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.

For a chance at winning your own Core i7-4770K-based PC, please click this link to enter our CyberPower PC/Tom's Hardware sweepstakes. The system's specs are as follows:

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The Sweepstakes opens on June 1, 2013 7:00 AM PDT and closes June 14, 2013 7:00 AM PDT.

1 Winner Will Be Chosen Randomly; the prize will be One (1) CyberPower PC as configured below; approximate retail value: $2,400.00.

  • Intel Core i7-4770K 3.50 GHz 8 MB Intel Smart Cache LGA-1150
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  • 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.
  • envy14tpe
    thiemo56Dissapointing, not worth it to upgrade over sandy or ivy bridge.

    Of course not. No one should upgrade from Sandy or Ivy to this, unless you are the 1%.
  • 016ive
    Intel made the Sandy bridge because of the phenom X6, without competition from AMD Intel will make small improvements every generation to make more money :(
  • sl6
    I was looking to make a new system based around this. Looks like Ivy-E will be more promising for the FPS.
  • tomfreak
    Still dont get it, can we still OC the lock CPU via BCLK?
  • anort3
    Well crap. And early overclocking looked so good.
  • mayankleoboy1
    1.4770K sucks harder than the preview showed it to be.

    2. Another thing i noticed, the FX8350 was a big total energy hog. That is one point AMD fanbois dont talk.

    3. Chris , no specialized AVX2 softwares ? No AVX enabled Handbrake in tests ?
    4. Would have liked to see some -/AVX2 compiled software in here. Maybe left for another "compiler tuning on Haswell piece" ?
  • DAsianFatass
    016iveIntel made the Sandy bridge because of the phenome X6, without competition from AMD Intel will make small improvements every generations to make more money

    Yeah, I agree with ya. Without competition there is no innovation. As for intel, "I am disappoint"
  • unknown9122
    I still don't get why intel went with a new socket if they consider the desktop to be "dying"... I think this is AMDs chance to shine
  • thasan1
    is it me or the most exiting news in this review powerPC thing and im not even from US.......
  • Icecweam7
    Is Intel changing its ways to now slownevate the industry? What is Intel's R&D doing? Are they too busy counting their bonuses, stocks, cigars, wine, tee time golf, and vacation trips? *Looks skyward with palm to the face and many yawns
  • ingtar33
    Wow... well no surprise those "leaked" overclock scores were all bogus. Those were reminding me of the reports prior to Bulldozer's arrival.

    But i never would have guessed Haswell would be no better then a 5% improvement over IB, and actually worse on power management and overclocking. Tom's said they had 12 chips and only got 1 to 4.7? almost all of them topped out at 4.3 and 4.4? the "lucky chips" hit 4.5... IB overclocks better then that! I wonder if this is another case of poor thermal grease.

    Disappointing Intel. that they locked BCLK out for non K is no surprise. Frankly, because of the chaos BCLK causes when used, i'm surprised they didn't lock it out completely. I wouldn't touch it even if i had a K series chip.

    Well, if we needed any confirmation that intel was sandbagging so AMD isn't slaughtered this is it. Not only do they provide almost zero improvement, they raised their prices of the cpu across the board too. This chip is about keeping AMD in the desktop game and dominating mobile.
  • ilysaml
    That was obvious, it's all about HD Graphics.
    If steamroller matches Ivy Bridge Performance, AMD will catch up with Intel pretty soon.
  • ingtar33
    ilysamlThat was obvious, it's all about HD Graphics. If steamroller matches Ivy Bridge Performance, AMD will catch up with Intel pretty soon.

    the need a 30%-40% boost over piledriver to match IB/HW. That's a huge jump, and i'm not sure we'll see it.
  • emad_ramlawi
    Its good if you wana build a fresh new computer and use those parts, but not upgrading to this.