Comparing the Quad Cores: CPU Tests

As a straight up comparison between what Intel offered in terms of quad cores, here’s an analysis of all the results for the 2600K, 2600K overclocked, and Intel’s final quad-core with HyperThreading chip for desktop, the 7700K.

On our CPU tests, the Core i7-2600K when overclocked to a 4.7 GHz all-core frequency (and with DDR3-2400 memory) offers anywhere from 10-24% increase in performance against the stock settings with Intel maximum supported frequency memory. Users liked the 2600K because of this – there were sizable gains to be had, and Intel’s immediate replacements to the 2600K didn’t offer the same level of boost or difference in performance.

However, when compared to the Core i7-7700K, Intel’s final quad-core with HyperThreading processor, users were able to get another 8-29% performance on top of that. Depending on the CPU workload, it would be very easy to see how a user could justify getting the latest quad core processor and feeling the benefits for more modern day workloads, such as rendering or encoding, especially given how the gaming market has turned more into a streaming culture. For the more traditional workflows, such as PCMark or our legacy tests, only gains of 5-12% are seen, which is what we would have seen back when some of these newer tests were no longer so relevant.

As for the Core i7-9700K, which has eight full cores and now sits in the spot of Intel’s best Core i7 processor, performance gains are very much more tangible, and almost double in a lot of cases against an overclocked Core i7-2600K (and more than double against one at stock).

The CPU case is clear: Intel’s last quad core with hyperthreading is an obvious upgrade for a 2600K user, even before you overclock it, and the 9700K which is almost the same launch price parity is definitely an easy sell. The gaming side of the equation isn’t so rosy though.

Comparing the Quad Cores: GPU Tests

Modern games today are running at higher resolutions and quality settings than the Core i7-2600K did when it was first launch, as well as new physics features, new APIs, and new gaming engines that can take advantage of the latest advances in CPU instructions as well as CPU-to-GPU connectivity. For our gaming benchmarks, we test with four tests of settings on each game (720p, 1080p, 1440p-4K, and 4K+) using a GTX 1080, which is one of last generations high-end gaming cards, and something that a number of Core i7 users might own for high-end gaming.

When the Core i7-2600K was launched, 1080p gaming was all the rage. I don’t think I purchased a monitor bigger than 1080p until 2012, and before then I was clan gaming on screens that could have been as low as 1366x768. The point here is that with modern games at older resolutions like 1080p, we do see a sizeable gain when the 2600K is overclocked. A 22% gain in frame rates from a 34% overclock sounds more than reasonable to any high-end focused gamer. Intel only managed to improve on that by 12% over the next few years to the Core i7-7700K, relying mostly on frequency gains. It’s not until the 9700K, with more cores and running games that actually know what to do with them, do we see another jump up in performance.

However, all those gains are muted at a higher resolutions setting, such as 1440p. Going from an overclocked 2600K to a brand new 9700K only gives a 9% increase in frame rates for modern games. At an enthusiast 4K setting, the results across the board are almost equal. As resolutions are getting higher, even with modern physics and instructions and APIs, the bulk of the workload is still on the GPU, and even the Core i7-2600K is powerful enough for it. There is the odd title where having the newer chip helps a lot more, but it’s in the minority.

That is, at least on average frame rates. Modern games and modern testing methods now test percentile frame rates, and the results are a little different.

Here the results look a little worse for the Core i7-2600K and a bit better for the Core i7-9700K, but on the whole the broad picture is the same for percentile results as it is for average frame results. In the individual results, we see some odd outliers, such as Ashes of the Singularity which was 15% down on percentiles at 4K for a stock 2600K, but the 9700K was only 6% higher than an overclocked 2600K, but like the average frame rates, it is really title dependent.

Power Consumption Conclusions


View All Comments

  • nandnandnand - Friday, May 10, 2019 - link

    Just get a 12 or 16-core Ryzen in 2+ months. Reply
  • mode_13h - Saturday, May 11, 2019 - link

    If you get a gun, you'll just have to waste more money on ammo.

    And the thing about targets is they don't shoot back. So, it gets boring pretty quickly. Paintball is more fun.
  • Ghodzilla5150 - Saturday, May 11, 2019 - link

    I just built an AMD Rig with a Ryzen 7 2700X, ASRock X470 Taichi Ultimate, Sapphire Nitro+ RX 590, 32gb G.SKILL RIPJAWS Series V & 2x 1TB M.2 drives (1 for OS and other for Gaming). Boots to Win 10 Pro in 8 seconds. Blazing fast in games.

    I just bought a Smith & Wesson 686 Plus 357 Magnum so I know what it's like to want a gun as well. I'm looking at getting a LMT Valkyrie 224.
  • mode_13h - Saturday, May 11, 2019 - link

    Get a Ryzen 9 with 16 cores. Reply
  • MrCommunistGen - Friday, May 10, 2019 - link

    I'm in almost exactly the same boat. I have a 3770K on Z77 running at 4.2GHz. That's all that I could get out of my chip without thermal throttling under heavy load with a 212 EVO... already running the lowest possible voltage that it is stable. Remounted the cooler several times, upgraded the fan, and switched out the paste to Thermal Grizzly but it didn't help enough to get me to 4.3GHz.
    I considered throwing a bigger cooler at it but decided to save that money for my next build instead.

    Running 1440p 75Hz Freesync (only 48-75Hz range) display that I picked up before Vega launched with the intention of buying Vega when it released -- but I missed buying it at launch, then it was unavailable, then it was expensive, then the crypto boom meant you couldn't get one... so I bought a 1080Ti instead. Even with the newly added Freesync compatibility I'm getting a reasonable bit of stutter that frustrates me.

    Strongly considering Zen2 when it comes out. I never seriously considered upgrading to anything else so far, not Haswell through KBL due to lack of performance increase for the price, and not CFL or CFL-R due to high cost. 2700X just doesn't quite have enough single-thread performance increase, but based on the swirling rumors I think Zen2 will get there.
  • Polyclot - Saturday, May 11, 2019 - link

    I have a 2600k/z77-a. I was under the impression that the mobo wouldn't go above 4.2. At least that's where I'm at. Love the combo. No complaints Reply
  • CaedenV - Saturday, May 11, 2019 - link

    Nope, the cap is for the non-K chips. There you have a 42x multiplier cap with a 100 MHz clock, so you are limited to 4.2... unless you also change the base clock, but that causes other issues that are not worth the effort to address.
    If you have a K chip, the only limits are your RAM, and cooling. Almost all Sandy chips can hit 4.5GHz, with a majority capable of going above 4.8!
  • XXxPro_bowler420xXx - Saturday, May 11, 2019 - link

    I have a non k 3770 running at 4.2ghz all core, 4.4 single. It's also undervolted to 1.08V and hits a MAX temp of 55-56C after months of use on a corsair AIO and liquid metal . Usually runs in the high 40s under load. Before de-lidding it, it ran in the high 60s at 4.2ghz on a corsair air cooler and arctic mx4 paste. Why are your temperatures so high?

    AsRock z77 extreme 4 and 16GB 2133 ram.
  • XXxPro_bowler420xXx - Saturday, May 11, 2019 - link

    Also I agree with you on zen 2. Finally a worthy successor. Reply
  • CaedenV - Saturday, May 11, 2019 - link

    Yep, if I were to upgrade today, it would be an AMD chip. And that is hard to say/admit with all of my inner Intel fanboy. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now