The New Champion

Given that Intel has no competition, it is perhaps easy to roll out a new mainstream performance champion – all they have to do is have more stringent binning techniques (like perhaps AMD with the FX-9000 series) and a few processors with a higher frequency could pop-out. The danger here is that Intel always sells a lot of its top performer – millions. If you have to dump 100 processors to find one that fits the mold of the top SKU, you either have to charge lots for it or reduce the rules.  The only way to get that mix of yield and viability is by improving how the CPU is made. This is what the ‘optimization’ in Kaby Lake is for.

The Core i7-7700K sits at the top of the stack, and performs like it. A number of enthusiasts complained when they launched the Skylake Core i7-6700K with a 4.0/4.2 GHz rating, as this was below the 4.0/4.4 GHz rating of the older Core i7-4790K. At this level, 200-400 MHz has been roughly the difference of a generational IPC upgrade, so users ended up with similar performing chips and the difference was more in the overclocking. However, given the Core i7-7700K comes out of the box with a 4.2/4.5 GHz arrangement, and support for Speed Shift v2, it handily mops the floor with the Devil’s Canyon part, resigning it to history.

In most of our benchmarks, the results are clear: a stock Core i7-7700K beat our overclocked Core i7-4790K in practically every CPU-based test (Our GPU tests showed little change). When overclocked, the i7-7700K just pushed out a bigger lead for only a few more watts. Technically one could argue that because this part and the i7-6700K are equal in IPC, a similar overclock with the i7-6700K achieves the same performance. But the crucial matter here is how lucky a user is with the silicon lottery – based on our testing, the Core i7-7700K CPUs tend to overclock rather nicely (although +300 MHz isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things).

As with previous high-end mainstream (if that sounds like an oxymoron, it is) Core i7 parts, Intel has put a list price of $303 on 1k tray units, which means that at retail we should see it nearer $330 to $350. As far as we can tell, this won’t get a stock cooler, and anyway we’d recommend something else anyway given the recent performance of Intel stock coolers. We can hope that we won’t see the blatant price gouging we saw when the Skylake parts were launched, where it took several months to bring the prices down to MSRP due to stock allocations.

The Core i7-7700K should be available from January 5th in most major markets.
It’s the new mainstream performance king, if CPU performance is your thing.

As part of our Kaby Lake coverage, we have some other awesome reviews to check out.

Intel Launches 7th Generation Kaby Lake (Overview and Core Improvements)
The Intel Core i7-7700K Review: The New Out-of-the-box Performance Champion
The Intel Core i5-7600K Review: The More Amenable Mainstream Performer
The Intel Core i3-7350K Review: When a Core i3 Nearly Matches the Core i7-2600K

Upcoming (we’re at CES and didn’t have time to finish these yet):

Calculating Generational IPC Changes from Sandy Bridge to Kaby Lake
Intel Core i7-7700K, i5-7600K and i3-7350K Overclocking: Hitting 5.0 GHz on AIR
Intel Launches 200-Series Chipset Breakdown: Z270, H270, B250, Q250, C232
Intel Z270 Motherboard Preview: A Quick Look at 80+ Motherboards

Power and Overclocking


View All Comments

  • ThomasS31 - Tuesday, January 03, 2017 - link

    I meant difference in high end CPUs... ofc. Sorry.

    Why no edit on your site? :)
  • pxnx - Tuesday, January 03, 2017 - link

    These games are ancient, why even bother benchmarking them? Reply
  • Michael Bay - Saturday, January 14, 2017 - link

  • Mithan - Tuesday, January 03, 2017 - link

    I have a 2500k, and I am going to upgrade (its 6 years old).

    Seriously considering a i7 7700k, people keep telling me to go for Zen because I am going to see a "big difference with games", even though those same people know that Zen will run slower on a per core basis.

    I don't see this "big difference" with extra cores in todays games.

    We can extrapolate based on current benchmarks, that the i7 7700k will be faster for games, as seen by using the 68xx Intel Series to compare against, even in Ashes of the Singularity.

    I can see a "big difference" going from Core i5 to Core i7 or Core i5 to 6/8 Cores, but I don't see a big difference going from Core i7 to 6 or 8 cores in GAMES.

    I get that unzipping documents, handbreak, etc are all going to be faster, but I don't particularly care about all those apps I rarely use (if I use them). It isn't like a 7700k is going to choke on Chrome.

    I get that a 6 or 8 core will let me play a game and stream content faster (I don't stream).

    Can somebody else sound in on my opinion?
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, January 03, 2017 - link

    From what's known about Zen so far, you are correct. If all you care about is standard PC stuff and gaming, you're better off with a Kabey Lake i5 or i7. It looks like Zen will be cheaper but similar performing alternative to the Broadwell E processors for those that do more "workstation class" stuff. Of course that remains to be seen until we get some real unbiased benchmarks. Reply
  • close - Wednesday, January 04, 2017 - link

    Until we see some retail parts it's hard to get an good idea about Zen. Clocks may vary from ES chips and the price might be motivating enough. 5-10% less performance for 40% lower price could be appealing to anybody who's not looking only at the very highest end of every component. Reply
  • close - Wednesday, January 04, 2017 - link

    Also if you plan on holding onto this new CPU for a long time then go for more cores even if it comes with slightly lower clocks. You'll very likely be able to overclock it and squeeze more MHz but you'll never squeeze in more cores. And remember that 6-7 years ago dual-cores were considered the norm while today some games won't even start on a dual core.

    Game performance is getting less and less dependent on CPU so personally I would always go for the CPU that offers better general performance and more cores than one with slightly higher clocks that focuses the performance in games and gaming benchmarks. If you want better game performance think of a better GPU, that will actually bring palpable improvement over generations.

    I'd hold on to the old 2500k for a while, until we get some nice reviews for what's coming.
  • carticket - Wednesday, January 04, 2017 - link

    Just popping in (and registering) to echo that the 2500k is still a great CPU and this is not a great time to hop on the upgrade train with such an incremental upgrade over Skylake.
    I had a memory failure in my system, and that got me seriously considering a Kaby Lake upgrade, but for what would likely be a $500-600 upgrade, I just don't see a significant benefit. I say this as someone who hopped on the 970 train (upgrade from a 560 Ti) a few months before the 1070s hit the market with vastly better performance.
  • Toss3 - Wednesday, January 04, 2017 - link

    The 7700K is going to be a massive upgrade and definitely worth it if you are currently on something older than Haswell. If your software/games are running at a decent framerate, and you really don't need to upgrade, then I'd suggest waiting as we'll start seeing 6 cores becoming the standard pretty soon (first with Zen and then with Coffee Lake). Reply
  • close - Wednesday, January 04, 2017 - link

    Aren't we talking about the exact same massive upgrade a 6700K would have provided a year ago? If that wasn't enough to convince a user to upgrade then why would it be now?
    Upgrading now means they've just waited one more year with a really old CPU but ended up paying the same price for the same performance this year.

    And thinking about an upgrade and those massive benefits just before we finally have a hope that AMD might launch something competitive isn't the best strategy even if your framerates already suffer. For the first time in years Intel might be forced to drop prices but why wait a couple of months when you can pay full price now for last year's CPU, right?

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