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Intel Core i7 4790K Devil’s Canyon Review (inc. Overclocking)

So there we have it. The Devil’s Canyon 4790K is indeed a cooler-running Haswell 4770K and with seemingly greater overclocking potential to boot.

Focusing more on overclocking, we cannot speak for the entire Devil’s Canyon series from our sample size of a single chip. But if our engineering sample’s overclocking performance is indicative of retail processors’ capabilities, Devil’s Canyon should be able to reach around 200-400 MHz higher than the average 4770K.

We can safely say that Intel’s improvements are welcomed. The added power-delivery capacitors seem to be doing a good job in negating the requirement for high voltage levels that many Haswell chips would require for their peak frequencies. For example, our 4790K hit a rock-solid 4.6GHz at 1.25V, whereas the retail 4770K we use requires 1.325V for 4.5GHz.

The other major improvement comes from Intel’s NGPTIM. Our clock-for-clock temperature recordings show that the enhanced thermal interface material is able to shave around 9°C (12.5%) off load temperatures in our arbitrary test scenario. That’s a solid improvement and does make higher voltage levels tameable with consumer CPU coolers, but it’s still not as big as the temperature drop we would expect when using solder.

There’s not a lot to dislike about the 4790K, especially not when it retails for the same price as the 4770K it replaces. Its out-of-the-box performance is impressive thanks to a particularly high maximum operating frequency of 4.4GHz. Overclocking performance seems to be better than Haswell’s. And temperature and overclocked voltage levels have shown a noticeable decrease.

Haswell’s primary negative aspects have been addressed and in all honesty, with success.

If there’s one gripe that many enthusiast users (myself included) will have, it’s going to be overclocking potential. I must re-emphasise that it’s difficult to make judgements based on the capabilities of a single chip (as well as some behind-the-scenes chatter), but Devil’s Canyon does not seem to be the series of processors that takes us back to the overclocking heights that Sandy Bridge could reach with ease.

If you’re still rocking a 5GHz 2600K, 4.8GHz 3770K, or 4.4GHz 4770K, all of which are fairly common overclocks, there’s probably not much reason for you to ‘upgrade’ to Devil’s Canyon.

However, if you are about to start building your high-performance system and want the number-crunching boost that Hyper-threading can offer, the cool-running 4790K and Z97 platform are almost a no-brainer, especially when the Devil’s Canyon processor retails for £269.99.

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Pros:

  • Excellent out-of-the-box performance.
  • Overclocking potential seems greater than Haswell’s.
  • Lower operating temperatures than Haswell.
  • Retails for the same price as Haswell.
  • Strong and efficient clock-for-clock performance from the underlying Haswell micro-architecture.

Cons:

  • Still does not seem to offer overclocking frequency potential competitive with Sandy Bridge (or Ivy Bridge, to a lesser extent).
  • Potential for relatively quick voltage-induced degradation (more results will make the issue clearer).

KitGuru says: With lower operating temperatures, better overclocking potential, and excellent out-of-the-box performance, Devil’s Canyon is the much-needed improvement to Haswell. Just don’t bank on overclocking frequencies competitive with Sandy Bridge.

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Rating: 8.0.

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