Although we consider AMD's Ryzen 5 1600 to be the sweet spot for folks building a new high-end gaming rig, many of you interested in going Intel have been wondering whether it makes more sense to buy the Core i7-7700K or the new 7800X?
We presume the reason why so many are asking this question is that the Core i7-7800X costs just ~$70 more and with that you get two extra cores, but also access to Intel's latest desktop platform. There are other cost considerations to make, but we'll discuss those later.
Before we jump straight to the comparison benchmarks, let's have a quick look at what the two Intel CPUs have to offer on paper.
|Intel Core i7-7800X||Intel Core i7-7700K|
|Cores / Threads||6 / 12||4 / 8|
|Base Frequency||3.5 GHz||4.2 GHz|
|Boost Frequency||4.0 GHz||4.5 GHz|
|TurboMax Frequency||4.0 GHz||4.5 GHz|
|L2 Cache||6 MB||1 MB|
|L3 Cache||8.25 MB||8 MB|
|Max Memory Support||DDR4-2400||DDR4-2400|
|TDP||140 W||91 W|
|Socket||LGA 2066||LGA 1151|
The 7700K has a clear clock speed advantage out of the box, though I will also be overclocking both CPUs for full testing purposes.
Besides the obvious core count, perhaps the biggest difference between these models is their cache design. The 7800X has 6x more L2 cache but about the same amount of L3 cache. Of course, the 7800X also packs 50% more cores and with that the TDP has been increased by a little over 50%.
We have tested 30 games, all of which were played on the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. The 7800X was configured with 32GB of DDR4-3200 in quad-channel while the 7700K was armed with 16GB of dual-channel memory. We tested both processors at stock settings as well as overclocked -- the 7700K was set at a relatively easy to achieve 4.9GHz, while the 7800X was at 4.7GHz.
On with the results...
First up we have World of Tanks, not a particularly demanding game but I'm pretty much throwing everything we normally test with at these CPUs. Here we see out of the box the 7700K is 9% faster than the 7800X -- not a huge margin, though it was surprising to find that when overclocked the 6-core CPU still couldn't match the 7700K. This isn't a CPU intensive game anyway and since we are pushing over 100fps at all times, the margins are somewhat irrelevant.
Grand Theft Auto V is often used for testing CPU performance and here we find some unexpected results. Comparing the minimum result we see that the 7700K is a massive 30% faster than the 7800X, overclocking reduced that margin to 18% but still, given there is just a 4% difference in clock speed once overclocked this is a huge win for the quad-core CPU.
Again even overclocked the 7800X is still slower than the stock 7700K, 10% slower in fact when comparing the minimum frame rate.
Since this is a popular title right now I thought why not throw it into the mix. If you're playing with a dual-core or a lower-end quad-core and things aren't going well don't bother spending big by investing in the 7800X. You'll see almost 30% more performance when using the 7700K according to my testing.
The Witcher 3 is often talked about as being a CPU intensive game and to a degree it is. That said the 7700K is more than capable of getting the most out of the 1080 Ti in this title and here we see much the same performance across the board.
Tomb Raider, Ashes of the Singularity, Far Cry, The Division
The section used to test Rise of the Tomb Raider features varied environments, out in the open the frame rates are quite low while indoors we see much higher frame rates. What is important to note here is overclocking made little difference to the 7800X's performance, while I suspect the 7700K was able to max out the 1080 Ti. Again the 7700K was the superior processor in this title, offering just shy of 20% more performance.
I decided to test Ashes of the Singularity maxed out which was a bit of a mistake as the GTX 1080 Ti became the primary bottleneck. That said, with well over 60 fps at all times, that’s certainly more than you need for this intense real-time strategy game.
Now these results are interesting for a few reasons. First of all the 6-core CPU gets absolutely blasted by the slightly higher clocked quad-core. You might be thinking these results don't look right and I'm with you on that one.
I triple checked the numbers though and they are indeed accurate. Interestingly this is reminiscent of what we saw when comparing the, the 8-core Ryzen 7 1800X for example was much much slower than the 7700K. In fact, given what I'm seeing here, the 1800X might actually be faster than the overclocked 7800X in this title so that's something I'm keen to check out soon.
The Division is a game that we have found to be GPU bound in the past but as I said this is a 30 game comparison so we threw it in to see if anything unusual is going on here. As you can see, there isn't...
Hitman, Quantum Break, Overwatch, Doom
Hitman is a game that has proven to be quite demanding and can take advantage of 6-core CPUs. That said, the 7700K is by far the more superior CPU in this title offering 30% more performance than the 7800X. Interestingly, once again overclocking the 7800X doesn't really help close up the gap and we weren't seeing any kind of throttling issues here either.
Quantum Break is another primarily GPU bound title, but so is Far Cry Primal and we saw some odd results there. Anyway here the 7700K and 7800K provide similar performance.
Have 12-threads? No worries, Overwatch will put them to good use. Even so the 7800X isn't able to pull ahead -- the margins were similar but the 7700K was consistently faster.
We usually don't include Doom in our CPU benchmarks but we were often criticized during the Ryzen release for excluding it, apparently as a Vulkan based it should be included. Not sure why that is but as you can see, the 200fps frame cap makes it rather pointless. However, at least this time we do see decent performance gains from the overclocked 7800X.
Warhammer, Mirror's Edge, F1 2016, Deus Ex
Oddly here is another game where the 7800X is much slower than the 7700K and yet overclocking doesn't help close the margin. I can't really explain why that is, maybe one of you has a theory. The 7700K doesn't gain any extra performance either but I would have just assumed at this point we were running into a GPU bottleneck.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst is another game that's primarily GPU bound, at least using the ultra quality settings at 1080p with a GTX 1080 Ti. So not much else to say here other than the fact that both CPUs enabled exceptional performance.
F1 2016 is often found giving low to mid-range CPUs a really hard time and while it can take advantage of a 6-core CPU, the 7700K is just so fast as it is, the 7800X isn't able to capitalize.
I would expect Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to throw up results that look GPU limited, but surprisingly the 7700K is noticeably faster, especially when looking at the minimums. Overclocked it still offered 7% more performance than the 7800X.
Battlefield 1, Mafia III, Gears of War 4, Titanfall 2
Battlefield 1 was tested on the outskirts of an active a 64-player map, it's a little easier to replicate the results here. Anyway the 7700K was again clearly faster, the margins weren't huge but the quad-core always served up the best results.
Once upon a time, Mafia III murdered quad-cores like a ruthless gangster. These days it's happy to get along with all types of CPUs. In fact it's now more favorable when it comes to quad-cores and like most games prefers those MHz.
Gears of War 4 throws up more unexpected results, here the 7700K was 20% faster when comparing the minimum frame rate and 16% faster once both CPUs are overclocked. Another clear win here for the aging quad-core.
Titanfall 2 has never given us anything other than GPU bound results and here nothing changes, both CPUs pushed the GTX 1080 Ti to in excess of 130fps at all times.
Civilization VI, Dishonored 2, Resident Evil 7
Testing Civilization VI using DX12 you might expect it to favor the 6-core CPU, I know I did. Yet we find quite the opposite here, again I went back and reconfirmed these results as they just didn’t seem right. Turns out they are and we find another game where the 7700K offers almost 30% more performance than the 7800X.
Dishonored 2 favors the quad-core CPU by a 12% margin when comparing the minimum frame rate and we see much the same when comparing the average frame rate as well. The 7700K is clearly the faster CPU for this title.
The 7800X does trail the 7700K by a 7% margin when stock but once overclocked both processors deliver similar performance and are presumably getting the most out of the GTX 1080 Ti.
For Honor, Ghost Recon, Mass Effect, Dawn of War III
For Honor is heavily GPU bound and we see that here with all configurations providing roughly the same average frame rate. That said, the minimums do differ a bit and the overclocked 7700K provides the best results.
Wildlands is another heavily GPU bound game so the margins here are quite close, but the 7700K was able to deliver a few extra frames.
Mass Effect Andromeda is another game that isn't that heavy on the CPU despite the fact that it will spread the load quite evenly across a large number of threads. Anyway not much to see here as the 7700K and 7800X provide similar numbers.
We have yet another head scratcher with Dawn of War III. The 7700K was 45% faster out of the box and the margin remained much the same once overclocked -- disappointing performance here from Intel's latest high-end hexa-core CPU.
Watch Dogs 2, Prey, Dirt 4
Watch Dogs 2 is a heavy CPU user and here the 7800X is able to roughly match the 7700K, not something we have seen in all CPU intensive games.
Like a lot of the games tested Prey isn't too demanding on the CPU, this one will play perfectly smooth on the Pentium G4560 for example. So no surprise the 7800X keeps pace with the 7700K here.
Finally we have Dirt 4 and this isn't a title I expected the 7800X to fall behind in but once again it has. Here the 7700K was 15% faster out of the box and we see another example where overclocking the 7800X doesn't really improve performance.
Power Consumption & The Verdict
Prior to any overclocking the 7800X consumed just 6% more power than the 7700K and these figures are based on the average consumption recorded in six games, so the 7800X certainly isn't being fully utilized here. With both CPUs overclocked the 7800X consumes 13% more power, again not a huge difference. It's interesting to note that while the 7800X often didn't see much in the way of added performance from the overclock, it did still increase consumption by 16%.
We saw some mixed results in the games tested and without even tallying them up it's clear that the Core i7-7800X was underwhelming. The 7700K clearly seems like the best option for gamers.
Before we did any tinkering, the 7700K was on average 11% faster than the 7800X across the 30 games tested for the minimum frame rate. Once overclocked that margin was reduced to 9% and summing up all 30 games this way, 7800X doesn't look too bad, despite being slower.
Note: The average performance figures are a little different here as the rounding works a little differently
Here's a look at the performance results from all games. The 7700K was 13% faster at the stock speeds when comparing the minimum performance in all the games tested. As you can see, Far Cry Primal and Dawn of War III were a problem for the 7800X while it also struggled in Hitman, Grand Theft Auto V, Civilization IV, Player Unknowns Battlegrounds and Doom.
Roughly half of the games tested saw little difference between the CPUs and surprisingly of those games we find quite a few that are CPU demanding. Titles such as Overwatch, Ashes of the Singularity, Battlefield 1 and to an extend F1 2016.
I suspect that some of you will be tempted to comment about how Cities: Skylines, Arma 3 and Planet Coaster should have been included because they are particularly CPU demanding, but that's not really true. All three games run horribly on quad-core chips when the action gets going and they still run horribly on a 6, 8 and 10 cores. Their limitations come from the game engine they are built on or just the coding in general. You will find much the same with games such as StarCraft 2 for example, which is why Ashes of the Singularity is so impressive from an engine standpoint.
Moving on, I get that these high-end desktop models aren't really meant to be 'gaming' CPUs but it's not unrealistic to expect that gamers with cash will be looking at Intel's Core-X lineup, particularly the 6-core 7800X. Given how well it clocks, the extreme memory bandwidth and the fact that this is Intel's premium desktop platform, you would be forgiven for thinking the 7800X would be superior to the 7700K, at least in the latest and greatest titles. Sadly, this just isn't the case -- far from it, in fact.
Given what we saw when comparing the Ryzen 5 1400 and 1600, we know that some of the games can make good use of 6-core CPUs. You could argue that the 7700K's superior IPC performance and higher frequency makes up for what it lacks in cores and this is why the 7800X wasn't able to show the kind of advantage you might have expected, but it goes beyond that.
That doesn't really explain why the 7800X was just flat out slow by comparison for quite a few of the games tested. The likely reason for this is down to Intel restructuring the cache hierarchy. Compared to the 7700K, the 7800X has quadrupled the L2 cache per core while the shared L3 has been reduced by just over 30% per core. It's believed these changes combined with the way this new cache works makes Skylake-X more suited for server-related tasks and less efficient when it comes to things such as gaming, and that's certainly what we're seeing here.
- Intel Core i7-7700K on Amazon
- Intel Core i7-7700K on Newegg
- Intel Core i7-7800X on Amazon
- Intel Core i7-7800X on Newegg
Had the Core i7-7800X beaten the 7700K, then we would have to weigh up costs and see if it would be worth investing in the more expensive platform. However, considering the results we recorded, that hardly seems necessary. If you're a gamer, you should get the 7700K or look to AMD's Ryzen lineup. Speaking of which, I'm keen to add the Ryzen 7 1700 to these results so I'll aim to do that by next week. Stay tuned.