Overclockers, enthusiasts and those who want to squeeze every little bit of performance from their systems can rejoice as Intel have finally released an unlocked core i3 processor! It was back in 2014 when Intel released their Intel Pentium G3258 dual core 20th-anniversary processor which featured an unlocked multiplier, but as not to devour the Core i5 market, certain instruction sets were limited (you can find information on this anywhere from reliable sources).
It’s time to say hello to the Intel Core i3-7350K 2 core 4 thread processor with a fully unlocked multiplier. This particular processor is part of Intel’s Kaby Lake CPU line up and with the i7 variant (i7-7700K) being a monster in terms of overclocking, how will the i3 version fare in performance, overclocking yields and of course?
The Intel Core i3-7350K is a dual core processor with hyper threading which enables multi-threaded applications to make use of the 4 threads the chip has. It features a clock speed of 4.2GHz and is based on the same 14nm manufacturing process as the rest of the Intel Kaby Lake line up. It has a maximum thermal spec of 100°c and a TDP limit of 60w; the TDP might sound low, but do remember this is a dual core CPU and not an 8 core monster socket LGA2011v3 chip!
A full list of specifications and features can be found below courtesy of CPU World!
|Type||CPU / Microprocessor|
Intel Core i3
|CPU part numbers||
|Bus speed||8 GT/s DMI|
|Package||1151-land Flip-Chip Land Grid Array|
|Socket||Socket 1151 / H4 / LGA1151|
|Architecture / Microarchitecture|
|Processor core||Kaby Lake-S|
|Core stepping||S0 (SR35B)|
|Manufacturing process||0.014 micron|
|Data width||64 bit|
|The number of CPU cores||2|
|The number of threads||4|
|Floating Point Unit||Integrated|
|Level 1 cache size||2 x 32 KB instruction caches
2 x 32 KB data caches
|Level 2 cache size||2 x 256 KB caches|
|Level 3 cache size||4 MB shared cache|
|Physical memory||64 GB|
|Low power features||
Test Setup & Methodology
Motherboard – ASUS ROG Maximus IX Hero Z270
Memory – Crucial Ballistix Elite 3000MHz (2x8GB) DDR4
Graphics – ASUS GTX 1060 STRIX 6GB
Cooler – Cooler Master TX3I
PSU – be quiet! 1000w Dark Power Pro 11
Storage – Crucial MX300 525GB SSD
OS – Windows 10 Professional 64bit
Due to the difference in clock speeds between the Intel Core i7-7700K and i7-6700K, I bumped the multiplier up on the i7-6700K to 4.5GHz to match the bump in clock speed that the Core i7-7700K received and to give the processors an even playing field. This is to show if there is any IPC performance gains present as both of these processors feature identical specifications. The Core i3-7350K was left at the stock speeds of 4.2GHz for testing purposes.
AIDA64 – CPU Queen/CPU Photoworxx/CPU AES/Memory Read/Memory Write/Memory Copy
Cinebench R15 – CPU/OpenGL
PCMark 8 – Conventional Suite
3DMark – Fire Strike/Time Spy
Tom Clancy’s: The Division – 1080p/1440p/2160p (4K)
It’s clear to see here that in terms of synthetic multi-threaded benchmarks, the Intel Core i3-7350K loses out due to having half the cores of both the i7-6700K and i7-7700K. Even in memory performance, the difference is noticeable within AIDA64, although in real world scenarios, the memory performance will be less of an issue in comparison to the lack of multi-cores.
Cinebench R15 Performance Results
As with AIDA64, the Core i3 variant again loses out due to fewer cores in comparison to the i7’s – Hardly a fair comparison, but people spending £180-340 can clearly see the difference here.
PCMark 8 Performance Results
It’s a clear trend to see that more cores in multithreaded applications mean more performance; who would have thought it?
3DMark Fire Strike/Time Spy Performance Results
Onto the synthetic gaming benchmarks and 3DMark are probably the most popular out of all of them on the market. Again we see that more cores = higher scores…
Tom Clancy’s: The Division
Although I/we could have tested a wider variety of games, keeping in line with our current CPU testing methodology, we opted to use the ever popular Ubisoft title The Division. As you can see, there is virtually no difference between the Intel Core i3-7350K, i7-6700K, and i7-7700K in this particular game. Of course, this is because The Division isn’t entirely optimised for multi-threaded gaming and I am confident that in heavily CPU intensive benchmarks (slight oversight choosing this game, unfortunately), the i7-7700K will still reign supreme.
Overclocking The Core i3-7350K
Since the Intel Core i3-7350K dual core processor has an unlocked multiplier, I figured it would be good to show off the overclocking performance of the chip in 3DMark’s Time Spy DirectX 12 benchmark, Cinebench R15’s CPU benchmark and in Tom Clancy’s: The Division at 1080p to see if there were any additional gains to be had. To do this, I ramped the i3-7350K up to a stunning 5GHz which was painless and easy to do; overclocking an unlocked multiplier is very easy to do if you know CPU/cache core voltage limits are and of course, which settings to disable such as Intel Speedstep.
I would advise that no-one go above 1.4v on the core, even with a decent AIO CPU cooler on Kaby Lake as you will find yourself hitting the thermal limits very quickly when under maximum load. This applies to the i3, i5, and i7 Intel Kaby Lake CPU’s; although others will disagree of course!
As you can see, bumping the multiplier and core frequency up from 4.2GHz to 5GHz did yield some improvements in synthetic benchmarks; they might not look like impressive gains, but you have to remember there are only 2 cores to play with in comparison to 4 with the Core i7’s. There was however absolutely no improvement whatsoever in Tom Clancy’s: The Division which is a good sign for gamers on a budget. Of course in games which aren’t fully optimised to use more than 2/4 cores and you would be surprised how many there actually are.
So all in all, the Intel Core i3-7350K is a great CPU and the entire concept of a budget unlocked i3 has tickled many enthusiasts for years. What’s the verdict then on Intel’s Kaby Lake 14nm i3-7350K? Well, it had all the potential in the world to serve budget gamers and even regular desktop users looking for an option to surpass the normal boundaries of 4-4.2GHz at the cost of extra heat and power. The problem is the Intel i3-7350 K costs a whopping £180 /$180…
Now to some, in most will be a little disheartened at the pricing from Intel in regards to this socket LGA1151 overclockable Core i3 processor. Yes, it does feature an unlocked multiplier, but when you look back to 2014 and the Pentium G3258, the pricing is in no way similar at all. For as little as £50 more, you can bag yourself the quad-core Intel Core i5-7600K which represents much better value for money if you actually use programs/applications which utilise the extra core count. Even with hyper threading on the Core i3, it still isn’t justifiable given the large price tag. Consumers looking for an unlocked dual core bargain are going to be bitterly disappointed here and I am too if truth be told.
Aside from the glaring issue of the price, it still outs the rest of the current Intel dual-core line-up and as far as performance goes, it’s exactly where I would expect it to perform. The Intel 14nm manufacturing process is still currently king and single thread performance is still very strong on this particular processor. The only caveat is AMD are ever so close to releasing their Ryzen CPU line up and I can imagine there will be quad core offerings at the same price as Intel’s dual core; this is great for consumers, but bad news for early adopters of the Core i3-7350K.
If you’re in the market for a CPU for a budget gaming build, you may feel that the little bit extra spent will represent a better option for future proofing, but those needing a CPU and those that have to adhere to a strict budget (must need now scenario), then the Intel i3-7350K is still a solid option. Make no mistake about it, the Intel Core i3-7350K is a great processor and thanks to the unlocked multiplier and great overclocking capabilities of Kaby Lake, overclockers are probably going to be rejoicing the most at this particular release.
Is the i3-7350K a good processor? Yes…but it’s certainly not great value for money all things considered.
Big thanks to Intel for sampling us the Core i3-7350K processor for review.
- The first 'official' unlocked Core i3 processor
- Offers great single threaded performance
- Highly overclockable
- A great option for those looking for a sub £200/$200 processor with good performance
- Not budget friendly
- Pricing is too close to Intel's quad-core i5 models for me