Intel Core i3-8350K Review

Final Analysis

Dramatic changes to the Core line-up are a boon to PC enthusiasts, and there is little to complain about in the performance department. Intel's Core i3-8350K gives us twice as many cores at a supposedly comparable price point versus the previous generation. But considering we didn't like that last model much, the -8350K would need to be exceptional to earn our affection.

In the chart below, we plotted gaming performance with both average frame rates and a geometric mean of the 99th percentile frame times (a good indicator of smoothness), which we then converted into an FPS measurement. We're also presenting price-to-performance charts that get split up to include CPUs-only and extra platform costs. For the models that don't come with a bundled cooler, we add an extra $25 for a basic heat sink. We also add $20 if overclocking requires a more expensive motherboard (as is the case for Z370).

It's hard to beat an overclocked Core i3-8350K for gaming unless you have the cash for a pricier Core i5 or i7. In fact, the i3-8350K is surprisingly competitive with those more expensive Coffee Lake-based models if you spend some time overclocking. And Core i3-8350K destroys Kaby Lake in everything. An overclocked Ryzen 5 1600 provides the biggest challenge from AMD, but it's only able to go up against the stock -8350K. Overclocking propels this chip into a league of its own. The less expensive Ryzen 5 1500X also makes a compelling case for enthusiasts willing to turn the overclocking dials, but its much lower stock performance isn't as attractive.

The Core i3-8350K is surprisingly agile in our application suite. We recorded impressive performance in lightly-threaded applications, and observed competitive results in the multi-threaded workloads, too. Of course, any threaded benchmark is going to go Ryzen 5 1600's way. But Intel's quad-core Core i3 does help close distance that Kaby Lake lost to Ryzen, so the losses in heavily-threaded workloads aren't as pronounced.

And that's the issue we have right now with Ryzen 5 1600. You gain some performance in productivity workloads, as expected from a 6C/12T processor, but you lose quite a bit of single-threaded speed in other applications. Core i3-8350K presents a more balanced profile.

Speaking of balanced, the Core i5-8400 is our biggest winner here. You can drop it into a cheaper B-series platform, once those arrive, and get a really good mix of performance across the board. It also comes with a bundled cooler. You won't get the extreme gaming performance available from an overclocked Core i3-8350K, but you're going to gain a lot of flexibility in other workloads. Software is undoubtedly evolving to utilize multi-core architectures more extensively, so the two extra cores should come in handy down the road.

We weren't particularly fond of Intel's Core i3-7350K. Its high-end motherboard requirement and lack of a bundled cooler were out of touch for this value-sensitive segment. Core i3-8350K suffers from the same problems, compounded by limited availability leading to insane premiums. Even at Intel's MSRP, you're only a few bucks away from the six-core -8400 that comes with a thermal solution and drops into a cheaper motherboard.

Given what we've seen from Coffee Lake, it's time to steer you clear of Kaby Lake. But Intel won't let us. The lack of any meaningful Coffee Lake availability is causing severe price gouging, making it difficult for us to recommend anything from Intel's line-up right now. Should the Coffee Lake models fall to where they're supposed to be, they'll represent a big step forward in computing power for your dollar.

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29 comments
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  • Brian_R170
    Newegg shows the Core i3-8350K in-stock right now for $189 (still $10 higher than "recommended customer price" from Intel), but well below the pricing button that says it costs $250 on Newegg. I thought those pricing buttons were updated real-time now?
  • salgado18
    Intel made a mess of a rushed launch to answer Ryzen, but there is one thing they are unbeatable: low price. I know, they have always been expensive, but given the circunstances, it's very easy for them to underprice their chips to have better value.

    Well, sounds bad, but then again AMD triggered this, and consumers are the winners, right?
  • Quaddro
    How to block permanently the ad video..?
    Dude, i'm in limited quota here..

    I dont want to waste every bit for some useless video..
  • mhokett
    So my I7-4790K is now being beat in cinebench by an OC i3. At stock speeds it gets a Cinebench score of 830 and the OC i3 gets 840. So glad i can still OC it and at least beat the i3.
  • 1_rick
    "It's only a shame that, as with all K-series processors, you're on the hook for your own thermal solution."

    Translation: "We're disappointed that Intel didn't bundle in the usual under-powered fan that you'll need to replace if you want to overclock."
  • rgrigio
    Should i assume it to be as fast as a STOCK i7 4790k? At least when only 4 cores are required?
  • East17
    I believe we need to stop putting so much emphasis on <current> single threaded performance. As long as the difference is not over 20%, for gamers and power users this matters less now.

    All games, all apps and even browsers are going Multi-Threaded so what's the point in putting so much emphasis on Single Threaded performance ?!?

    Sure, if AMD or Intel launch a new gen of CPUs that double or triple the single threaded performance, that's worth the talk, but differences between 0% and 15% are not worth to fill entire pages of a review with.

    Anyway, I'm not an expert reviewer :) It's just my opinion after 20+ years in IT hardware industry.

    I generally want a very capable processor at a good platform price with modest IDLE power consumption. The rest is arguable. If it can game, good. If it can game well, even better, but I'm never going to chose a less productive CPU just because I get 10% higher FPS. That's just me :)

    The graphics can be a bit misleading .... I would really like to see them full scale.

    Because the way they are now, you get the impression that (in Gaming Price Efficiency - Platform Cost) AMD Ryzen 1300 is 10 times less capable than the i8400 which is not.

    When you look at the dot placement on the table, you'll see that i5 8400 appears to be 1000% the performance of AMD Ryzen 1300 while only being 2 times the price.
  • 10tacle
    I've been waiting for this review. I'm looking to replace my dying i5 2500K backup gaming rig using a 1080p monitor that was built in Jan. 2011. It's severely showing its age. The price of the 8350k is a little higher than I expected, but since that rig is only for gaming and nothing else, the overclocking capability of it is impressive for improved FPS performance. And as the game benchmarks show, we are still not seeing most AAA title games really taking advantage of more than four cores over an overclocked four core CPU.

    If I was wanting to build a combination of both a gamer and multi-threaded video rendering box I'd still probably go with the Ryzen 1600 or 8400, but for a strict gaming box and going for a killer overclock, this wins hands down in the price segment. RIP to my faithful and trusty Sandy Bridge. You served me well for seven years - a chip that I successfully overclocked to 5.0GHz as well but never kept it that high due to the at-the-time rather weak Zalman 9700LED cooler...weak by today's higher end cooler standards. And thank you AMD for putting the pressure on Intel to add more cores to their i3 and i5 chips.
  • why_wolf
    1696401 said:
    Newegg shows the Core i3-8350K in-stock right now for $189 (still $10 higher than "recommended customer price" from Intel), but well below the pricing button that says it costs $250 on Newegg. I thought those pricing buttons were updated real-time now?


    shows $189 for me. I doubt the button is updating it's pricing in real real-time. Probably more like once an hour.
  • Llorelie
    1601753 said:
    "It's only a shame that, as with all K-series processors, you're on the hook for your own thermal solution." Translation: "We're disappointed that Intel didn't bundle in the usual under-powered fan that you'll need to replace if you want to overclock."


    I know, this has bothered me in every review on this site that I have seen. I understand that its important that you inform consumers that you will need to purchase a heatsink, but if you are buying a -k chip and a z- motherboard, it seems likely that you'll want an aftermarket cooler. I would MUCH rather intel prices these chips $10 lower and not include a paperweight.
  • TJ Hooker
    1058785 said:
    I know, this has bothered me in every review on this site that I have seen. I understand that its important that you inform consumers that you will need to purchase a heatsink, but if you are buying a -k chip and a z- motherboard, it seems likely that you'll want an aftermarket cooler. I would MUCH rather intel prices these chips $10 lower and not include a paperweight.

    They didn't price them any cheaper though. If you look at -k CPU prices for Haswell vs Skylake (when they started not including boxed coolers for unlocked CPUs), the MSRP is exactly the same.

    I agree that the lack of a boxed cooler isn't going to be a deal breaker for many of the people buying -K CPUs. On the other hand I do think it's valid to point the lack of cooler as a fault given that they're competing with Ryzen, most of which come with boxed coolers good enough to actually do some OCing with.
  • 10tacle
    ^^Well pricing aside, I just think it's better to not include that lame stock cooler with K-series chips as the vast majority eventually wind up either in landfills or a recycle facility. I understand that some people buy those K-series GPUs having no intention of overclocking just because they generally have faster core and boost speeds than their non-K counterpart. Maybe Intel can offer two versions and charge $10 more for those who never intend to overclock. Packaging differences wouldn't be that different in cost, and those coolers are probably bought from the China company making them at pennies on the dollar in bulk.
  • Lucky_SLS
    Y isn't the 7600k in the comparison charts? That's the first thing that I wanted to check out :(
  • HERETIC-1
    Why 8600K in the game charts but not in the encoding charts????????????
    Should be the No1 there................................
  • Cairnsagc
    @QUADDRO

    In Chrome, you can add tomshardware.com##.jw-loaded to AdBlockPlus
    should sort it out
  • JQB45
    I would have liked to see how the i3-8350k compared to the i5-7500, i5-7600 and i5-7600k.
  • CaptainTom
    1601753 said:
    "It's only a shame that, as with all K-series processors, you're on the hook for your own thermal solution." Translation: "We're disappointed that Intel didn't bundle in the usual under-powered fan that you'll need to replace if you want to overclock."


    You're missing 2 big things:

    1) AMD's included box coolers are not "underpowered" like Intel's are. It is completely reasonable to think that you can pay only $210 for the 1600, and then overclock it to 3.9GHz+ with the included cooler.

    2) Intel's CPU's are a lot less efficient than AMD's at this point, and so you actually need a $50 AIO cooler if you want to reasonably hit the 5.0GHz required to make Intel's chips consistently beat AMD's.

    TH is being MORE than reasonable by only adding $20 to the price. I would add $30 for the i3, $40 for the i5, $50 for the i7, and likely $200 for the i9's...
  • Nintendork
    @10TACLE
    Upgrading from a 4c/4t cpu to yet another 4c/4t is kind of moronic. Just update to the R5 1600 and have the best all around cpu with 3 years worth of upgrades.

    It seem there will be an 8core Coffee Lake but current mobos won't support them, AGAIN.
  • 10tacle
    205977 said:
    @10TACLE Upgrading from a 4c/4t cpu to yet another 4c/4t is kind of moronic. Just update to the R5 1600 and have the best all around cpu with 3 years worth of upgrades.It seem there will be an 8core Coffee Lake but current mobos won't support them, AGAIN.


    Moronic? That's rather brash and rude of you. Everyone has opinions. Anyway as I mentioned it's only a backup/second gaming PC and used for nothing else. And again, as stated, an overclocked four core CPU beats a six core CPU in most games. We are still nowhere near the point where the majority of games use six or more cores, and I don't see that happening before my four core i3 becomes outdated.

    An overclocked 8350K will serve me far better than a Ryzen 1600 in that application. Long story short, it doesn't affect me as I'm going to be aggressively overclocking only for gaming and most of my games are CPU responsive to core speed, not core count.

    Now my current Haswell-Devil's Canyon i5 4690K is due for an upgrade as I'm getting into video editing and rendering now as well as it being a high end 144Hz G-Sync 1440p gaming rig. I am seriously debating between Ryzen Threadripper 1900X or waiting for what Coffeelake's 8C/16T will be like the Skylake i7 7820X. Most of the games I play on PC are CPU dependent racing sims like Project Cars/PCars 2 and AMD still falls short over Intel for that (example here: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-ryzen-threadripper-1900x-cpu,5222-6.html).

    But I agree that Intel releasing a new chipset generation without having all the motherboard solutions is ridiculous.
  • loki1944
    So basically this an i5 they are calling an i3.
  • Shumok
    I just can't see spending this much for a 4c/4t cpu when I can get a 6-core i5 or R5 for almost the same price...even if it is good for current games.
  • csm101
    well i got my old i7 4770 5 years ago. it still on the top tier of the CPU hierarchy. im guessing even after all the 8th gen stuff come in to play it will still be in the top tier. so all i have to do is change my GPU when the time is right (its a GTX 970 ATM ). anyone at the 3rd tier should now jump to 8th gen stuff.
  • scart35
    I've picked 8350k. why? because i5 8400 are nowhere to be seen here, massive shortage that will end maybe sometime in january. and because i've picked it up in early black friday deal for 140€ which is more than 60€ cheaper than r5 1600. The bonus is that the shop I bought it from has "christmas" gift return policy so I can return it free of charge till 31.1. so when shortage ends I'll swap to the 8400 at almost no cost.?
  • TJ Hooker
    2597346 said:
    I've picked 8350k. why? because i5 8400 are nowhere to be seen here, massive shortage that will end maybe sometime in january. and because i've picked it up in early black friday deal for 140€ which is more than 60€ cheaper than r5 1600. The bonus is that the shop I bought it from has "christmas" gift return policy so I can return it free of charge till 31.1. so when shortage ends I'll swap to the 8400 at almost no cost.?

    I have no idea what the return policy is of the retailer you bought it from, but typically you'd have to return it unopened (unless it was defective), otherwise you'll be charged a restocking fee at the very least.

    Regarding the Ryzen 1600, although the 8350K may be 60 euro cheaper for just the CPU, did you consider the cost of a cooler, plus the price difference between Z370 and B350?