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Intel Kaby Lake i7-7700K & i5-7600K Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Feb 26, 2007
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13,264
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Montreal
The launch of Intel’s new Kaby Lake processors may not be an easy one. Not only has the NDA been broken in every way imaginable but after the relatively uninspiring performance uplifts of Skylake and (to a lesser extent) Haswell, expectations are understandably diminished this time around. There is some hope though since I’m here to say that if you’ve been waiting to upgrade your Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge system, now may be a great time.

The performance, overclocking capabilities and other elements of Kaby Lake may have been leaked to no end by unscrupulous elements of the media but beyond that, there is a lot to like about this refreshed architecture. It runs at higher speeds, pricing remains competitive and it happens to be backed up by an extremely capable new chipset.


At its heart Kaby Lake actually represents a significant tectonic shift for Intel. This is the first processor generation that officially moves away from their ubiquitous “tick-tock” cycle of a manufacturing process technology shrink followed by a core architecture change. While the rollout from Haswell to Devil’s Canyon could also be considered a minor example of this, the 14nm Skylake architecture along with its subsequent refreshes like Kaby Lake and its upcoming successors breaks a longstanding tradition.

In short, the 14nm node will be around for the foreseeable future as tick-tock gives way to a three-step of a new manufacturing process followed by an architecture change and then core optimizations / refreshes. Kaby Lake can be considered an optimization of Skylake but there’s enough new here –at least on some levels- to pique your interest.


Before I get too far into this article and its nitty-gritty architectural details, let’s discuss Intel’s refreshed Kaby Lake-S lineup. It may not look all that interesting at first glance but there are some noteworthy additions and more than a few surprises. For the most part it is a clone of what we saw with Skylake, just with higher core speeds at every SKU level without any associated TDP increase. Remember, this is a refresh and not a whole new architecture.

By and large what we are seeing here is a 200MHz to 300MHz increase in raw base / boost clocks over the previous generation. There are a few other changes lurking behind these numbers that also have a positive effect upon inter-generational IPC performance metrics but for the most part much of Kaby Lake’s benefits will like within its achievable frequency range. As a result the uplift over Skylake chips should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-12% depending on the scenario.

Kaby Lake’s pricing also remains aligned with Skylake but there are a few moves to very slightly lower brackets. I’d expect this to change as AMD’s intents for Ryzen become clearer and Intel adapts their strategies accordingly.


Moving a bit further down-market and this is where I think Intel’s new lineup really comes into its own. As we’ve seen in the past, the more affordable i5 and i3 options actually provide some great bang-for-buck performance while –if you are a gamer- providing in-game framerates that are extremely close to those achieved by higher end CPUs. Even here there are some incremental 200MHz clock speed improvements when moving to Kaby Lake and the dual core, quad thread i3-series processors still lack a Turbo mode.

With that being said, arguably the most interesting Kaby Lake processor lies right at the center of this chart: the i3-7350K. While the Skylake generation received the unlocked Pentium Anniversary Edition as a more affordable overclocker-friendly processor, this time around Intel is moving their entry-level K-series part into the mid-range. The i3-7350K commands a $20 premium over the locked and 100MHz slower i3-7320 and it should prove to be one of the most popular CPU’s in the Kaby Lake lineup when it is released into retail channels in late January or early February. I can see this thing pairing perfectly with a compact ITX system.


From a core architectural standpoint there hasn’t really been any changes between Skylake and Kaby Lake. It is still built upon a 14nm process node and incorporates between two and four logical cores. However, due to manufacturing process efficiencies, Intel has been able to expand this refresh’s effective frequency range upwards without negatively impacting TDP values.

Behind the scenes there are some minor upgrades built into Kaby Lake. First and foremost Intel’s Speed Shift technology has undergone a refresh. Like its predecessor in Skylake, the second generation Speed Shift allows the operating system to hand off control of the CPU’s Turbo mode to the processor itself. This means quicker response times to performance requests (about 30 milliseconds) and very fine granularity for P-States. Meanwhile, the second generation of this technology further cuts down the response time to about 15ms.

Another rather significant addition is the incorporation of support for Intel’s next generation Optane memory at the platform level. Billed as a low-cost option to drastically increase performance through the use of 3D Xpoint technology and non-volatile memory, Optane is supposed to combine memory and storage subsystems into one blazing-fast device. In its most basic implementation you will be able to pair up Intel Optane Memory with a traditional hard disk to boot system and application load times. However, this riff on Intel’s older Smart Response Technology is just the beginning and its capabilities will surely expand at a breakneck pace provided costing remains competitive.

The only real limiting factor with Optane compatibility is that it will need to be enabled by motherboard vendors on their products and it will require a Kaby Lake processor. This will be done via the addition of an Optane-certified M.2 slot which has access to a minimum of four PCIe 3.0 lanes from the Z207 chipset.

All in all it looks like with the addition of fast speed bins, a new mid-tier overclockable SKU and Optane memory support, there could finally be a good reason for some hold-outs with older systems to upgrade. And yet even with these moves towards a more competitive product stack, will Kaby Lake really offer enough to capture the hearts and minds of enthusiasts? Let’s find out.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Feb 26, 2007
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13,264
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Montreal
Say Hello to Z270 – A Chipset for Today & Tomorrow?

Say Hello to Z270 – A Chipset for Today & Tomorrow?


With every new processor launch, Intel invariably updates their chipsets in parallel and rolls out either a new or revised platform. This time around Z170 is being replaced by a revised and slightly updated Z270 platform while lower end chipsets will also be phased out in favor of H270 and B270-based products. For the purposes of this article I’ll be sticking to Z270, code named Union Point.

Much like the Kaby Lake processors themselves, not much has changed in the transition from Z170 to Z270 but the new chipset’s facelift does contain provisions for the bandwidth requirements of Intel’s Optane memory / storage combination. With that being said, if you want Kaby Lake and don’t care about Optane the new processors will be compatible with outgoing Z170 boards. Skylake CPUs will also be forwards compatible with Z270 but that particular upgrade path would be pointless since –according to Intel’s documents- Optane will only be accessible for Kaby Lake CPUs.


Form a high level perspective these 7th generation Core processors won’t offer anything new from a connectivity standpoint. The CPU has just 16 integrated PCIe 3.0 lanes that can be dedicated towards single graphics cards or split up in a dual x8 format. Intel has reserved higher end dual x16 layouts for their enthusiast level platform and that likely won’t change in the foreseeable future. Even with that taken into account you can be argue that with the incorporation of Optane, Intel’s “mainstream” Z-series chipset is now significantly more upgrade-ready than X99.

On the memory side of the equation, Intel has retained DDR4 support up to 2400MHz but if history is any indication, Kaby Lake should be able to push your RAM modules well past that mark.


The PCH is where Intel has incorporated the one major change to this platform. Rather than the 20 PCIe 3.0 lanes and 26 High Speed I/O lanes found on the Z170, motherboard vendors now have 24 PCIe lanes and 30 HSIO lanes originating from the Z270 chipset. This has allowed many of them to add a x4 PCIe lane grouping dedicated to a combination M.2 / Intel Optane slot without negatively impacting other critical high bandwidth I/O areas like Thunderbolt, USB 3.1 Gen 2, additional SATA 6Gbps ports and USB-C.

Those four additional PCIe lanes also represent something of a double edged sword. After speaking to numerous motherboard manufacturers, there’s some concern that Intel hasn’t offset those four chipset-bound PCIe lanes with a faster DMI connection between the CPU and PCH. In certain scenarios where multiple I/O devices are being accessed in parallel, the usable bandwidth between the two can become saturated and cause a bottleneck. As a result, performance of some components could be truncated…at least in theory. Only time and testing will tell if this happens in real-world situations.

Other than the added PCIe bandwidth, there hasn’t been any major change to the PCH over the one which appeared alongside Skylake motherboards. The lone exception to this situation is a very minor update to Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology algorithms to better support Optane and other PCIe-based storage solutions.


So how have these “new” chipsets been put to good use with the Z270 generation? No better example of that can be found than ASRock’s new Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6, an affordably priced sub-$200 motherboard. Not only does this board epitomize the advances we will see with the Kaby Lake generation platform but it also improves in areas the original Z170 Gaming K6 fell short of refreshed Z170 competitors from the likes of Gigabyte, ASUS and even EVGA. However, expect the arms race for mobo supremacy to continue as lower priced offerings receive upgrades that push their feature sets into premium territory.

Let’s start with the obvious benefits since –for the most part at least- the layout has remained the same. Even though this is a budget-friendly motherboard it features onboard diagnostic LEDs and Power / Rest switches. There’s also plenty of space for aftermarket cooling installation, USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C headers on the rear I/O, four DDR4 slots rated for 3866MHz operation and a 12-phase digital power delivery system. What more anyone could want is beyond me but ASRock hasn’t stopped there….


Compared to the original Gaming K6, this generation adds the soon-to-be-ubiquitous Optane-supporting M.2 slot as an add-on. That means the Z270 Gaming K6 has two M.2 slots wereas the Z170 version offered just one. You can also see where some bandwidth concerns arise if both of these high-bandwidth connections are populated.

Other than the second M.2 slot ASRock also decided to roll a few more features into this board which were either MIA or overlooked on its predecessor. There is a third M.2 slot dedicated for a WiFi / Bluetooth module, a move away from Killer’s NIC to dual Intel LAN modules (expect many vendors to make this change) and the addition of a Creative Sound Blaster Cinema3 audio controller. If you skipped the Z170 version of this board in the hope there would be a better replacement, look no further.

Other than a few connectivity improvements, ASRock has really gone to town with add-ons to move this board slightly up-market. There’s now full RGB LED control alongside a dedicated LED header, the inclusion of a High Bandwidth SLI bridge, steel-reinforced PCI-E x16 slots and a dedicated water pump header. Now you’ll likely notice many of these are simply aligning this board with those of the competition but don’t’ forget that ASRock has done so without charging one iota more.

So what does all of this say about upcoming Z270 boards? Not much actually since the number of benefits over Z170 products will vary by vendor. Within the mid-range and lower end boards there will obviously be a considerable uplift in feature sets but flagship products may be challenged to differentiate themselves in any meaningful way since they were already loaded with features.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
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 10 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
 

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.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
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.



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.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
13,264
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Montreal
Productivity Benchmarks: 7-Zip / Blender / Handbrake

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.



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.



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.

 

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. The only addition to our normal benchmarks is Dolphin which uses a simple Nintendo GameCube emulation test on a single core.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
720P Gaming – 3DMark / BF1 / DOOM

720P Gaming – 3DMark / BF1 / DOOM




 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
720P Gaming – GTA V / Middle Earth / Witcher 3

720P Gaming – GTA V / Middle Earth / Witcher 3




 
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