T’O’N : Intel Haswell Makes Its Debut: Core i7-4770K Review


Intel Haswell Makes Its Debut: Core i7-4770K Review

A key focus has been Haswell’s graphics, with rumors suggesting its performance is set to be 2 to 3 times that of current HD 4000 integrated graphics.

So what is Haswell exactly? It is Intel’s 4th generation Core architecture which will see a major refresh of the entire Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 product lineup in 2013. Whereas last year’s Ivy Bridge was a “tick” release, Haswell is a tock and traditionally that’s meant a more significant advance forward.

Efficiency and graphics have remained key areas of focus for Intel in the last couple of generations and Haswell is no different. Intel did claim that Ivy Bridge was a “tick+” due to the more significant overhaul to the graphics side of things. Even so, despite providing up to twice as much graphics performance as Sandy Bridge under certain scenarios, it was still very underwhelming 3D rendering power when compared to discrete solutions.

 

And the time has finally come. Haswell is ready to be unveiled, along with Intel’s latest on-die GPU solutions. Today we’ll only be checking out the new HD 4600 Graphics which comes as part of the high-end Core i7-4770K desktop processor. Faster HD 5000 Graphics and Iris Graphics 5100 and 5200 solutions will also become available starting today. As expected, the most powerful integrated graphics solutions are being reserved for processors designed for mobile devices, such as Ultrabooks.

4th Gen Intel Core CPU Family

The Haswell lineup is comprised of several desktop and mobile Core i7 and Core i5 processors that will effectively replace most of the current offerings under those series. Core i3 variants will make it to market later in the year.

The new Core i7 desktop processors include the Core i7-4770K, i7-4770R, i7-4770T, i7-4770S, i7-4770 and i7-4765T — all selling for $303 except for the i7-4770K that sells for a slight premium at $339. The Core i7-4770K and i7-4770 are identical in almost every way with a few exceptions. The K version comes with an unlocked multiplier and is 100MHz faster out of the box. The Intel vPro/TXT/VT-d/SIPP technologies have also been removed from the K series.

The Core i7-4770S and i7-4770T are members of the low power series and as such the TDP has been reduced from 84w down to 65w and 45w, respectively. A determining factor in achieving this lower consumption is a lower CPU base frequency, reduced from 3.50GHz to just 3.10GHz for the i7-4770S and 2.50GHz for the i7-4770T.

All Haswell Core i7 desktop processors feature 4 cores with 8 concurrent threads when using Hyper-Threading. The Core i7-4770K operates at 3.50GHz with a Turbo Boost frequency of 3.90GHz, while the non-K version features the same Turbo Boost frequency with a base clock of 3.4GHz. They are designed to work with DDR3-1333/1600 memory and feature an 8MB L3 cache.

The most interesting of the Core i7 range is the 4770R, which operates at 3.20GHz with a Turbo frequency of 3.90GHz and uses the BGA package. This model dumps the HD 4600 Graphics used by all other desktop Core i7 processors and instead opts for the more powerful Iris Pro Graphics 5200. The only downside to this chip is the L3 cache reduction from 8MB to 6MB.

Intel is also offering a lower clocked model, the Core i7-4765T which has a TDP of just 35 watts and comes clocked at just 2.0GHz with a 3.0GHz maximum Turbo frequency.

Then there is the new Core i5 series which features the i5-4670K, i5-4670 and i5-4570 processors priced at $242, $213 and $192, respectively. There are also the Core i5-4670T, i5-4670S, i5-4570S, i5-4570T and Core i5-3450S low power models. We know, it gets very confusing, so let’s talk about the standard processors first.

All standard Ivy Bridge Core i5 processors carry an 84W TDP and feature four cores and four concurrent threads. The only Core i5 processor to differ from this configuration is the i5-4570T which features two cores with Hyper-Threading for four threads.

The Core i5 range is clocked aggressively: the i5-4670K and i5-4670 operate at 3.40GHz with a Turbo Boost frequency of 3.80GHz. Meanwhile the i5-4570 is clocked at 3.20GHz with a Turbo frequency of 3.6GHz.

All Core i5 processors feature a 6MB L3 cache, with the exception of the i5-4570T, which has been downgraded to 3MB. All desktop Core i5 processors use the HD Graphics 4600 engine without exception.

The low-power Core i5 range is equally confusing. The four models available at launch are different, though many of them occupy the same price range. The Core i5-4570T is essentially a Core i3 processor with Turbo Boost added. This processor operates at 2.90GHz with a Turbo Boost speed of 3.60GHz. However like the Core i3 processors, the i5-4570T features only two cores with Hyper-Threading support and a smaller 3MB L3 cache, it is said to cost $192.

Then there is the Core i5-4670T and i5-4670S (both $213). The i5-4670T features a thermal design rating of 45w and works at 2.30GHz with a Turbo Boost frequency of 3.30GHz. The i5-4670S is actually faster, working at a base clock of 3.1GHz with a Turbo Boost frequency of 3.8GHz. As you would expect the i5-4670S has a higher TDP rating of 65w.

Finally, we have the Core i5-4570S and i5-4570T processors (both $192) which feature a TDP rating of 65w and 35w, respectively. Both CPUs have a base clock of 2.90GHz with a Turbo Boost frequency of 3.60GHz.

4th Gen Intel HD Graphics

Intel debuted on-die HD graphics with the Westmere architecture, although to be precise it wasn’t actually on-die but on-package, meaning the graphics engine was separate from the CPU. Furthermore, it was built using the 45nm process and not the same 32nm process used by the actual CPU.

Then the second generation graphics (Sandy Bridge) changed all that by including the GPU on-die. Even though both processing units were under the same roof, the GPU was still independent of the CPU. It featured its own clock domain that could be set independently and could be powered down as needed.

This same design principle was used for Ivy Bridge, Intel simply added more horsepower. There were two versions of the Intel HD graphics with the Ivy Bridge processors using either the HD 2500 or the faster HD 4000 engine.

 

The shaders, cores and execution units are what Intel calls EUs (Execution Units) with HD 2500 featuring six and the speedier HD 4000 getting sixteen. Interestingly, most Core i5 desktop processors used the slower HD Graphics 2500 engine, while all mobile processors received the 4000 engine.

Haswell offers many more flavors of built-in graphics.

Starting at the bottom of the food chain we have the Intel HD Graphics 4600/4400 and 4200. The next level up is the Intel HD Graphics 5000 and then Intel Iris Graphics 5100 and Iris Pro 5200.

Now because we only have the Core i7-4770K today we can show you how the Intel HD Graphics 4600 performs. This is the choice of built-in graphics that a wide majority of Core i7 (all except one) and all Core i5 desktop processors will receive. The HD 4600 gets 20 EUs, a 25% increase over Ivy Bridge. The clock speed has also been increased from 1150MHz to 1250MHz, a mild 9% bump in frequency.

The Intel HD Graphics 5000 and Iris Graphics 5100 receive 40 EUs awarding them twice the power-performance of HD 4xxx. Then the Iris Pro Graphics 5200 which still features the same 40 EUs gets a large embedded DRAM cache to improve bandwidth performance.

Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H

The Z87X-UD3H is one of Gigabyte’s more affordable Z87 motherboards featuring the Ultra Durable 5 design. The board itself is a standard ATX model which features a matte black PCB with black and gray connectors. Adding a little flare are a number of large heatsinks which feature some blue highlights.

 

 

 

The motherboard layout and design is similar to what we have seen from Gigabyte in the past and it features the typical range of enhancements. The board features all IR Digital Power Design (IOR International Rectifier) with IR digital PWMs equipped with IR Powerstage ICs. Meanwhile the PCB itself is a 2-layer copper design and is equipped with Durable black solid capacitors.

Other features include Intel Gigabit LAN with high ESD protection using the new Intel I217-V controller. The famous UEFI and DualBIOS support exists and Gigabyte has added an LED indicator to signal any problems.

 

The second generation On/Off Charge feature is included for quick charging mobile devices via USB. Gigabyte has also included a gaming headphone amplifier for enhanced audio quality, while audio is provided using the Realtek ALC898 HD audio codec.

 

 

While the Z87 chipset provides six USB 3.0 ports and six SATA 6Gb/s ports, Gigabyte has upgraded both. The Z87X-UD3H offers a total of ten USB 3.0 ports thanks to the inclusion of the Renesas uPD720210 controller and eight SATA 6Gb/s ports with the help of the Marvell 88SE9172 controller.

 

The Marvell 88SE9172 controller can be switched to provide either two extra onboard SATA 6Gb/s ports or two eSATA 6Gb/s ports, but not both at the same time. Along with the ten USB 3.0 ports the board also provides eight USB 2.0 ports, two on the I/O panel and the rest via onboard headers.

 

Overclock friendly features include a Debug display near the DIMM slots and Quick buttons to allow Power On/Off, Reset, CMOS Clear, Dual BIOS, Smart Voltage and much more.

 

The Z87X-UD3H supports 2-way Crossfire and 2-way SLI technology using two PCIe x16 slots. As is the case with Ivy Bridge the Haswell processors only provide enough PCIe lanes for a x16/x8 configuration when using two graphics cards.

 

There is a third full length PCIe x16 slot, though it is only wired for x4 bandwidth. Meanwhile there is two PCIe x1 slots positioned between the primary and secondary PCIe x16 slots, followed by a traditional PCI slot.

 

Around the back on the I/O panel we have six USB 3.0 ports, a PS/2 port, optical digital audio, six audio jacks, Gigabit LAN and dual eSATA ports. There is also a VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort for utilizing the integrated video.

Asrock Z87 Professional

Like Gigabyte, Asrock has also been working hard on their Intel 8 series motherboards and today we are able to show off quite a bit of that hard work. Asrock offered us a massive range of Z87 motherboards to choose from, as well as some H87 boards.

 

 

The Z87 Professional first caught our eye as it includes a huge amount of special features, such as dual-stack MOSFETs, multi filter caps, hi-density power connector, 15u gold finger expansion slots, creative sound, 2oz copper PCB and much more.

 

The board itself also looks very impressive, featuring a black PCB with black and red connectors. This is a Fatal1ty series board, though Asrock don’t throw that in your face too much and spoil the design.

Like the Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H the Asrock Z87 Professional also uses the Intel Z87 chipset and therefore many features do come as standard. Still there are a number of hardware and software features that have been added.

 

Features such as home cloud, which allows the user to power on and off their PC/monitor and take control of it from anywhere in the world remotely. HDMI-In is another interesting feature which allows the user to connect two different devices into a single display and toggle between them.

XSplit is a desktop application that allows multimedia broadcasting, live-streaming and recording a lot easier, this feature is however a paid service though Asrock are offering three months free to try it out.

On the hardware side of things the Z87 Professional features a pair of Intel Gigabit LAN controllers which includes the I217-V and the I2211-AT. The I217-V supports Intel Remote Wake Technology while they both support Wake-On-LAN, Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az, PXE and Teaming.

 

The standard six SATA 6Gb/s ports provided by the Z87 chipset have been expanded to a total of ten ports thanks to the inclusion of the ASMedia ASM1061 controller. This controller provides four extra SATA 6Gb/s ports suppoting NCQ, AHCI and “Hot Plug” functions. The fourth port connected to this controller is shared with a single eSATA port found on the I/O panel.

Asrock has also expanded the USB 3.0 support to include an additional two ports using an ASMedia hub. This means there are a total of eight USB 3.0 ports along with eight USB 2.0 ports.

 

For gamers the 7.1 channel HD audio support from the Creative Sound Core3D solution is no doubt going to be a highlight. This quad-core sound and voice processor supports SBX Pro Studio, CrystalVoice, Scout Mode and EAX1.0 to EAX5.0. On top of that there is also a PHA (Premium Headset Amplifier) which will improve headphone quality.

 

The board features three PCIe x16 slots, though only the primary uses full x16 bandwidth. Unlike the Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H the Asrock Z87 Professional only uses x8/x8 bandwidth when using two graphics cards opposed to x16/x8. However the Z87 Professional does support Quad Crossfire and 3-way CrossfireX, along with Quad SLI and 2-way SLI. Along with the three PCIe x16 slots there is a single PCIe x1 slot and two PCI slots.

 

Around the back we have four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, five audio jacks and an optical port along with a PS/2 port, eSATA port, CMOS reset switch, dual LAN ports and two HDMI ports.

Asrock H87 Performance

Here we have another Fatal1ty themed motherboard in the Asrock H87 Performance which boasts a black PCB with black and red connectors. There are also some large black heatsinks designed to cool the H87 chip along with the power phase circuitry.

 

 

 

The H87 Performance still includes many of the features found on the Z87 Professional, such as Home Cloud, HDMI-In, XSplit as well as a hi-density power connector, 15u gold expansion slots, Intel LAN and Creative Audio.

 

However unlike the Z87 Professional the H87 Performance uses the H87 chipset rather than the Z87 and that means there are a few new features, such as Intel Small Business Advantage, Intel Anti-Theft Technology, and Intel Identity Protection Technology. Missing is Intel Extreme Tuning Support and official multi-GPU support.

Despite that the H87 Performance does support multiple GPU’s via its two PCIe x16 slots. That said SLI is not supported, leaving the multi-GPU support exclusively Crossfire. It is worth pointing out that while the primary PCIe x16 slot it wired for full x16 bandwidth, the second is only wired for x4 bandwidth.

 

Therefore if you plan on building a Crossfire system we suggest skipping over the H87 Performance as it is best suited for single GPU configurations

Where the H87 Performance should score points is in its audio solution, which Asrock calls the Purity Sound. Basically Purity Sound is a combination of several hardware and software audio solutions and technologies.

 

At its heart is the high-end Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, this 7.1 channel HD solution supports 115dB SNR DAC, and two TI NE5532 amplifiers, one is a Differential Amplifier and the other one is a Premium Headset Amplifier which supports up to 600ohm headphones. And there’s also cap less Direct Drive technology, EMI shielding cover, PCB isolate shielding and support for DTS Connect.

Once again we find that the Gigabit LAN support is provided by the Intel I217V controller supporting Intel Remote Wake Technology, Wake-On-LAN, Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az and PXE. The storage capabilities of the H87 Performance have not been upgraded from what the H87 chipset offers, meaning there are just six on-board SATA 6Gb/s ports.

 

The USB 3.0 support is also fully dependent on the chipset, meaning there are just six ports, four on the I/O panel and another two via an onboard header. There are also four USB 2.0 ports on the I/O panel along with another four which are supported via onboard headers.

 

This leaves a single PS/2 port, VGA port, DVI port, two HDMI ports, LAN port, optical audio and five audio jacks on the I/O panel.

Asrock Z87E-ITX

By far the coolest Intel 8 series motherboard we have at the moment is the Asrock Z87E-ITX, as this little 17cm x 17cm motherboard not only features the Z87 chipset with support for processors such as the Core i7-4770K, but with a full length PCIe x16 slot it can also handle the latest and greatest GPU’s.

 

 

The crazy thing about the Z87E-ITX is that you would expect to miss out on a lot of features due to its tiny size. However that’s not really the case, as the board support six USB 3.0 ports, six SATA 6Gb/s ports, PCIe x16, two full size DDR3 DIMMs, eSATA, DisplayPort and wireless.

 

Although many of these features are provided by the Z87 chipset, one feature is more unique to the Z87E-ITX. Included is a brand new IEEE 802.11ac wireless adapter which supports high-throughput wireless local area networks on the 5GHz band. This new standard is still backwards compatible with the 802.11n 2.4GHz band.

This specification has expected multi-station WLAN throughput of at least 1 gigabit per second and a single link throughput of at least 500 megabits per second (500 Mbit/s). This is achieved by extending the air interface concepts embraced by 802.11n: wider RF bandwidth (up to 160 MHz), more MIMO spatial streams (up to 8), multi-user MIMO, and high-density modulation (up to 256 QAM).

 

 

Again Asrock has used the high-end Realtek ALC1150 audio codec supporting 7.1 channel HD audio with a TI NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier which supports up to 600ohm headphones. And there’s also cap less Direct Drive technology and support for DTS Connect.

Most Mini-ITX boards only offer two SATA ports, some go as far as to include four, but we have never seen six before. While it is true that most Mini-ITX systems cannot even support six SATA devices, it could be possible when using SSD’s, either way the option is nice to have.

 

 

However what we really like is the mSATA 6Gb/s connector on the rear of the board that supports full length cards. This means it is possible to install an SSD such as the M4 mSATA 512GB on the rear of this board and receive full 6Gb/s throughput. This in itself is a vital feature for a Mini-ITX board and again models in the past have either only featured mSATA 3Gb/s connections or only used half size connectors.

 

Around at the I/O panel we have two USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, PS/2 port, DVI, Displayport, HDMI, eSATA, LAN, optical audio out and five audio jacks. There are also two wireless antenna connections and a CMOS reset switch.

System Specs & Memory Bandwidth

AMD Trinity System Specs
  • AMD A10-5700 (3.4GHz – 4.0GHz)
  • Asrock FM2A85X Extreme6
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
  • OCZ Vector 256GB SSD
  • OCZ Mk III Silencer 750w
  • Windows 8 64-bit
AMD Vishera System Specs
  • AMD FX-8350 (4.2GHz – 4.40GHz)
  • AMD FX-6350 (3.9GHz – 4.20GHz)
  • AMD FX-4350 (4.0GHz – 4.20GHz)
  • Asrock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
  • OCZ Vector 256GB SSD
  • OCZ Mk III Silencer 750w
  • Windows 8 64-bit
Intel Ivy Bridge System Specs
  • Intel Core i7-3770K (3.5GHz – 3.9GHz)
  • Intel Core i5-3570K (3.4GHz – 3.8GHz)
  • Intel Core i5-3450 (3.1GHz – 3.5GHz)
  • Asrock Z77 Extreme11
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
  • OCZ Vector 256GB SSD
  • OCZ Mk III Silencer 750w
  • Windows 8 64-bit
Haswell System Specs
  • Intel Core i7-4770K (3.5GHz – 3.9GHz)
  • Asrock Z87 Professional
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
  • OCZ Vector 256GB SSD
  • OCZ Mk III Silencer 750w
  • Windows 8 64-bit
Intel Sandy Bridge-E System Specs
  • Intel Core i7-3960X (3.3GHz – 3.9GHz)
  • Asrock X79 Extreme11
  • 16GB DDR3 RAM
  • Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
  • OCZ Vector 256GB SSD
  • OCZ Mk III Silencer 750w
  • Windows 8 64-bit
 

 

Before we move on to the benchmark results we would first like to quickly thank OCZ for supplying their Intel Haswell Ready Mk III Silencer power supplies. Haswell introduces the new C6 and C7 power states offering tremendously reduced idle power consumption with a minimum of 0.05A on 12V2, down from 0.5A on previous generation Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge CPUs.

 

Armed with DDR3-1866 memory the Intel Core i7-4770K produced a memory bandwidth of 21.33GB/s when testing with SiSoftware Sandra 2013. This is roughly the same bandwidth turned in by the i7-3770K and Ivy Bridge Core i5 processors.

 

Although the bandwidth between the CPU and RAM was similar to that of the Core i7-3770K, the i7-4770K is considerably faster when measuring L1 and L2 cache bandwidth. The L2 cache result in particular was impressive, reaching 1024GB/s which is 45% more than the i7-3960X and 100% more than the i7-3770K.

Synthetic Benchmarks

 

The 3DMark Cloud Gate test includes two graphics tests focusing on GPU performance and a physics test to measure CPU performance. As a result the CPU does play a rather large role in shaping the overall score and as you can see the Core i7 processors do exceptionally well here.

With a total score of 23121pts the Core i7-4770K was just a fraction faster than the i7-3770K, also making it slightly slower than the i7-3960X.

 

We have also included the old 3DMark 06 benchmark as it is still a good tool for measuring overall system performance. The Core i7-4770K produced our highest score of 28895pts, making it just 3% faster than the i7-3770K and 22% faster than the i7-3960X. Being an old program 3DMark 06 does not take full advantage of all the i7-3960X’s cores and this is likely a problem for the AMD FX-8350 as well.

 

Finally we have PCMark 7 the current PCMark version, though it is soon to be replaced by version 8. Again the Core i7-4770K was the fastest processor tested scoring 6026pts, making it just 2% faster than the i7-3770K.

Application Performance

 

The Microsoft Excel 2013 workload was completed by the Core i7-4770K in just 3.86 seconds, making it just 6% faster than the i7-3770K and 9% slower than the i7-3960X. When compared to the AMD FX-8350 the i7-4770K was 30% faster.

 

The WinRAR in-built benchmark saw the Core i7-4770K provide a throughput of 9546KB/s when using multiple threads and 1680KB/s when using just a single thread. These are similar figures to that of the i7-3770K as it was a little under 2% faster. Still when compared to the AMD FX-8350 the i7-4770K was 26% faster.

 

The Core i7-4770K blitzed our Photoshop CS6 test completing the task in just 19.1 seconds, making it 11% faster than the i7-3770K and 27% faster than the AMD FX-8350. Moreover it was just 5% slower than the Core i7-3960X.

Encoding Performance

 

The Core i7-4770K showed stellar HandBrake performance, rendering 285.4fps making it 11% faster than the i7-3770K, it was also slightly faster than the i7-3960X by a 2% margin.

 

When running the x264 HD Benchmark the Core i7-4770K again demonstrated strong performance gains over the i7-3770K, this time it was 13% faster.

 

The Core i7-4770K was able to beat the i7-3960X in our last encoding test based on TMPGEnc Video Master Works. Here the i7-4770K took just 274 seconds to complete the workload, making it 2% faster than the i7-3960X and 3% faster than the i7-3770K.

IGP Performance

 

As we suspected, the extra 4 EUs of the Intel HD 4600 Graphics don’t make it much faster than what we already had with the HD 4000 Graphics. The 25% increase in EUs and the slight bump in operating frequency allowed for 27% more performance in Medal of Honor Warfighter at 1440×900.

However even at this modest resolution using medium quality settings the HD 4600 Graphics only spat out 21.8fps, which is still slower than AMD’s flagship APU. Even when compared to two and a half year old low-end discrete GPUs this is very poor performance. The Radeon HD 6750 for example provided twice as much performance.

Meanwhile current generation low-end graphics cards such as the Radeon HD 7770 and GeForce GTX 650 Ti retail for around $100 and provide 3 – 4x more performance.

 

Metro Last Light is the perfect example of how a modern video game will run on these integrated solutions using relatively low-resolutions and in-game quality settings. Again the Intel HD 4600 Graphics was slower than the Radeon HD 7660D of the AMD A10-5800K.

 

Max Payne 3 is very playable on low-end discrete graphics cards when using the medium quality settings, the Radeon HD 6750 (2.5 year old product) averaged 58.2fps at 1440×900. The Intel HD 4600 Graphics on the other hand couldn’t provide half as much performance with just 24.5fps. The AMD A10-5800K was able to provide playable performance at 1440×900, albeit barely.

Gaming Performance

 

When armed with a Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition graphics card the Core i7-4770K was able to match the performance of the i7-3770K when testing with Far Cry 3.

 

We see little to no difference in performance between the Core i7-4770K and the i7-3770K when using a high-end discrete graphics card at high resolutions, this time when testing with Tomb Raider.

 

Again, the Core i7-4770K is only slightly faster than the i7-3770K when measuring 3D gaming performance using a high-end graphics card. This is partly because the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is creating a bottleneck using these quality settings (which are what you’d use to play games anyway) and partly because the game is more GPU bound than CPU.

System Power Consumption

 

The Core i7-4770K system consumed just 42 watts at idle, which is roughly the same amount as a Core i5 Ivy Bridge system and half of an AMD FX system. However when under load the consumption did climb considerably, all the way to 164 watts, which is more than that of the Core i7-3770K.

Final Thoughts

In terms of performance the upgrade to Haswell is very reminiscent of what we observed when going from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge: for the most part we saw very minor performance increases. Haswell looked most impressive in our encoding benchmarks where it was 3 to 13% faster. In our battery of application-based it was was 2 – 11% faster than Ivy, while the synthetic benchmark programs showed only minimal margins.

Although Ivy Bridge only provided a slight performance increase over Sandy, it was still a welcomed arrival for newcomers to the platform. Ivy Bridge improved efficiency, added a few new features, while it maintained the same price point of Sandy Bridge.

Haswell, on the other hand, seems less attractive for desktop users for a simple reason: it is not backwards compatible with Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge. The new LGA1150 socket means those wanting to upgrade to Haswell will need a new motherboard, such as those featured in our review. Thus, performance won’t be a driver of desktop user upgrades with a small 13% jump at best. For those coming from much older platforms or an AMD system, then the Haswell socket change won’t pose much of an obstacle.

In similar fashion, the Intel HD 4600 graphics solution that is featured across the majority of the Haswell desktop lineup will provide a modest 20 – 26%  performance boost. Although on paper that is a pretty significant increase, it is an increase based on a pretty small figure if you are thinking about 3d rendering or gaming.

Unfortunately our Haswell coverage has been very rushed as we were handed a review sample very late and most of our testing was completed in 48-hour stretch. But, of course, for you we were willing to work Friday night and Saturday morning and get this out on time. For now we were forced to overlook overclocking the Core i7-4770K.

Intel did provide a comprehensive overclocking guide for their DZ87KLT-75K motherboard, unfortunately that board didn’t work, leaving us to complete our testing using the boards provided by Gigabyte and Asrock. Regardless, we’d like to thank Intel Australia for providing the review kit, along with Gigabyte for the Z87X-UD3H,  Asrock who generously sent along three high quality motherboards and OCZ for providing their Haswell-compatible Mk III Silencer power supplies.

Beyond what we’ve seen here in terms of Haswell CPUs for the desktop realm, the Core i7-4770R poses an interesting question for the future. This is the only desktop processor to feature the Iris Pro Graphics 5200, however this is a BGA part which means it is soldered directly to the motherboard and thus a far less flexible option.

As unusual as this concept sounds for a high-end desktop processor we should get used to it. In roughly a year’s time Haswell will be shrunk down to the 14nm process, creating ‘Broadwell’ which will focus heavily on BGA. The days of buying a motherboard and then picking among a wide range of processors could be numbered.

Overall Haswell has further strengthened Intel’s position providing greater performance, efficiency and features. It might only be a mild step up from what we had with Ivy Bridge, but at $339 the Core i7-4770K is roughly the same price as the i7-3770K.

 
       

Pros: Slightly better performance, efficiency and graphics for the same price as Ivy Bridge. New architecture is the begining of the road ahead for Intel CPUs.

Cons: With no tangible competition in the desktop realm, Intel is no longer focused on raw performance, so there’s even less to see in that respect this year. New platform/socket is not welcome.

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