The Core i7-4770K Review: Haswell Is Faster; Desktop Enthusiasts Yawn

Core i7-4770K: Did I Shave My Legs For This?

AMD introduced us to its Kabini and Temash SoCs one week ago. Naturally, we were excited to learn more about the Jaguar architecture, to see GCN rolled into a truly low-power configuration, and most of all, to get our hands on the devices AMD was promising. Tablets with big graphics performance. Convertibles that’d invoke Intel’s Ultrabook initiative, but better. Detachable form factors unlike anything ever seen with an AMD APU inside. Oh, we couldn’t wait.

And then we returned home with a reference-class laptop. It wasn’t even touch-enabled. As a performance demonstration, it worked well enough, but that was hardly what we were hoping for after all of the build-up. Frankly, we were disappointed.

A week later, Intel has a potentially great story to tell. Its Haswell architecture is expected to dramatically stretch out what you can get from a notebook battery. It’s going to drop into innovative products that fill a gap between tablets and notebooks. We’re expecting certain models to boast graphics performance to rival mid-range mobile GPUs. However, you don’t get a sense of any of that from Intel’s Core i7-4770K, the implementation of Haswell Intel chose to lead off with.

The Core i7-4770K, specifically, is a bit faster than the -3770K it replaces—but only because of IPC improvements. It runs at the same 3.5 GHz and sports the same four cores otherwise. HD Graphics 4600 are a small step up, but not significant enough to overtake AMD’s $130 A10-5800K APU in any meaningful way. The vaunted Iris Pro Graphics 5200, with eDRAM, is currently reserved for BGA-based SKUs. And although it appears we received fairly overclockable samples of the -4770K, industry consensus amongst the companies with hundreds of these chips on-hand is that, at safe input voltages, 4.3 or 4.4 GHz should be OK. The luckiest enthusiasts might get 4.5 or 4.6 GHz. Skill won’t get you far; Haswell is all about luck of the draw due to its integrated voltage regulator.

So, for the second time in a week, we’re disappointed. Haswell has a lot to offer, just not to desktop enthusiasts. Intel’s attention is fully in the mobile space, and we can tell.

Remember back to December of 2011, when we published Intel Core i7-3930K And Core i7-3820: Sandy Bridge-E, Cheaper? I gave the -3930K our Best of Tom’s Hardware award. Although the Sandy Bridge-E-based part was $600 at the time, power users who bought one have been enjoying it for the last year and a half—and, at its stock clock rate, it’s still faster than a Core i7-4770K in threaded workloads. That might have saved you a $300+ upgrade on Ivy Bridge and now a complete platform overhaul for Haswell.

For those of you on Core i7-2700K or older, Core i7-4770K makes sense as part of a two- or three-year upgrade cycle. Otherwise, I see little reason to spend money on a desktop processor upgrade, a new motherboard, and a compliant power supply. Save those few hundred dollars and put them toward a Haswell-based convertible, perhaps (or something based on Temash, if AMD’s partners can show us a compelling platform). In the meantime, we’ll be waiting on a manifestation of Haswell that more accurately shows off the spirit of Intel’s efforts.

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Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • Novuake
    WELL FINALLY!! Now to read it!

    EDIT : LOL!!!!
  • thiemo56
    Dissapointing, not worth it to upgrade over sandy or ivy bridge.
  • thiemo56
    And they overclock so low.
  • Danny N
    Biggest question is if its worth upgrading my cpu i5 750 4.0ghz to Haswell or my gfx card ati 5870 to nvidia 7xx, my main pc use is for Maya, After FX and some fps gaming. Any input would be appriciated cause I'm leaning towards a cpu upgrade atm.
  • swampfire
    whats scoket is it like lg1155
  • refillable
    @Danny N
    You shouldn't ask here. Perhaps you should get an i7-4770k and a 7970(?) I heard that kepler cards does not perform that good in Maya and Aftereffects (In OpenCL).
  • refillable
    Well unless you can get a 780, that's a whole different story.
  • bergami
    I want to know more about Iris
  • envy14tpe
    Seriously. What did people expect? Of course it's better but nothing out of the ordinary for Intel.
  • enewmen
    For me it's not about the 10% gain over SB. It's more like a huge gain over a C2Q, floating point performance over SB (should matter later), and lower watts. I hope THG can expand the Power Consumption and Media Encoding later - check the Watts idle more and fast quick-sync media encoding quality loss. My 2 cents..

    other sites have reported much lower watts idle, so a lot doesn't make sense or the 4770k has a very slow throttle.