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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)
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.