Intel’s answer to Ryzen

Intel Core i7-8700K By Koh Wanzi

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Intel Core i7-8700K

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Intel’s 8th-generation desktop processors dropped in October, but they’re still based on the same 14nm process as the 7th-generation Kaby Lake chips. This marks the fourth CPU generation that Intel has stuck with a 14nm lithography process, and despite Intel dubbing it 14nm++, the fact remains that the chipmaker has had trouble moving on to 10nm.

But AMD’s resurgence means that Intel has had to contend with the dual pressures of dealing with the limitations of physics and the growing competition from AMD’s Ryzen processors.

The Intel Core i7-8700K may be the answer to that, and it’s Santa Clara’s first ever mainstream chip to feature six physical cores. Ryzen upended the status quo by bringing excellent multi-threaded performance to a mainstream price point, so instead of a more iterative update in the form of still higher base clocks, Intel is now adding more cores to its mainstream offerings.

You’d be forgiven for wondering if there was anything new when the Coffee Lake chips were announced. And considering that there aren’t any major architectural changes coming from Kaby Lake, this might seem at first like a rather lackluster update from Intel.

But that overlooks the boost that the extra cores give the Core i7-8700K. AMD still has the core count advantage, but Intel is closing the gap in terms of multi-threaded performance at this price point, while still maintaining better singlethreaded performance and an instructions per cycle (IPC) advantage.

The extra cores don’t come free though, and the Core i7-8700K’s TDP is up slightly to 95W, from 91W on its predecessor. That’s a small jump on paper, but you’re likely to see a larger difference while overclocking or even when just stressing the CPU.

Price is also up slightly to US$359, compared to the US$339 that the Core i7-7700K debuted at.

Performance-wise, the Intel Core i7-8700K to the overall lead in SYSmark 2014 SE, likely thanks to its high Turbo Boost 2.0 speed of 4.7GHz and relatively robust multi-threaded capabilities. It was roughly 11 per cent quicker than the Core i7-7700K, a modest improvement for yet another generation of 14nm processors. In addition, it was 26 per cent faster than the Ryzen 7 1800X, despite both chips having relatively similar base clocks. Intel does have a significantly higher maximum boost clock – 4.7GHz versus 4.2GHz – but given that the Core i5-8600K was also quicker than the Ryzen 7 1800X, it’s likely that Intel edged ahead because of its higher IPC.

In Cinebench R15, the Ryzen 7 1800X was just 14 per cent faster than the Core i7-8700K, a much narrower lead than the 65 per cent advantage it holds over the Core i7-7700K. Intel has closed a lot of ground in just a single generation, and it continues to reign supreme in terms of single-threaded performance, where the Core i7-8700K was 23 per cent quicker than the Ryzen 7 1800X.

When it comes to games, things are more of a mixed bag. The Core i7-8700K isn’t markedly faster than the Core i7-7700K, and it would be accurate to say that the two are more or less on par, at least for the vast majority of GPU-bound titles.

However, CPU-bound games like Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation will see more of an improvement at lower settings and resolutions, where the CPU is the limiting factor.

Having said that, the main improvement coming from the Core i7-7700K would appear to be the far more robust multithreaded performance, as opposed to any must-have leap in gaming capability.

In addition, Intel says the Core i7-8700K should offer slightly better overclocking headroom, and we found that to be true.

We managed to get the Core i7-8700K to 5.13GHz, compared to the 5.04GHz on the Core i7-7700K, which netted a nice 17 per cent increase in Cinebench’s multi-threaded benchmark.

Intel has also added controls for per-core overclocking, so you get finer grained control over the final overclock.

Another thing to note is that there’s no backward compatibility with Intel Z270 boards, so you’ll need a new Z370 board to run Coffee Lake. Changes include an improved power delivery design, tweaks to the CPU package power delivery, as well as tighter memory routing for the higher DDR4-2666 memory specification.

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A powerful gaming chip that delivers strong multi-threaded performance for streamers and enthusiasts.

The Core i7-8700K uses the same
LGA 1151 socket as the previous
generation, but will only work with
new Z370 chipset motherboards.
The Core i7-8700K uses the same LGA 1151 socket as the previous generation, but will only work with new Z370 chipset motherboards.
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