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Core i7-4790K Adds Enthusiast Appeal To Haswell

Core i7-4790K Review: Devil's Canyon Tantalizes Enthusiasts

You might call the Core i7-4790K Haswell’s Super Saiyan form. Intel didn’t rework its thermal interface material or power delivery because the Core i7-4770K was facing pressure from AMD. No. Devil’s Canyon appears as the company’s response to guys like me who’ve poked at it for multiple generations about a lack of attention shown to enthusiasts.

What we get in return is a CPU operating 500 MHz faster, designed to complement the just-released 9-series platform controller hubs, and best of all, available at the same ~$340 price point as Core i7-4770K. Intel didn’t need to pile on all of that frequency. It could have prevented partners from extending 8-series chipset compatibility. And the company would certainly be within its right to bump prices up. But it’s being more benevolent than the jaded critics might have expected.

Instead, Core i7-4790K surfaces as the Haswell-based flagship we should have had a little more than a year ago. Where our reception of the 4770K was tepid at best, Intel’s 4790K at least satisfies our desire for demonstrable performance improvement. The processor doesn't overclock worlds better than the 4770K, but additional headroom is never guaranteed. It's the extra 500 MHz promised from the same die you're going to want. With that said, if you ignored my original indifference and bought Haswell when it was introduced, 4790K isn't going to compel another upgrade. But if you’re coming from something in the Sandy Bridge generation, or even certain Ivy Bridge-based CPUs, it's going to be a lot more interesting than 4770K was.

Then again, if you’re on a budget, and spending $340 on a host processor isn’t viable, there are two other unlocked options from Intel sure to enjoy mainstream success. The Core i5-4690K operates at a 3.5 GHz base clock rate and 3.9 GHz top Turbo Boost setting, while the Pentium G3258 offers a 3.2 GHz frequency. We’ve tested K-series i5s before, and know they are some of the most effective gaming processors available thanks to efficient architectures and overclocking headroom. That 20th anniversary Pentium is something completely new, though. Will its dual-core configuration overclock well enough to outpace AMD’s Athlon X4 750K in general desktop and gaming tests? You can bet we’ll be answering that question soon enough.

One last parting shot: I know there aren't a ton of comparison numbers in today's charts. I really wanted the face-off to be between Core i7-4790K and -4770K using our latest benchmark versions. But paging back through some of the tests that haven't changed in Intel Core i7-4960X Review: Ivy Bridge-E, Benchmarked, it's worth noting that Core i7-4790K, even overclocked, trades blows with the Core i7-3930K at its stock clock rate in most threaded benchmarks (Haswell obviously smokes Sandy Bridge-E in tests that run on one core). I know that was a $600-something processor two-and-a-half years ago, but it sure holds up well. You have to be happy as an enthusiast if you're still sitting on a tuned -3930K.

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