I’m a big self-proclaimed PC gamer; if I weren’t so dedicated to personal hygiene and good manners, I’d probably be one of those “PC Master Race” types, honestly. There’s nothing like sitting down with a new game on PC, cranking all those settings up to max and rotting some brain cells. It’s heaven. The Pearly Gates have an entrance fee, though, and that comes in the form of the prices attached to higher-end mainstream hardware; if you want the best right now, you’re going to have to cough up some cash.
Even though it’s been out in the wild for a few months already, the $309 price-tag attached to the Intel Core i7-7700K Desktop Processor is sure to satisfy most people who may not actually need it; fortunately, I’ve got plenty of money and have zero need for practicality or common sense, making me the best type of demographic for Intel’s bottom line!
Look, I can’t really speak to the efficacy of the Kaby Lake architecture over its more recent Skylake relatives; because I’m moving up from an i5-3570K, a quad-core unit that’s pretty ancient by current standards. That’s from 2012, part of the glory days of the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture; my admittedly biased gaming PC equivalent of using an abacus, or playing online by way of smoke signals.
It is going to be a significant jump no matter how you slice it, but I Gotta say, I’m a little disappointed that I can’t just slam out a review that says that it’s amazing. It’s nice, but only a little bit nicer than the last Skylake chips released last year, and some diminished value compared to the recent AMD Ryzen CPUs my colleague reviewed.
Instead, I’ll happily agree that stepping up to the 7700K was a fantastic fix that made a night-and-day difference in PC gaming for me. Speaking numerically, I gained eight cores with the same four threads (8C/4T), 4.2 Ghz base clock (and 4.5 Ghz turbo frequency), and 8MB cache size by upgrading. Other Kaby Lake features include a smaller 14nm process, improved graphics for 3D and 4K performance, but chipsets retain cross compatibility with the LGA 1511 socket. This is about 6% better than a Skylake i7-6700K, so existing owners really aren’t missing out, and I’ve never been a huge fan of quantifying gains in that sense anyways; what matters to me is how the games run.
I grabbed my 2016 (Pre-Xp) NVIDIA TITAN X Pascal graphics card and 16GBs worth of Corsair Vengeance DDR4-2400 RAM, while Popzara provided an ASUS ROG STRIX Z270H GAMING motherboard for testing. Before this, I had to deal with a number of games that weren’t moving fluidly, and our resident tech editor known as ‘H’ would school me (and with many thanks to him supplying the technical stuff) on how I was running into constant bottleneck walls due to my horribly mismatched hardware. Now, that’s no longer the case, as the the i7-7700K finally brings my system up to speed.
Anyway, gaming performance from an anecdotal standpoint: Crysis 3 was great and plays wonderfully, with Watch Dogs 2 also running above well above 60FPS. Despite my beefy TITAN X being capable to pump out stellar graphics, it was my previous i5-3570K alone holding everything back. The transformation continued with my collection of Blizzard titles like Overwatch, as was everything Ubisoft has ever made, I was officially free from my performance limitations.
The only hurdle that stands in the way at this point is an FPS lock, which is distressingly common in PC ports of console games from the last few years, but outside of that everything’s golden. Regarding general performance, well…it crunches through RAR files and light video encoding like it’s nothing, but the 3570K also had no trouble with tasks like this. It’s also got a pretty mean integrated HD Graphics 630 GPU, but as you can imagine this won’t really be a selling point, with almost all users buying a graphics card.
Games like Crysis 3 and Grand Theft Auto V, where I couldn’t quite squeeze out 60FPS from at max settings in the past, finally ran as expected with the 7700K. Keep in mind some of these games were from as far as 2013, and even the mighty TITAN X couldn’t produce these results thanks to being saddled with the very aged i5-3570K; after the upgrade, I was at long last getting insanely smooth gameplay from titles that are four years old. I humbled myself when I finally realized that the right configuration can solve a lot of poor optimization on the developers’ part.
The K-series of Intel CPUs is largely about overclocking, assuming the out-of-the-box performance isn’t enough for you. For me, it was, so I didn’t mess around with this all that much yet, but gentle tweaks upward using MSI Afterburner weren’t met with any resistance. Given that the 7700K has done everything I want at factory settings, there hasn’t been much need to faff about with this side of things. When and if performance becomes an issue, though, it’s nice to know that the option is there. A word of warning to aggressive overclockers though, you can easily void your warranty if you go beyond the recommended parameters and burn up your investment.
The numbers and impressions speak for themselves; the Core i7-7700K zooms and breathes new life into any machine, especially with a discrete GPU to back it up. The bottom line is really that if you’re gaming on PC and you haven’t updated your processor in a few years (because it is, admittedly, a pain in the ass) then you might see some pretty significant benchmark improvements off the bat.
Whether or not the best of the best is all that necessary really comes down to personal preference. Admittedly, many will do just fine with the Core i5-7600K or (heaven forbid) jump into the AMD camp and embrace Ryzen. For me, I’d rather be comfortably familiar with the best than delay the next upgrade for another year or so. Then again, I can afford to.