Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-7700K, i7-7700, i5-7600K, i5-7600 Review

Conclusion

Intel’s slow cadence of incremental upgrades hasn’t done much to distance its products from AMD's. Instead, you could argue that AMD fell behind on its own accord. The Ryzen processors will be launching soon, so it's time for the speculation to begin once again. We won't know how this match-up is going to turn out until AMD makes its move, though. Obviously we need a competitive AMD to help reinvigorate the desktop PC space.

The announcement that Intel was moving away from a tick-tock cadence prepared us for even smaller generational gains, and Kaby Lake doesn't disappoint. Intel went with the same overall architecture, so there are no extra cores, IPC throughput increases, or cache to get us excited. At stock settings, the Kaby Lake processors perform almost exactly like overclocked versions of their predecessors.

To its credit, Kaby Lake brings the mythical 5 GHz threshold into play for overclockers. But beyond the clock rate boost (roughly 200-300 MHz over Skylake overclocks), there is little reason for enthusiasts armed with Skylake CPUs to upgrade. If you already have a modern processor, spend those dollars on a new GPU or SSD. Kaby Lake is really only an option for power users building new PCs. 

Intel’s beefier media capabilities are nice for mobile and mainstream desktop users, and the power consumption/CPU utilization savings are great if you use integrated graphics. However, those benefits don't do much for enthusiasts with add-in graphics cards. Streaming 4K content is awash in a sea of caveats. Until it's easily accessible, adoption is going to be limited.

The 200-series chipsets offer more HSIO lanes than the 100-series models, allowing motherboard manufacturers to enable diverse connectivity options. Unfortunately, much of that is going to be hidden behind the restrictive DMI 3.0 link. Intel also dangles Optane-branded 3D XPoint memory compatibility as another add-on hanging off the PCH. Although the prospect of futuristic memory is exciting, it's not ready yet. Intel also curiously chooses to use it as a cache layer for hard drives, which may yield questionable results among enthusiasts with SSDs. The real value of 3D XPoint lies in using it as a cheap supplemental layer of RAM, which would truly be revolutionary. Apparently we have to wait for the next generation to see that functionality.  

The Core i7-7700K is a powerful processor, but it can also create a tremendous amount of waste heat. This creates a thermal ceiling for pursing aggressive overclocks; effective cooling is a must. The Core i5-7600K offers a better balance and more thermal headroom, but sacrifices Hyper-Threading and a few bins of base and Turbo Boost clock rate. The agile Core i5-7600 also offers a nice balance of performance and efficiency; it's just constrained to minimal BCLK adjustments.

An AVX offset mode is nice to have, but we would have rather seen Intel add Turbo Boost 3.0. The unlocked Core i3 SKU is tantalizing as a replacement for the Pentium G3258, but we can't recommend it until we run tests of our own.

The Kaby Lake CPUs are priced just like their predecessors, which we appreciate. Frankly, without much competition, Intel is free to price its products unchecked. If you do make the jump to Kaby Lake for its overclocking potential, or as part of a brand new PC, be sure to factor in a beefy liquid cooler and, if you don't already have one, a Windows 10 license.

MORE: Best CPUs

MORE: Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

MORE: The History Of Intel CPUs

Igor Wallossek is a Senior Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware Germany, covering CPUs and Graphics.

Paul Alcorn is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, Storage and Enterprise hardware.

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  • cknobman
    Boooooooooooooooooring.

    Bring on the new AMD cpu's!!!

    Oh, nice review the boring is not Toms fault ;)
  • Other Comments
  • Anonymous
    Based on our initial testing, we can confirm that HD Graphics 630 does not function correctly under Windows 7 and 8.1. Both operating systems install generic drivers for the display adapter, even after applying the latest drivers and updates, so many core features remain unavailable. We also experienced stability issues with Windows 7 that might even negate using an add-in GPU as a workaround.

    Not true, i setup Kaby Lake in my lab and everything works fine under Windows 7. Did you guys even try to apply drivers for HD Graphic 630?
  • adgjlsfhk
    It would have been kind of nice to see igpu vs gtx 750 and other low end discrete graphics cards, but other than that, great review.
  • cknobman
    Boooooooooooooooooring.

    Bring on the new AMD cpu's!!!

    Oh, nice review the boring is not Toms fault ;)
  • Jim90
    "Intel’s slow cadence of incremental upgrades hasn’t done much to distance its products from AMD's.
    "...Obviously we need a competitive AMD to help reinvigorate the desktop PC space."

    Without real competition the only risk Intel takes with the Desktop market is to loose sight of (i.e. actively ignore) the performance jump the consumer expects in a new release. Continual and lengthy minor incremental updates (pretty much what we've seen since the 2000 series) may well lead to consumer apathy. I certainly haven't upgraded 'as much as I could!' recently. Absolutely no justifiable need.

    Then again, perhaps we've all had access to enough power we need? We used to talk about 'killer apps/software' to drive consumers into making a purchase. This certainly did work. Maybe new tech (currently available) isn't killer enough? We need another '3dfx Voodoo' experience?
    VR is certainly (definite?) a potential driver...here's hoping for speedy and significant updates here.
  • PaulAlcorn
    Anonymous said:
    Based on our initial testing, we can confirm that HD Graphics 630 does not function correctly under Windows 7 and 8.1. Both operating systems install generic drivers for the display adapter, even after applying the latest drivers and updates, so many core features remain unavailable. We also experienced stability issues with Windows 7 that might even negate using an add-in GPU as a workaround.

    Not true, i setup Kaby Lake in my lab and everything works fine under Windows 7. Did you guys even try to apply drivers for HD Graphic 630?


    Hello, yes we did test and attempt to install the HD Graphics 630 drivers. We are working with early BIOS revisions, so it is possible that we encountered a platform-specific issue. Can you share which motherboard you used for your testing? Any feedback is welcome.
  • ohim
    Why are they even releasing this ? It makes absolutely no sense to release such a product ...
  • redgarl
    I am concerned about Quality Assurance issue more than small performance increment.
  • redgarl
    Anonymous said:
    Why are they even releasing this ? It makes absolutely no sense to release such a product ...


    Probably to make a statement of some kind.
  • FormatC
    Anonymous said:
    Not true, i setup Kaby Lake in my lab and everything works fine under Windows 7. Did you guys even try to apply drivers for HD Graphic 630?
    You really have drivers for the Z270 chipset with official support of Windows 7 from intel and Microsoft? I tried it also and was not able to run KL with all features on a W7 installation. It runs, somehow. :)
  • valeman2012
    Just notice that people that are using these CPU you need Windows 10 to have everything working 100%.
  • Dosflores
    Intel's non-E CPUs are great for laptops, but it seems that they'll become irrelevant for desktops with dedicated graphics. Skylake-E will surely be much more interesting for top performance. For gaming, an eight-core Ryzen seems more attractive than buying a CPU with four ultra-fast cores, and hundreds of millions of transistors destined for graphics that you won't ever use.
  • valeman2012
    Kaby Lake is good if you upgrading something from AMD FX...lol
    Kaby Lake best use in Windows 10
    Kaby Lake Perfromance it better than what AMD FX Provides so goodluck to far range upgraders.
  • ac13044
    not much difference between kaby and skylake. skylake il stick too till cannonlake comes about. for those amd airheads come on it runs hot at stock settings also intel are not bothered about amd and what they have to offer as intel rises up more people using intel than amd imo
  • mavikt
    I was expecting to see a definitive, albeit small efficiency improvement over Sky lake.
    That's what I read into the 14nm+ label they're using. Atleast with a "14nm+" process you'd think they should've ironed out alot of the production process variability.
    I can only conclude that the production process variations of the 14nm+ is greater that the improvement of "going from 14nm to 14nm+".

    Is the 14nm+ just a marketing gimmick?
  • FormatC
    It is in the first line a very welcome cost-down for Intel. ;)
  • weilin
    I'm sticking to my guns on this one

    it's not "tick -> tock -> tock" it's "tick -> tock -> tweak"
  • Sakkura
    Anonymous said:
    I'm sticking to my guns on this one

    it's not "tick -> tock -> tock" it's "tick -> tock -> tweak"


    I'll go with "tick-tock-toe" because this is nowhere near as interesting as a real tock.
  • Martell1977
    A few more "incremental" performance increases and I might find it worth the money to upgrade...my i7-950(@ stock speed) lives on, lol!
  • mac_angel
    great work showing the previous generation at the same clock speeds for an actual comparison.
  • SteelCity1981
    the only diff between kaby lake and skylake is kaby lakes igpu supporgs vp9 and hvec 10 codecs. that's it and has e saw here a skylake clocked at the same speed as kaby lake shows no performance diff.