 GHz compared to 3.5 GHz, however there is no Turbo Boost 3.0 on the Xeon. This new feature from Broadwell-E offers a significant performance boost for lower clocked processors with many cores. Even though the Xeon we're reviewing today is part of the high-end Broadwell processors, it has to make do with Turbo Boost 2.0. It's clear that version three was meant for desktop systems, which makes sense, since those systems benefit the most from this feature.

Overclocking is of course not possible with a Xeon processor. You do however get support for ECC memory, at least if your motherboard also supports it. Socket 2011-3 Xeons can be installed in all X99 motherboards, however only special workstation motherboards support memory that is both buffered (registered) and ECC. ECC corrects any errors in the memory, which lowers the chance of a system crash - a very useful feature for workstations and servers.

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As we mentioned before the Xeon costs about 1000 dollars, the 'traditional' price of the flagship models of Intel. The average price of the i7 6950X is much higher: 1920 dollars.

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Intel Xeon E5-2640 v4 Boxed

Socket 2011-3, 2.4 GHz, 10 cores, 90 W, 14 nm

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