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

How We Tested Core i7-4790K

Architecturally, Core i7-4790K is the same as its predecessor. If you want to know more about Haswell, check out The Core i7-4770K Review: Haswell Is Faster; Desktop Enthusiasts Yawn.

Really, our purpose today is comparing the previous flagship to Intel’s most recent effort. With that in mind, I ran both CPUs in stock and peak-overclocked form through the newest build of our benchmark suite.

Test Hardware
ProcessorsIntel Core i7-4790K (Haswell) 4.0 GHz (40 * 100 MHz), LGA 1150, 8 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled
Intel Core i7-4770K (Haswell) 3.5 GHz (35 * 100 MHz), LGA 1150, 8 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled
MotherboardMSI Z97 Gaming 7 (LGA 1150) Intel Z97 Express, BIOS 1.3
MemoryG.Skill 16 GB (4 x 4 GB) DDR3-1600, F3-12800CL9Q2-32GBZL @ DDR3-1600 at 1.5 V
Hard DriveSamsung 840 Pro 256 GB, SATA 6 Gb/s
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX Titan 6 GB
Power SupplyCorsair AX860i, 80 PLUS Platinum, 860 W
Heat SinkNoctua NH-U12S, Fan set to 100% duty cycle
System Software And Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 8 Professional x64
DirectXDirectX 11
Graphics DriverNvidia GeForce Release 337.88

Obviously, the overclocks on both processors represent a limited look into what you might get in the wild. What I can say, though, is our Core i7-4770K is a retail-purchased processor that I snagged from Newegg (and not the press sample we were using previously, which hit 4.7 GHz). It better represents what many of our readers report: using strong air cooling and 1.275 V, four cores are stable at 4.2 GHz, with more lightly-threaded workloads running up to 4.5 GHz. It’s hard to apply significantly more voltage and not run into thermal issues, so we tend toward settings that (ideally) won’t do as much damage to the CPU over time.

My Core i7-4790K is a press sample. Nevertheless, it’s not an outrageous overclocker. I was able to get it up to 4.6 GHz across all four cores using 1.31 V, with single-threaded tasks jumping up to 4.8 GHz. In this case, it appears possible to apply higher voltages to dial in a more stable/higher overclock. However, we’re still apprehensive about going much higher than 1.3 V on Intel’s 22 nm process.

All tests are run on MSI's Z97 Gaming 7 motherboard running the latest 1.3 firmware. We populated all four of its memory slots with 4 GB modules, dropped in a GeForce GTX Titan graphics card, and hooked up Samsung's 840 Pro SSD. 

Benchmark Configuration
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CCVersion 12.0.0.404 x64: Create Video which includes three Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly
Adobe Photoshop CCVersion 14.0 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premeire Pro CCVersion 7.0.0, 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 11.0.4.4 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
LAME MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.9.9: Video from Canon EOS 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, Two-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
TotalCode Studio 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 11.0.102.583: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat XIVersion 11.0.0: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012 and 2013Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.68a, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual Studio 2010Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
File Compression
WinZipVersion 18.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 5.0: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.30 Alpha: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.5
PCMark 8Version: 2.0, Creative (Conventional)
  • NBSN
    Really nice read. I am very excited to see how well the i7-4790k performed, and that means in 2-3 years the CPUs that will be out are going to be amazing. It will be nice to start seeing stock clocked 4 GHz to 4.5 GHz Intel CPUs to better keep up with the AMD overclocking that many builders do. I prefer Intel and really feel that they offer the best performance for their CPUs.

    I built my PC at the end of last year, beginning of this one and went with a i7-4930k. I really wanted a six core processor and have not been disappointed. I have been itching to build another PC because it was really fun to put the plan of components together and although my hands were to big and my medical conditions prevented me from getting to do a lot of the building, my wife helped a lot with that part and it was nice to see the finished product in action. With that being said, I don't have a lot of money for anything right now and hope that my disability pay finally comes through so I can start picking together parts for a computer for my wife. She won't need anything as powerful as I have, and the i7-4790k sounds pretty sweet.
    Reply
  • smeezekitty
    4GHz base clock on an intel chip wowie
    Reply
  • dark_wizzie
    The average overclock based upon my Google Doc of about 185 overclocks now averages at 4.55ghz for Haswell. A tim change isn't going to gain an extra 200mhz and even then, it's being generous.

    On a side note, this website annoys me. I click to add comment and the default fields are for signing up, no logging in, and when I do, I am back to the homepage. Great.
    Reply
  • roymustang
    It would've been nice to show benchmarks and temps vs sandy bridge (2600K) at same frequency to help us gauge the progress (or the lack of) that's been made in the last three and a half years.
    Reply
  • neon neophyte
    so one of their biggest selling points ended up resulting in a 6 degree difference.

    bring back solder intel.
    Reply
  • tomfreak
    Seriously u should bench it against the old Hex core like 990X, 3930K, 4930K.
    Reply
  • Amdlova
    nice improve :) please where i put my razor? no way 6ºc improve. my ambient temp hits 45ºc my old 3770k 4.6ghz hit 88ºc on core. with this "new shinning old tech" i can't hit the 4.2ghz. intel miss and miss Hard!
    Reply
  • NBSN
    I think that the whole real point of releasing this new processor and the others to follow it is simple. Intel wants to offer a better stock clock for those that do not want to or do not know how to overclock their processor. And since AMD allows easier overclocking, or at least a whole lot more processors that can be overclocked than the ones that Intel specifies for their own products. This will help a lot of consumers decide Intel over AMD if they continue to offer comparative clocks.
    Reply
  • ssdpro
    First problem: 6C between the old and new TIM is something, but not much. As one of the big improvement features, that is disappointing.

    Second problem: Why is Tom's using 1.275 V for 4200MHz on both units? Is that actually 1.275v with LLC disabled or is LLC on a setting resulting in the lowest load voltage? If one of those units need 1.275v to be stable at 4200 you have a real donkey sample on your hands. Even the worst i7-4770k are stable at 1.20v @ 4200. Or was the over voltage designed to test an unrealistic incompetent situation to either emphasize or DE-emphasize the TIM difference?
    Reply
  • Adroid
    Sorry, but I'm entirely unimpressed. Improved TIM is a waste of time. I thought this was going to release with fluxless solder. 6° worth the wait ? 6° is the difference between air cooling and water cooling.

    Voltage wall is still at the approximate same place. Heat is still the limiting factor. I expect some of the better binned 4670K will hit equal or better than the 4690K.

    I'll stay with my 3570K @ 4.3ghz - this clearly isn't much of a step up. Looks like I'm waiting for a DDR4 system in a couple years.
    Reply