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Intel Core i7-4770K review

Andrew Unsworth
1 Jun 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
275
inc VAT

The i7-4770K is 15 per cent more powerful than its predecessor and has much improved 3D graphics

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Specifications

Intel’s 4th-generation Core processors, also known under the codename Haswell, are finally upon us. Intel has made much fuss over the improved power efficiency of the new chips and improvements in the onboard graphics, but desktop PC users (particularly those using dedicated graphics cards) might be left wondering what's in it for them.

The first Haswell processor we got to test is the top-end Intel Core i7-4770K. It’s a quad-core processor with a base clock speed of 3.5GHz that can turbo boost up to 3.9GHz as long as it’s kept cool enough. The “K” means that this version of the Core i7-4770K is unlocked, so you can overclock it. Like the outgoing Intel Core i7-3770K, the i7-4770K has Hyper Threading, which means each of its four physical processing cores each has two logical cores, which allows Windows to execute two instructions at once and so improves multi-tasking performance. There's 8MB of L3 cache here too, so there should be little bottleneck in instructions reaching the cores.

Intel Core i7-4770K

Intel continues with its Tick-Tock structure to processor development. A Tick represents a die-shrink for a smaller, faster, less-hungry processor, and a Tock being an architectural redesign for, largely, improved performance and additional features. Haswell is a Tock, so it uses the same 22nm manufacturing process as the outgoing 3rd-generation Intel Core 'Ivy Bridge' processors, but has a redesigned architecture. This means that you can’t use Haswell chips in existing LGA1155 motherboards. Instead, the new 4th-generation CPUs use the new LGA1150 socket, so if you want to buy such a chip you’ll have to buy a new motherboard too.

Although the Core i7-4770K and Core i7-3770K processors both use 22nm processes, the Core i7-4770K runs considerably hotter and so requires a good cooler, especially if you plan on overclocking it. The stock Intel cooler designed for previous generation Core processors will be insufficient. Sadly, Intel didn’t provide us with the new stock heatsinks that’ll ship with 4th-generation Core processors in retail packs, so we used a third-party cooler, the Alpenfohn K2. It has a very large heatsink and two large fans, and it kept the Core i7-4770K at a steady 32-degrees Celcius at idle.

We’re used to desktop processors becoming cooler and more power efficient as they evolve, so we were a little surprised by the Core i7-4770K’s 84W TDP, which is higher than the Core i7-3770K’s 77W TDP. More power efficient variants will become available, such as the Core i7-4770S, which has a 65W TDP, and the Core i7-4770T, which has a 45W TDP, but these processors have much lower base clock speeds, especially the Core i7-4770T with 2.5GHz.

TURBO POWERED

With a good cooler in place, the Core i7-4770K is quick to boost to higher clock speeds when necessary, quickly reaching its 3.9GHz maximum turbo frequency. We tested the Core i7-4770K with an Intel DZ87KLT-75K motherboard, 4GB of Corsair XMS3 RAM, a Crucial M4 SSD and a Corsair HX750 power supply and were initially a little underwhelmed by its performance compared to the Core i7-3770K. The Core i7-4770K scored 109 overall, which is roughly a 10 per cent performance increase over the Core i7-3770K’s overall score of 99. The speed increased further when we swapped the Intel motherboard for a Gigabyte Z87-D3HP, with the Core i7-4770K scoring 116 overall. This is an impressive increase in performance when you consider that the die hasn’t shrunk and that the i7-4770K’s base and boost clock frequencies are the same as the i7-3770K’s.

The Core i7-4770K’s highest score was gained in the multitasking portion of our benchmark suite, and we recommend this processor if you need to run processor-intensive multi-core, multi-threaded applications such as music production and video-editing software.

TURBO GRAPHICS

Intel’s Core processors were trailing way behind AMD’s Socket FM2-based Trinity APUs when it comes to integrated graphics, but we’re pleased to report that the new graphics core here shows a big improvement. The Core i7-4770K’s built-in HD Graphics 4600 graphics processor delivered an average frame rate of 32.4fps in Dirt Showdown at a resolution of 1,280x720 with 4x anti-aliasing and graphics quality set to High. In comparison, the Core i7-3770K produced 26.1fps in the same test, while the AMD A10-5800K still wins out with a much higher 45fps.

Intel Core i7-4770K

The processor die shows just how big the graphics core is on 4th Generation chips

The Core i7-4770K also produced a remarkable and entirely playable average frame rate of 36.8fps in Crysis 2 at 1,280x720 and High quality settings. This is very impressive, as Crysis 2 is graphically challenging, even at these settings.

You’ll still need to invest in a good graphics card to play the latest games at high resolutions and quality settings, but the Core i7-4770K’s built-in graphics processor can more than cope with general desktop tasks, Full HD video playback and light 3D rendering. If you get the right motherboard, it can also support up to three displays at resolutions of up to 3,840x2,160.

Intel's new Iris Graphics technology looks to be more powerful, but hasn't yet been announced for LGA-1150 socket desktop PCs.

TURBO CLOCKED

As the Core i7-4770K is unlocked, there’s no excuse for not overclocking it. Using the Intel DZ87KLT-75K motherboard, we increased the Core i7-4770K’s clock speed to 4GHz and the memory’s clock speed to 1866MHz and ran our multimedia benchmarks again. This time, the processor scored 118 overall and a very impressive 131 in the multitasking segment. Increasing the CPU’s clock speed to 4.6GHz had a minor effect on multitasking, raising the score to 134, but greatly improved performance in the image-editing and video-editing segments of our benchmark suite. At 4.6GHz, the i7-4770K scored 125 overall. Having used the i7-4770K in other motherboards, we know it can be pushed even further and is very much suited to overclocking.

Intel Core i7-4770K

CONCLUSION

The Core i7-4770K may not represent a massive leap in performance over the Core i7-3770K, but the improvements are impressive given they are created entirely by a new, more efficient design. It takes our Ultimate award, and should be your first pick if you're building a powerhouse PC, though we can't see many people upgrading directly from a similar Sandy Bridge i7.

As with 3rd-generation Core processors, the Intel Core i5-4670K provides better value for money (full review shortly), but if you want Intel’s most powerful desktop processor you need the Intel Core i7-4770K.

Basic Specifications

Processor coreHaswell
Rating*****
Processor clock speed3.5GHz
Processor socketLGA1150
Processor process22nm
Processor number of cores4
Processor supported instructionsMMX, SSE 1, 2, 3, 3.3, 3S, 4.1, 4.2, EM64T VT-x, AES, AVX
Processor multiplierx35
Processor external bus100MHz
Level 1 cache4x 32KB
Level 2 cache4x 256KB
Processor level 3 cache8MB
Supported memory typeDDR3
Processor power rating (TDP)84W
Price£275
Supplierhttp://www.scan.co.uk
Detailswww.intel.com

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