Skylake Review: Intel's 6th-gen CPU arrives with nice presents for gamers and enthusiasts

Intel's newest CPU was worth the wait—if you don't have unrealistic expectations

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Integrated graphics performance

Gamers all run discrete graphics but the performance of the integrated graphics chip is probably half the value of Skylake. Sure, you disagree as you stop to lovingly look over your GeForce GTX 980 Ti, but think of what we’re seeing here as what people will get in their Skylake laptops when they finally ship. The contestants here are largely the same, but I’ve also inserted the AMD A10-7870K chip for comparison. There’s nothing to fear from a $145 CPU, right?

3DMark Firestrike Performance

First up is 3DMark’s Firestrike test. It’s a little heavy-duty for this level of GPU, but we can see the Skylake’s HD530 graphics is a nice bump up from the HD4600 in the Haswell CPU. But that big old cache in the Broadwell chip and its Iris Pro 6200 graphics are not to be triffled with. Oh yeah, and then there’s that $145 AMD APU too. This will change once Intel pushes out versions of Skylake with embedded DRAM for cache but, umm, yeah.

corei7 6700k 3dmark firestrike

Skylake’s HD530 is improved, but not more than AMD’s best APU nor Broadwell.

3DMark Sky Diver Overall

3DMark’s Sky Diver test is more suited for this level of graphic power, but we’re seeing similar performance gaps. 

corei7 3dmark skydiver overall

Skylake still can’t beat its sibling or AMD’s APU here.

Tomb Raider

So you know how well Skylake does in synthetic benchmarks, what about actual game benchmarks? To find out, the first test I threw at the systems was Tomb Raider running at 1366x768 resolution at normal quality. This makes frame rates playable and doesn’t sacrifice the visual quality settings to the point they’re downright ugly. It’s actually what a person would do. No surprise, the Broadwell CPU and its big cache win again, but the AMD A10-7870K starts to lose its luster. Why, I’m not entirely sure. I know from 3DMark that on a pure graphics load it's faster, so the only thing I can attribute to this reversal of fortunes is the x86 side of the house, where its four 3.9GHz cores can’t cut it.

corei7 6700k tombraider normal 13x7

Tomb Raider will run on Skylake just fine at lower resolutions.

BioShock Infinite

My results in Tomb Raider weren’t a fluke. The Skylake part in an actual game again aces AMD’s best APU. While this review isn’t about the A10-7870K, it does indicate that mobile Skylake is going to give AMD’s APU’s a good run for their money in actual gaming tasks. We won’t know until we get actual laptops, but I’m surprised at how well Skylake is doing here. In fact, it performs surprisingly close to the Broadwell CPU. Once Intel introduces a variant with cache, the performance of Skylake is likely to be stellar, finally offering low-end discrete gaming in a chip.

corei7 6700k bioshock infinite low 13x7

BioShock Infinite also favors the more efficient Intel CPU cores.

DiRT Showdown

Our third and final real-world game is DiRT Showdown. Again we see the Skylake part surprisingly close to the Broadwell chip. Two is a coincidence, but three is a trend. What’s clear to me is AMD’s APU is going to have its hands full with Skylake in lower-end CPUs. The embedded-cache variant of Skylake is going to be monster.

corei7 6700k dirt showdown medium 13x7

We again see the Skylake chip beat up the AMD APU despite the APU’s better graphics performance in the synthetics.

Luxmark 3.0

The last GPU workload I’ll throw at the chips is LuxMark 3.0. OpenCL is basically tasking the graphics chip with a compute load. It’s actually a lot closer between the Skylake and Haswell chips than I expected. 

corei7 6700k luxmark3

OpenCL Performance is much closer though.

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