Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-7700K, i7-7700, i5-7600K, i5-7600 Review

Intel is in the midst of the largest restructuring in its history. The company is shifting focus to what it considers growth opportunities like the IoT, cloud, and data center markets. Meanwhile, it's grappling with a slowly declining mainstream desktop PC market, even as the unlocked K-series SKUs grew 20% year-over-year.

The company’s insistence that it isn’t abandoning enthusiasts is genuine. And in the face of an impending AMD Ryzen roll-out, Intel really wants power users to get excited about a refreshed processor portfolio. Today's desktop-oriented Kaby Lake launch is different, though. It marks a departure from the heady days of its Moore’s Law-fueled tick-tock cadence, which normally finds the company presenting a new microarchitecture followed by a die shrink. Intel is now adhering to its new Process-Architecture-Optimize cadence, or tick-tock-tock, if you will.

Instead of plowing forward with a 10nm shrink, Kaby Lake falls into the optimize phase and comes bearing Intel’s tuned 14nm+ process. These CPUs are borne from targeted refinements to the existing node, resulting in faster transistors that enable 300-400 MHz-higher clock rates than Skylake could achieve. However, the previous-gen architecture rides back into the picture atop the process improvements. So we aren't the lucky recipients of any IPC enhancements or other new technologies. As we learned during Intel’s mobile Kaby Lake launch, most of the changes come in the form of an improved media engine, a nimbler SpeedShift, and the welcome addition of higher frequencies.

These revelations may be disappointing to enthusiasts, but at least Kaby Lake is accompanied by a new chipset. And although this generation isn't going to inspire a computing renaissance, there are a few interesting reasons to find it attractive. For instance, Intel is teasing us with 3D XPoint-powered Optane compatibility (availability expected later this year).

We’ve already taken a few quick pre-NDA snaps with early Core i7-7700K samples, so let’s take a more expansive look at the Kaby Lake line-up.

Intel Core i7-7700K, i7-7700 and Core i5-7600K, i5-7600

The launch includes a healthy array of seventh-generation -S, -H, -U, and -Y-series processors that include Core i7, i5, and i3 models, along with two Xeon chips for mobile workstations. The bulked-up portfolio includes offerings that range from 4.5W to 91W with a wide range of integrated HD and Iris Plus Graphics. Naturally, we focus on the S-series chips destined for the desktop.

Kaby Lake processors drop into the LGA 1151 interface, so you can use them with existing Z170-based motherboards (after a requisite BIOS update) or the new Z270 chipset. Not surprisingly, we find the same allotment of IA cores, TDP ratings, and cache hierarchies. Intel also moved to the slightly-enhanced HD Graphics 630.

We're dealing with the same dual-channel memory controller from Skylake, though Intel bumps official DDR4 support up to 2400 MT/s from 2133 MT/s. We expected Intel to add Turbo Boost 3.0 support, which identifies single-threaded workloads and pins them to the fastest core, but it's apparently keeping that feature exclusive to Broadwell-E.

The four-core/eight-thread Core i7-7700K catches our eye with a top Turbo Boost frequency of 4.5GHz. We also saw the chip sustain 4.4 GHz across all four cores during our stress tests. The MSI motherboard we used as a test platform also features an Enhanced Turbo feature that increases the four-core frequency to 4.5 GHz. The -7700K's base clock rate is 4.2 GHz, an increase of 200 MHz over the previous-gen -6700K, and all four Turbo Boost levels jump by 300-400 MHz.

The four-core/four-thread Core i5-7600K stands out as an impressive value with its 3.8 GHz base clock, which is up 300 MHz faster compared to its predecessor. Turbo Boost binning is also impressive, ranging from a single-core 4.2 GHz to 4.0 GHz on all four cores.

Thankfully, Intel left its pricing structure alone, and the Core i7-7700K retails for $339 while the versatile i5-7600K weighs in at $242. The Core i5-7600K is a great deal for the value-conscious, but an unlocked Core i3 adds a new wrinkle to the locked-i5 purchasing decision.

The Unlocked i3 Debut

Intel's Core i3-7350K marks the company's first unlocked dual-core/quad-threaded model with a 60W TDP. Obviously that makes it an interesting option for overclocking on the cheap. A 4.2 GHz base clock rate is encouraging, and the lack of Turbo Boost shouldn't bother tuners much. The increased capabilities of HD 630 graphics make the on-die solution usable, but a stingy 4MB L3 cache is a bummer.

Regardless, the prospect of an unlocked Core i3 is exciting, and it shows Intel listening to the post-Pentium G3258 feedback. As with all unlocked K SKUs, the -7350K doesn't include a heat sink. A $168 MSRP is within reach of its locked Core i3-7320 counterpart, but it would be even more compelling in the $155 range.

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The rest of the Core i3 series is broken up between 51W and 35W TDPs, and they all feature Intel HD Graphics 630. On-die graphics does get a minor clock rate bump, but higher CPU frequencies are definitely more noteworthy. The entire series features a 200 MHz speed-up. Those clocks probably aren't going to compel anyone to upgrade, but if you were already on the prowl for a low-power solution, Kaby Lake Core i3s are compelling. 

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    Top Comments
  • cknobman
    Boooooooooooooooooring.

    Bring on the new AMD cpu's!!!

    Oh, nice review the boring is not Toms fault ;)
    30
  • Jim90
    "Intel’s slow cadence of incremental upgrades hasn’t done much to distance its products from AMD's.
    "...Obviously we need a competitive AMD to help reinvigorate the desktop PC space."

    Without real competition the only risk Intel takes with the Desktop market is to loose sight of (i.e. actively ignore) the performance jump the consumer expects in a new release. Continual and lengthy minor incremental updates (pretty much what we've seen since the 2000 series) may well lead to consumer apathy. I certainly haven't upgraded 'as much as I could!' recently. Absolutely no justifiable need.

    Then again, perhaps we've all had access to enough power we need? We used to talk about 'killer apps/software' to drive consumers into making a purchase. This certainly did work. Maybe new tech (currently available) isn't killer enough? We need another '3dfx Voodoo' experience?
    VR is certainly (definite?) a potential driver...here's hoping for speedy and significant updates here.
    10
  • Other Comments
  • freak777power
    Based on our initial testing, we can confirm that HD Graphics 630 does not function correctly under Windows 7 and 8.1. Both operating systems install generic drivers for the display adapter, even after applying the latest drivers and updates, so many core features remain unavailable. We also experienced stability issues with Windows 7 that might even negate using an add-in GPU as a workaround.

    Not true, i setup Kaby Lake in my lab and everything works fine under Windows 7. Did you guys even try to apply drivers for HD Graphic 630?
    0
  • adgjlsfhk
    It would have been kind of nice to see igpu vs gtx 750 and other low end discrete graphics cards, but other than that, great review.
    5
  • cknobman
    Boooooooooooooooooring.

    Bring on the new AMD cpu's!!!

    Oh, nice review the boring is not Toms fault ;)
    30
  • Jim90
    "Intel’s slow cadence of incremental upgrades hasn’t done much to distance its products from AMD's.
    "...Obviously we need a competitive AMD to help reinvigorate the desktop PC space."

    Without real competition the only risk Intel takes with the Desktop market is to loose sight of (i.e. actively ignore) the performance jump the consumer expects in a new release. Continual and lengthy minor incremental updates (pretty much what we've seen since the 2000 series) may well lead to consumer apathy. I certainly haven't upgraded 'as much as I could!' recently. Absolutely no justifiable need.

    Then again, perhaps we've all had access to enough power we need? We used to talk about 'killer apps/software' to drive consumers into making a purchase. This certainly did work. Maybe new tech (currently available) isn't killer enough? We need another '3dfx Voodoo' experience?
    VR is certainly (definite?) a potential driver...here's hoping for speedy and significant updates here.
    10
  • PaulAlcorn
    Anonymous said:
    Based on our initial testing, we can confirm that HD Graphics 630 does not function correctly under Windows 7 and 8.1. Both operating systems install generic drivers for the display adapter, even after applying the latest drivers and updates, so many core features remain unavailable. We also experienced stability issues with Windows 7 that might even negate using an add-in GPU as a workaround.

    Not true, i setup Kaby Lake in my lab and everything works fine under Windows 7. Did you guys even try to apply drivers for HD Graphic 630?


    Hello, yes we did test and attempt to install the HD Graphics 630 drivers. We are working with early BIOS revisions, so it is possible that we encountered a platform-specific issue. Can you share which motherboard you used for your testing? Any feedback is welcome.
    4
  • ohim
    Why are they even releasing this ? It makes absolutely no sense to release such a product ...
    1
  • redgarl
    I am concerned about Quality Assurance issue more than small performance increment.
    4
  • redgarl
    Anonymous said:
    Why are they even releasing this ? It makes absolutely no sense to release such a product ...


    Probably to make a statement of some kind.
    0
  • FormatC
    Anonymous said:
    Not true, i setup Kaby Lake in my lab and everything works fine under Windows 7. Did you guys even try to apply drivers for HD Graphic 630?
    You really have drivers for the Z270 chipset with official support of Windows 7 from intel and Microsoft? I tried it also and was not able to run KL with all features on a W7 installation. It runs, somehow. :)
    0
  • valeman2012
    Just notice that people that are using these CPU you need Windows 10 to have everything working 100%.
    0
  • Dosflores
    Intel's non-E CPUs are great for laptops, but it seems that they'll become irrelevant for desktops with dedicated graphics. Skylake-E will surely be much more interesting for top performance. For gaming, an eight-core Ryzen seems more attractive than buying a CPU with four ultra-fast cores, and hundreds of millions of transistors destined for graphics that you won't ever use.
    1
  • valeman2012
    Kaby Lake is good if you upgrading something from AMD FX...lol
    Kaby Lake best use in Windows 10
    Kaby Lake Perfromance it better than what AMD FX Provides so goodluck to far range upgraders.
    0
  • ac13044
    not much difference between kaby and skylake. skylake il stick too till cannonlake comes about. for those amd airheads come on it runs hot at stock settings also intel are not bothered about amd and what they have to offer as intel rises up more people using intel than amd imo
    -3
  • mavikt
    I was expecting to see a definitive, albeit small efficiency improvement over Sky lake.
    That's what I read into the 14nm+ label they're using. Atleast with a "14nm+" process you'd think they should've ironed out alot of the production process variability.
    I can only conclude that the production process variations of the 14nm+ is greater that the improvement of "going from 14nm to 14nm+".

    Is the 14nm+ just a marketing gimmick?
    0
  • FormatC
    It is in the first line a very welcome cost-down for Intel. ;)
    0
  • weilin
    I'm sticking to my guns on this one

    it's not "tick -> tock -> tock" it's "tick -> tock -> tweak"
    7
  • Sakkura
    Anonymous said:
    I'm sticking to my guns on this one

    it's not "tick -> tock -> tock" it's "tick -> tock -> tweak"


    I'll go with "tick-tock-toe" because this is nowhere near as interesting as a real tock.
    7
  • Martell1977
    A few more "incremental" performance increases and I might find it worth the money to upgrade...my i7-950(@ stock speed) lives on, lol!
    9
  • mac_angel
    great work showing the previous generation at the same clock speeds for an actual comparison.
    4
  • SteelCity1981
    the only diff between kaby lake and skylake is kaby lakes igpu supporgs vp9 and hvec 10 codecs. that's it and has e saw here a skylake clocked at the same speed as kaby lake shows no performance diff.
    2