Test Bed and Setup

As with every CPU launch, there are a number of different directions to take the review. We have dedicated articles comparing the IPC of the new Kaby Lake line of CPUs, as well as a look into overclocking performance as a whole. We have had almost every desktop-class CPU family since Sandy Bridge tested in our benchmark suite, although only the latest have been retested. Due to timing, we were able to test all three of the new Kaby Lake-K processors, and retest the several Skylake processors, however we do have some CPU data for comparison for Haswell, Ivy Bridge, and Sandy Bridge. It will interesting to see how the CPU performance out-of-the-box has adjusted over the last five generations.

As per our testing policy, we take each CPU and place it in a suitable high-end motherboard and equip the system with a suitable amount of memory running at the processor maximum supported frequency. This is also typically run at JEDEC sub-timings where possible. It is noted that some users are not keen on this policy, stating that sometimes the maximum supported frequency is quite low, or faster memory is available at a similar price, or that the JEDEC speeds can be prohibitive for performance. While these comments make sense, ultimately very few users apply memory profiles (either XMP or other) as they require interaction with the BIOS, and most users will fall back on JEDEC supported speeds - this includes home users as well as industry who might want to shave off a cent or two from the cost or stay within the margins set by the manufacturer. Where possible, we will extend out testing to include faster memory modules either at the same time as the review or a later date.

Test Setup
Processor Intel Core i3-7350K (ES, Retail Stepping), 60W, $157
2 Cores, 4 Threads, 4.2 GHz
Motherboards MSI Z270 Gaming M7
Cooling Cooler Master Nepton 140XL
Power Supply OCZ 1250W Gold ZX Series
Corsair AX1200i Platinum PSU
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws 4 DDR4-2400 C15 2x16 GB 1.2V
Memory Settings DDR4-2400 C15
Video Cards ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB
MSI R9 290X Gaming 8GB
ASUS R7 240 2GB
Hard Drive Crucial MX200 1TB
Optical Drive LG GH22NS50
Case Open Test Bed
Operating System Windows 7 64-bit SP1

Readers of our reviews will have noted the trend in modern motherboards to implement a form of MultiCore Enhancement / Acceleration / Turbo (read our report here) on their motherboards. This does several things, including better benchmark results at stock settings (not entirely needed if overclocking is an end-user goal) at the expense of heat and temperature. It also gives an automatic overclock which may be against what the user wants. Our testing methodology is ‘out-of-the-box’, with the latest public BIOS installed and XMP enabled, and thus subject to the whims of this feature. It is ultimately up to the motherboard manufacturer to take this risk – and manufacturers taking risks in the setup is something they do on every product (think C-state settings, USB priority, DPC Latency / monitoring priority, overriding memory sub-timings at JEDEC). Processor speed change is part of that risk, and ultimately if no overclocking is planned, some motherboards will affect how fast that shiny new processor goes and can be an important factor in the system build.

Many thanks to...

We must thank the following companies for kindly providing hardware for our multiple test beds. Some of this hardware is not in this test bed specifically, but is used in other testing.

Thank you to AMD for providing us with the R9 290X 4GB GPUs. These are MSI branded 'Gaming' models, featuring MSI's Twin Frozr IV dual-fan cooler design and military class components. Bundled with the cards is MSI Afterburner for additional overclocking, as well as MSI's Gaming App for easy frequency tuning.

The R9 290X is a second generation GCN card from AMD, under the Hawaii XT codename, and uses their largest Sea Islands GPU die at 6.2 billion transistors at 438mm2 built at TSMC using a 28nm process. For the R9 290X, that means 2816 streaming processors with 64 ROPs using a 512-bit memory bus to GDDR5 (4GB in this case). The official power rating for the R9 290X is 250W.

The MSI R9 290X Gaming 4G runs the core at 1000 MHz to 1040 MHz depending on what mode it is in (Silent, Gaming or OC), and the memory at 5 GHz. Displays supported include one DisplayPort, one HDMI 1.4a, and two dual-link DVI-D connectors.

Further Reading: AnandTech's AMD R9 290X Review

Thank you to ASUS for providing us with GTX 980 Strix GPUs. At the time of release, the STRIX brand from ASUS was aimed at silent running, or to use the marketing term: '0dB Silent Gaming'. This enables the card to disable the fans when the GPU is dealing with low loads well within temperature specifications. These cards equip the GTX 980 silicon with ASUS' Direct CU II cooler and 10-phase digital VRMs, aimed at high-efficiency conversion. Along with the card, ASUS bundles GPU Tweak software for overclocking and streaming assistance.

The GTX 980 uses NVIDIA's GM204 silicon die, built upon their Maxwell architecture. This die is 5.2 billion transistors for a die size of 298 mm2, built on TMSC's 28nm process. A GTX 980 uses the full GM204 core, with 2048 CUDA Cores and 64 ROPs with a 256-bit memory bus to GDDR5. The official power rating for the GTX 980 is 165W.

The ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB (or the full name of STRIX-GTX980-DC2OC-4GD5) runs a reasonable overclock over a reference GTX 980 card, with frequencies in the range of 1178-1279 MHz. The memory runs at stock, in this case 7010 MHz. Video outputs include three DisplayPort connectors, one HDMI 2.0 connector and a DVI-I.

Further Reading: AnandTech's NVIDIA GTX 980 Review

Thank you to Cooler Master for providing us with Nepton 140XL CLCs. The Nepton 140XL is Cooler Master's largest 'single' space radiator liquid cooler, and combines with dual 140mm 'JetFlo' fans designed for high performance, from 0.7-3.5mm H2O static pressure. The pump is also designed to be faster, more efficient, and uses thicker pipes to assist cooling with a rated pump noise below 25 dBA. The Nepton 140XL comes with mounting support for all major sockets, as far back as FM1, AM2 and 775.

Further Reading: AnandTech's Cooler Master Nepton 140XL Review

Thank you to Corsair for providing us with an AX1200i PSU. The AX1200i was the first power supply to offer digital control and management via Corsair's Link system, but under the hood it commands a 1200W rating at 50C with 80 PLUS Platinum certification. This allows for a minimum 89-92% efficiency at 115V and 90-94% at 230V. The AX1200i is completely modular, running the larger 200mm design, with a dual ball bearing 140mm fan to assist high-performance use. The AX1200i is designed to be a workhorse, with up to 8 PCIe connectors for suitable four-way GPU setups. The AX1200i also comes with a Zero RPM mode for the fan, which due to the design allows the fan to be switched off when the power supply is under 30% load.

Further Reading: AnandTech's Corsair AX1500i Power Supply Review

Thank you to Crucial for providing us with MX200 SSDs. Crucial stepped up to the plate as our benchmark list grows larger with newer benchmarks and titles, and the 1TB MX200 units are strong performers. Based on Marvell's 88SS9189 controller and using Micron's 16nm 128Gbit MLC flash, these are 7mm high, 2.5-inch drives rated for 100K random read IOPs and 555/500 MB/s sequential read and write speeds. The 1TB models we are using here support TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 (eDrive) encryption and have a 320TB rated endurance with a three-year warranty.

Further Reading: AnandTech's Crucial MX200 (250 GB, 500 GB & 1TB) Review

Thank you to G.Skill for providing us with memory. G.Skill has been a long-time supporter of AnandTech over the years, for testing beyond our CPU and motherboard memory reviews. We've reported on their high capacity and high-frequency kits, and every year at Computex G.Skill holds a world overclocking tournament with liquid nitrogen right on the show floor. One of the most recent deliveries from G.Skill was their 4x16 GB DDR4-3200 C14 Kit, which we are planning for an upcoming review.

Further Reading: AnandTech's Memory Scaling on Haswell Review, with G.Skill DDR3-3000

Thank you to Corsair for providing us with memory. Similarly, Corsair (along with PSUs) is also a long-time supporter of AnandTech. Being one of the first vendors with 16GB modules for DDR4 was a big deal, and now Corsair is re-implementing LEDs back on its memory after a long hiatus along with supporting specific projects such as ASUS ROG versions of the Dominator Platinum range. We're currently looking at our review pipeline to see when our next DRAM round-up will be, and Corsair is poised to participate.

Further Reading: AnandTech's Memory Scaling on Haswell-E Review

Kaby Lake, Intel's 7th Generation, Has New Features Office and Web Performance
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  • TheinsanegamerN - Friday, February 3, 2017 - link

    This chip is 6 years late. Back when sandy bridge was the newest chip, a dual core i3 was a super relevant choice for gaming, a quad core was overkill.

    Today, for gaming builds, a i5 chip is almost always a better choice, unless you only play games that are single threaded. And the i3 is more power hungry then locked quad cores.

    At $130, this would be a great choice, but ATM, the i3k is overpriced for what it offers for a modern system.
  • nathanddrews - Friday, February 3, 2017 - link

    I'd argue that with the introduction of this i3 K-variant and the new hyperthreaded Pentium, Intel just gave a lot of people a reason to not by an i5. The message from Intel seems to be this:

    "If you need great single-threaded performance with some mild multi-threaded, get the Pentium or i3. If you need great multi-threaded performance with great single-threaded, get an i7."

    I'd say they are preemptively stacking the product deck prior to the release of AMD Ryzen - offering entry-level gamers more options without diluting their HEDT status.
  • BedfordTim - Friday, February 3, 2017 - link

    In many of the games an i3-6100 offers effectively the same performance and is $50 cheaper. It isn't a case of the i-3750k offering great performance, so much as the games are not CPU limited. This points towards an even more expensive graphics card and the even cheaper CPU.
  • jayfang - Friday, February 3, 2017 - link

    Agree. Whatever about actual performance, it seems quite clear the cool factor of "unlocked" Ryzen's and joining the "overclocking community" is getting a pre-emptive strike from Intel.
  • Michael Bay - Saturday, February 4, 2017 - link

    OC never had a "cool factor".
  • eldakka - Sunday, February 5, 2017 - link

    In the late 90's into the early 00's, when people would travel for hours carting their PC to a LAN gaming event with 100's (or even thousands) of other people, having an OC'ed machine was indeed cool amongst that Geek crowd.

    /em remembers his dual celeron 300A's OC'ed to 450MHz (yes, that's Mega - not Giga - hertz).
  • drgoodie - Tuesday, February 7, 2017 - link

    I had a dual 366Mhz Celeron box OC'd to 550Mhz. It was cool back then.
  • dsraa - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - link

    It was indeed and still is very very cool......I had been OC'ing my systems way back to the original Pentium 100, and then got a Celeron 300, OMG those were the days....If you don't think its cool, what the hell are you doing on Anandtech??!??!!!?
  • DLimmer - Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - link

    You may have missed the joke. This was a play on words; Overclocking produces more heat so it's "not cool."
  • DLimmer - Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - link

    OC is "hot, hot, hot"!

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