Intel Kaby Lake i3-7350K Review
For the most part, Intelís new Kaby Lake family of desktop processors were met with a generalized shrug from many PC users. While the platform itself and even the CPUs offer tangible benefits for users of older systems, the cost of entry could provide a significant barrier for buyers who are more focused on value than extreme levels of performance. For those people, Intelís new i3-7350K could become a perfect entry-level processor.
Some of you may look at the i3-7350K like the Second Coming because it just happens to be a completely unlocked CPU from Intel which retails for less than $200. While it does indeed bring overclocking to a lower price bracket, we canít forget that unlocked processors within every price category were the norm several years ago. Only through forced segmentation has Intel caused their current crop of users to believe unlocked chips are ďspecialĒ. In many ways the i3-7350K feel like a pre-reaction to AMDís upcoming Ryzen architecture rather than a favor being done for budget-minded overclockers.
Regardless of the true intent behind this CPU, thereís no hiding the fact that Iím a huge fan of Intelís lower end processors and the relative performance they deliver against higher priced alternatives. Provided you arenít a synthetic benchmark junky or absolutely need eight threads for professional tasks, I still believe the i3-6100 was one of the best options during the Skylake generation. The same goes for AMDís awesome little Athlon 880K which I still rave about to this day as being so much better than any APU.....ever. The i3-7350K should continue that tradition, though at a higher price point.
I wouldnít be surprised if some people looked at this processorís price alongside that of a Z270 motherboard (which will be required to take advantage of the overclocking capabilities) and be immediately turned off. Thereís no denying a $55 premium over the i3-7100 may seem quite extreme in a lower price bracket but the 7350Kís unlocked nature may grant it quite a bit more staying power than any other sub-$200 processor.
Even without taking the overclocking aspect into account, itís hard not to appreciate what is being offered here. The 4.2GHz clock speed (remember, i3-series processors donít have access to Intelís Turbo Boost technology) aligns perfectly with the $245 i7-7600K, a processor that also features four threads though across a native quad core layout. However, donít expect any alignment on actual performance metrics since the i3 requires HyperThreading to hit that thread count, it has significantly less cache and the lack of Turbo Boost Max 3.0 will cause its operational speeds to fluctuate into lower territory quite a bit more.
We already know that Intelí other unlocked Kaby Lake processors donít have any trouble reaching the 4.9GHz to 5.2GHz mark provided they are adequately cooled. However, there arenít many people who are going to buy a $150 processor and then spend another $150 on trying to adequately cool it. With that in mind I approached overclocking with a slightly more budget-focused mindset and used a Noctua NH-U12S which routinely goes for between $40 to $50. This is a great cooler that isnít overly large yet it can still compete -and even beat- many single bay All in Ones. However, due to the relatively low amount of heat generated by this CPU when overclocked, an even less expensive cooling solution would be possible as well.
The i3-7350K I have in hand right now was an extremely willing overclocker hitting 5.18GHz in relatively short order. That speed was fine for short bursts but in order to attain full stability for a 6 hour stress test with AIDA64ís System Stability Test (our gold standard for determining whether or not an overclock is stable), I needed to dial things back a bit to 5GHz. Considering this processor starts off life as a 4.2GHz part, thatís pretty decent but nothing particularly groundbreaking.
So what does this all mean for the i3-7350Kís performance in relation to other CPUís weíve reviewed over the last few years? Letís take a look.
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