It's been almost eleven years since Intel released its first quad-core desktop CPU, the glued-together Core 2 Quad Q6600, and what a glorious processor it was. The 65nm quad-core chip operated at 2.4 GHz, but back then boost clocks weren't a thing and CPUs operated on a front side bus.
Since then we've seen eight major architectural updates and four die shrinks spanning a decade. Yet after all that time, Intel still only offers up to four cores on its mainstream processors, the latest of which was released in January as the $340 Kaby Lake Core i7-7700K.
Shortly after that, AMD did something we all hoped they'd do (even if we weren't convinced they could) by releasing a highly competitive CPU architecture. Ryzen certainly disrupted Intel's 'business as usual' type of attitude in the PC market and it’s been fireworks ever since.
AMD hit Intel the hardest by offering more cores for less money, which was kind of the strategy with Bulldozer, but this time the cores didn't completely suck. IPC performance is slightly below Intel's latest and greatest but Ryzen's efficiency is excellent, so AMD isn't giving anything up here. The biggest advantage Intel has right now is its superior clock speeds and this is something AMD hopes to address next year.
Before AMD can do that, Intel is hitting back with its eighth-generation Core series, which counters Ryzen with cores, lots of cores. Although Ryzen 7 will still have a core count advantage, Intel is now making six cores the standard for their higher-end parts. The new Core i5 and Core i7 processors now pack six cores and that's going to have a considerable impact.
On hand today we have a flagship part, the Core i7-8700K, which is based on Intel's new "Coffee Lake" architecture. We also have the Core i5-8400, but we'll be looking at that CPU separately in the coming days. We do not have the Core i5-8600K yet, but the plan is to get one of those shortly, too. For now, let's focus on the big guy and with six cores and 12 threads, the 8700K certainly means business.
Designed to operate no slower than 3.7 GHz, it will boost a single core as high as 4.7 GHz, and under full load should maintain an operating frequency of 4.3 GHz. Each of the six-core processors features a 256KB L2 cache while there is a much larger 12MB L3 cache. Intel has given the chip a 95 watt TDP rating and once again they are using the LGA 1151 socket, though this can be considered a second version that is in no way compatible with previous Kaby Lake or Skylake CPUs.
Pricing has been adjusted from the 7700K as the 8700K, a $20 price hike which comes in at a rather steep $360.
That also makes the 8700K $60 more expensive than AMD's Ryzen 7 1700, the company's cheapest and unlocked Ryzen 7 part. The 1700X is also priced at $360, but smart shoppers will opt for the cheaper non-X model and I've had just as much luck overclocking both to 4 GHz.
Unlike the high-end desktop Skylake-X parts on the LGA 2066 platform, the new Coffee Lake CPUs still use the ring bus and not the mesh inter-connect method of the higher core count parts. This is great news and it means the 8700K will maintain the 7700K's gaming prowess and should in fact be able to take things to the next level in this category. So without wasting any more time, let's see how this thing handles...
Ryzen Threadripper System Specs
Kaby Lake System Specs
Ryzen 7 System Specs
Skylake-X System Specs
Coffee Lake System Specs
Memory and Application Performance
First up let’s check out the memory bandwidth performance. These DDR4 dual-channel memory controllers look to be good for around 31-39GB/s of memory bandwidth when using 3200 memory. Please note all configurations were tested with the same DDR4-3200 CL4 memory.
First up, let's check out the memory bandwidth performance. Please note all CPUs were tested using DDR4-3200 CL14 memory. That in mind, it's interesting to note that the Core i7-8700K takes a step forward here from the 7700K and is now on par with the Ryzen 5 CPUs with around 36GB/s of memory bandwidth. That said, it's still trailing the Ryzen 7 models by around 2GB/s.
Okay so let's check out the Cinebench R15 scores. As luck would have it, after a three run average the 8700K matched the R7 1700 with a multi-threaded score of 1423 pts. That did mean it was 13% slower than the 1800X, but still an impressive result all the same.
Actually, what was impressive is its single core score and this explains how a six-core Intel CPU kept pace with an eight-core AMD CPU. The 8700K provides the same 195 point single thread score as the 7700K and by extension the 7740X. So the 8700K is looking pretty solid all round, it also completely dusts the Core i7-7800X as well so our condolences if you bought one of those recently.
Moving on we have PCMark 10 and this gives us a look at how the CPUs compare in more general use case scenarios. Core count isn't that important for the most part, it's really all about frequency. For this reason the Core i7-8700K does extremely well, outscoring the 7700K by a 5% margin.
Excel is an office type benchmark which can utilize many threads, especially when running the extreme Monte Carlo simulation. The 8700K finds itself situated between the Ryzen 7 1700 and 1800X with a completion time of 2.55 seconds. This also makes it around 13% faster than Intel's six-core 7800X.
Testing with VeraCrypt we see that this time the 8700K trails the Ryzen 7 1700 though it is still around 10% faster than the Core i7-7800X and 14% faster than AMD's 6-core R5 1600.
Next up we have non-encrypted compression and decompression performance using 7-Zip. The Core i7-8700K was able to out perform the Ryzen 7 1700 by a decent margin when compressing data while it was only a fraction slower when decompressing. The 8700K also edged out the 7800X for the compression test as well.
Encoding and Rendering Performance
Handbrake is a popular application for encoding video and we've used it to convert a 4K H.264 video to 1080p using H.265 and recorded the average frame rate. Here the Ryzen 5 1700 spat out 11 fps on average while the 1800X managed 12.6 fps. Not bad but the new Core i7-8700K went complete beast mode with 13.8 fps making it 10% faster than the 1800X and 11% faster than the 7800X.
Next up we have Premiere and we know this application likes cores, but it also loves clock speed. The new Core i7-8700K completed the encode in 195 seconds which is just a few seconds slower than the Ryzen 7 1800X.
Moving on to the rendering tests we have Blender and first we're running the Ryzen Graphic 27 test. Again the 8700K finds itself in a Ryzen 7 sandwich with a completion time of 25.8 seconds. That made it almost 40% faster than the Core i7-7700K and Ryzen 5 1600 in this test.
The Gooseberry workload paints somewhat of a different picture. In this extreme benchmark the 8700K is able to pull ahead of the Ryzen 7 1800X and is now 14% faster and 8% faster than the 7800X.
Corona comes as a standalone benchmark. It renders a fixed scene six times and we take the time it takes to complete the task. This time the 8700K is closer to the R7 1700 than it is the 1800X but even so a render time of just 142 seconds for the six-core CPU is mighty impressive.
POV-Ray is another ray-tracer, it's been around for many years and we're using the official benchmark. Again, the 8700K is closer to the R7 1700X than it is the 1800X, but even so it's a good bit faster than the now redundant 7800X.
Time for a few quick gaming benchmarks before we look at power consumption and temperatures. Here we tested Battlefield 1 using the DX12 API with the ultra quality preset enabled. All the games have been tested using the GTX 1080 Ti and Vega 64 GPUs.
Even with a GTX 1080 Ti at 1080p, we are GPU limited in Battlefield 1 using the ultra quality settings. For that reason the 8700K is limited to the same 157 fps as the 7700K. The Ryzen CPUs mean while look quite slow despite delivering well over 100 fps at all times. There can be an issue with the Ryzen CPUs when using an Nvidia GPU in DirectX 12 titles so let's check out the Vega 64 results.
Although we are even more GPU bound with the slower Vega 64 GPU what's key to note here is that while the 8700K and 7700K frame rates are slightly reduced the Ryzen CPUs see a rather significant boost in frame rate. They are of course still slower than the Intel CPUs but the margin is reduced. We'll take a look at this again in a moment while trying to remove the GPU bottleneck.
Next up we have Ashes of the Singularity and here the Core i7-8700K really shows that it can do as it roughly matches the Core i7-7820X and Threadripper 1920X in this core heavy game. The average frame rate was boosted by 17% over the 7700K and 25% over the Ryzen 7 1700.
Swapping out the GTX 1080 Ti for Vega 64 actually helps put the 8700K ahead of the Threadripper CPU though with that exception the rest of the margins remain much the same.
Moving on, the Civilization VI we see that the Core i7-8700K is roughly on par with the 7700K as well as AMD's Ryzen 7 1800X and this is with the GTX 1080 Ti, so some pretty competitive looking results here.
Please note in our Intel Core i9-7980XE & 7960X review the Ryzen 7 frame rates were higher than what's shown here and I wasn't able to determine if this was a mistake on my behalf or if it's down to a game patch or driver update. Previously, the 1800X was pushing 112 fps on average with Vega 64 and now we're down to 100 fps.
I’m constantly re-testing and sometimes we do find a change like this with some games. Mafia III for example was dropped from testing as the performance often changed quite dramatically with each update. Anyway we are still seeing vastly superior performance on the AMD Ryzen 7 CPUs with Vega 64, it's just not as extreme as previously shown.
Whereas the 8700K was 4% faster with Vega 64 compared to the GTX 1080 Ti, the 1800X is almost 20% faster, so Civilization still provides some very interesting results when comparing the GeForce and Radeon GPUs using the DX12 API.
The last game we're going to look at is F1 2017 and first up we have the GTX 1080 Ti results. Here the 8700K was actually slower than the 7700K which is a bit odd, seems this title can get a bit confused when there are more than four cores on offer. The 7700K is clearly faster than the 7600K though, as is the Ryzen 5 1600 over the 1500X.
Even with Vega 64 we find much the same between the 7700K and 8700K though there is a bit of reshuffling in the midfield and the Skylake-X parts seem to lose out. Overall though, the 8700K was slightly slower than the 7700K in this title.
Okay so before we wrap the gaming up let's just quickly retest Battlefield 1 at the ultra low 720p resolution to try and remove the GPU bottleneck while still using ultra quality settings. Previously the 8700K was only able to match the 7700K and wasn't much faster than the 7600K.
However by removing the GPU bottleneck we run into another issue: Battlefield 1's 200 fps hard cap. The 8700K was able to keep the GTX 1080 Ti at 200 fps for the majority of our test and this means it could be much faster than the 10% margin we see here over the 7700K. It's now 27% faster than the 7600K and 55% faster than the Ryen 7 1800X.
Although the Ryzen 7 1800X looked a little sad with the GTX 1080 Ti, it's a different story with the Vega 64 graphics card. Here the R7 1800X is only 20% slower than the 8700K and while that's still a fairly large margin it's much better than what we saw with the GTX 1080 Ti. The 7700K is also quite a bit faster with the Radeon graphics card as well, but unfortunately the 8700K is again limited by the game's artificial frame cap. Anyway, one thing is for sure: the Core i7-8700K is an incredibly powerful gaming CPU.
Power, Temps, Overclocking
It's important to measure power consumption with something that stresses all cores and I've found Corona works well for providing accurate results, so these load figures are based on the Corona benchmark after a single pass and I'm reporting the maximum logged result. This is total system draw and I'm using a Cabac Power-Mate to measure from the wall draw.
When it comes to power draw the Core i7-8700K is certainly on the high side but it’s not as extreme as what we saw from the Skylake-X CPUs. The 7800X for example was not only slower in every single test but it also pushed total system draw 17% higher. Compared to the 1800X, the 8700K did increase system consumption by 18% so Intel isn't quite as efficient because they've had to increase frequency quite aggressively in order to keep pace with AMD's 8-core Ryzen 7 processors.
Still overall I’m impressed with what Intel has been able to achieve here, the 8700K looks very solid all-round. With that let’s see how this thing overclocks...
If you delided the 7700K you could get 5.0 GHz out of it, maybe 5.1 GHz. With very little effort I pushed my 8700K chip to 5.2 GHz and here it was 100% stable. I could even boot into WIndows at 5.3 GHz and run a few tests but it will require finer voltage tuning for 100% stability and we didn't have too much time to play around with overclocking so I settled for 5.2 GHz.
Even so, this is a mighty impressive result and it means the 8700K is now able to match the multi-core score of the 1800X in Cinebench R15 while devastating the single thread result. That said, you can of course overclock the 1800X as well and this allows it to remain ahead in productivity workloads.
Speaking of which, this is how the overclocks change Corona's results. The 1800X was only two seconds quicker to completion than the 8700K at 5.2 GHz. The overclock meant that the 8700K was able to complete the task 15% faster. That said, the 1800X saw a 20% improvement once overclocked.
The Ryzen 7 1800X overclock increased system power draw by a whopping 42% and this was the exact same increase seen from the 8700K as well, though it never provided anywhere near that kind of performance gain so as usual efficiency goes out the window when you overclock.
I haven’t had a chance to build my new Core i7-8700K test system yet but I will in the next week or so and that will be my new GPU testing machine. For now I'm using the DeepCool Captain 240EX RGB, it's all all-in-one liquid cooler with a 240mm radiator. It's a decent solution though the Noctua NH-D15 air-cooler has been reported to deliver slightly better temperatures on an overclocked 7700K for example. That said, the D15 is about as good as air-coolers get.
Anyway, with a room temperature of 21 degrees the 8700K idled at 25 degrees. Stressing both the CPU and FPU caused the temps to hit 84 degrees while only stressing the CPU saw temps max out at 60 degrees.
Once overclocked to 5.2 GHz, we reached within six degrees of the TjMAX while running the CPU stress test, peaking at 97 degrees briefly. Obviously a delid would help tremendously for those seeking extreme overclocks, and/or a more extreme cooling solution.
Intel made some pretty big performance claims when it comes to the 8th-gen Core series, but with 50% more cores on the Core i5 and Core i7 parts, it isn't that bold for them to claim up to 25% more frames in games. That said, are these gains down to the extra cores or have some architectural improvements been made to increase IPC? Some sources have suggested up to a 10% increase in this departmnet, so let's look into that. What I've done is lock the 8700K and 7700K at 4.5 GHz in addition to disabling two of the 8700K's cores, essentially mimicking the configuration of the 7700K.
First up we have Cinebench R15 and as you can plainly see with four cores and eight threads clocked at 4.5 GHz, just like the 7700K, the 8700K delivers basically the same scores. It was actually a fraction slower in the multi-threaded test after reporting the three run average. As expected, that nearly 50% increase in score comes from a 50% increase in cores.
Testing with Corona we again see that the 7700K is slightly faster than the 8700K when they are both matched with the same core and thread count at 4.5 GHz. Again adding two more cores makes the 8700K almost 50% faster.
And finally power consumption, this is an interesting one. The 8700K does pack 50% more L3 cache to support those extra cores and this isn't something we can disable when turning those cores off. When comparing the four-core/eight-thread configurations, the 8700K does push system consumption 10% higher at the same clock speed. Then with the extra cores enabled, total system draw is increased by 33%.
Price vs. Performance, Conclusion
Before wrapping up this review we should probably check out a few price vs performance scatter plots to work out just how well the 8700K stacks up in terms of value.
Looking at the Premiere results we see that the Core i7-8700K is a good step forward from the recently released 7800X. It's both faster and cheaper. Compared to the Ryzen 7 1700, the 8700K was 8% faster but it also costs 20% more, though it is a much better value than the R7 1800X. Overclocking muddies the water a bit so we're not going to focus on that for this review. I'll cover overclocking and how that changes the value of these CPUs in a future video.
For now the R7 1700 looks to provide content creators with the best value option but the Core i7-8700K is certainly a viable option where as I felt the 7800X wasn't.
For the extreme blender workload the 8700K does well, again it's 20% more costly than the R7 1700 but it's also 20% faster out of the box. In terms of value, the R5 1600 is still the best option but for it to get anywhere near the stock 8700K you'd have to overclock it to 4 GHz. So Intel has put forth an extremely compelling option here.
For high-end gaming, especially high refresh rate gaming, it's pretty obvious that the Intel CPUs are the way to go in terms of performance and value. As we saw with the 720p results, the 8700K is GPU limited at 1080p. I snuck the 720p testing in as I was finishing up the review so I don't have a price to performance scatter plot but needless to say Intel wins quite comfortably here.
Using Vega 64 we are again GPU limited though it has to be said the Ryzen CPUs perform much better with a Radeon GPU when using the DirectX 12 API. So for gamers hoping to maximize their dollar, the Ryzen 5 1600 still presents a great value option and is arguably the most cost effective choice for anyone who isn't after extreme high refresh rate gaming.
Finally, looking at the Ashes of the Singularity results with Vega 64, we again see an extremely impressive result from the 8700K as it's a good bit faster than the previous gaming king, the 7700K. These figures really suggest that the 8700K isn't just the new king of gaming but will be well into the future as well.
Intel's new mainstream flagship Core i7 processor is a beast. For gamers seeking the ultimate solution there is simply nothing better than the Core i7-8700K. Out of the box performance is incredible, overclocking is even more incredible, power consumption is impressive for a CPU running at over 4 GHz by default and needless to say, this chip is going to find its way into my new gaming rig.
At $360 the Core i7-8700K is a costly affair. Although that's barely higher than the $340 7700K it replaces, compared to the $215 Ryzen 5 1600 for example, it's not a great value, though you do get what you pay for.
I still feel that the majority of gamers will be better served by the R5 1600, but before you take my full word we have to check out the Coffee Lake Core i5 range first (soon!). The 8700K makes the most sense for those going after extreme frame rates with the latest and greatest GPUs, and not those playing CS:GO on a GTX 1060.
Once you dish out $360 for the 8700K you really want to spend another $100 or so on a decent cooler. Realistically, you could spend as little as $20 for a basic air-cooler, but that'd be doing this incredible overclocker a disservice. Anyway, let's say ~$30 to be conservative, we're now at over $400 and once you factor in the price of a decent Z370 board for around $150, we're talking $550+.
Moving on from gaming, how does Intel's new series handle productivity?
Well, the Core i7-8700K has the Ryzen 7 1800X beat and it almost wasn't even a contest. However, the 1800X was already a dead chip in our eyes before the 8700K even came along thanks to the great value offered by its less expensive siblings.
Compared to the R7 1700 in terms of value, the 8700K is about on par but with both overclocked to the max the Ryzen 7 CPU should offer a little more for your money. Even so, it will vary from one application to the next and I'd say overall they are similar. Again, those on a budget will opt for Ryzen as it's cheaper and will deliver similar performance without much trouble.
Overall, the Core i7-8700K has proven to be much more of an all-rounder than the 7700K was and now I can't wait to check out the rest of the Coffee Lake range. 2017 has been a spectacular year for PC hardware and it's great to see so many impressive options available.
Pros: Great for high-end gaming and competent at productivity. Offers better all-around performance than the 7700K. One hell of an overclocker.
Cons: Relatively expensive compared to Ryzen. Expect to spend $550+ for the chip, a motherboard and a nice cooler.