Core i5 6600K processor review: Desktop Skylake

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Final Words & Conclusion

Final Words & conclusion

The Intels Skylake series launch is going to be interesting. After testing the Core i5 6600K my feelings are a bit two-fold though. Let's face it - clock for clock these processors all roughly perform the same starting at Sandy-Bridge the Core i5 2500 / Core i7 2600 series. It's the clock frequencies where you can find the extra performance, but even then .. it's all very relative as the 6600K falls into the big blur range of processors already out there (in terms of perf). Skylake probably should have gotten a 6 or 8-core version ? But that's going to be Skylake-E I guess. So raw processor performance wise aside from the usual small incremental increases, nothing will change big-time. But then there's improvements in the instruction sets, AVX video transcoding will rip a new hole in performance, the power consumption of this Core i5 6600K is just incredible. I mean while using the IGP for graphics we noticed 25 Watt idle power consumption and roughly 65 watt under load. That really is impressive and thanks due to the smaller 14nm fabrication process. This release isn't all about processor performance though, I mean the CPU fast but only a hint faster opposed to previous generations, not it's also about the infrastructure. The series 100 chipset for example will drive SATA6, M.2, some manufacturers will even go U.2 and Sata Express. Then there's the added benefit of DDR4 memory that not only use less power, the frequency can be so much higher as well, bringing more bandwidth and overall performance to the applications that require fast memory. Combine that with things like nice Gigabit jacks, exemplary audio solutions on the new motherboards and things like USB 3.1. So what i am trying to say here is that the overall platform experience is what it is all about for Skylake. Good performance with kickass features. But sure, if you are more on the CPU performance, we strongly urge you to look at Haswell-E with 6 and 8-core options as alternative.


Performance & tweaking

The overall performance as such I'd rate as "good" for this Core i5 6600K. Temps remain quite low and temperatures when the CPU is overclocked with added voltage definitely seem to be a notch better opposed to Haswell. We could not reach 4.7 GHz stable enough on liquid cooling. At that level we tried anything from 1.175 upto 1.45 volts in the processor. The motherboard we used was running a non-final BIOS though. Then again 4.6 GHz stable, isn't a bad result either I guess. Update - on another motherboard we reached 4.7 Ghz stable quite easily. So platform and brand dependence is going to be a big thing. 

Power consumption

If we step back and take the Intel reference board with a Sandy Bridge processor (2600K) without a dedicated graphics card that platform idles at roughly 50 Watts. Once we stress the processor 100% on that platform you'll see ~120 Watts power consumption. With Haswell (4790) we noticed roughly 42 Watts in idle and 109 Watts with processor load at 100%. With Broadwell-H we can measure roughly 30 Watts in idle and once we stress the processor 100% on that platform we leveled out at give or take 100 Watts. Skylake with the Core i5 6600K really is impressive here, 25 Watts in idle and 65 Watts under CPU load. With a dedicated GPU installed these numbers run at 40 Watt idle and 80 Watt under CPU load. The 14nm series are more energy friendly. 

The bottom line

The Core i5 6600K is a great processor to get if you need a PC upgrade, but read that carefully ... IF you need a PC upgrade. If you feel your system is outdated and you would like features as USB 3.1, more SATA3 ports, better audio, better NICs or AC WIFI, that's where Skylake with a Z170 motherboard can make a lot of sense. Also if you are energy aware and want to reduce the Wattage numbers, honestly we have not seen a better product and platform to date. However if you purchased say a Core i7 2600K back in 2011 then you are looking at a 5 to 10% CPU performance increase. Compared to the Core i5 2500K that number runs up to 25~30%. That's just not a lot in the world of technology where 4 years is a long time. That is the sheer reality of Intel processors these days. Make no mistake, the Core i5 6600K remains to be a terrific 14nm desktop CPU with improved instruction sets, slightly better performance, DDR4 compatibility and decent overclocking headroom. Combined with a Z170 motherboard, a kickin' graphics card, some snazzy memory and an SSD this setup is Windows 10 and DirectX12 ready to frag away in your gaming experience. If you want to rule it all and have no budget restrictions, Haswell-E with 6 or 8-cores still rocks the best IMHO. The Core i5 6600K obviously is more than fast enough for even the most complex multi-GPU setups. It is an impressive and promising processor, but feels a little too close to its predecessors. We do recommend the processor, if you are in dire need for an upgrade. The Core i5 6600K will cost 243 USD, the Core i7 6700K 350 USD. If you want something more serious with that extra bite in the Skylake family, have a peek at the Core i7 6700K.

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