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Core i7-8700K Review: Intel’s response to Ryzen is faster and cheaper than ever

Intel’s 6-core 8th generation Core i7-8700K CPU is the reality check to high-performance, high-priced CPUs like the $2,000 Core i9 and $1,000 AMD Ryzen Threadripper. The real battle for the desktop and consumer’s wallets is with this amazingly affordable (for Intel anyway) $359 CPU, code-named Coffee Lake.

In fact, the Core i7-8700K is Intel’s first real response to AMD’s breakthrough series of Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 CPUs, and a viable alternative to the Zen-based CPUs. But just how fast is it, and which CPU should you buy? Read on to find out.

Core i7-8700K Coffee Lake Gordon Mah Ung

Intel’s new Coffee Lake Core i7-8700K is a serious cup of joe for those into performance.

What is Coffee Lake?

Moore’s Law isn’t dead, but the ability to shrink CPU circuits and increase density has drastically slowed down. Coffee Lake, for example, is based on the same 14nm process the company introduced with its Broadwell line of laptops CPUs in 2014. Since then, Intel has used the 14nm process on Skylake, Kaby Lake, and now Coffee Lake.

Despite the similar process, however, Intel says it’s made enough improvements along the way to call Coffee Lake a “14nm plus plus” chip. A simpler way is to think of Coffee Lake as an improved 7th-generation Kaby Lake chip with two more cores, though there are some subtler changes. 

cpus at a glance IDG

Intel’s top mainstream CPUs alongside AMD’s fastest Ryzen 7 CPU.

So yes, cynics, the only true “8th-generational” part may be the name itself. Folks of a more forgiving mindset will see 8th-gen chips as a big breakthrough for Intel, which has offered quad-core CPUs as luxury models exclusively for the last ten years. Consider that Intel once charged $1,000 for 6-core CPUs. With Coffee Lake, you’re getting two more cores for the nearly the same price as Kaby Lake and Skylake.

Intel Coffee Lake 8th gen speeds and feeds Intel

Here’s the full line up of “8th generation” CPUs from Intel.

Why Coffee Lake requires a new motherboard

Although Coffee Lake is essentially an improved Kaby Lake CPU, some key changes will drive Intel fans simply batty. The main one is its incompatibility with older motherboards, despite using the exact same physical LGA1151 socket.

Why, Intel, why? The company cites several changes. The first is official support for DDR4/2666 instead of of DDR4/2400. The higher-clocked RAM required more tightly controlled layout of the wires or “traces” on the motherboard, which mandated new designs.

Coffee Lake also adopts the nifty “per core” overclocking first introduced with the Core i7-6950X Broadwell-E. This allows a user to overclock just individual cores based on the workload.

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