Intel thought it was helping out enthusiasts by giving Haswell-based K-series SKUs access to a handful of BCLK straps. Instead, the hotter-running, voltage regulator-integrating parts tend to underperform Ivy Bridge-based air-cooled CPUs when it comes to overclocking headroom. As a result, we really didn’t see any reason to upgrade in The Core i7-4770K Review: Haswell Is Faster; Desktop Enthusiasts Yawn, particularly since you’re forced to buy a new motherboard as well.
Previously, you needed a Z-family platform for access to overclocking functionality. That was supposed to carry over to Intel’s Lynx Point chipsets. However, we noticed a BIOS option called “Non-Z OC” in ASRock’s H87 Performance motherboard that suggested Intel might have forgotten to turn unlocked ratios off in one of its lower-end platforms.
It turns out that you can drop a K-series CPU into the well-equipped $105 motherboard and overclock it using the processor’s ratio multipliers. The cost savings compared to Z87 is almost large enough to make up for the fact that Intel charges an extra $40 for its -4770K over the locked-up -4770.
We still think the Haswell-based flagship is priced poorly at $350 when you can get a Core i7-3770K for $320. However, it’s also pretty funny that, despite Intel’s attempts to charge enthusiasts extra for their hobby, the company seems to have left the back door wide open on its less expensive H87 Express platform controller hub.
It’ll be interesting to see if other motherboard vendors come out with enthusiast-oriented boards centering on H87 Express to capitalize. Although H87 still prevents you from splitting the processor’s PCI Express connectivity into multiple links, powerful single-GPU cards like Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 770 and AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 still make it possible to build an affordable gaming machine using the lower-end platform.
We're also trying to confirm whether this works using Core i5-4670K, which is a lot more affordable at $240. That could end up being a value favorite you see show up in next quarter's System Builder Marathon.