Intel Devil's Canyon i7-4790K Performance Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: June 13, 2014
Product Name: Core i7-4790K
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Intelís Devilís Canyon has been rumored, previewed and eventually delayed but Computex finally marked the full unveiling of the new i7-4790K and i5-4690K processors. Our path to this review follows a similarly contrived path that started at Intelís shipping facility in California followed by a few days stuck in the black hole that is Canadian Customs.

The Devilís Canyon lineup was founded upon three core principles that are cornerstones of the enthusiast community: performance, overclocking and temperatures. These CPUís are meant to be specifically-targeted products which still use the Haswell architecture at their heart but improve in other key areas in an effort to address some of Haswellís shortcomings. Temperatures were improved by the use of what Intel calls their Next Generation Polymer Thermal Interface Material (NGPTIM) while clock speeds are addressed by an enhanced on-die power distribution network and the improved chipsí ability to natively disperse more heat.

Intelís goal for the i7-4790K was to create an eight thread processor which could hit a minimum 4GHz and something above that when Intelís Turbo technology is allowed to ramp up, all without boosting TDP to obscene levels. This represents a rather large improvement when compared against the i7-4770K which struggled to hit 3.9GHz on a consistent basis. Perhaps the most important information about the i7-4790K is its price; at ďjustĒ $339 Intel isnít charging a premium for it.

The i5-4690K on the other hand is a quad core processor that should appeal to price-conscious overclockers due to its lower cost of $242. Once again this doesnít represent a premium over its predecessor, the i5-4670K, but the core frequency improvements are a far way off from what the i7-4790K offers. We have one on the way but it isnít here yet so this review will focus exclusively on the i7-4790K.

For those still wondering, Devilís Canyon processors may be pin compatible with Z87 motherboards but an updated BIOS and the capability for higher current are needed. Therefore, only a few higher end boards have the necessary specifications but due to their age and the move towards Z97 support few, if any, will actually end up with Devilís Canyon compatibility.

Since you likely know everything there is to know about Devilís Canyon from a features point of view (or at least we hope so!), weíll dive right into the meat of this particular review.

Thereís two things enthusiasts want to know about the i7-4790K: with the improvements to its internal thermal compound, does it run cooler than its predecessor and, because of that, can it overclock to higher frequencies? While the overclocking part of that equation will still largely be determined by sample to sample variance, it was the first thing we set out to discover. In order to get some comparative data here, we used one of the better air coolers on the market: the Noctua NH-D14S which was equipped with a pair of NF-A14 fans operating at 1500RPM.

With a setting of 1.35V (about 0.10V higher than the default core voltage) alongside some judicious ratio and BCLK adjustments, we eventually hit a maximum clock speed of 4.719GHz on air. That will likely come as a disappointment for those who were expecting 5GHz and more but this is a 24/7 stable overclock that was stress tested for a dozen hours and gamed on for another dozen. To us, that meets expectations even though it isnít any higher than most folks get with their overclocked i7-4770K processors.

These frequencies didnít reach thermal throttling limits but rather we ran into a voltage wall whereby anything over 1.35V resulted in increased temperatures and not much in the way of additional returns. For short benchmarking runs of under 10 minutes, we were able to increase voltage to 1.4V resulting in a clock speed of 4.84GHz. However, stability beyond a few minutes was elusive since temperatures climbed significantly.

With these factors in hand, all of the results you will see from this point forward will include two i7-4790K results: one with the processor running at stock speeds while the other has it pegged at 4.719GHz with memory running at 1866MHz.

The i7-4790K seems to operate at roughly the same temperatures as the i7 4770Kís we have hanging around the lab. Thatís actually a very good thing since it points towards the NGPTIM doing its work, even though the i7-4790K operates at notably higher frequencies than its predecessor. Naturally, overclocking to 4.719GHz elevates thermal output by a significant amount but temperatures were still manageable (barely!) with an air cooler.

What follows on the next few pages is a rundown of the i7-4790Kís performance in both stock and overclocked forms. Judging from the positioning of the outgoing 4770K, thereís no doubt this new processor will be able to compete with much more expensive options on the IVB-E side.

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