Intel Core i7-10700K processor review

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Final Words & Conclusion

Final words & conclusion

We previously tested the 10600K and 10900K which received mildly positive comments, the 10700K, however, is a little more 'meh?'. Throughout our testing of this processor, we continuously fell in the performance bracket of the previous generation 9900K and 9900KS, and considering it's the same microarchitecture with a few voltages and frequency tweaks that's not surprising. That does, however, give that feel of 'more of the same'. With the Core i7 10700K, you buy an i9 9900K for less money, with a higher spec memory controller and a weirder TDP behaviour. You do need that new Z490 motherboard though. Today's tested product is challenging the AMD Ryzen 3000 series alright, but each has that own advantages and disadvantages. For example, some level of PCIe Gen 4.0 support for Comet Lake-S would have been preferred, even if it was only x4 PCIe Gen4 to support at CPU level one M2 unit at PCIe Gen 4.0. It's a bit of a missed opportunity. The relevancy of PCIe Gen 4.0 M2./ NVMe SSDs however still is debatable at best, but the coming year we'll see that host infrastructure advance with much faster NVMe based SSDs, and that's where its importance will grow. The processor series requires a new motherboard, a year from now Rocket Lake-S will be released, and yeah these will be the only two CPU series that will be supported on this 1200-pin infrastructure. I've stated this in a recent discussion here on the website and forums, but considering that you upgrade a motherboard+CPU likely once every four years, we do not see it as incredibly significant for your purchasing decisions. But for you to upgrade, the processor needs to be just right.

From a processor architecture point of view, little is new in features. We do like the excellent sharp peak performance that the series offers, but we can also tell that Intel had to open up a bag of tricks to be able to accomplish that. Of course, I am referring to the long turbo power states of a PL2 mode that last 57 seconds at high energy consumption. There's little wrong with that as it is not something new, however, what is new is the duration, and power allowance nearly doubled up, so that means this 125 Watt processor is allowed to jump to 229 Watts for almost a minute. That will affect heat, so cool this puppy wisely. TDP as a discussion by itself, do people care about it? Not so much really, but processors jumping towards 229 Watts is a lot, let's be honest there. And if you allow your processor to run to 229/250Watts for a minute, should this not have been called a 250 Watt TDP processor?

Purely speaking from a game performance point of view, Intel has the lead. And you will need to acknowledge that the gaming performance is a notch better compared to the competition when you fire an enthusiast-class GPU at the platform. That all comes back towards the high-frequency Turbos, Intel can apply, running up to 5.0/5.1 GHz (depending on conditions). Is it enough though?, well that is hard to answer question, the competition is robust in threaded and single-threaded performance with applications, it's only gaming combined with 1000 USD graphics cards where they perform a notch-less. You do need to look at platform differences, AMD offers PCIe Gen4.0 throughout the eco-system, whereas with Comet-Lake-S sticks at Gen 3.0, albeit the Z490 motherboards are gen 4.0 ready. Still, that likely is introduced with Rocket Lake-S series desktop processors. 


Performance & tweaking

We'd rate the new 8-core part as "good" for the results as tested. Temps remain trivial to judge but certainly did not disappoint at processor defaults (depending on the choice of cooling), we are going to recommend a proper LCS cooler. At the OC levels you are looking at 1.35V and higher needed on that CPU core for a decent tweak, however, and that is the same for AMD, tweaking many-core processors is complicated as you are bound to run into core limitations, heat and power consumption. With processor like these, you need to wonder if you want to tweak, as really, the best configuration is already there at defaults. At reasonably low voltages you'll reach an all-core 5000 MHz, LCS got us towards 5.2 GHz (all cores). At that stage, we are closing in at ~350 Watts power consumption ergo my plea to leave the proc at its default configuration. Of course, we received ES samples, so we cannot state anything conclusive on the final retail products in matters of tweaking (yours might run a notch better). The infrastructure that Z490 offers is sound as well as has proven to be reliable and easy to use. Tweaking wise you increase the CPU voltage and multiplier and you are good to go. Another plus for the Intel platform is that over the years they have been able to refine their memory controllers, pop in anything XMP 2.0 and you have a 98% chance it'll work straight out of the box with high-speed memories. However, the effect of speedier frequency memory is far less significant, so opt volume would be my advice. We'd always suggest going with a nice affordable 3200 or a 3600 MHz kit.

Gaming performance

As far as gaming goes, the pure raw wins are mostly for Intel, but everything is relative when it comes to gaming as 98% of the time your actual limitation is the GPU, and not CPU. Ergo, for gaming GPUs matter more than CPUs. You can measure the effect of CPU performance with games, but only when you steer away from that GPU bottleneck, that's why we use a 1000+ USD graphics card. Only then in the lower resolutions you'll see substantial enough differences. But with a Radeon RX 5700 or GeForce RTX 2070, these differences would be much closer towards equal for one another. Hey, everything is relative. Let's have a peek here at the chart below. That's a 1920x1080 (Full HD) gaming chart based on the reference GeForce RTX 2080 Ti.


The vast majority of you guys have a far more GPU limited graphics card. With eight cores, the reality is absolutely and unequivocally is that you can game pretty darn and are future proof.  Realistically a 6-core proc offering more value will get you there as well. Currently, I find 8-core processors a sweet spot concerning gaming, 6-cores for value, and anything higher than 8-cores in core count, overkill.

Power consumption

With eight cores you get a 125 Watt TDP processor. But as explained, it all is a little more complicated these days. Intel applies a secondary power stage where the processor is allowed to run twice the TDP value for a pretty long time. That's a holy grail for added threading performance, it does, however, make energy consumption peak with higher values during that long boost. With the system at idle with a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti installed / 16 GB memory / SSD and the Z490 motherboard hovers at roughly 70 Watts. That's just fine, really, but the load values are significant. When we stressed the processor 100% run, we reach approximately 250 Watts with this 8-core processor (for the entire PC).



Honestly, if you already own a processor like a 9900K we see absolutely no reason to upgrade. The performance is pretty much the same with the usual oddities and offsets in mind. Considering the Z490 platform doesn't offer anything new other then WIFI6 and 2.5+ GigE ethernet either, this processor simply put is a hard sell for anyone to upgrade. That doesn't mean it's a poor processor though, contrary it's great, but more of the same that we have seen for a while now. BTW there will be media reviews out there showing an excess of 10% additional performance over a 9900K, likely they did not set up their motherboard BIOS towards reference standards. So realistically that is a 5% margin increase.

Processor conclusions are never easy to write up as there are many factors involved as well as multiple pros and cons for each side and brand. Intel certainly gains the most out of the 14nm fabrication node compared to AMD. At 14nm they can reach 5.1 GHz (under strict conditions like PL2 and thermals). This brings Intel good peak performance which shows in gaming performance as well as boosting multi-threaded performance. The flip-side of that coin is that once the processor returns to its original PL1 state, that threading performance becomes less strong. It is one of the reasons that we recently moved towards test suite software that sometimes runs 10 to 15 minutes or even an hour to test, which, in our belief, paints a more accurate picture. Tagged in there is IPC, the main factor to consider as IPC x your clock frequency is the holy grail of it all. So clock for clock AMD with ZEN2 has better IPC, and Intel better (and longer) high clock frequencies, and that's the tradeoff between the two brands.

Each of the architectures will show advantages and disadvantages. The processor series is sound. Platform wise Z490 in combination with Comet lake-S isn't that different from last-gen and makes this a harder sell to spend money on an upgrade. Imho, Intel needed PCIe Gen 4.0 here today, on this platform to make a substantial difference. The majority of platform vulnerabilities will have been patched at the hardware level where possible, and soft and firmware otherwise. The performance certainly is there. Another trump card for Intel is that they came down on prices. At close to 500 USD the 3900X from AMD is now the competing processor. Gaming wise with only the most expensive GPUs Intel wins, threading, and overall performance-wise, for that money AMD has a more mature platform with the performance that comes along with that in all other segments. But as so often, platform and brand preference will be important for any potential consumer, there's a camp intel and a camp AMD. Tweaking wise there is a tiny bit left for the Core i7 10700K, as explained ~5100 MHz all cores is quite easy and I do foresee some lucky folks reaching a stable 5.3 GHz on all cores. We halted at 5200 MHz which was stable. You also really need to wonder if it is worth it (tweaking and overclocking), you are dealing with extensive power consumption and heat levels. But for kicks and giggles, sure why not.

The Core i7 10700K is a fast processor, make no mistake. In the end, though, seen upgrading from the Core i9 9900K(S) things are more challenging to advise though. But yes, we can certainly recommend Comet Lake-S if you take all the variables we mentioned in mind. Regardless, we'll happily hand out a recommended award for the Core i7 10700K, but for an upgrade to make sense, you need to be a few generations away from your current PC configuration.

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