i7-2600K vs. i7-8700K - Is Upgrading Worthwhile?

Author: SKYMTL
Date: October 29, 2017
Product Name: i7 2600K / i7 8700K
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Sandy Bridge. That name alone conjures up some pretty strong memories in the hearts and minds of PC users. Back in 2011 Intelís then-new architecture represented a significant step up from the previous Clarkdale / Lynnfield generation for users who werenít already attached to one high end desktop platform or another. Not only did Sandy Bridge bring forward a much better price / performance ratio than its ill-fated Lynnfield predecessor but its platform also represented a pretty significant step up from the previous generation. As a result, processors like the i7-2600K and 2500K became overnight success stories.

They staying power of Sandy Bridge can actually still be seen today since many who bought into that ecosystem havenít really been given any good reason to upgrade in the previous six years. Ivy Bridge, Haswell, Skylake and Kaby Lake have all come and gone while only offering incremental updates in terms of performance and overall platform connectivity. Sure, things like support for NVMe storage devices, USB 3.1 and PCIe 3.0 have all been gradually rolled into Intelís mainstream offerings. However, prices on products that support the former two have been high while the latterís impact upon in-game performance is negligible at best. Folks who bought a quad core, eight thread i7-2600K have been sitting pretty for an eternity in PC years.

This brings us to The Great Coffee Lake Conundrum. With this new architecture comes a move away from the quad core layout that has defined the upper part of Intelís mainstream offerings for the better part of a decade. Now both the i7-8700K and i7-8700 have six cores and a dozen threads alongside higher clock speeds and a bevy of architectural enhancements, all of which could make them appealing options for i7-2600K buyers. More importantly, this new CPU costs $360. While thatís a good $40 more than what the i7-2600K launched at, the premium reflects the price of inflation between 2011 and 2017 almost perfectly so in todayís dollars this Coffee Lake CPU doesnít technically cost more.

The technology backstopping Coffee Lake is impressive to say the least but is it actually worthwhile for you to upgrade a six year old system right now? I guess thatís the million dollar question and one that will define this particular article. Iím actually going to break it all down into a pretty straightforward manner too. There will be real world benchmarks (no synthetics this time folks!) and gaming at two different resolutions, 1080P and 1440P.

But before I get into the benchmarks there are a few other items that need to be discussed, first and foremost of those, the platform differences between Z370 and a system that was bought more than six years ago. I alluded to them above but other than the lack of M.2, NVMe support, USB 3.1 Gen 2 and PCIe 3.0, there are a few others. For example, unless you had a Z77 board alongside Sandy Bridge (a rare thing indeed) SATA 6Gbps was added through slow and sometime buggy third party controllers. This not only limited high speed RAID setups but compatibility with certain drives as well.

In addition to that, while the integrated PCIe 2.0 lanes arenít detrimental to performance of a single graphics card, the added bandwidth of Z370ís 3.0 standard could help with dual GPU performance when using higher end cards. While the number of users who are actually looking at buying over $1000 of modern GPUs to upgrade Sandy Bridge could be counted on your fingers and toes, this is still something to take into account.

But what Iím after here isnít to compare Z370 and P67 / Z68. What I want to find out is whether or not people with Sandy Bridge processors should finally look into upgrading. Basically the test setups will consist of the Z370-E STRIX Gaming and i7-8700K or the ASUS PZ68V-PRO and i7 2600K. Along with those Iíll be using a GTX 1070, 16GB of memory and all the other components you see in the chart above. The GPU was chosen since it represents an excellent price / performance option for either new-build systems or simply upgrading Sandy Bridge.

Just for the heck of it Iíll also be including a GTX 680 alongside the Sandy Bridge results since that happens to be the highest-end graphics card available in the months following Intelís launch. That should give a good baseline for performance then versus now.

Thereís also a completely fresh install of Windows 10 and multi core enhancement was turned off. The only major difference will be the memory speeds with Sandy Bridge operating at 1333MHz while the Coffee Lake system will operate at 2666MHz. Those speeds were chosen since they represent the upper range of Intelís stock specifications for each respective platform.

Naturally, there are several key challenges when comparing two systems launched in very different timeframes. Something, somewhere on the older setup will prove to be a bottleneck while we also canít forget that buying a whole new Coffee Lake system isnít an inexpensive proposition either. Buying the motherboard, i7-8700K, memory and GTX 1070 listed in this review will put you back well over $1200 USD whereas buying just the GTX 1070 will cost about $400.

The real question here is whether or not either of those monetary investments is really worthwhile at this point in time. Folks tend to have an ďIím waiting for xxxĒ mentality, something I chastised in a previous review but thereís no denying people who invested in the i7-2600K made a good choice. It is now 6 years later and the platform as a whole seems to be doing well, but will Coffee Lake change that in any meaningful way? Letís find out.

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