The first unlocked i3 CPU, upon its pre-release disclosure to GN, sounded like one of Intel’s most interesting moves for the Kaby Lake generation. Expanding overclocking down to a low/mid-tier SKU could eat away at low-end i5 CPUs, if done properly, and might mark a reprisal of the G3258’s brief era of adoration. The G3258 didn’t hold for long, but its overclocking prowess made the CPU an easy $60-$70 bargain pickup with a small window of high-performance gaming; granted, it did have issues in more multi-threaded games. The idea with the G3258 was to purchase the chip with a Z-series platform, then upgrade a year later with something higher-end.
The i3-7350K doesn’t quite lend itself to that same mindset, seeing as it’s ~$180 and leaves little room between neighboring i5 CPUs. This is something that you buy more permanently than those burner Pentium chips. The i3-7350K is also something that should absolutely only be purchased under the pretense of overclocking; this is not something that should be bought “just in case.” Do or do not – if you’re not overclocking, do not bother to consider a purchase. It’s not uncommon for non-overclockers to purchase K-SKU Core i7 CPUs, generally for desire of “having the best,” but the 7350K isn’t good enough on its own to purchase for that same reason. Without overclocking, it’s immediately a waste.
The question is whether overclocking makes the Intel i3-7350K worthwhile, and that’s what we’ll be exploring in this review’s set of benchmarks. We test Blender rendering, gaming FPS, thermals, and synthetics in today’s review.
For comparison, neighboring non-K Intel products would include the Intel i5-7500 (3.4GHz) for $205, the i3-7100 for $120, and Intel i3-7320 (4.1GHz) for $165. These sandwich the 7350K into a brutal price category, but overclocking might save the chip – we’ll find out shortly.
To catch everyone up, we’ve also already reviewed the Intel i7-7700K ($350) and Intel i5-7600K ($240), both of which can be found below:
In the i7-7700K review, linked above, we already went through Intel’s updated Kaby Lake architecture and its host 14nm+ process. That has not changed with the i3-7350K, and as such, we won’t be going back over that today. The very basics are that Intel’s 14nm+ process refinement has granted an additional couple hundred megahertz of clock headroom, responsible for most of the performance gains we’re seeing this generation.
Here are the specs for all K-SKU products of this generation:
Intel Core i7-7700K vs. i5-7600K, i3-7350K Specs
|Intel Kaby Lake K-SKU CPUs|
|IGP||HD 630||HD 630||HD 630|
|Intel Smart Cache||8M||6M||4M|
Intel Kaby Lake i3 Non-K Specs
|Intel i3 Kaby Lake Specs|
|IGP||HD 630||HD 630||HD 630||HD 630||HD 630|
|Intel Smart Cache||4M||4M||3M||4M||3M|
The Intel i3-7350K operates at 4.2GHz fixed, without Boost functionality, and runs with 4MB of L3 Smart Cache. Comparatively, the 7600K offers 6MB of L3 Cache, with the 7700K offering 8MB.
With the i7, then i5, and now i3 CPUs mostly benchmarked, we’ll next be moving on to include AMD FX processors. That’ll be in time for Ryzen, as you likely suspected, so keep that in mind. If you’re asking why FX isn’t present here, that’s why – we’re adding it to the next round. Our iterative CPU reviewing means that we try to add one line at a time. This helps us focus efforts and analytics on a single device (or family), and controls content scheduling.
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 build 10586 was used for testing.
Each game was tested for 30 seconds in an identical scenario, then repeated three times for parity.
Some benchmarks disable EIST, Turbo, and other features -- please check each section to learn if that is the case. Otherwise, for game benchmarks, assume stock settings (Turbo enabled). We always disable C-states.
Average FPS, 1% low, and 0.1% low times are measured. We do not measure 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
- 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
- Cooler #3 (High-end): Kraken X62
Note: fan and pump settings are configured on a per-test basis.
- Gigabyte Aorus Gaming 7 (primary)
- MSI Gaming Pro Carbon (secondary - for thermal validation)
- i7-7700K (x2) samples from motherboard vendors
Both used for the 7700K.
- MSI Gaming M7
- i7-6700K retail
- Gigabyte Z97X G1 WIFI-BK
- MSI GD65 Z77
Dx12 games are benchmarked using PresentMon onPresent, with further data analysis from GN-made tools.
Note: We'd like to add the i5, i3, and FX CPUs, but this was enough for now. We'll add those as we expand into coverage of Zen or i5 Kaby Lake products.
Thermal Test Methodology
We strongly believe that our thermal testing methodology is among the best on this side of the tech-media industry. We've validated our testing methodology with thermal chambers and have proven near-perfect accuracy of results.
Conducting thermal tests requires careful measurement of temperatures in the surrounding environment. We control for ambient by constantly measuring temperatures with K-Type thermocouples and infrared readers. We then produce charts using a Delta T(emperature) over Ambient value where notated, otherwise, we'll use the diode and sensor measurements to provide a baseline performance metric. AIDA64, Intel Xtreme Tuning Utility, and HW Monitor (CPU PKG) are all used to monitor thermals. It appears that XTU and HW Monitor match in their measurement of CPU PKG for Kaby Lake.
All open bench fans are configured to their maximum speed and connected straight to the PSU. This ensures minimal variance when testing, as automatically controlled fan speeds will reduce reliability of benchmarking. The CPU fan is set to maximum fan speed, unless otherwise stated.
We use an AMPROBE multi-diode thermocouple reader to log ambient actively. This ambient measurement is used to monitor fluctuations and is subtracted from absolute GPU diode readings to produce a delta value. For these tests, we configured the thermocouple reader's logging interval to 1s, matching the logging interval of AIDA64, HW Monitor, and other tools. Data is calculated using a custom, in-house spreadsheet and software solution.