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Intel Devil's Canyon i7-4790K Performance Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Intel’s Devil’s Canyon has been rumored, previewed and eventually delayed but Computex finally marked the full unveiling of the new i7-4790K and i5-4690K processors. Our path to this review follows a similarly contrived path that started at Intel’s shipping facility in California followed by a few days stuck in the black hole that is Canadian Customs.

The Devil’s Canyon lineup was founded upon three core principles that are cornerstones of the enthusiast community: performance, overclocking and temperatures. These CPU’s are meant to be specifically-targeted products which still use the Haswell architecture at their heart but improve in other key areas in an effort to address some of Haswell’s shortcomings. Temperatures were improved by the use of what Intel calls their Next Generation Polymer Thermal Interface Material (NGPTIM) while clock speeds are addressed by an enhanced on-die power distribution network and the improved chips’ ability to natively disperse more heat.


Intel’s goal for the i7-4790K was to create an eight thread processor which could hit a minimum 4GHz and something above that when Intel’s Turbo technology is allowed to ramp up, all without boosting TDP to obscene levels. This represents a rather large improvement when compared against the i7-4770K which struggled to hit 3.9GHz on a consistent basis. Perhaps the most important information about the i7-4790K is its price; at “just” $339 Intel isn’t charging a premium for it.

The i5-4690K on the other hand is a quad core processor that should appeal to price-conscious overclockers due to its lower cost of $242. Once again this doesn’t represent a premium over its predecessor, the i5-4670K, but the core frequency improvements are a far way off from what the i7-4790K offers. We have one on the way but it isn’t here yet so this review will focus exclusively on the i7-4790K.

For those still wondering, Devil’s Canyon processors may be pin compatible with Z87 motherboards but an updated BIOS and the capability for higher current are needed. Therefore, only a few higher end boards have the necessary specifications but due to their age and the move towards Z97 support few, if any, will actually end up with Devil’s Canyon compatibility.

Since you likely know everything there is to know about Devil’s Canyon from a features point of view (or at least we hope so!), we’ll dive right into the meat of this particular review.

There’s two things enthusiasts want to know about the i7-4790K: with the improvements to its internal thermal compound, does it run cooler than its predecessor and, because of that, can it overclock to higher frequencies? While the overclocking part of that equation will still largely be determined by sample to sample variance, it was the first thing we set out to discover. In order to get some comparative data here, we used one of the better air coolers on the market: the Noctua NH-D14S which was equipped with a pair of NF-A14 fans operating at 1500RPM.


With a setting of 1.35V (about 0.10V higher than the default core voltage) alongside some judicious ratio and BCLK adjustments, we eventually hit a maximum clock speed of 4.719GHz on air. That will likely come as a disappointment for those who were expecting 5GHz and more but this is a 24/7 stable overclock that was stress tested for a dozen hours and gamed on for another dozen. To us, that meets expectations even though it isn’t any higher than most folks get with their overclocked i7-4770K processors.

These frequencies didn’t reach thermal throttling limits but rather we ran into a voltage wall whereby anything over 1.35V resulted in increased temperatures and not much in the way of additional returns. For short benchmarking runs of under 10 minutes, we were able to increase voltage to 1.4V resulting in a clock speed of 4.84GHz. However, stability beyond a few minutes was elusive since temperatures climbed significantly.

With these factors in hand, all of the results you will see from this point forward will include two i7-4790K results: one with the processor running at stock speeds while the other has it pegged at 4.719GHz with memory running at 1866MHz.


The i7-4790K seems to operate at roughly the same temperatures as the i7 4770K’s we have hanging around the lab. That’s actually a very good thing since it points towards the NGPTIM doing its work, even though the i7-4790K operates at notably higher frequencies than its predecessor. Naturally, overclocking to 4.719GHz elevates thermal output by a significant amount but temperatures were still manageable (barely!) with an air cooler.

What follows on the next few pages is a rundown of the i7-4790K’s performance in both stock and overclocked forms. Judging from the positioning of the outgoing 4770K, there’s no doubt this new processor will be able to compete with much more expensive options on the IVB-E side.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,857
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Montreal
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 7 and the NVIDIA control panel:
  • UAC – 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

D) Windows updates are then completed installing all available updates

E) All programs are installed and then updated.

F) Benchmarks are each run three to eight times, and unless otherwise stated, the results are then averaged.

G) All processors had their energy saving options / c-states enabled
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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Montreal
System Benchmarks: AIDA64 / Cinebench r11.5

System Benchmarks


In this section, we will be using a combination of synthetic benchmarks which stress the CPU and system in a number of different domains. Most of these tests are easy to acquire or are completely free to use so anyone reading this article can easily repeat our tests on their own systems.

To vary the results as much as possible, we have chosen a selection of benchmarks which focus upon varied instruction sets (SSE, SSE3, 3DNow!, AVX, etc.) and different internal CPU components like the floating point units and general processing stages.


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 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 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.





CineBench r11.5 64-bit


The latest benchmark from MAXON, Cinebench R11.5 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.

 

SKYMTL

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System Benchmarks: Civ V / PCMark 7

System Benchmarks (pg.2)



Civilization V: Gods & Kings Unit Benchmark


Civilization V includes a number of benchmarks which run on the CPU, GPU or a combination thereof. The Unit Benchmark simulates thousands of units and actions being generated at the same time, stresses multi core CPUs, system memory and GPU We give the non-rendered score below as it is more pertinent to overall CPU performance within the application.




PCMark 7


PCMark 7 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. We also give the Computation Suite score as it isolates the CPU and memory within a single test, without the influence of other components.


 

SKYMTL

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System Benchmarks: 3DMark (CPU) / WPrime

System Benchmarks (pg.3)



3DMark06 CPU


While 3DMark06 may be a slightly older synthetic benchmark, its CPU test still allows for multi threaded performance evaluations within a gaming environment. It effectively removes the CPU from the equation, generating a CPU-centric score.



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 sqrting, 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 32M and 1024M benchmarks.


 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,857
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System Benchmarks: Single Thread Performance

System Benchmarks: 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

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Productivity Benchmarks: 7-Zip / MediaCoder

Productivity Benchmarks


In this section, we will avoid generalized synthetic benchmarks and instead concentrate upon CPU performance within real-world applications and standard usage patterns. Every one of the programs included here has functions that many professionals and everyday users utilize in their day to day computing lives.


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 are avoiding its built-in benchmark and once again only focus upon real world testing by compressing a 2.6GB folder of various files and adding an AES-256 encryption layer for good measure. The test is timed until it is complete.




MediaCoder x64


Due to the varying compatibility of certain mobile devices, video transcoding performance has become something of a big deal. Transcoding allows one type of video / audio file to be converted into a different format and it typically takes up a huge amount of system resources. The MediaCoder application brings multi format transcoding to an accessible level with numerous options and acceleration for Intel’s QuickSync and NVIDIA’s CUDA technologies. In addition, its CPU support allows for full multi core utilization. In this test, we use the MediaCoder i-devices edition to convert a 600MB AVCHD file to an iPhone 4S friendly MPEG-4 format.

 

SKYMTL

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Productivity Benchmarks: Photoshop CS6 / POV Ray 3.7

Productivity Benchmarks (pg.2)



Adobe Photoshop CS6


For the image editing portion of this section, we use Photoshop CS6 in coordination with a custom benchmark script. This script automates the application of 20 different image manipulation functions to a 120MB PNG image, acting as an excellent test of CPU power and memory bandwidth. For this test, we have disabled GPU acceleration so it won’t play a factor in the areas where it would typically be used. We use Photoshop’s built-in timing feature to provide a result at each test stage.




POV Ray 3.7 RC6


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 multiple passes of a high definition scene. In order to get the most accurate results, the second pass of the first test is logged, resulting in a benchmark score showing the average amount of pixels rendered per second.

 

SKYMTL

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Productivity Benchmarks: TrueCrypt 7.1 / x264HD

Productivity Benchmarks (pg. 3)



TrueCrypt 7.1


Truecrypt is another freeware gem which allows for on-the-fly disk encryption. More importantly, it fully supports AES-256 encryption methods and multi core processors. For this test, we used the built-in benchmark tool are logged the data throughput for TrueCrypt’s AES-256 encryption method.




x264HD Benchmark


x264 is quickly becoming the new codec of choice for encoding a growing number of H.264/MPEG-4 AVC videos. Think of it as the new Divx of HD and you can understand why we felt it critical to include. Tech Arp's recent development of the x264 HD Benchmark takes a 30 second HD video clip and encodes it into the x264 codec with the intention of little to no quality loss. The test is measured using the average frames per second achieved during encoding, which scales with processor speed and efficiency. The benchmark also allows the use of multi-core processors so it gives a very accurate depiction of what to expect when using encoding application on a typical full length video. We use the second pass of the first test for this benchmark as it fully loads all multi core processors.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Gaming Benchmarks (1440P)

Gaming Benchmarks


In the past we looked at gaming benchmarks through slightly rose colored glasses by utilizing two basic resolutions: 720P and 1080P. Due to Devil’s Canyon targeting enthusiasts who want to push their systems to extreme lengths, we upped the ante this time around and moved on to 1440P. With the advent of 4K into more affordable price points, many are predicting 1440P monitors will soon become as popular as their 1080P counterparts. Whether or not that comes to pass remains to be seen.

At 1440P with every single possible detail setting at its highest value, the GPU will likely take precedence over the processor unless a game truly supports multi threaded performance optimizations. However, with these things being said, we feel this will give you an accurate idea of how the i7-4790K stacks up against the competition in a critical metric. We are using a GTX 780 Ti for these comparisons.




For the most part every CPU here is about equal in most of these tests without much to differentiate one from another. The 4790K does post some impressive numbers and can really kick things up a notch when overclocked but truth be told, fluidity solely hinged on the GTX 780 Ti’s capability to deliver the necessary framerates rather than the CPU.
 

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