Core i3 Goes Quad
While the Coffee Lake-based Core i7 and i5 CPUs benefit from 50% more cores, Intel's newest Core i3 CPUs enjoy an even more significant makeover. Previous i3s featured two Hyper-Threaded cores. But these Coffee Lake models come with four physical cores (and no Hyper-Threading), making them more capable in the tasks Core i3s once struggled with.
In fact, that jump from two to four cores puts Core i3 on the same level as prior Kaby Lake-based Core i5 CPUs. Better still, Intel's official pricing suggests the company now sells quad-core processors where its dual-core chips were once found. There's just one problem: shortages are causing prices to spike, negatively affecting Intel's value story. Hopefully that's rectified sooner than later.
The Core i3-8350K already has its work cut out: we weren't impressed by last generation's Core i3-7350K, which was too expensive, required a premium Z270-equipped motherboard for overclocking support, and didn't include a cooler. Now Intel has to hope the -8350K fares better in the face of limited availability and higher cost. Unfortunately, the company's continued insistence that a Z-series motherboard is needed for overclocking won't help the value equation. Doubly so since you still don't get a thermal solution.
|Active Cores||Base Frequency||1||2||4||6|
|Intel Core i5-8600K||3.6 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.2 GHz||4.2 GHz||4.1 GHz|
|Intel Core i5-8400||2.8 GHz||4.0 GHz||3.9 GHz||3.9 GHz||3.8 GHz|
|Intel Core i3-8350K||4.0||4.0||4.0||4.0||-|
|Intel Core i3-7350K||4.2||4.2||4.2||-||-|
As with older Core i3s, the Coffee Lake models do not include Turbo Boost technology. If you aren't overclocking, this means the -8350K runs at up to 4 GHz, regardless of workload, whereas Core i5 and i7 models accelerate to higher clock rates based on the number of active cores. Moreover, the new Core i3s are limited to DDR4-2400, while Core i5 and i7 give you official access to DDR4-2666.
Core i3-8350K's extra cores impose a few other changes. For instance, L3 cache jumps to 8MB. Compare that to Core i3-7350K's 4MB or the 6MB found on Core i5 (Kaby Lake). The -8350K is also Intel's first 91W Core i3. Previously, Core i3-7350K set the high bar with its 65W TDP. It's only a shame that, as with all K-series processors, you're on the hook for your own thermal solution.
The -8350K does come with UHD Graphics 630, which becomes more relevant as we descend Intel's product stack in search of value. The thing is, we don't imagine many folks shopping for unlocked CPUs plan on using on-die graphics engines. GeForce GTX 1060 or Radeon RX 580 cards are more probable in the enthusiast-on-a-budget space.
Intel lists the -8350K at a recommended $168 to $179, similar to its dual-core -7350K. Of course, after a few months of availability, the -7350K started showing up around ~$30 less than its MSRP, where the CPU still sits today. It'd be great to see Coffee Lake CPUs hit their recommended prices sooner than later. Unfortunately, Core i3-8350K starts around $230. Pairing it up to the least-expensive Z370 motherboard, hovering around $120, pushes this chip into six-core Ryzen 5 1600 territory, with its bundled cooler and B350 motherboard support.
The Core i3-8350K also faces another (somewhat unexpected) competitor in Intel's 6C/6T Core i5-8400, which sells for just a few dollars more. We're plenty impressed with the well-rounded -8400 in both games and applications, even if you can't really tune it. The quad-core -8350K won't be able to match an i5 in heavily threaded workloads. But its unlocked multiplier should be better suited to gamers aiming for higher frequencies. We have the relevant contenders lined up for testing, so let's get to it.
MORE: Best CPUs
MORE: All CPUs Content