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Intel Core i3-7350K Review

Conclusion

AMD once owned the hearts and minds of overclockers without big money to spend on Intel's extravagant Extreme Edition processors. But then Intel introduced its Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition, which added an unlocked multiplier to an affordable CPU armed with two very efficient cores. The Core i3-7350K answers critical feedback about the viability of a dual-threaded CPU in 2017 by enabling Hyper-Threading too, but this model's value proposition isn't as clear.

For one, the Core i3-7350K doesn't include a heat sink. And while you don't need a beefy cooler to overclock it effectively, even a moderately-capable thermal solution adds $30 or $40 bucks. We appreciate the unlocked multiplier, sure. But utilizing it requires a Z-series motherboard that also costs more than the B- and H-series platform controller hubs. All of a sudden, true quad-core Core i5s start looking cheaper.

Some previous-gen B- and H-series motherboards employed third-party clock generators that allowed overclocking, but we have yet to see that trend surface for Kaby Lake-compatible motherboards. Z-series boards provide more advanced connectivity options than older systems, such as M.2 and more HSIO lanes, which might compel enthusiasts with older PCs to upgrade. The Core i3-7350K also has the advantage of Intel's HD Graphics 630 with modern encode/decode capabilities.

The Core i3-7350K delivered on our performance expectations with snappy single-threaded performance that provided a great boost in many of our tests. The overclocked -7350K also beat the Core i5-7400 in Ashes of the Singularity. But games well-optimized for threading still tend to favor the i5's extra physical cores. Then again, a mainstream GPU is the most you can hope for in a budget build, so higher CPU performance yields diminishing returns, especially in DX11 games.

Common single-threaded workloads, like many of the Adobe and Office tests, also benefit from higher clock rates. More demanding multi-threaded applications, such as rendering and compression, continue to favor the Core i5 family. In fact, Core i5s and i7s still offer the best performance and value for professional applications.

Due to Intel's slower cadence, higher base frequencies and overclocking headroom are the biggest advantages Kaby Lake has to offer. The Core i3-7350K provides respectable performance at stock settings, but the unlocked multiplier is its main attraction. We could sustain a healthy overclock with reasonable voltages and thermal headroom to spare. Even novice users should be able to reach 4.8 GHz through simple multiplier and voltage adjustments. The i3's Hyper-Threading also adds to the value proposition, but Intel recently added the same capability to the Pentium series, thus blurring its product stack even more.

To complicate matters, Kaby Lake finds us on the cusp of AMD's Ryzen line-up, leaving us feeling like we haven't told the entire story. Intel's maneuvers on the low end suggest it is gearing up for AMD's next move. But its pricing model shows that profits certainly won't be sacrificed. The Core i3-7350K brings a big performance boost to the i3 series and is a win for enthusiasts, but we'd like it a lot more if it came with a lower price tag to offset the additional requirements.


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  • Justiceinacan
    As someone who just enjoys overclocking and was coming from an FX chip, it is nice but I agree with the rest of the article ; a locked i5 is a very solid chip for similar pricing to the unlocked i3 which may fare better or worse.
    Reply
  • Sakkura
    It simply needs to drop $20. I suspect they may have launched this chip, and the hyperthreaded Pentiums, as a precaution for Ryzen. Intel doesn't usually adjust pricing, but I would not be the least bit surprised if the 7350K becomes an exception after the Ryzen launch (assuming things go well for AMD).
    Reply
  • ubercake
    These processors are $159 at microcenter. That's the $20 price drop Sakkura is looking for! I think I'd still just fork over the additional $40 (again microcenter) for the i5 though.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    Given how expensive the top-end i3 has become and the extra expenses that go in actually leveraging its overclockability, I'd say that the i5-7400 with a h270 motherboard would be the better bang-per-buck option in most cases. At least until Ryzen comes along 2-3 weeks from now and redefines what good bang-per-buck is.
    Reply
  • ubercake
    I really hope Ryzen lives up to the hype. I can't wait to see the R7 1800X vs. i7-6900K reviews.
    Reply
  • Ashwaganda
    With 168$ MSRP this cpu just isnt attractive, considering i5-7400 182$ MSRP.
    Even if you could overclock it with cheaper H110/B150/B250 board, the i5-7400 is a better buy. Also the 63$ Pentium G4560 utterly destroys i3-7350K by value.
    Sure G4560 does not have AVX instructions, but who cares. For gaming and everyday use purposes AVX doesnt offer any real benefit.
    Reply
  • bak0n
    The only reason I'd pick up this would be for playing games like Sins of a Solar empire that don't make use of enough cores and loads the screen with lots of processing at end game.
    Reply
  • logainofhades
    These are selling for $180 right now. Simply not worth it. At least the pentium G3258 was priced close to its locked siblings. The price needs to drop, significantly. At current prices, and with the hyperthreaded Pentiums, the i3 is kinda irrelevant right now. Wonder if Intel knows something about Ryzen, that we don't, because these recent moves don't make a lot of sense.
    Reply
  • why_wolf
    I really get the feeling this chip is being setup so Intel can drop the price on it if AMD eats to much of the low end market. As it stands right now, at this price point, I'd have to agree going to an i5 instead makes way more sense for the majority of users out there.
    Reply
  • Math Geek
    the G4620 stands out more in this review to me than this i3 does. at ~$90 it is a much better buy than this i3 for a true budget build. once it's price drops in response to AMD, then it will be worth a revisit once we know what AMD has to offer. but for now, i won't be recommending this cpu to anyone. locked i5 much better bang for the buck with the locked i3 or this new HT Pentium for a budget build.
    Reply