Intel Coffee Lake Conclusion

It has been a long time coming, but we finally have something bigger than a quad-core processor on Intel’s mainstream platform. Fundamentally it might be the same architecture as the processors preceded it, but after a decade of quad-core Intel parts, it comes as a welcome improvement. Intel sampled us the Core i7-8700K and the Core i5-8400 for this set of initial launch testing, with the goal of offering more high performance cores at more mainstream price points without having to invest in the company's more expensive and otherwise more complex HEDT platforms.

  

The Core i7-8700K

The Core i7-8700K in our testing was designed to be the new halo mainstream processor: many cores and the highest frequencies seen on an Intel part out of the box, with the option of overclocking thrown in. With a peak turbo frequency of 4.7 GHz, in benchmarks that could be stripped down to a single core with no other work going on, the i7-8700K took home the bacon.

The problem here is the same problem we’ve seen with big core parts and Windows 10, however: these large processors can only take so much before having to move threads around, to keep both the frequency high and the energy density low. All it takes is for a minor internal OS blip and single-threaded performance begins to diminish. Windows 10 famously kicks in a few unwanted instruction streams when you are not looking, and as a result the CPU fires up another CPU core and drops to a lower turbo bin. Consequently the average single thread performance seen on the 8700K might be equal or lower than that of the previous generation. It becomes an infuriating problem to debug as a reviewer.

Nonetheless, when software needs to take advantage of the cores, the Core i7-8700K will run through at an all-core turbo frequency of 4.3 GHz, consuming about 86W in the process. The jump up from a quad-core to a hex-core for only a $20 difference will be immediately noticeable in the software that can take advantage of it.

What is interesting to note is that the Core i7-8700K essentially kills the short-lived Kaby Lake-X parts on the X299 high-end desktop platform. Again, for a few extra dollars on the 8700K, a user can save over $100 on the motherboard, get more cores and more performance, and not have the hassle of dealing with a hybrid X299 platform. It does make me wonder why Intel released Kaby Lake-X in the first place, if they knew just how short lived they would be.

When comparing against the Core i7-7800X, a high-end desktop part at a similar price and with the same core count but a lower frequency, it really comes down to what the user needs. Performance easily favors the Core i7-8700K, however that cannot replace the quad-channel memory (up to 128GB) and the 28 PCIe lanes that the Core i7-7800X can support. In most circumstances, especially gaming, the Core i7-8700K will win out.

Intel’s 8th Generation CPUs: The Ones To Watch

Intel also sampled us the Core i5-8400, showing that six-core processors can cost less than $200. This processor, along with the Core i3-8100, will form the new backbone of general computing when using Intel components: the Core i3-8100 replaces old Core i5 processors for around $120, and enthusiasts who simply want a little more oomph can go with the Core i5-8400 at $190 at retail. It almost comes across as adding 50% cost for adding 50% performance. Personally I think the Core i3-8100, if made widely available, will be a top-selling processor for casual desktop users and gamers who were previously looking for a good performance-per-dollar part.

There is one other comparison to note: the Core i5-8600K and the Core i7-8700. These two parts are $50 apart, however the Core i7-8700 has double the threads, +10% raw frequency, 33% more L3 cache, and 1/3 lower TDP. The Core i5-8600K has overclocking, however going up to the i7 ensures stability, and should offer more raw performance. It will be interesting to get these two in to test, and especially to see if the TDP rating makes a significant performance difference.

Today’s Review Takeaway

We finally have six-core processors on Intel’s mainstream platform, which has driven up the core counts (and frequencies) of the company's low and mid-range processors. For anyone looking at building a system in the last 6-12 months, they should be able to build an equivalent with the latest-generation processor for $50-$100 less. Or spend the same and get a few more cores to play with. The last time we had this situation was a decade ago, and hopefully it won’t take another decade to happen again.

Dedicated reviews for the processors (with more gaming tests) are on the cards. Stay tuned!

CPU Gaming Performance: Grand Theft Auto
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  • watzupken - Saturday, October 7, 2017 - link

    There are pros and cons of having integrated graphics. It sure takes up a lot of die space, but it is something that allows Intel to sell a lot of chips. Amongst enthusiasts, this is unnecessary, but this group may only represent a small percentage vs corporates that need only decent CPU and no need for fancy graphics. To be honest, Intel could likely have created a 8 core processor easily since the die size is still fairly small for Coffee Lake, but they chose not to. I don't think it is a matter of the graphic that is holding them back. Reply
  • James5mith - Friday, October 6, 2017 - link

    Now to wait for the generation of Intel CPU's with native Thunderbolt3 on-die like Intel announced earlier this year. Reply
  • Zingam - Saturday, October 7, 2017 - link

    Why is that a good thing? Reply
  • ReeZun - Friday, October 6, 2017 - link

    "The difference between the Ryzen 5 1500X and the Core i3-8350K would be interesting, given the extreme thread deficit (12 threads vs 4) between the two."

    The 1500X houses 8 threads (not 12).
    Reply
  • watzupken - Saturday, October 7, 2017 - link

    The difference between the R5 1500X and i3 8350K goes beyond just the number of threads. The cache is also 2x more on the Ryzen chip. However, the i3 chip have the advantage of being able to reach higher clockspeed. I do agree that this will be an interesting comparison. Reply
  • sweeper765 - Friday, October 6, 2017 - link

    I'm not up to date with current bios versions.
    Is multi-core enhancement still present in z370 motherboards? That would get rid of all those differences in turbo speeds. I know it is technically overclocking but i bet it's a pretty safe procedure without increasing the voltages.

    Also, what's the deal with the 8700? Is it just as good as 8700k (minus 100mhz) if one decides not to overclock? Just trying to gather as many practical facts as i can before formulating an upgrade plan (sandy bridge user hehe )

    This cpu family looks good on specs and benches (maybe the first worthy successor to sandy bridge) but it's not perfect. I hate that Intel decided not to solder, i expect temperatures to soar in the high 80's. Also the current motherboards are somewhat lacking in ports (usb, lan, sata).

    I love my sandy bridge setup though.
    6 1/2 years old and still going strong. Overclocked, cool, stable, silent. With current cpu's you don't get all these points.
    Even if i upgrade i'm not going to touch it.
    Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Saturday, October 7, 2017 - link

    Is multi-core enhancement still present in z370 motherboards?

    As an option, yes.
    As default? Will vary board to board. You can disable it.
    However we had trouble with one of our boards: disabling MCT/MCE and then enabling XMP caused the CPU to sit at 4.3 GHz all day. Related to a BIOS bug which the vendor updated in a hurry.
    Reply
  • Jodiuh - Friday, October 6, 2017 - link

    What’s up with those rise of Tomb Raider benchmarks? Am I too seriously believ the i5 7400 is more capable than the 8700K...did I miss the overclocking part?

    Tech reports review much better with results that make sense.
    Reply
  • peevee - Friday, October 6, 2017 - link

    "Core i5-8600K and the Core i7-8700. These two parts are $50 apart, however the Core i7-8700 has double the threads, +10% raw frequency"

    +10%? Count again.
    Reply
  • boeush - Friday, October 6, 2017 - link

    Regarding most normal/gaming scenarios, I'm wondering with the 8700/k whether one couldn't get an even better performance by disabling hyperthreading in the UEFI.

    That would still yield 6 threads, but now ostensibly with a full 2 MB of L3 per thread. Plus, lower power per core (due to lower resource utilization) might mean more thermal headroom and higher overall sustained frequencies.

    So you'd get maximum-possible single-thread performance while still being able to run 6-wide SMT (which, under most normal usage, isn't even a constraint worth noting...)

    Amirite?
    Reply

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