We’ve received a ton of positive feedback on our i5-2500K revisit, and we’ve received a similar amount of questions about including overclocked i7-2600K numbers in our benchmark charts. The solution is obvious: a full 2600K revisit using our modern benchmark course. As demonstrated with the 2500K, old K-SKU Sandy Bridge CPUs had impressive overclocking capacity--partly thanks to a better thermal solution than what Intel offers today--but the stock i7-2600K regularly outperformed our 4.5GHz 2500K in some tests. Synthetic benchmarks and games like Watch Dogs 2, both of which take advantage of high thread counts, are included in those tests showing favor to the 2600K.1
Although we ended the 2500K review with the conclusion that now is a good time to start thinking about an upgrade, i7 CPUs are considered as more future-proof. Today, we’re testing that conception to see how it holds up to 2017’s test suite. With Ryzen 7 now fully released, considering 2600K owners are likely looking (price-wise) at a 7700K ($345) or 1700 ($330), it makes sense to revisit SNB one more time.
Note: For anyone who saw our recent Ryzen Revisit coverage, you know that there are some fairly important changes to Total War: Warhammer and Battlefield 1 that impacted Ryzen, and could also impact Intel. We have not fully retested our suite with these changes yet, and this content was written prior to the Ryzen revisit. Still, we’re including some updated numbers in here – but it’s not really the focus of the content, we’re more interested now in seeing how the i7-2600K performs in today’s games, especially with an overclock.
Recapping the 2600K
It’s been a while. As a refresher, the Intel i7-2600K was Sandy Bridge’s 32nm flagship for the non-Extreme chips, utilizing the same 4C/8T core layout that Intel uses today. The 2600K shipped with a stock frequency of 3.4GHz, boosting up to 3.8GHz using Turbo Boost. Of interest, the chip was a particularly good overclocker, partially aided by the fact that many SNB chips were soldered to the IHS (today, Intel defers to TIM). Also of interest, some titles showed a slight performance hit with hyperthreading -- often 1-2% -- as a result of additional overhead and of the games not quite leveraging what they were working with. Today’s KBL CPUs, by way of comparison, show a major deficit with hyperthreading disabled.
The industry has shifted its testing focus since the 2600K launched. In 2011, the launch year of the 2600K, frametime testing was not yet ubiquitous. It was getting there -- Scott Wasson would launch his Inside the Second article in September, 2011 -- but the launch of Sandy Bridge would not be accompanied by widespread analysis of frametimes. Averages, minimums, and maximums still ruled most testing. Today, with new tools and with the industry’s renewed focus on other metrics outside of averages, the 2600K revisit stands to provide insight to an aging architecture.
CPU Testing Methodology
CPU Bench Updates (since the 2500K revisit)
We’ve added all three Ryzen R7 chips, Kaby Lake CPUs including the i3-7350K, and the FX-8370 to our charts since the 2500K revisit. We’ll add R5 chips when review embargo lifts and, at some point, we’ll inevitably have to update our CPU test suite and rerun every test. For now, we’re sticking with the current test methods and software until the R5 review cycle goes through, at which point we’ll look into new games and test cases.
We won’t be revisiting thermals or power testing with the 2600K, since none of that has changed since launch. The focus here is entirely on the gaming and render/synthetic performance.
As usual, we’re taking a fairly casual approach to overclocking: our goal is only to do what a typical user could safely do with an hour or two of experimentation, not to break any records. We did have some minor issues getting the Blender test stable, but resolved them with a vCore boost; we eventually completed all tests successfully at 4.7GHz and 1.35v (+/- 250mV for Blender) vCore. Overclocking capacity varies from chip to chip, and anyone intending to perform their own overclock should follow a guide--there are plenty available for the 2600K by now, making overclocking on SNB trivial.
Game Test Methodology
NVIDIA 376.33 drivers were used for benchmarking. Game settings were manually controlled for the DUT. All games were run at presets defined in their respective charts. All other game settings are defined in respective game benchmarks, which we publish separately from GPU and CPU reviews. Our test courses, in the event manual testing is executed, are also uploaded within that content. This allows others to replicate our results by studying our bench courses.
Windows 10-64 ending in b693 was used for testing. B970 was run for some of the updated R7 1700X tests & 1700 tests, but needs to be run (alongside TWW and BF1 updates) for the 2600K and other Intel CPUs.
Average FPS, 1% low, and 0.1% low times are measured. We do not chart maximum or minimum FPS results as we consider these numbers to be pure outliers. Instead, we take an average of the lowest 1% of results (1% low) to show real-world, noticeable dips; we then take an average of the lowest 0.1% of results for severe spikes.
Core Components (Unchanging)
- NZXT 1200W Hale90v2
- For DDR4 platforms: Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB 3200MHz
- For DDR3 platforms: HyperX Savage 32GB 2400MHz (note: only 2133MHz was supported on our SNB platform)
- Intel 730 480GB SSD
- Open Air Test Bench
- Cooler #1 (Air): Be Quiet! Dark Rock 3
- Cooler #2 (Cheap liquid): Asetek 570LC w/ Gentle Typhoon fan (this is the one we used for this particular article)
- Cooler #3 (High-end): Kraken X62
- Video Card: EVGA GTX 1080 FTW1
- Note: fan and pump settings are configured on a per-test basis.
- MSI Gaming Pro Carbon
- i7-7700K (x2) samples from motherboard vendors
- i5-7600K purchased by GN
- MSI Gaming M7
- i7-6700K retail
- Gigabyte Z97X G1 WIFI-BK
- MSI GD65 Z77
- i5 3570K
- ASUS Crosshair VI
Dx12 games are benchmarked using PresentMon onPresent, with further data analysis from GN-made tools.