With our Best AM4 Overclocking Motherboards content up, we figured it was time to publish something in the same vein for Intel. Intel presently has two mainstream platforms: the 200-series and 300-series, with the former hosting Kaby Lake CPUs (like the i7-7700K, presently on sale) and the Skylake-X/KBL-X series (X299), while the latter hosts the new Coffee Lake series (i7-8700K, i5-8400). Oddly, Intel decided against launching Coffee Lake with lower-tier B-series motherboards, so we’re left with only Z370 to fill both the mainstream and enthusiast segments of Coffee Lake.
We rummaged through the Internet’s Black Friday sales to find the best Z370 and Z270 Intel motherboards, including boards we think fitting for the 8700K, 8500, 8300, and 7700K. If you missed our previous content, we have a GN Pick Black Friday Sales guide (that lists some CPUs), a DDR4 memory sales guide, and a Best CPUs of 2017 listing. For those unsure of which CPU to buy, we have reviews of the i7-8700K here, the i5-8400 here, and the i3-8350K over here. If you’re interested in Ryzen stuff, check out our motherboard round-up or Best CPUs guide, both linked above.
Intel’s Coffee Lake CPUs aren’t a hard “response” to Ryzen; the CPUs have been taped-out for a while now, but the response appears to align more with the release timeline and pricing. X299 moved forward to compete with Threadripper, and Coffee Lake received a similar treatment. One thing we won’t know, of course, is whether the pricing is some sort of a response to Ryzen. Intel’s i7-8700K premiere CL CPU carries an MSRP target of $360 1ku, a $10-$20 jump over Kaby Lake 7700K CPUs with fewer cores and similar frequencies. Either way, the i7-8700K is here now, and we’ve got a densely packed review covering most aspects of Coffee Lake.
Our Intel i7-8700K review will focus on delidding, liquid metal application, overclocking, gaming & streaming benchmarks vs. Ryzen, power draw, and production benchmarks. Our i5-8600K review will post separately, as this is dense enough as-is.
Our recent R7 1700 vs. i7-7700K streaming benchmarks came out in favor of the 1700, as the greater core count made it far easier to handle the simultaneous demands of streaming and gameplay without any overclocking or fiddling with process priority. Streaming isn’t the whole story, of course, and there are many situations (i.e. plain old gaming) where speed is a more valuable resource than sheer number of threads, as seen in our original 1700 review.
Today, we’re testing the R7 1700 and i7-7700K at 1440p 144Hz. We know the i7-7700K is a leader in gaming performance from our earlier CPU-bottlenecked 1080p testing; that isn’t the point here. We’ve also pitted these chips against each other in VR testing, where our conclusion was that GPU choice mattered far more, since both CPUs can deliver 90FPS equally well (and were effectively identical). This newest test is less of a competition and more of a “can the 1700 do it too” scenario. The 1700 has features that make it attractive for casual streaming or rendering, but that doesn’t mean customers want to sacrifice smooth 144Hz in pure gaming scenarios. As we explain thoroughly in the below video, there are different uses for different CPUs; it’s not quite as simple as “that one’s better,” and more accurately boils down to “that one’s better for this specific task, provided said task is your biggest focus.” Maybe that’s the R7 1700 for streaming while gaming, maybe that’s the 7700K for gaming -- but what we haven’t tested is if the 1700 can keep up at 144Hz with higher quality settings. We put to test media statements (including our own) that the 1700 should be “better at streaming,” finding that it is. It is now time to put to test the statements that the 7700K is “better at 144Hz” gaming.
This series is an ongoing venture in our follow-up tests to illustrate that, yes, the two CPUs can both exist side-by-side and can be good at different things. There’s no shame in being a leader in one aspect but not the other, and it’s just generally impossible given current manufacturing and engineering limitations, anyway. The 7700K was the challenger in the streaming benchmarks, and today it will be challenged by the inbound R7 1700 for 144Hz gaming.
People like to make things a bloodbath, but just again to remind everyone: This is less of a “versus” scenario and more of a “can they both do it?” scenario.
“Good for streaming” – a phrase almost universally attributed to the R7 series of Ryzen CPUs, like the R7 1700 ($270 currently), but with limited data-driven testing to definitively prove the theory. Along with most other folks in the industry, we supported Ryzen as a streamer-oriented platform in our reviews, but we based this assessment on an understanding of Ryzen’s performance in production workloads. Without actual game stream benchmarking, it was always a bit hazy just how the R7 1700 and the i7-7700K ($310 currently) would perform comparatively in game live-streaming.
This new benchmark looks at the AMD R7 1700 vs. Intel i7-7700K performance while streaming, including stream output/framerate, drop frames, streamer-side FPS, power consumption, and some brief thermal data. The goal is to determine not only whether one CPU is better than the other, but whether the difference is large enough to be potentially paradigm-shifting. The article explores all of this, though we’ve also got an embedded video below. If video is your preferred format, consider checking the article conclusion section for some additional thoughts.
Prior to the Ryzen launch, we discovered an issue with GTA V testing that would cause high-speed CPUs of a particular variety to stutter when achieving high framerates. Our first video didn’t conclude with a root cause, but we now believe the game is running into engine constraints – present on other RAGE games – that trigger choppy behavior on those CPUs. Originally, we only saw this on the best i5s – older gen i5 CPUs were not affected, as they were not fast enough to exceed the framerate limiter in GTA V (~187FPS, or thereabouts), and so never encountered the stutters. The newest i5 CPUs, like the 7600K and 6600K, would post high framerates, but lose consistency in frametimes. As an end user, the solution would be (interestingly) to increase your graphics quality, resolution, or otherwise bring FPS to around the 120-165 mark.
Then Ryzen came out, and then Ryzen 5 came out. With R5, we encountered a few stutters in GTA V when SMT was enabled and when the CPU was operating under conditions permitting the CPU to achieve the same high framerates as Intel Core i5-7600K CPUs. To better illustrate, we can actually turn down graphics settings to a point of forcing framerates to the max on 4C/8T R5 CPUs, relinquishing some of the performance constraint, and then encounter hard stuttering. In short: A higher framerate overall would result in a much worse experience for the player, both on i5 and R5 CPUs. The 4C/8T R5 CPUs exhibited this same stutter performance (as i5 CPUs) most heavily when SMT was disabled, at which point we spit out a graph like this:
The Kaby Lake i7-7700K launched to the usual review verdict for Intel CPUs: Not particularly worthwhile for owners of recent Intel i7 CPUs, but perhaps worth consideration for owners of Sandy Bridge and (maybe) Ivy Bridge. The CPU gave an extra 1.5-3% gaming performance over the i7-6700K and roughly ~+7% performance in render applications. The i5-7600K we’d suspect would be similar in its generational stepping, but it’s worth properly benchmarking.
Our i5-7600K ($240) review and benchmark includes CPUs dating back to the i5-2500K (including OC) and i5-3570K, though we’ve also got a similar amount of i7 CPUs on the bench. We’ve just finished re-benching some of our AMD CPUs for some near-future articles, too, but t hose won’t make it on today’s charts.
At the tail-end of a one-day trip across the country, this episode of Ask GN tides us over until our weekend burst of further content production. We’re currently working on turning around a few case reviews, some game benchmarks, and implementing new thermal calibrators and high-end equipment.
In the meantime, this episode addresses questions involving “doubled” DRAM prices, delidding plans for the i7-7700K, contact between a heatsink and the back of a video card, and a few other topics. Check back posthaste as we’ll ramp into publication of our i5-7600K review within the next day.
Video below, timestamps below that:
Gigabyte’s Z270X Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard was the first to host our Intel i7-7700K Kaby Lake CPU that we reviewed. The board also forced us to try a few different motherboards for our Kaby Lake CPU thermal benchmarking, because the initial numbers were astronomically high. We’ll get to that later.
Gigabyte’s newest rendition of its Gaming 7 line places the Z270 7th Gen chipset on the motherboard, alongside the RGB LEDs expected of the company’s “Aorus” brand. The board bills itself a rather high-end solution – at least, before venturing into extreme OC territory – and does so under a $240 banner. Also on our bench the next two weeks, the MSI Gaming Pro Carbon (Z270) and MSI Tomahawk (Z270) were used as a point of comparison against the Gaming 7. As Kaby Lake and the i7-7700K are brand new, the three boards are all we’ve used from the 200-series chipsets thus far.
(UPDATE: We talk about Auto vCore issues in this review. Please note that Gigabyte has since updated its BIOS to fix these problems. Learn more here.)
Intel’s i7-7700K Kaby Lake CPU follows-up on Skylake with a microarchitecture that is largely identical, but with key improvements to the process technology. Through what Intel has dubbed “14nm+,” the new process technology has heightened fins and widened the gate pitch, both serving as key contributors to the increased frequency headroom on the 7th Generation Intel Core CPUs. Other key changes, like enablement of finer-tuned frequency switching and AVX settings, theoretically offer better responsiveness to current demand on the CPU. As with most active frequency tuning, the idea is that there’s some power efficiency benefit that is coupled with better overall performance by way of reduced latency between changes.
Kaby Lake CPUs are capable of switching the clock speed at a 1000Hz rate (or once per millisecond), and though we’ve asked for the minimum frequency adjustment per change, we have not yet received a response. AMD recently made similar mentions of this sort of clock adjustment on Ryzen, using the upcoming Zen architecture. More on that later this week.
Today’s focus is on the Intel i7-7700K flagship Kaby Lake CPU, for which we’ve deployed the new MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon ($165) and Gigabyte Z270 Gaming 7 ($240) motherboards. For this Intel i7-7700K review, we’ll be looking at thermal challenges, blender rendering performance, gaming performance, and synthetic applications. Among those, FireStrike, TimeSpy, and Cinebench are included.
The thermal results should be among the most interesting, for once, though we’ve also found Blender performance to be of noteworthy discussion.
Product availability should begin on January 5, with the official launch today (January 3) for the Intel 7th Gen Core CPU products. Note that some products will not be available until later, like the i3-7350K, which is expected for late January. The i7-7700K will be here once it's available.
There are more than 40 SKUs for the 7th Generation Kaby Lake CPUs, when counting Y-, H-, S-, and U-class CPUs. Starting with the specifications for the 7700K, 7600K, and 7350K CPUs (i7, i5, i3, respectively):
It’s not yet time to pen a full, in-depth comparison between Intel’s forthcoming Kaby Lake chipsets, including Z270, H270, and whatever may become of the lower-end H- and B- lines. There’s still data we’re waiting on, and won’t have access to for a little while yet. Still, some preliminary Z270 & H270 chipset specs have been reported by Benchlife, including information on PCI-e lane count and HSIO lanes. This coverage follows the same format as our Z170 vs. H170, H110, B150, & Q150 differences article.
If the early information is to be believed, the Kaby Lake-ready platform primarily focuses its efforts on largely minor improvements, like additional HSIO lanes to support a burgeoning PCI-e-enabled SSD market. Z270 will move from Z170’s 26 HSIO (High-Speed I/O) lanes to 30 HSIO lanes, providing an additional 4 lanes for M.2 and PCI-e AICs (add-in cards). H270, meanwhile, will move from H170’s 22 lanes up to parity with the Z-series platform, also hosting 30 HSIO lanes. The additional lanes fall into the category of “general purpose” PCI-e lanes, resulting in the following configuration:
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