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Intel Coffee Lake i7-8700K & i5-8400 Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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It seems like ever since the launch of AMD’s Ryzen and the subsequent introduction of Threadripper, Intel has been on roll. If you have doubts about that, I'll invite you to discuss them in our forum comment thread for this article. While there were some who rightfully accused Team Blue of sitting on their laurels while their competition toiled with a completely uncompetitive architecture, things have rapidly changed. In the key high end desktop (HEDT) market the Skylake-X processors were initially met head on by AMD’s 19xx generation and it was only the introduction of ultra expensive 16 and 18 core variants that saved Intel’s bacon. Meanwhile the Ryzen 7, Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 series ended up stealing Kaby Lake’s thunder in lower price points since they were able to offer more threads alongside reasonably high clock speeds at a lower cost.

This is where Coffee Lake gets factored into the equation since in my original Ryzen 7 analysis I mentioned some concerns. While AMD’s new architecture obviously blew Skylake out of the water in most instances and competed well against Kaby Lake, Intel was on the cusp of launching Coffee Lake and that could cause a speed bump for the plucky Ryzen CPUs. Kaby Lake-X failed to make a dent in their leadership but that could all change.


Make no mistake about it; Coffee Lake isn’t a response to Ryzen but rather a natural continuation of Intel’s strategy for 2017 and beyond. Remember that roadmaps and architectures take years to bring to fruition and the course plotted for these new processors was set in stone long before AMD surged back into the larger picture. That means Intel had to rely on frequency adaptability over architectural revisions to insure they remained in the driver’s seat…and that’s exactly what happened. They have been able to successfully combine more cores, higher frequencies and better efficiency into a single generation without moving beyond their tried and tested 14nm manufacturing process.

Before getting too far into this, I need to delve a bit deeper into that 14nm process since it has proven to be both a liability and asset for Intel. When it was launched back in 2014 with Broadwell, the 14nm 3D tri-gate process was revolutionary since it allowed those processors to incorporate more transistors into an exceedingly compact die area. Intel has since evolved 14nm to the point where they are actually able to increase physical core counts without blowing past the low TDP values Core-series processors are known for. This so-called 14nm++ process has also been optimized for improved frequencies and also includes a few additional optimizations as well.


All of this leads to a very interesting lineup indeed, headlined by the $360USD i7-8700K. This 6 core, 12 thread CPU may not have the core counts to compete with the $400 Ryzen 7 1700X and $330 Ryzen 7 1700 but those are the processors Intel is going after. Not only does the 8700K split the price different between the two but it also operates at substantially higher core speeds (both Base and Boost) while also featuring a very similar TDP range. Add to that Intel’s new Smart Cache technology which we detailed in the Kaby Lake-X performance review and this may indeed be a winning formula.

The i7-8700 is another interesting addition to the Coffee Lake lineup but one that will largely appeal to those who don’t’ plan on overclocking or system integrators who are looking to maximize their bang to buck ratio. It has the exact same specifications as the 8700K but utilizes a bit lower frequencies to justify its price reduction of $54. Don’t forget that Intel is also sticking to their K-series overclocking mentality where only certain K-branded SKUs receive unlocked multipliers. That means the i7-8700 can’t be overclocked, making it perfect for prebuilt systems.

Moving ever so slightly down-market brings me to the i5-8600K, a processor that will likely be the darling of this particular lineup. You see, unlike its quad core predecessor this little guy receives six native cores without Hyper Threading, an unlocked multiplier and a price of $260. That makes it a prime competitor for AMD’s very popular Ryzen 5 1600X and once again the higher clock speeds of Coffee Lake alongside that 9MB of so-called Smart Cache could be a key differentiating factor.


Personally I think the next step down in the Coffee Lake product stack is the most intriguing and possibly the best positioned to put the screws to AMD. The i5-8400 is a somewhat oddly named CPU since its 6-core, 6-thread layout is identical to that of the 8600K but the key differentiator is in the frequencies. This CPU operates at a Base speed of just 2.8GHz but I never experienced it hitting less than 3.1GHz, even in the most strenuous of conditions. Could this make it a perfect competitor against the Ryzen 5 1500X? That depends on how it aligns against a 4 core, 8 thread competitor that can be overclocked, unlike this SKU which has its capabilities locked behind a wall. Want that extra headroom? Intel is asking you to pony up the $80 for their 8600K.

At a price that’s within spitting distance of the i5-8400 there’s Intel’s quad core, unlocked i3-8350K. It may not have a Turbo ratio but if history is any indication, the i3 processors have historically offered some insane bang for buck ratios in gaming. This one likely won’t be any different but some may feel like the native 6-core layout of the 8400 may be money well spent despite the 8350K’s overclocking capabilities.


Finally, at the Coffee Lake lineup’s trailing edge there’s the i3-8100 which costs just $115 and boasts a native quad core layout. Again we are seeing the “overclocking tax” implemented in a pretty big way since the $55 separating it and the 8350K accounts for just 400Mhz and an unlocked multiplier.

With these processors in place, there seems to be lot of space left over for additional entrants into the Coffee Lake lineup. There’s also to concern of mission creep into Kaby Lake-X territory. With the X299 platform housing some relatively affordable options of its own (remember, the i7-7740X costs some $20 less than the i7-8700K), how will these two very similar options sleep in the same bed? That remains to be seen but as we make our way through this article, it will become obvious that Intel intends for each respective chipset’s inherent capabilities (and limitations) to be a determining factor in any purchase.

A number of pretty significant questions have been swirling around Coffee Lake since its inception and subsequent soft launch late last month. In short Intel is trying to capitalize upon their manufacturing process leadership by enhancing clock speeds so they’re further afield from AMD’s while also adding more physical cores across their entire product stack. Will this approach of trying to do more with less really work? Well, that’s what this review is trying to find out.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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Montreal
The Z370 Platform; More of the Same or Just Enough?

The Z370 Platform; More of the Same or Just Enough?


Let’s get this straightened out right away: Coffee Lake processors will require you to buy a new motherboard. Previous generation Kaby Lake processors won’t be forwards compatible with these new boards either. Should you be shocked, dismayed or outraged? Some folks will go through each of those stages because from a chipset feature standpoint, there’s absolutely nothing noteworthy to distinguish Z370 from its predecessors. All of the improvements in this particular generation stem from improved power delivery and support for higher memory speeds.

And yet if we take emotion out of this equation, there may very well be some justifiable reasons for this switch according to Intel. There are some very specific memory trace requirements for consistent memory 2666MHz operation. Those improvements should also make this particular platform a record setter when it comes to achievable memory speeds since they will directly improve stability above 3600MHz. Power distribution for Coffee Lake processors has also seen an evolution but only in an incremental way, and mostly to support the new 6-core, 12-thread variants.

We also can’t forget that people upgrading to 8th generation Intel processors likely won’t be doing so from Kaby Lake’s Z270 or even Skylake’s Z170 platform. Rather, they are Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge and even Broadwell users who are finally able to break with the 4-core, 8-thread architectural rut that has been around for the better part of seven years. They no longer need to look towards the premium HEDT space to for the ability to concurrently process more threads. Access to features like M.2, USB 3.1 Gen2, Thunderbolt and support for NVMe storage devices is just icing on the cake and will bring their systems up to current standards.


The first thing that you need to understand about Z370 is that Intel has tried to pull a bit of a fast one in their marketing materials. Instead of listing PCIe 3.0 lanes that originate from the CPU (there’s still only 16 in this case), they now list a more nebulous and extremely misleading “Platform PCIe 3.0” lanes which combines Coffee Lake’s 16 lanes with the chipset’s 24 to make a total of 40.

Much like with Z270 there are 24 PCIe lanes, of which four are dedicated towards a high speed interconnect for Optane or other NVMe storage devices. None of these lanes can actually be utilized for graphics duties and indeed many of them will be given over to interfaces like USB 3.1 Gen2, Thunderbolt and even U.2 or switched over for additional SATA / USB interconnects. Honestly, there are absolutely no differences here when compared to Z270 but motherboard vendors may endeavor to differentiate their Z370 boards with different layouts for key interfaces. More on that later.

Now moving up to the processor itself and as I alluded to before, there aren’t really any changes here either since the architecture itself hasn’t been given any fundamental updates. Unlike Ryzen processors which include an additional four Gen3 lanes explicitly for high bandwidth storage and four native USB 3.1 Gen1 outputs directly on-die, Intel only has their usual 16x lanes which can be split into two x8 interfaces. That’s it.

But how are motherboard vendors endeavoring to differentiate their Z370 products from those launched less than a year ago? Let’s take a look at the ASUS RoG STRIX Z370-E Gaming for some pointers.


Physically, there aren’t any major operational differences between the two boards; they have the exact same PCIe slot layout and VRM heatsink design. Even the sound solutions are identical. All in all it looks like other than a few tracing changes, they are carbon copies of one another.

There is however one relatively significant addition to the Z370 version: gone is the little dinky heatsink over the chipset and in its place is a more extensive affair which also covers the lowermost (primary) M.2 slot. As faster NVMe storage devices make their way to market vendors have increasingly realized that more cooling is needed for these small yet hot-running drives. There were times when some SSDs ended up throttling due to heat load on their controllers. Hence, we will see more M.2 heatsinks make their way onto this generation of motherboards.


The way Z370 handles NVMe and SATA storage is interesting since it natively supports just a single device, in this case it’s that bottom M.2_1 slot which also shares bandwidth with the SATA_1 port. Meanwhile ASUS has added a second M.2 connector which I conveniently labeled M.2_2 and utilizes a PCIe switch (in this case ASMedia’s 1490) while sharing bandwidth with the SATA_5 and SATA_6 ports. Basically this shared bandwidth means if you use one of those connectors, the other will be disabled. Note however that M.2_2 only supports NVMe devices and doesn’t have SATA compatibility.

M.2 RAID isn’t supported here, nor are there any plans to add that feature in the future since it is reserved for Intel’s X299 platform.


Since Intel’s Z370 doesn’t have any native support for USB 3.1 Gen2 or the newest iterations of Thunderbolt, those have to be added via secondary controllers attached to the chipset’s PCIe 3.0 ports. In the STRIX’s case there’s an onboard front panel Gen2 connector which –if utilized- disables the board’s PCIE_2 and PCIE_4 slots since it requires a pair of dedicated lanes. This runs off of an ASM 3142 controller.

The backplate also has two USB 3.1 Gen2 connectors (one Type-A and one Type-C) which have a pair dedicated PCIe 3.0 lanes running into a single ASM 3142. While these don’t share bandwidth with any other onboard items, they do feed off of the same internal port which means bandwidth will be partitioned if two Gen2 devices are being used at the same time.

If you are running multiple high bandwidth drives and connected devices, there are indeed some sacrifices that still need to be made for Z370 users but they are tempered by the fact this platform costs significantly less than X299. There are other tangible benefits as well, some of which are well highlighted by ASUS here.

When it comes to memory overclocking, the Z370 STRIX-E now has an additional “gear” of 4000MHz whereas its predecessor officially topped out at 3866MHz. More importantly, that 4000MHz can be achieved with four DIMMS and 64GB provided your CPU’s memory controllers can handle the load.

Finally there are those minor modifications I talked about, the ones that won’t make any headlines but ASUS nonetheless decided to include here. The Bluetooth 4.2 protocol is now being used (versus 4.1 for the Z270 STRIX), there’s a new addressable RGB header and I even noticed a fan header dedicated to the M.2 slot. But do these items make this particular board a viable solution for would-be Coffee Lake buyers? I’d say so considering its price will likely be just under $199 USD.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
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Test Setups & Methodology

Test Setups & Methodology


For this review, we have prepared a number of different test setups, representing many of the popular platforms at the moment. As much as possible, the test setups feature identical components, memory timings, drivers, etc. Aside from manually selecting memory frequencies and timings, every option in the BIOS was at its default setting.


For all of the benchmarks, appropriate lengths are taken to ensure an equal comparison through methodical setup, installation, and testing. The following outlines our testing methodology:

A) Windows is installed using a full format.

B) Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed.

C)To ensure consistent results, a few tweaks are applied to Windows 10 and the NVIDIA control panel:
  • UAC – Disabled
  • Windows HPET – Disabled
  • Indexing – Disabled
  • Superfetch – Disabled
  • System Protection/Restore – Disabled
  • Problem & Error Reporting – Disabled
  • Remote Desktop/Assistance - Disabled
  • Windows Security Center Alerts – Disabled
  • Windows Defender – Disabled
  • Screensaver – Disabled
  • Power Plan – High Performance
  • V-Sync – Off
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
System Benchmarks: AIDA64

AIDA64 Extreme Edition


AIDA64 uses a suite of benchmarks to determine general performance and has quickly become one of the de facto standards among end users for component comparisons. While it may include a great many tests, we used it for general CPU testing (CPU ZLib / CPU Hash) and floating point benchmarks (FPU VP8 / FPU SinJulia).


CPU PhotoWorxx Benchmark
This benchmark performs different common tasks used during digital photo processing. It performs a number of modification tasks on a very large RGB image:

This benchmark stresses the SIMD integer arithmetic execution units of the CPU and also the memory subsystem. CPU PhotoWorxx test uses the appropriate x87, MMX, MMX+, 3DNow!, 3DNow!+, SSE, SSE2, SSSE3, SSE4.1, SSE4A, AVX, AVX2, and XOP instruction set extension and it is NUMA, HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.




CPU ZLib Benchmark

This integer benchmark measures combined CPU and memory subsystem performance through the public ZLib compression library. CPU ZLib test uses only the basic x86 instructions but is nonetheless a good indicator of general system performance.



CPU AES Benchmark

This benchmark measures CPU performance using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) data encryption. In cryptography AES is a symmetric-key encryption standard. AES is used in several compression tools today, like 7z, RAR, WinZip, and also in disk encryption solutions like BitLocker, FileVault (Mac OS X), TrueCrypt. CPU AES test uses the appropriate x86, MMX and SSE4.1 instructions, and it's hardware accelerated on Intel AES-NI instruction set extension capable processors. The test is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.



CPU Hash Benchmark

This benchmark measures CPU performance using the SHA1 hashing algorithm defined in the Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 180-3. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly. More importantly, it uses MMX, MMX+/SSE, SSE2, SSSE3, AVX instruction sets, allowing for increased performance on supporting processors.



FPU VP8 / SinJulia Benchmarks

AIDA’s FPU VP8 benchmark measures video compression performance using the Google VP8 (WebM) video codec Version 0.9.5 and stresses the floating point unit. The test encodes 1280x720 resolution video frames in 1-pass mode at a bitrate of 8192 kbps with best quality settings. The content of the frames are then generated by the FPU Julia fractal module. The code behind this benchmark method utilizes MMX, SSE2 or SSSE3 instruction set extensions.

Meanwhile, SinJulia measures the extended precision (also known as 80-bit) floating-point performance through the computation of a single frame of a modified "Julia" fractal. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and utilizes trigonometric and exponential x87 instructions.




The first sets of benchmarks shows a bit of a yin and yang situation for our two Coffee Lake processors. On one hand the i7-8700K and i5-8400 exhibit some very competitive performance in baseline tests that simulate standard workflows. As a matter of fact, they walk all over similarly-priced AMD options. However, things turn on their proverbial heads when encryption / decryption algorithms are factored into the equation. It should be interesting to see how these results translate into real world tasks.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
System Benchmarks: Cinebench / PCMark 8 / WPrime

CineBench R15 64-bit


The latest benchmark from MAXON, Cinebench R15 makes use of all your system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene using various different algorithms to stress all available processor cores. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects containing more than 300,000 total polygons and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights and shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. This particular benchmarking can measure systems with up to 64 processor threads. The result is given in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.

Please note that we are looking into this result as it has come to our attention it is quite high for an otherwise "stock" Coffee Lake system. We will update this result with an annotation once additional testing is complete.



PCMark 8


PCMark 8 is the latest iteration of Futuremark’s system benchmark franchise. It generates an overall score based upon system performance with all components being stressed in one way or another. The result is posted as a generalized score. In this case, we didn’t use the Accelerated benchmark but rather just used the standard Computational results which cut out OpenCL from the equation.





WPrime


wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're squaring, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum. This is a highly multi-threaded workload. Below are the scores for the 1024M benchmark.

 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Single Thread Performance

Single Thread Performance


Even though most modern applications have the capability to utilize more than one CPU thread, single threaded performance is still a cornerstone of modern CPU IPC improvements. In this section, we take a number of synthetic applications and run them in single thread mode.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
13,264
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Montreal
Productivity Benchmarks: 7-Zip / Adobe Premier Pro

7-Zip


At face value, 7-Zip is a simple compression/decompresion tool like popular applications like WinZip and WinRAR but it also has numerous additional functions that can allow encryption, decryption and other options. For this test, we use the standard built-in benchmark which focuses on raw multi-threaded throughput.



Adobe Premier Pro CC


Adobe Premier Pro CC is one of the most recognizable video editing programs on the market today as it is used by videography professionals and YouTubers alike. In this test we take elements of a 60-second 4K video file and render them out into a cohesive MP4 video via Adobe’s Media Encoder. Note that GPU acceleration is turned on.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Productivity Benchmarks: Blender / 3ds MAX Corona

Blender


Blender is a free-to-use 3D content creation program that also features an extremely robust rendering back-end. It boasts extremely good multi core scaling and even incorporates a good amount of GPU acceleration for various higher level tasks. In this benchmark we take a custom 1440P 3D image and render it out using the built-in tool. The results you see below list how long it took each processor to complete the test.




3ds MAX Corona Renderer


Autodesk’s 3ds MAX is currently one of the most-used 3D modeling, animation and rendering programs on the market, providing a creative platform for architects to industrial designers alike. Unfortunately its rendering algorithms leave much to be desired and third party rendering add-ons are quite popular. One of the newest ones is called Corona.

In this test we take a custom 3D scene of a room with global illumination enabled and render it out in 720P using Corona’s built-in renderer.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Productivity Benchmarks: GIMP / Handbrake

GIMP


While it may be open source, GIMP is actually one of the most popular free photo editors available right now. It uses both CPU and GPU acceleration for certain tasks. In this test we use an 8K image and use a script to run eight different filters in succession. This is considered a lightly threaded workload since the memory, CPU and storage drive can all play a role in performance.




Handbrake


Video conversion from one format to another is a stressful task for any processor and speed is paramount. Handbrake is one of the more popular transcoders on the market since it is free, has a long feature list, supports GPU acceleration and has an easy-to-understand interface. In this test we take a 6GB 4K MP4 and convert it to a 1080P MKV file with a H.264 container format. GPU acceleration has been disabled. The results posted indicate how long it took for the conversion to complete.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Productivity Benchmarks: POV Ray / WinRAR

POV Ray 3.7


POV Ray is a complex yet simple to use freeware ray tracing program which has the ability to efficiently use multiple CPU cores in order to speed up rendering output. For this test, we use its built-in benchmark feature which renders a high definition scene. The rendering time to completion is logged and then listed below.




WinRAR


WinRAR is one of those free tools that everyone seems to use. Its compression and decompression algorithms are fully multi-core aware which allows for a significant speedup when processing files. In this test we compress a 3GB folder of various files and add a 256-bit encryption key. Once again the number listed is the time to completion.

 
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