Official Intel 7th-gen Kaby Lake Review: One big change makes up for smaller ones

Don’t dismiss Intel’s newest CPU with a meh just yet. There’s more to the chip than you expect.

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Blender performance

kaby lake blender 2.77a bmw PCWorld

Blender 2.77a is a free render application popular with indie film makers.

Our final rendering test uses Blender 2.77a and Mike Pan’s BMW workfile to measure how fast the various CPUs can render a single frame using the free and popular Blender app. The Core i7-7700K again pulls ahead of the Core i7-6700K by a small percentage,well within what we expected for its clock speed advantage. And yes, that six-core Ivy Bridge-E Core i7-4960X is really starting to look moldy here. One thing I’d like to point out about Blender is it doesn’t show the scaling with thread count as much as Cinebench R15. While the 10-core Core i7-6950X is the winner here, it’s not as impressive as I would have expected for a $1,723 CPU.

HandBrake 10.2 performance

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HandBrake 10.2 likes threads

Turning to video encoding, we used the popular and free HandBrake 10.2 encode to convert a 30GB MKV file using the Android tablet preset. The Core i7-7700K again comes in slightly ahead of the Core i7-6700K. There’s also a pretty healthy distance between the Kaby Lake chip and the still-excellent Devil’s Canyon chip. The older Ivy Bridge-E Core i7-4960X disappoints yet again, especially consider that it has six cores yet is basically tied with the quad-core Kaby Lake chip.

WinRAR Performance

kaby lake winrar multi threaded performance PCWorld


You should have the idea by now that the 4- to 5-percent clock increase from Skylake to Kaby Lake pretty much yields a 4- to 5-percent increase in performance across the board, so our last CPU-only test is WinRAR. Unlike the other tests, where we ran the exact same app our machines, these results include both 5.21 and 5.31 results (for the Core i7-5775C and Core i7-4790K.) The only different between 5.21 and 5.31 appears to be bug fixes that don’t impact the built-in benchmark. Unlike Cinebench, POV Ray or Blender, WinRAR is a little more sensitive to memory bandwidth.

Both the Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs are pretty much dead even here. We also see the Devil’s Canyon chip is more than 15 percent slower than the two ‘Lake chips. The surprise, for the quad core CPUs, is the Core i7-5775C Broadwell CPU. Despite its lower clock speed of 3.3GHz to 3.7GHz, it’s leading the pack of quad-core chips.

That isn’t some magic of the Broadwell micro-architecture though. It’s likely due to the large amount of embedded DRAM cache Intel put into the CPU. Read about this chip here

3DMark performance

kaby lake 3dmark fire strike overall PCWorld

The CPU still plays very little role in most graphics chores. Duh.

Gaming in this day and age is still 90 percent about the GPU, which is why I ran 3DMark Fire Strike. All of the machines used reference GeForce GTX 980 cards and the same driver. As you can see, it’s mostly a tie. The 10-core Broadwell-E gets a small advantage because 3DMark factors the physics performance into the overall score, but this is mostly a tie.


kaby lake 3dmark fire strike physics PCWorld

When it comes to physics, there is an advantage but most gaming is still primarily a graphics task.

Because this is a CPU review, I also decided to break out the physics performance, which favors core count over clock speed. No surprise, the 10-core comes out on top. If you’re looking at these two charts and trying to decide how they should influence your buying or building decision I’d say the graphics score is far more important so long as you have a decently powered quad-core chip.

Tomb Raider performance

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In an actual game, most of your dividends still come from the graphics chip once you have a decently powered quad-core chip.

I also fired up the slightly older Tomb Raid and ran the built-in benchmark at 1080p resolution at the “normal” quality setting. I chose normal rather than Ultra to try to make this more about the CPU than the GPU.

The Core i7-7700K again leads the pack for quad-cores but it’s really no big deal. Again, yawn.

Continue to the next page to see how Kaby Lake’s IPC is and how it overclocks

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