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Intel Core i7-875k and i5-655k processor review

Intel’s Core i5-655k and Core i7-875k have left us thoroughly impressed. You’re getting great performance, without being asked to shell out a small fortune.

At stock speeds, Intel’s Core i7 980 Extreme Edition is still the performance leader, but let’s get real, most of us don’t win the lottery, so stop dreaming and focus on what’s real.

When you consider that the retail price for the 875k is just under the £300 mark and then consider that it’s Intel’s unlocked beast of a ‘Black Edition’, it’s clearly a stunningly good choice. It out-muscles the Core i7 920/930 and it does so with cheaper mainboard and memory options. Compare this chip to the original 870, which was both locked and £120 more expensive, and you can see what a great deal it is.

We had great success overclocking this processor on our Intel reference board and couldn’t believe when we managed to get it stable at 4.8ghz, even if it was hitting a toasty 87c under load. I strongly recommend you spend the money on a high end cooler if you want to overclock this processor – and KitGuru recommends the incredible Noctua NH D14 cooler.

Although great value, the Core i7 875k is still a £300 chip. So what about its sibling, the Core i5-655k, which we expect to be a full £100 cheaper – at just under £199?

If Intel hits this price point, then the 655k will be up against the ‘regular’ AMD Phenom II X6 1055T. To make life harder for the X6, that’s also where the Core i7 920/930 chips live. Which are also hard to beat.

While we love overclocking, and had huge success with our engineering review sample, we can’t help but feel that a high frequency overclock does not compensate for a lack of cores. In many cases, for pure gaming, this will be a fantastic choice and I can also imagine the Core i5 655k being bought by hardcore overclockers as a secondary toy just ‘to play with’ – it has such huge overclocking potential, in the right hands.

It also has great potential for high end media centers, as it runs relatively cool even when overclocked to reasonable levels. Remember, even if you only clock it to ~ 4.4GHz, this little CPU is actually a match for the X4 965 Black Edition, across a range of tasks, including rendering and encoding. It’s hard not to be impressed, especially when you factor in the modest power draw.

In closing, we feel that the Core i5-655k will become a enthusiasts overclocking toy … yep the guys who love to tweak bioses and try and squeeze every mhz of performance from a chip. I had a great time with it over the last week, and managed to keep pushing it further and further with minor bios tweaks. This is part of the reason this review is a little later than planned. I’ve never seen a processor hit 5Ghz on air. Until now.

But it’s the Core i7-875k that really gets me excited, so much so that it’s actually hard to put into words. As you reach 4.5GHz, this processor starts to give the £850 980X a run for its money, in many tasks. The one I had for review was a particularly good overclocking chip and I managed to get it to 4.8GHz, stable, with air cooling alone in a room where the ambient is around 24 degrees. If I was in the market for a processor, this would be my first choice, because for £300 you really are not going to get anything even close to the overclocked performance. Just make sure you budget a little more for the best cooler you can get your hands on. At reference speeds they are solid performers, but the real joy only comes with breaking the 4Ghz barrier and, trust me, it is not hard at all. Pricing is competitive as well.

With Intel’s ‘Special K’ edition chips. Overclocking is no longer a dark art, just crank the multiplier and add a little voltage. Simple as that.

KitGuru says: Core i5-655k is a ‘fun’ chip, we had so much fun overclocking it. The Core i7-875k is probably the best value for money processor Intel have released this decade. Crank it !!

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Rating: 9.0.

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