The Intel Core i7 4790K is an unusual processor which stands out from the crowd, boasting higher clock speeds than what we have been used to with previous Intel processors. The 4790K has a base clock of 4.0GHz and a turbo of 4.4GHz, an 500MHz increase from the 4770K. Other Haswell refresh CPUs, such as the 4690K, only have a small base clock increase of around 100MHz which is fairly underwhelming in comparison to the base clock speed of 4.0GHz on the 4790K. Like the previous i7 4770K processor, the 4790K has 8MB of L3 cache and hyperthreading.
Alongside the Haswell refresh CPUs, Intel has decided to update their 1150 socket Z87 chipset to include a few minor tweaks and improvements. For the vast majority of users, the additional features on the Z97 chipset is not worth getting excited over though it makes sense to grab a Z97 motherboard if upgrading to an Haswell CPU from an older processor. The most notable features of the Z97 chipset is that it supports M.2 and SATA Express and is of course officially verified for Intel’s “Devil’s Canyon” processors.
The key selling point of the new ‘Devils Canyon’ 4690K and 4790K processors is that they are easier to tame for overclockers. Haswell processors have been notorious for their inconsistent overclocking and high thermal output, disappointing not only enthusiasts but also consumers who like to get the most out of their processor. After all, it’s disappointing to pay a premium for a ‘K’ series unlocked processor if you cannot push it much higher than stock speeds.
Devils Canyon processors boast improved power delivery to the processor die, resulting in more stable power which assists overclocking especially when reaching high frequencies. In addition, Intel has also used new Thermal Interface Material (TIM) for Devils Canyon processors to help reduce temperatures allowing you to overclock the processor further.
The i7 series from Intel has always represented performance and the i7 4790K is no exception. With a base clock of 4.0GHz and a turbo of 4.4GHz, it can be safely assumed that the 4790K is a powerful processor which is ready for whatever the user throws at it. We wanted to see how well the CPU performs with a series of benchmarks.
Our test system specifications
Intel i7 4790K @ 4.0GHz
Asus Maximus VII Hero motherboard
MSI 280X graphics card
Corsair Vengeance 8GB 1600MHz RAM
OCZ ZS 650W power supply
First up was Cinebench R15. This benchmark is widely used to assess both the multithreaded and single core performance of processors.
As expected, the Intel i7 4790K managed to pull an healthy lead in the multithreaded test scoring 873 points, achieving approximately 29% more points than the AMD FX 8350. The high score set by the 4790K show us that this processor is very capable of multithreaded workloads, dispute only having four physical cores.
The next benchmark was the single core option in Cinebench R15. For the past few architecture generations Intel has shown great performance in single threaded applications and Haswell continues to build upon this. The 4790K scores 175 points, dominating the AMD FX 8350. The Intel i3 4150, which also sports the Haswell architecture, scores 136 points showing us that the 500MHz base clock speed increase is helping the 4790K in this benchmark.
The results of this benchmark were impressive, with the 4790K having strong multithreaded and single core performance. What’s interesting is the difference between the older i5 750 processor, which was originally released in 2009. While these processors cannot be directly compared due to being a part of different series, it’s impressive to see how performance has changed over the years, especially with single core performance. It’s likely that most of the performance increase lies with the whopping 1.4GHz base clock speed increase though.
Our next benchmark involved playing a 64 player match on Battlefield 4 for ten minutes at the resolution of 1920×1080 with ultra graphics details.
The strong performance of the i7 4790K shows in our Battlefield 4 benchmark. In games it’s important to have high minimum and average frames per second for a consistently smooth experience. The Intel Core i7 4790K CPU scores impressive results with the minimum and average frames per second, resulting in smooth gameplay.
Devils Canyon’s primary purpose was to please overclockers who were disappointed by the heat output and low frequency achieved by the previous Haswell processors. With improved TIM and power delivery to the die, the 4790K processor should allow overclockers to have cooler temperatures, higher frequencies and possibly lower voltages.
Unfortunately we do not have the equipment to overclock this processor to any extremes however, we managed to reach 4.5GHz with a little increase in voltage. The temperatures managed to hover around 75C in games however, stress test applications such as Prime95 saw the processors temperature sky rocket.
If you are interested in overclocking it’s important to use an 3rd party cooler rather than the stock cooler included with Intel processors. The stock cooler is capable of cooling this processor at the stock frequency however, when you start increasing the frequency and voltage the stock cooler is simply inadequate.
With Intel constantly under scrutiny by enthusiasts for little performance improvements with recent architecture generations, it can be easy to overlook the impressive power efficiency of their processors. The Intel Core i7 4790K has a TDP of just 88W, 37W lower than the FX 8350.
Our system consumed 65W when idle and 310W when playing Battlefield 4. It’s impressive, considering the performance it manages to kick out. It’s nice to have low power consumption though it’s not a key factor in desktop computers. Recently we conducted a power consumption analysis and found that an similar system using the AMD FX 8350 CPU peaks at 400W in Battlefield 4.
The i7 series from Intel have always been demanding a premium price. We often feel that the i7 series processors are a little expensive, though many enthusiasts are willing to invest into a strong processor. The 4790K weighs in at around £260 at the time of this review, making it a processor which is sure to raid the buyers wallet especially when partnered with a feature rich Z97 motherboard. The premium price tag of the 4790K can be a little hard to swallow, especially for gamers where cheaper processors can provide similar frames per second. Having said this the 4970K can be worth the cost if your applications use multiple threads, giving it an advantage over the i5 models.
The Intel i7 4790K is a premium processor targeting those who want strong multithreaded performance on the Z97 platform. With four cores and hyperthreading packaged with improved TIM and power circuity, the 4790K is capable of higher clock frequencies and cooler temperatures.
In Battlefield 4 the i7 4790K manages to achieve impressive minimum and average frames per second, making gameplay very smooth and responsive showing us that it’s a perfectly capable gaming processor. This CPU also has low power consumption which is even more impressive considering the performance it kicks out.
We are confident that this processor will remain high end for years to come, chewing through both every day and professional desktop applications and games with ease. If you are looking for a powerful processor, then the Intel i7 4790K is certainly worth considering.