Intel “Skylake” Core i7 6700K CPU Overview

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Conclusion

The question on everyone’s mind, for those whom are still looking at a possible upgrade is very simple; is Skylake worthy of my money and will it be a worthwhile upgrade? There’s some very compelling evidence that would suggest a few things, so let’s run through the specifics so that you can get a better idea of the platform and so that you can gauge whether or not Skylake is for you.

Okay, so, if you have an Ivy Bridge or older platform, then this may be an upgrade you could consider if you think that you need more CPU power. Even though I have not presented you with any information on Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge or even Nehalem, you can pretty much figure that Ivy is 3 – 5% slower than Haswell, Sandy is 3 – 5% slower than Ivy, and Nehalem is another percentage slower again. That is not to say that you absolutely must go and grab the latest and greatest platform from Intel, it’s merely if your upgrade-itus is itching again. To be perfectly honest with you, it’s only this past year or so that Nehalem is starting to really show its age in games and in general usage that is storage intensive. The biggest upgrades will be coming to those whom are on the first iteration of SATA 6 Gbps or USB 3.0. The storage throughput has been increased majorly as a direct result of constant improvement to the PCH and other controllers around the motherboard.

Aside from the SATA 6 Gbps and USB 3.0 improvements, there’s also something that is still relatively new to the storage world – PCI-E M.2 ports. Current SSDs that use this platform, such as the Samsung drives (like the 951) are capable of exceeding 2000 MBps reads thanks to the insane speeds that a PCI-E lane can provide. You will need to factor in the fact that each Skylake CPU only has twenty PCI-E lanes, and a single GPU will use 16 of those, as will a dual GPU set up. Some motherboards do allocate PCH lanes to the M.2 ports, but they are nowhere near as quick as those that come directly from the CPU.

Going by the previous generations such as Sandy Bridge through to Broadwell, you were previously unable to overclock any CPU bar those with unlocked multipliers. Intel have now changed their methods and are using external PLL generators, which allow you to change the bus speed at which it operates. Touching back on what I said previously, where Intel made a mistake with their microcode; this allows people to actually overclock the cheaper CPUs to obtain the same performance with minimal effort. While most manufacturers (to my knowledge, it may be all by now) have been asked to remove their BIOS files from the website, it’s still possible to find about 90% of them on the Internet. It was reviewed by other people and the performance is pretty much identical. It just takes a little more on the tweaking as it is essentially the same as back in the LGA 775/LGA 1366 days where you had to keep the RAM frequency in check and mess around with a few other things. I’ve got an i3 6320 (which I just used to take joint first place in the world for XTU! Yeah, baby!) that I will be showing off with some tips and tricks to the whole ordeal very soon. It never was and never will be officially supported by Intel or the respective manufacturers, but they’ve given us the opportunity to abuse it, which is exactly what we do as overclockers. Thankfully, Intel listened to the feedback with regards to the FIVR on their chips and removed them which is a blessing in disguise, as it removed the additional heat from the CPU.

There’s a very compelling argument to consider X99 over Skylake as well if you are into animation work or you’re video rendering due to the additional cores that are provided over Skylake. Again, whilst we do not have any results to hand, it’s what I’ve been keeping track of during the lifespan of both platforms. My advice would be that if you are into this sort of thing, you should definitely be considering an X99 build, even if you only get the lowest model of the hex core processor.

Drawbacks are relatively straight forward for me to cast my judgement on. They mostly consist of the price. Every generation since Sandy Bridge has seen ever increasing RRP prices for the higher end processors. You could put this down to inflation, or just down to market dominance as AMD really does not stand a chance. I know that their Zen platform is due to release this year – or sometime this year, I’ve not got an exact timeframe from them just yet – which will hopefully bring Intel’s pricing down a little if the performance is there. Only time will tell, though. For now, if you want a 6700K such as the one that I took a look at today, you’d be looking at spending a minimum of £450 all in for a semi-decent motherboard and RAM combo to go with the chip. That’s a fair bit of cash for some minor improvements compared to previous (recent) generations.

The flip side of the argument that the Skylake ecosystem is expensive to enter, is that it is a fantastic platform that is wickedly fast and will most definitely last you a while if you are intending to buy once for the next couple of years. If you are only looking to buy for a gaming system, and not for the video editing as I said a little earlier, this would make one killer CPU. Many opt for the i5 options as the quad without any Hyper Threading is more than enough for gaming, but those wanting to have just a little more will naturally opt for the i7.

It is time to award the CPU with what I think it is worthy of. Naturally, due to the pricing of the 5820K being so close to the 6700K, I cannot give it a value award as you can get more (in more ways than one) for your money if you were to go down the X99 route, but the processor does pick up both a performance and design award from me, as Intel have proven that it beats their previous processors and they have also listened by removing the FIVR from the design. Kaby Lake is due to release this year or early next year, and I am really looking forward to that! For now, though, this is the best quad core CPU on the market, without any compromises. For that very reason, I am also going to award it with the prestigious Editor’s Choice award as well.

awards-performance6

awards-design.png

awards-editorschoice

  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value
4.5

Summary

Pros
– Supports DDR4 up to 4266 MHz and beyond
– Support for PCI-E M.2 SSDs for insane read/write speeds to non-volatile storage
– No more Fully Integrated Voltage Regulators (FIVR)
– Runs cooler than previous generations

Cons
– It is very expensive for a quad core with Hyper Threading
– Requires yet another motherboard change from previous gens

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