Intel Core i7-7700K Review

“. . . as a result, Kaby Lake chips are seeing a 12% bump in performance due to the higher clocks.”

A new year has just begun, and we finally have a new LGA1151 CPU from Intel primed to take on the mantle of best enthusiast processor this side of $1,000.

Although Intel gave us an early glimpse of Kaby Lake’s mobile chops back in August, the Core i7-7700K is the desktop chip we’ve been waiting for. It’s going to be a good year.

From a design and architecture standpoint, there’s not a lot of revolutionary stuff under the IHS of the Core i7-7700K.

It’s a quad-core processor with Hyper-Threading enabled, letting it handle up to eight concurrent threads at a time. It has a 4.2GHz core clock, 200MHz faster than its Skylake counterpart, and a Turbo Boost 2.0 frequency of up to 4.5GHz, or 300MHz faster than the Core i7-6700K’s limit.

These faster clocks and Kaby Lake’s Speed Shift v2 technology, which lets it change clock speeds three times as quickly as Skylake, are the main attractions. But unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or so, you already know that this is still a 14nm process-based chip, the third 14nm processor family Intel has launched since Broadwell.

Say “goodbye” to Intel’s Tick-Tock model and say “hello” to the PAO, (Process-Architecture-Optimization) release scheme.

Kaby Lake is the optimization phase of this cycle, which means the process has evolved slightly. Intel is calling it 14PLUS, and highlights of the tweaked process include a higher fin height and larger pitch, which give the transistors more breathing room, and as a result, Kaby Lake chips are seeing a 12% bump in performance due to the higher clocks. On the downside, because we’re not getting a process shrink, this chip has the same TDP as the Skylake family’s flagship Core i7-6700K, 91 watts.

Other features include 8MB of Intel Smart Cache, an 8GTps DMI 3.0 link between the processor and the Intel Platform Controller Hub, a dual-channel memory controller with a peak bandwidth of 38.4GBps, and support for up to 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes (and access to another 24 from the chipset).

This is, of course, a K Series processor equipped with an unlocked multiplier. Paired with a Z270 motherboard (or a compatible BIOS-updated Z170 motherboard), you can nudge the processor’s operating frequency ever higher for even better performance. We managed to overclock the Core i7-7700K to 5GHz using an aftermarket air cooler, which means you should be able to do better with liquid or something more exotic.

The on-die graphics engine has also received a number of tweaks for Kaby Lake.

The Intel HD Graphics 630 has a dynamic clock of up to 1,150MHz, and the revamped media engine features hardware acceleration for 4K VP9 and HEVC 10-bit encoding and decoding. This processor supports Netflix 4K UHD content and is capable of multi-streaming HD and Ultra HD video content.

The performance gap between Skylake and Kaby Lake is rather narrow, but if you’re still running a 22nm processor or older, this chip should be on the top of your upgrade wish list.

Specs: Clock speed: 4.2GHz (base), 4.5GHz (Turbo); 4 cores; unlocked multiplier; dual-channel DDR4 memory; 8MB Intel Smart Cache; Hyper-Threading;
Turbo Boost; 14nm; 91W TDP

Test system specs: Processor: Intel Core i7-7700K; Motherboard: AORUS GA-Z270X-Gaming 5; GPU: GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming;
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LED 32GB DDR4-3200MHz; Storage: 480GB Patriot Hellfire; OS: Windows 10 Enterprise

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