Intel Fourth Generation Core i7 4790K Reviewccokeman - June 19, 2014
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Intel Fourth Generation Core i7 4790K Introduction:
Just over a year ago, Intel delivered its 22nm Haswell, LGA socket 1150, Core i7 4770K to the world to replace the successful Ivy Bridge Core i7 3770K. By doing so, we found that out-of-the-box performance and efficiency were better than previous generations. However, the trade-off was that, due to the new architecture and how the power circuitry was integrated into the die with less die surface area, the chips ran markedly hotter than previous generations. Coupled with the lower overclocking thresholds and wildly varying clock speeds across samples, it was not the out-of-the-park hit that Intel had hoped for in the enthusiast market. Many felt the thermal interface material was to blame for the poor thermals when overclocking and took to delidding the cores in the hope of dropping temperatures that could easily reach 95 °C under load with moderate voltages. This meant that air cooling for the enthusiast was pretty much out of the question.
To right these perceived wrongs, Intel took a step back and reworked the core power delivery system for improved overclocking via a more stable current delivery package, and replaced the TIM with a new NGPTIM (Next Generation Polymer Thermal Interface Material) to work on the thermals. Next up was to deliver a true 4GHz processor out the door, which features not only a boosted base clock, but a Turbo Boost frequency of 4.4GHz, making it Intel's fastest processor. However, to make it all work, Intel had to up the TDP to 88W from an 84W rating on the 4770K. Will these changes be enough to bring the faithful back into the fold per se and spark some new overclocking competitions? Time will tell, but so far it looks like a resounding yes. Sitting at a price point of roughly $314, the Core i7 4790K might just be this year's hot ticket. Let's find out.
Intel Fourth Generation Core i7 4790K Closer Look:
Intel's 4th Generation Core i7 4790K Devil's Canyon processor is built on a 22nm process housing 1.4 billion Tri Gate 3D transistors that share space on the 177mm2 die. While Intel is making non-overclocking friendly chips, the Core i7 4790K is a K-spec processor, which means that it comes with unlocked core clock speed multiplers for the CPU, memory, and HD 4600 graphics core, to allow the end user even more flexibility. Overclocking via muliplier, gear ratio, and bclk are supported. This CPU features a clock speed of 4.0GHz right out of the box with Turbo Boost 2.0 technology bumping the clock speed up to 4.4GHz in lightly loaded and single-threaded applications.
Internally, there are four physical cores that support Hyper-Threading technology and pull from an 8MB shared L3 cache. Memory support is officially dual-channel at speeds up to 1600MHz, but most motherboards offer support as high as 3300MHz. The HD 4600 integrated graphics core is a carryover from Haswell and the Core i7 4770K. Featuring up to 20 Execution units depending on the processor, you get DX 11.1 support and playback of HD content including Blu-Ray, switchable graphics using Virtu, and Intel Quick Sync technology for improved video decoding and conversion. The clock speeds of the HD 4600 GPU are dynamically controlled at up to 1250MHz and is overclocking-enabled.
What sets the Core i7 4790K apart from the i7 4770K is the work that Intel did to revisit the problems associated with Haswell. To do this, the company went back to the drawing board and decided on the aforementioned NGPTIM to address some of the heat issues, and added capacitors to the bottom of the die substrate to improve power delivery. Unfortunately, Intel had to increase the TDP to 88W from 84W.
Since Intel has pretty much gotten out of the motherboard business, it has left all the innovation and build-outs to its board partners. The Z97 chipset launch is the first since this occurred. Intel's Z97 PCH brings support for upcoming and current socket 1150 processors. The chipset includes PCI Express M.2 storage options, which allows transfer speeds of up to 1 GB/s (as fast as SATA Express), are supported with Intel® Smart Response Technology, and can be used as a primary boot device. Intel Device Protection with Boot Guard is a new technology that "prevents repurposing of the platform to run unauthorized software, protects against execution of boot block level malware, and is rooted in a protected hardware infrastructure." Three specific types of Boot Guard are available: Measured Boot, which measures the boot block into the system storage device or TPM module; Verified Boot, which "cryptographically verifies the platform Initial Boot Block (IBB) using the boot policy key"; and Combined Boot, which uses both options.
Also new for the Z97 chipset is support for Intel's Rapid Storage Technology 13, which allows "support for a single 16GB SSD to enable dynamic cache sharing". Basically, this allows the system memory image to be dynamically written to a caching SSD during deep sleep conditions. With a "resume" command, the image is written back into the memory and the caching SSD resumes full functionality as the cache SSD.
The key to success with the Fourth Generation Core i7 4790K will be if it can indeed overclock better while delivering cooler temperatures. If it can do that, then my money is going to be well spent replacing my current crop of Core i7 4770K CPUs.