IN­TEL CORE i7-7700K

The re­turn of 5GHz


KABY LAKE is eighth pro­ces­sor it­er­a­tion since the in­tro­duc­tion of the In­tel Core se­ries that started with Ne­halem. For eight years, the com­pany has pressed to push the ad­van­tage in its pro­ces­sor lineup, and each and every time it’s man­aged a mar­ginal 10–15 per­cent per­for­mance in­crease. This process has been, for the longest time, based around the con­cept of Tick-Tock. In short, a new ar­chi­tec­ture would be de­signed based on the lat­est tran­sis­tor size, then that tran­sis­tor size would be shrunk the fol­low­ing year. For in­stance, Sandy Bridge (or the Core i5-2500K) held the new ar­chi­tec­ture, while Ivy Bridge (Core i5-3570K), re­leased a year later, was the die shrink, and so on.

How­ever, this hasn’t al­ways been the case, and In­tel has, time and time again, come up against is­sues. The first we saw of this was with the Haswell re­fresh, known as Devil’s Canyon, then once more as Broad­well was de­layed for around six months—each drop in tran­sis­tor size be­com­ing ever more dif­fi­cult for the tech­nol­ogy gi­ant to achieve. Fast-for­ward to the re­lease of Sky­lake, In­tel’s first 14nm ar­chi­tec­ture, and we’re greeted with news that Tick-Tock is fi­nally be­ing an­nexed in fa­vor of a new scheme called PAO, or Process, Ar­chi­tec­ture, Op­ti­miza­tion. In short, the die shrink (orig­i­nally the Tick) has turned into the Process part; the ar­chi­tec­ture (the Tock) is now, well, the Ar­chi­tec­ture; and lastly we also have Op­ti­miza­tion. A new piece to the puz­zle, where In­tel at­tempts to gain the max­i­mum amount of per­for­mance pos­si­ble from both a ma­ture man­u­fac­tur­ing process and a more op­ti­mized ar­chi­tec­ture. On top of giv­ing In­tel an ad­di­tional year to per­fect its man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses, it also gives us an­other chip.

Ig­nor­ing Devil’s Canyon, Kaby Lake is the first true Op­ti­miza­tion re­lease we’ve seen, and with it comes a lot of ques­tions. If In­tel’s gen­er­a­tional gains have been so min­i­mal from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion, what on earth can Kaby Lake do to make that any dif­fer­ent? Well, that’s what we’re here to an­swer.


In­tel’s Core i7-7700K is a four-core, eight-threaded, low-power ren­der­ing pow­er­house. It is, in short, the pin­na­cle of what In­tel has man­aged to achieve with Sky­lake and the 14nm tech­nol­ogy. With greater per­for­mance and bet­ter overclocking po­ten­tial than we’ve seen from any of In­tel’s last few gen­er­a­tions of chips, it comes pack­ing a whop­ping 4.2GHz core fre­quency, tur­bo­ing up to 4.5GHz with boost. We were im­me­di­ately im­pressed with its out-of-box per­for­mance. In Cinebench R15, we saw scores planted well into the high 900s, with sin­gle-core per­for­mance peak­ing at 194—a sweet lit­tle 8 per­cent in­crease over Sky­lake. It was a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence across the board.

What re­ally im­pressed, how­ever, was the overclocking po­ten­tial. We in­creased the mul­ti­plier up to 48 with­out the core bat­ting so much as an eye­lid, and stock volt­ages hap­pily keep­ing the 4.8GHz chip on track. 5GHz came next, need­ing only a 0.05V in­crease to the Vcore, with tem­per­a­tures sit­ting com­fort­ably at 62 C un­der our 280mm NZXT Kraken X61. But it kept go­ing, higher and higher, un­til even­tu­ally we topped out at 5.2GHz with 1.4V added to the Vcore—a sub­stan­tial in­crease, but tem­per­a­tures still only sit­ting at 80 C. This chip runs cool—ice cool, in fact. Stun­ningly im­pres­sive com­pared to older edi­tions, this is an over­clocker’s core.

Is it worth up­grad­ing to­day? Well, that de­pends on what in­ter­ests you. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the Z270 chipset is fea­turerich, and adds ad­di­tional sup­port for PCIe de­vices and such. But in con­trast to the change from Z97 to Z170, it pales in com­par­i­son. Putting the pro­ces­sors side by side, the dif­fer­ence be­tween Sky­lake and Kaby Lake is min­i­mal. If you’re al­ready set up with the sixth gen­er­a­tion of pro­ces­sor, it’s cer­tainly not worth your time, un­less you’re an overclocking fiend af­ter the high­est pos­si­ble per­for­mance, with lower temps, and bet­ter power draws. Up­grad­ing from Ivy Bridge, Haswell, or Devil’s Canyon, on the other hand, is very much worth your time. And we can’t rec­om­mend this core enough in that re­gard.

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