Intel Core i7-8700 Review: Stock Cooler Falls Flat

Final Analysis

Intel made some significant changes to the Coffee Lake architecture in order to keep its Core CPUs competitive with AMD's Ryzen line-up. Beyond giving the Core i7 family six Hyper-Threaded cores, Intel also narrowed the clock rate difference between premium K-series chips and the more mainstream models. Core i7-8700K does boast a 500 MHz base frequency advantage over Core i7-8700. But that gap shrinks as Turbo Boost is enabled and more cores spin up. By the time four cores are active, both chips should sustain 4.4 GHz.

Unfortunately, the decision to bundle Core i7-8700 with an all-aluminum heat sink means that you may not always get the chip's most aggressive Turbo Boost frequencies under taxing workloads. You'd assume that a CPU with 50% more cores would also dissipate more heat than its predecessor. And yet Intel didn't think to include a cooling solution with enough thermal headroom to realize its peak performance. This is especially perplexing given the praise AMD received for packaging its processors with beefy heat sinks.

Most of the time, though, Core i7-8700 does deliver an experience that closely mirrors the flagship -8700K at its stock settings. Check out the charts below, which plot gaming performance with average frame rates and a geometric mean of the 99th percentile frame times (a good indicator of smoothness) converted into a frame-per-second measurement. We also have price-to-performance charts that get split up to include the CPUs-only, plus extra platform costs. For the models that don't come with a bundled cooler, we add $25 for a basic heat sink. We also add $20 if overclocking requires a more expensive motherboard (as is the case for Z370).

For those similar performance results, expect to spend about $50 less on a Core i7-8700. If you game at higher resolutions, the differences between CPUs shrink even more. And the -8700 looks a lot like a stock -8700K through most of our other application benchmarks, too.

Intel doesn't have a great track record for building backward compatibility into its platforms, so you are on the hook for a new 300-series motherboard, regardless of what you're stepping up from. But unless specific features of the Z370 chipset catch your eye, Core i7-8700 offers the exact same performance if you drop it onto a cheaper B-series board. That should save a few extra dollars...

...which you'll want to turn around and spend on a better thermal solution than what Intel includes with its -8700. That heat sink and fan combination is obviously a poor fit, and better thermal paste won't fix the issue. By stepping up to a sufficient third-party cooler, you won't have to worry about artificially clipping the -8700's top-end Turbo Boost bins due to overheating. A six-core, Hyper-Threaded CPU rated for 65W sounds great for performance-sensitive applications in small form factors. But power consumption definitely spikes higher under load. Apparently, many low-profile coolers lack the headroom for Core i7-8700, so do your homework before replacing the stock sink in a space-constrained environment.

In the past, we recommended Ryzen 7 2700X over Intel's Core i7-8700K due to AMD's lower price point, similar gaming performance, bundled cooler, and better benchmark results in threaded applications. We expected Core i7-8700's comparable performance and pricing advantage to level the field. However, Intel's sub-standard cooling solution means we can't recommend the -8700 without a suitable replacement, adding to the CPU's overall cost.

AMD's Ryzen 7 2700 is also worth considering in this category. Its unlocked ratio multiplier and overclocking support on B-series motherboards yields a more attractive value story than what we get from Core i7-8700. Of course, if you need integrated graphics with your high-end CPU, Intel is the only game in town. And if you're looking for the best blend of price and performance for gaming specifically, the Core i5-8400 is still a favorite.  

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  • AgentLozen
    This CPU doesn't seem to know who it wants to target. Users who are budget constrained would get better value out of the i5 8400. Demanding gamers and power users should be looking at the i7 8700K or Ryzen 2700X.

    In what context does it make sense to buy this CPU?
  • Lutfij
    The stock cooler looks like it was given as an April Fool's joke...campaign.
  • pensive69
    oh get real!
    stock cooling is always less than prime.
  • RyanTodd1
    I brought the processor and so far i havent even begun to hit its limits. I've primarily used it for high end gaming such as the Witcher 3. Very good chip and not too costly either - considering its the new gen. Very happy, only thing is, i wish i have 50 quid more to get the 8700k! Oh well!
  • AgentLozen
    RyanTodd1 said:
    Very happy, only thing is, i wish i have 50 quid more to get the 8700k!


    I wouldn't sweat it, RyanTodd1. Your graphics card will be the gaming bottleneck before the CPU is.

    When I got my first computer in 1997, it came with a Pentium II @ 233MHz. There were 266Mhz and 300Mhz models available at the time that I wished I had instead. Looking back 21 years later, I realized that it never made a difference which one I had. I think you'll feel the same way about your i7 8700.
  • Fluffy_Hedgehog
    2228498 said:
    oh get real! stock cooling is always less than prime.


    *cough*
    https://www.amd.com/system/files/AM4-Wraith-Cooler-Lineup-1920x631.jpg
    http://www.relaxedtech.com/reviews/amd/wraith-max-and-wraith-spire-cooler/2
    *cough*

    you were saying? … yes those are copper plates on those coolers for the 65 and up lineup, yes they do have led and yes thost are actual copper heatpipes on the cooler that comes with the 2700x.

    I know a lot of aftermarket coolers that look and perform a hell of a lot worse than what amd puts in the box.

    it is only intel that puts half an ounce of third grade aluminium on top of their cpus (because they are too cheap to provide anything worthwhile I suppose …) and expects people to purchase actual cooling after the fact raising the total price of a system significantly.
  • Ilya__
    496490 said:
    This CPU doesn't seem to know who it wants to target. Users who are budget constrained would get better value out of the i5 8400. Demanding gamers and power users should be looking at the i7 8700K or Ryzen 2700X. In what context does it make sense to buy this CPU?


    I don't really agree. The difference between 8700 and 8700k is almost $100 CAD and yet the performance difference at default clocks is very small. So if I am building a machine for someone that will never overclock, save them some money and/or get the 8700 and get a good cooler instead.
  • justin.m.beauvais
    It looks to me that the circumstances where the 8700 overwhelms its cooler are few and far between. For someone looking for great gaming performance, but might not have all the cash needed for an 8700K and cooler, they could get the 8700, not give up much performance, and just get a better cooler later when workloads catch up.

    The benchmarks paint a pretty nice picture of the 8700. I believe you, Tom's, when you say that the cooler can be overwhelmed, but your benchmarks don't really seem to indicate much of a loss when/if it is happening, especially in gaming.

    Honestly though, why don't they differentiate the designation. Intel should have the 8700 at stock 8700K speeds, but just have the K unlocked. It isn't exactly deserving of the 8700 designation if it is clocked 500MHz lower. Just another thing Intel does that irks me.
  • RyanTodd1
    496490 said:
    RyanTodd1 said:
    Very happy, only thing is, i wish i have 50 quid more to get the 8700k!
    I wouldn't sweat it, RyanTodd1. Your graphics card will be the gaming bottleneck before the CPU is. When I got my first computer in 1997, it came with a Pentium II @ 233MHz. There were 266Mhz and 300Mhz models available at the time that I wished I had instead. Looking back 21 years later, I realized that it never made a difference which one I had. I think you'll feel the same way about your i7 8700.


    Hopefully this is the case, although tech has come a lot further since 1997! I wasnt even born then! :)
  • george_osborne
    For only ~$50 more I will always go with the unlocked processor. Better base frequency, better turbo and the ability to overclock (if so desired).
  • Brian_R170
    Looking at the graphs, the games and lightly-threaded workloads are showing ~1% or less difference between an AIO and the stock HSF and sometimes the stock HSF actually does better. The heavily threaded workloads are showing a difference of ~3% or less (but usually still less than 1%). Looks to me like most of the difference is in the noise.
  • bigpinkdragon286
    It almost looks like running the 8700 on the stock cooler both open air and at 100% skews the cooler in Intel's favor. Anybody who misses those two key points might end up with the opinion that Intel is doing the right thing, financially, as the performance difference between their stock cooler and a much better cooler is mostly a waste of money. Would love to see the same tests performed using the 8700 with stock cooler in a closed case, and using stock fan profiles. That's what's really going to show whether the cooler is wholly inadequate to the task. Of course, then we can argue about what average case airflow and ventilation is, so I can see there being some merit to not testing inside a case.
  • joeblowsmynose
    I have one problem with the testing - that we still don't really know how bad the throttling could be in "real -world". The fact that all testing on the stock cooler was done at a manual 100% speed, (who runs their CPU fan at 100% all the time? No one) and in an open bench. Obviously if left to it's own curve and inside a case the throttling is going to be a fair bit worse - but how much?

    Intel should have not included a cooler at all ... its like buying a car with a turbo that is supposed to make 300 hp, but then when it doesn't run at that speed and you take it back they tell you, "oh, that's just the max hp if you buy a better turbo to put on it than the one we sold it with". Would that be acceptable? No.

    If my CPU says it runs at certain frequencies, and I buy it for that reason, I expect it to work as advertised on the cooler it comes with.
  • Onus
    2228498 said:
    oh get real! stock cooling is always less than prime.

    For 90% of the people, 90% of the time, it simply won't matter. For the few people in the limited circumstances where it matters, a better cooler is always an option.

    Article idea: "Typical" case, with two fans, front intake and rear exhaust; stock mobo fan profiles. Same parts, same clocks. Long scripted workload (8-10 hours' worth; a typical work day). The only difference is the coolers. Is there a real difference?
  • DookieDraws
    OMG! As if one page isn't enough, do we REALLY need that auto-playing ad on every page!? I love you Tom's, but come on! :)

    I think the 8700 has it's place. Plus, you can get an even better deal on it when it goes on sale. It's great for those who don't intend to overclock, and for those on a tight budget. Still a quality CPU, if you ask me. And yes, an aftermarket cooler is the way to go.
  • tacgnol06
    Forget performance. How long is that CPU going to survive if it's constantly thermal throttling?
  • mahanddeem
    In 3DMark DX11 physics benchmark, no way 7700K can score 17493
    My i7-7700K@4.8GHz can barely score 152xx!
  • Long__T123
    so in short if you don’t want to buy an aftermarket cooler for the 8700, deliding is an option that should allow a max turbo boost with the crappy cooler at sustainable temps but say goodbye to warranty though
  • WKIRBY
    I love my 8700. I do Architectural work and its faster than my aged W-3690 Xeon by a stretch. Its quite good for Gaming/Streaming too :)
  • 10tacle
    2206953 said:
    *cough* https://www.amd.com/system/files/AM4-Wraith-Cooler-Lineup-1920x631.jpg http://www.relaxedtech.com/reviews/amd/wraith-max-and-wraith-spire-cooler/2 *cough* you were saying? … yes those are copper plates on those coolers for the 65 and up lineup, yes they do have led and yes thost are actual copper heatpipes on the cooler that comes with the 2700x. I know a lot of aftermarket coolers that look and perform a hell of a lot worse than what amd puts in the box. it is only intel that puts half an ounce of third grade aluminium on top of their cpus (because they are too cheap to provide anything worthwhile I suppose …) and expects people to purchase actual cooling after the fact raising the total price of a system significantly.


    That is all true except you are missing one crucial point: Intel knows their buyers of K-series chips already plan on overclocking which is why they stopped including that junk cooler with them, and as we all know, AMD's chips don't even overclock well even with high end aftermarket water AIO or air coolers. But yes, Intel is chumping buyers of non-K chips out with such a lame stock cooler product. VERY lame for Intel. The root fail here is that Intel's previous generation non-K GPUs ran just fine under the stock fans. But the last few generations starting with Skylake with terrible thermal dissipation management showed they needed to step it up for the stock cooler. But Intel didn't give a damn.

    Anyway, if I were building a new gaming rig and only wanted Intel, I'd probably opt to save the $50 and go for the non-K version here knowing full well that at 1440p or 4K gaming, the CPU means little compared to the GPU in those resolutions. A $25 Cryorig H7 will cool it just fine with a proper air flow case. If you had a K-series and overclocked, you are looking at nearly a $100 (or more) cooler solution to hit 5+Gz. Which again, offers extreme diminished returns at higher resolution over stock speed (in gaming).
  • rgs80074
    i bought the i7 8700k cpu a few months ago retail. from reviews it was hit and miss about the cpu cooler. mine did not come with one but even my old 2600k cpu which did come with one i put on an aftermarket cooler(that pc built in 2010 still going strong too turned into a plex server).

    i didn't buy a expensive high end cooler either, i guess normally 40 bucsk i got it for like 26 cool master (same cooler i used for my prior pc).

    idle temps range 35-40, don't get above 80-85 when video encoding

    i don't do real gaming of anykind so what i do do would be a laughting stock (really its one browser based game).

    i do have a radeon rx 560 oc 4gb edition.

    other than that cpu fan my case has 5 other fans, 3 intake and 2 exhaust plus the power supply fan.

    i am happy with the running temps and that of the pc

    it is overclosed to 4.7ghz i think
  • Martell1977
    "the i7-8700 comes with an integrated UHD Graphics 630 engine that gives Intel a leg up over competing Ryzen 7 and 5 processors"

    I wonder how many people buy these and actually use the iGPU, except as a backup in case the dGPU dies. For me, the iGPU has never been a consideration when picking a CPU.
  • CerianK
    2101625 said:
    Forget performance. How long is that CPU going to survive if it's constantly thermal throttling?

    Since I haven't seen any previous descriptions of how the physics works before, I will attempt to lay out an explanation that covers your question, and more:

    It should easily be understood that without metallic solder under the lid that the thermals will build up on the die. So far so good.

    However, that also provides a singular benefit... the average temperature of the die will quickly be pretty close to temperatures measured at any given point on the die. This is helped by how modern OSes move threads from core to core. But, we should not expect temperature sensors all over the die to confirm that what I have said or to micro-manage the throttling behavior.

    Therefore, the throttling will always happen in a reasonably narrow thermal envelope across the entire die. This throttle point is based on careful testing of the die to determine the required throttle-point to guarantee the CPU integrity for years. This should even be good for a thermal overload situation (e.g. CPU fan stopped). Again, so far so good, I hope.

    Now enter the normal OCer who is not going to de-lid the CPU. They are already covered, as they haven't brought anything special to the table that would interfere with the throttle-point, except making it harder to reach (e.g. higher GHz).

    Finally, we have the hard-core OCer who is going to de-lid the CPU and extract heat directly from the die or add metal paste. This is the special case, as now the temperature measured at different points on the die (if we could measure it) at extreme OC is entirely dependent on the vertical thermal extraction at each point across die. This presents no issue as long as the thermal contact is perfectly even. A good OCer takes care in making sure this is the case.

    However, the average person (you and I both) may make mistakes in thermal compound or metallic paste/solder application (de-lidded or not) that would create an uneven extraction of heat into the heatsink. When there is a more direct but uneven thermal path to the CPU die, we can get hot-spots that 'might' cause the die temperatures most remote from the thermal sensor(s) to push the die beyond its safe limits in those locations when a 'seemingly' good OC has been achieved. Increase the voltage too far and now we have a problem, as the transistor gates/junctions begin to break down at an accelerated rate.

    So, in effect, we might (jokingly) suggest the current Intel thermal design to be: CPU with very-difficult to remove training-wheels / airbags.

    It seems that AMD has taken a different bent, and attempts to put more-than-adequate cooling solutions in the hands of its customers to head off issues that might occur, but still has to carefully manage throttling to prevent damage to the die.
  • alextheblue
    Quote:
    Intel's thermal design power specification applies to the CPU's base frequency
    Start putting Intel's TDP ratings in quotes. "65W"

    938891 said:
    It almost looks like running the 8700 on the stock cooler both open air and at 100% skews the cooler in Intel's favor.

    515477 said:
    I have one problem with the testing - that we still don't really know how bad the throttling could be in "real -world". The fact that all testing on the stock cooler was done at a manual 100% speed, (who runs their CPU fan at 100% all the time? No one) and in an open bench. Obviously if left to it's own curve and inside a case the throttling is going to be a fair bit worse - but how much?

    Exactly. Reviewers use open air test benches and thus you need a saltshaker handy for every review. This has become industry standard practice, regardless of the applicability of the results to real-world cases (pun intended).