Intel core i7 6700 skylake

Intel's Skylake is the king of quads, but not the upgrade you waited for

“The Core i7-6700K is the quickest quad-core chip yet, but not a major improvement over its predecessor.”
  • Quickest Intel quad-core yet
  • Versatile new Z170 chipset
  • Improved IGP performance
  • Not a major upgrade over the i7-4790K
  • Expensive

Update August 6th 08/06/2015: While doing additional testing to update our Intel HD graphics comparison, I noted problems with performance in Civilization: Beyond Earth. Investigating this further indicated an improperly selected setting decreased the Core i7-6700K’s first round of test results. This review has been updated with new results, but the score has not changed as a result.

Intel’s processor-release schedule has been a bit wonky as of late. The 4th-generation Core chips were released to desktop back in 2013, and they held down the fort for nearly two years. In June of this year, Intel released two new fifth-gen Core desktop chips – and now, two months later, the sixth generation has arrived. When it rains it pours.

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This unusual release schedule, the result of production delays on fifth-generation chips, has left desktop users waiting for an upgrade. It also means the desktop virtually skipped a generation. Yes, the chips did eventually make their way to the desktop, but enthusiasts stayed away. Everyone already knew the next big thing was just a couple months away.

Now that next big thing – Skylake – is here, and Intel is leading with desktop hardware first. Today’s debut centers on just two processors, the Core i7-6700K and the Core i5-6600K. These chips target enthusiasts and, more specifically, gamers.

This review covers the more powerful i7-6700K, a quad-core chip with a stock clock of 4GHz, a maximum Turbo Boost of 4.2GHz, and Hyper-Threading support. On paper it’s an impressive chip, but is it enough to warrant an upgrade from a third or fourth-gen Core quad?

One small step for the architecture

Over the past eight years, Intel has pushed itself forward through a product plan called “tick-tock.” A “tick” improves the production process, while a “tock” is a major architecture revision. Skylake is the latter, though the slim selection of Broadwell desktop hardware means that, in practice, it’s a combination of both. Intel seems to acknowledge that by comparing the i7-6700K to the Core i7-4790K in its official press documents, rather than the Core i7-5775C.

While many of the features, such as Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading, are by now familiar, there are a few new additions. The most significant, and unique to the K-series desktop chips, is “full range base clock tuning granularity.” Put simply, Intel has made it possible for users to change processor frequency in 1MHz steps, if such granularity is desired. This will help enthusiasts push the chip right up to the edge of stability. This is supported by more granular RAM overclocking. Users used to be able to overclock in 200/266 MHz increments – that’s been lowered to 100/133MHz.

The other major changes come at the platform level. Skylake is debuting alongside a chipset called Z170, which uses the new LGA1151 processor socket. This means the hardware is not backwards compatible with previous motherboards, as was Broadwell – you’ll need a new motherboard to go with the Core i7-6700K.

One giant leap for the chipset

While that’s annoying, the Z170’s feature set makes it sensible. DDR4 RAM is now standard, rather than DDR3. That’s an important change. Intel debuted the use of DDR4 on the X99 chipset, but that targeted extreme systems, and only supported a few, very expensive processors. Asus was kind enough to provide us with its Z170-Deluxe for the review.

The Z170 should be able to handle gobs of extra storage and devices without feeling a bandwidth pinch.

Z170 is the leading edge of Intel’s new mainstream chipsets, so its adoption of DDR4 signals impending, wide-spread adoption of the new memory standard. Switching to a new memory standard has its costs, but in this case they’re forgivingly minimal. Two 4GB sticks of DDR 1333 memory can be had for $40. A similar pair of DDR4 2133, the most affordable version, will set you back $50. That’s a very small price differential, so the “hidden cost” of upgrading to the new chipset is minimal.

Users can pair the Z170 with DDR3 on certain motherboards, as the chipset does technically provide support. However, DDR4 and DDR3 slots are not compatible with each other. It’s expected that most motherboard makers will offer DDR4 only, or a combination of both.

The chipset also provides a substantial upgrade to PCI Express bandwidth. Intel’s Z97 chipset, its former mainstream flagship, could handle eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes with 5Gbp/s of bandwidth each. Z170 expands support to 20 lanes of PCI Express 3.0 with 8Gbp/s of bandwidth each.

Gamers are not the target of this upgrade as the Z170, like its predecessor, can handle only a single graphics card at full PCIe x16 speed, or two at 8x. Instead, these lanes are for other peripherals, including PCI Express cards, Non-Volatile Memory Express hard drives, and Thunderbolt peripherals. The Z170 should be able to handle gobs of extra storage and devices without feeling a bandwidth pinch.

Last, but not least, is the chip’s integrated graphics. The Core i7-6700K comes with Intel HD 530 clocked at 1,150 MHz, and the company claims up to a 40-percent improvement over Intel HD Graphics 4000 as found in the Core i7-3770K. This isn’t the spotlight in the release, no doubt because Intel knows enthusiasts will be pairing the chip with a discrete graphics card, but HD 530’s performance will provide some insight into what we’ll see from other, more mainstream Intel quads later this year.

Price and positioning

While the Core i7-6700K isn’t shipping with an over-the-top code name, like last year’s Devil’s Canyon chips, it may as well have. Intel’s press deck hit my inbox covered in images of young, enthusiastic gamers making funny faces at an unseen screen. That makes sense. Gamers are among the most likely to overclock a chip. They appreciate the extra performance, and are less concerned with occasional instability than enterprise or workstation customers.

If it’s slower than stated, it’s not a great value; if it’s quicker, it’ll prove more appealing than thought.

An enthusiast focus means an enthusiast price tag. The Core i7-6700K will ship with a “recommended customer pricing” of $350, while the i5-6600K will ship at $243. That gives the i7-6700K the same initial MSRP as Devil’s Canyon, though the Core i7-4790K is now only $339 on Amazon. Counting DDR4 RAM and the new chipset, a 6700K/Z170 system will be $30 to $60 more expensive than a 4790K/Z97 tower.

AMD doesn’t have a chip that’s comparable to the 6700K. Its FX-9590, which boasts eight cores clocked at 4.7GHz, is the closest competitor, and on it paper it seems to compare favorably. In reality, though, the FX has difficulty keeping up with mid-range, fourth-generation Intel quads. The 6700K is in a different league.

Our test system

Because Skylake is a new architecture on a new platform, it’s not compatible with the Falcon Northwest Talon test rig we’ve used for so long. As such, we put together a new system for the purpose of testing the i7-6700K. We thank Asus for providing its excellent Z170-Deluxe motherboard, and EVGA for providing a GTX 980 Ti video card. The system also included 8GB of DDR4 RAM and an Intel 730 Series SATA SSD.

Processor performance

Intel says that the Core i7-6700K should be 10 percent quicker than the i7-4790K, and is priced as such. If it’s slower than stated, it’s not a great value; if it’s quicker, it’ll prove more appealing than thought. What does Geekbench have to say?

Surprisingly, the 6700K did not outperform the 4790K in single-core performance in this benchmark, though the results falls within the margin of error. That only seems surprising because of Intel’s claims. While the 6700K is newer, the 4790K has an identical 4GHz base clock and higher 4.4GHz maximum Turbo Boost (the 6700K caps at 4.2GHz).

When it came to multi-core performance, however, the 6700K defeats the 4790K, managing a lead of about 5 percent. That’s not as high as Intel’s claimed 10-percent increase, and is rather disappointing, at least for those hoping to the sixth generation would be a major upgrade.

When compared to the rest of the field, the 6700K does well. It outperforms everything in single-core performance aside from the 4790K, and also defeats everything in multi-core performance aside from the octo-core 5690X. The new Core i7 is a strong performer on the whole, and would be a major upgrade for someone with a second-generation or first-generation Core chip.

Game Testing

There’s more to the Core i7-6700K than just the CPU cores, of course. It also has Intel’s HD 530 graphics, the new generation. Intel is not heavily promoting this because it doesn’t fit into the launch’s focus on gamers, but the company claims a significant performance boost. Even if this isn’t relevant to most buyers of the i7-6700K, it is relevant to desktops as a whole, because HD 530 will likely appear in a variety of chips when more Skylake chips hit retailer later this year.

For this comparison, we used previous test results from our Intel HD comparison article. We also threw in A10-7870K, which represents the best integrated graphics AMD has to offer.

World of Warcraft

Blizzard’s massively multiplayer game is now 10 years old, so you might think it’s a pushover. Certainly that’s true for most discrete GPUs, but constant updates to the game’s graphics have kept it a challenge for integrated graphics to overcome. Let’s see how HD 530 stands up.

These results are strong. World of Warcraft is playable at all tested settings aside from 1080p and the High preset, and at 1,366 x 768 the HD 530 nearly competes with AMD’s A10-7870K, which features a capable Radeon integrated GPU. Intel’s off to a good start.

Civilization: Beyond Earth

While Beyond Earth isn’t the most attractive game on the planet, it can be demanding, especially in late-game scenarios with a large number of units on-screen. The quickest Intel IGP we’ve tested in this game, HD 6000, manages just 10 FPS at 1080p and High Detail, and barely cracks 30 FPS at low. Does HD 530 fare better?

Again, HD 530 offers improvement over most preceding Intel HD offerings. At 1,366 x 768 and minimum detail, the new IGP offers 14 additional frames per second over Intel HD 6000, and over 20 FPS over Intel HD 5500. It enjoys a just slightly narrower advantage at 1080p and low detail.

Theses advantages are quite noticeable in-game. Beyond Earth isn’t really enjoyable on other IGPs aside from HD 6000, and even that was clear the bar of minimum acceptable performance by a hair. HD 530 offers some buffer room, providing the chance to slightly up detail, or just sit back and enjoy a smoother experience.

Battlefield 4

Now, we come to the most challenging trial, DICE’s epic first-person shooter. While it’s now far from the most demanding game available, it’s a lot for integrated graphics to handle. Intel IGPs haven’t exceeded 30 FPS in our past tests, even at 1,366 x 768 resolution and low detail.

The improvement here is significant: An Intel HD 530 delivers a playable experience at 1,366 x 768 and low detail. It even comes within a hair of enjoyable at 1080p and low, as the new IGP delivers 10 additional frames per second over HD 5500 or HD 6000.

Again, though, there’s a catch. The HD 530 posts some serious improvements, but it also comes in well behind AMD’s APU, and isn’t quite capable of handling Battlefield 4 at 1080p. Still, these results offer hope that the next generation of Iris graphics, Intel’s high-end IGP, will prove capable.


The DT Accessory Pack

Up your game and the get the most out of your gear with the following extras, hand-picked by our editors:

Thermalrite Macho Rev.B cooler ($52.90) This massive air cooler from Thermalright requires a large case, but provides excellent cooling and is easy to install.

Asus Z170 Deluxe motherboard (TBA) The Asus Z170 is an excellent motherboard for the i7-6700K thanks to its versatile UEFI BIOS and numerous connectivity options.

Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB ($150) This RAM from Corsair will help your system hum right along with blazing quick short-term memory.

EVGA GTX 980 Ti Superclocked ($634.39) Want to game? EVGA’s GTX 980 Ti plays well with the i7-6700K, and ensures you have the best experience possible.

Intel’s Skylake launch continues the company’s recent trend of incremental upgrades. Geekbench did not find the Core i7-6700K to be notably quicker than the i7-4790K. The upgrade provided by Intel’s HD 530 graphics is more significant – but the IGP remains unsuited for serious 3D gaming.

For some users, the more notable improvements may come from the chipset. Aside from DDR4 RAM support, the Z170 provides a wealth of PCI lanes, which should translate to better connectivity. The Z170-Deluxe motherboard we received from Asus was certainly loaded to gills.

Overclocking is an area of performance I didn’t have time to dive into. Certainly, the platform provides more fine-grain detail in tuning, which is appreciated. But it’s also a separate issue from the overclocking limits of the chip. The stock clock of 4GHz is strong, and Intel chips from the last few generations have struggled to exceed 4.5GHz without extreme cooling and/or voltage tweaks. I hope to test this further in the coming weeks.

At stock clocks, the Core i7-6700K left me feeling ambivalent. Every new generation of Intel hardware is an upgrade over the last, but the improvements have become so minor that they feel inconsequential. Users who have a fourth-generation Core chip will see no reason to upgrade. Even those on a third or second generation chip may not feel persuaded by these results.

If you’re looking to build or buy an all-new system, though, the Core i7-6700K is an obvious choice. The Z170 platform it pairs with is a clear upgrade over Z97, and the processor itself is the strongest Intel quad yet – if only by a hair. While the degree of improvement it represents over the Core i7-4790K is not impressive, Intel’s latest high-end chip is, as expected, the new king of quad-core performance.


  • Quickest Intel quad-core yet
  • Versatile new Z170 chipset
  • Improved IGP performance


  • Not a major upgrade over the i7-4790K
  • Expensive
Editors' Recommendations

Intel Core i7-6700 Skylake Quad-Core 3.4 GHz LGA 1151 65W BX80662I76700 Desktop Processor -

The new standard for PC performance has arrived—6th Generation Intel® Core™ processors! Our blazing fast, feature packed processor family with built-in security is ready to take your productivity, creativity and 3D gaming to the next level.

With a 6th Generation Intel® Core™ processor, play your favorite 3D games in higher resolution, better details, faster frame rates, giving you an amazing gaming experience on your PC.

Upgrading your old PC to a new 6th Generation Intel® Core™ processor means your PC resumes to full functionality in an instant.

Software and workloads used in performance tests may have been optimized for performance only on Intel® microprocessors. Performance tests, such as SYSmark*, MobileMark*, and SPEC CPU are measured using specific computer systems, components, software, operations and functions. Any change to any of those factors may cause the results to vary. You should consult other information and performance tests to assist you in fully evaluating your contemplated purchases, including the performance of that product when combined with other products.

Measured by SYSmark* 2014, a benchmark from BAPCo* consortium, which measures the performance of commonly used productivity applications, such as Microsoft Excel* and Adobe Acrobat*. On HD video playback, compared to 5-year-old system.

|BrandIntelSeriesCore i7 6th GenNameCore i7-6700ModelBX80662I76700|CPU Socket TypeLGA 1151Core NameSkylake# of CoresQuad-Core# of Threads8Operating Frequency3.4 GHzMax Turbo Frequency4.0 GHzL2 Cache4 x 256KBL3 Cache8MBManufacturing Tech24nm64-Bit SupportYesHyper-Threading SupportYesMemory TypesDDR4-1866 / 2133, DDR3L-1333 / 1600 @ 1.35VMemory Channel2Virtualization Technology SupportYesIntegrated GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 530Graphics Base Frequency350 MHzGraphics Max Dynamic Frequency1.15 GHzPCI Express Revision3.0Max Number of PCI Express Lanes16Thermal Design Power65WCooling DeviceHeatsink and fan included

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Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K Benchmarks

by Hilbert Hagedoorn on: 04/29/2015 05:15 PM | source: | 46 comment(s)

A website called pcfrm shared Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K Benchmarks. The 6th generation core series processor will be the successor to Broadwell. The top-dog quad-core processor would be the Core i7-6700K.

The quad-core processor with HyperThreading enabled will get 8 logical CPUs. with a clock frequency of 4.00 GHz and a turbo towards 4.20 GHz Turbo Boost frequency. The CPU has 8 MB L3 cache, and an integrated memory controller that supports both DDR4 and DDR3 memory.

  • Core i7 6700K4 cores and Hyper-Threading, 4.0GHz frequency, 4.20GHz maximum Turbo Boost frequency, 8MB last-level cache, dual-channel DDR3/DDR4 memory controller with 1600MHz or 2133MHz support, 95W TDP, Intel HD Graphics 5000-series integrated graphics core, LGA1151 packaging
  • Core i5 6600K4 cores, 3.50GHz frequency, 3.90GHz maximum Turbo Boost frequency, 6MB last-level cache, dual-channel DDR3/DDR4 memory controller with 1600MHz or 2133MHz support, 95W TDP, Intel HD Graphics 5000-series integrated graphics core, LGA1151 packaging;

Skylake is the codename used by Intel for the 14nm processor microarchitecture under development and due to launch in 2015 as the successor to the Broadwell architecture. Intel 14nm Skylake processors will feature PCIe gen 4, DDR4 Memory and SATA Express support. Now anybody can type up this stuff so yeah, take it with a big grain of salt. 

Turkish tech publication PC FRM claims to have access to official benchmark numbers of the i7-6700K and i5-6600K. Wether or not this is the real deal with early engineering samples or creatively guesstimated numbers, we have no idea. Have a peek:

Related Stories Specs on Intel Skylake IGP leak - 10/20/2014 09:42 AM There has been talk and gossip about the upcoming Intel Skylake IGP. Chips based on the IGP are due for launch in 2015. CPU World got a hold of new details about the Skylake GT1, GT2, GT3e and GT4e ...

Intel Skylake-S Platform Specs Z170-100-Series Chipset by 2H 2015 - 07/14/2014 11:59 AM

Some new info on the pending Skylake-S chipset from Intel have surfaced on the web. The chipset will become available in 2H 2015 on many motherboards and will sport a series 100 Intel chipset chip. ...

Intel Skylake Processors available in 2H 2015 get DDR3 and DDR4 support - 06/05/2014 03:30 PM

A roadmap appeared on the web earlier yesterday showing some interesting information regarding Intel Skylake Processors. They are to be released in 2015 and Skylake processors would have both DDR3 an...

Intel Skylake Processors will get 100-series Chipset - 05/05/2014 07:03 AM

Well, chronologically ity only makes sense of course. But future Intel Skylake Processors will get a 100-series Chipset. And yeah, a slide on that chipset just reared its head on the mighty internet....

Intel Skylake 14nm CPUs have PCI - Express 4.0 , DDR4 and SATA Express - 07/04/2013 08:55 AM

While Intel plows its way through the upcoming flagship processor release called Ivy Bridge E, Intel has been on a constant rampage releasing new products to satisfy the appetite of the enthusiasts an...

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Intel Core i7-6700K And Z170 Chipset Review: Skylake For Enthusiasts

Although Intel is holding many of the architectural details regarding its latest Skylake-based, 6th generation Core processors back until the Intel Developers Forum goes down in San Francisco in a couple of weeks, the company is announcing a pair of new processors and a companion chipset today. Skylake is a “tock” in Intel’s release cadence, which signifies a new microarchitecture, built using a mature process—in this case the same 14nm process that brought us Broadwell. The new Skylake-based Core i7-6700K and Core i5-6600K squarely target performance enthusiasts, and pack all of the goodness we’ve come to expect from Intel’s unlocked K-SKUs, in addition to some things that are sure to please the overclocking crowd. But, we’ll be hearing more about the rest of the Skylake line-up and other details in a few weeks.

In the meantime, we’ve got the flagship Core i7-6700K on the test bench today, paired to a killer new motherboard from ASUS and some speedy DDR4 memory. As you’ll see on the pages ahead, this new platform offers a potent combination of performance an efficiency. Take a gander at the specifications and main features below and we’ll dig a little deeper on the pages ahead...

Update 11/18/2015: We recently took a look at Intel Skylake-U performance in its notebook incarnation, here with the Lenovo Yoga 900 ultrabook. In a 15 Watt TDP envelope, Skylake-U offers some of the best performance we've seen in a notebook processor to date, at lower power consumption. Skylake-U offers 20 - 30% better graphics performance and a solid 5 - 10% increase in CPU throughput in the same power envelope but with better, more fine-grained clock gating features for lower overall power consumption. Make sure you check it out, here.

 De-Lidded Skylake-Based 6th Gen Core Processor
Intel Core i7-6700K Desktop Processor
Specifications & Features
# of Cores 4
# of Threads 8
Processor Base Frequency 4 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency 4.2 GHz
TDP 91 W
Processor GraphicsIntel HD 530
Graphics Max Dynamic Frequency Up To 1.15 GHz
  • Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0: Dynamically increases the processor frequency up to 4.2 GHz when applications demand more performance. Speed when you need it, energy efficiency when you don’t.
  • Intel Hyper-Threading Technology: Allows each processor core to work on two tasks at the same time for up to 8 total independent tasks (threads) providing parallel processing capability for better multi-tasking with threaded applications.
  • Intel Smart Cache: 8MB of shared cached allows faster access to your data by enabling dynamic and efficient allocation of the cache to match the needs of each core significantly reducing latency to frequently used data and improving performance.
  • CPU Overclocking Enabled (with Intel Z170 chipset): Fully unlocked core multiplier, power, base clock and memory ratios enable ultimate flexibility for overclocking.
  • Graphics Overclocking Enabled (with Intel Z170 chipset): Unlocked graphics multiplier allows for overclocking to boost the graphics clock speed.
  • Integrated Memory Controller: Supports 2 channels of DDR4-2133 and DDR3L-1600 memory with 2 DIMMs per channel. Support for memory based on the Intel Extreme Memory Profile (Intel XMP) specification.
  • PCI Express 3.0 Interface: Supports up to 8 GT/s for fast access to peripheral devices and networking with up to 16 lanes configurable as 1x16, 2x8, or 1x8 and 2x4 depending on the motherboard design.
  • Chipset/Motherboard Compatibility: Compatible with all Intel 100 Series chipsets with the latest BIOS and drivers.
  • Intel HD Graphics 530: Integrated 3D performance with support for Microsoft DirectX 12 and Ultra HD 4K resolution display for immersive mainstream gaming. The Intel HD Graphics 530 dynamic graphics frequency ranges up to 1150MHz.
  • Vibrant Media: Enhanced, built-in visual features deliver a seamless visual PC experience for rich Ultra HD 4K entertainment and HD gaming.
  • Intel Quick Sync Video Technology: Media processing for incredibly fast conversion of video files for portable media players or online sharing including support for HEVC (H.265) encode/decode to support Ultra HD 4K.
The Intel Core i7-6700K's full specifications are listed above. It is a quad-core CPU that can processes up to 8 threads simultaneously (4C/8T), thanks to Intel’s HyperThreading feature. Other features include a new DX12-capable HD 530 series graphics engine, along with a number of other things carried over from previous generation Intel processors like Smart Cache and QuickSync, though the new encoding engine is also capable of accelerated HVEC encoding in hardware.Intel Core i7-6700K, Top And BottomIn terms of its packaging, the Core i7-6700K looks just like other Intel LGA based processors, though Skylake is packing 1151 pins. The heat-spreader design on the top is the same as previous-gen parts, but the underside has a slightly different pad configuration. The array of caps and pads in the center of the underside are in a different arrangements than Haswell and Broadwell-based processors too.We don’t have many details on the HD 530 series GPU built-into the Core i7-6700K, but performance is only marginally better than the HD 6000 series, and part (or all) of the increase may come by way of the increased bandwidth afforded by the platform’s use of higher-speed DDR4 memory. The HD 530 series GPU core can boost up to 1150MHz and can power up to 3 displays simultaneously. The new graphics core is also DX12-compatible, which is a new capability versus the previous gen, but more details will likely be released at IDF.The Core i7-6700K has a base clock of 4GHz with a max turbo frequency of 4.2GHz, though with SpeedStep the chip will drop down to only 800MHz when idle. It has a TDP of 91W and over 8MB of cache on-board, 256K of L1 (64K per core), 1MB of L2 cache (256K per core), and 6MB of L3, which is a similar cache hierarchy to Ivy Bridge.    Intel Core i7-6700K CPU-Z DetailsThough Skylake is a new microarchitecture, it obviously borrows heavily from its predecessors. Some new additions to Skylake, however, include independent clock domains, so there are no more PEG/DMI ratios required, and FIVR—Intel's Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator technology—is gone. Those changes, in addition to its architectural tweaks, result is a processor that can be overclocked using fine-grained BCLK frequency manipulation, just like the pre-Sandy Bridge days. We’ll talk more about overclocking a little later.

The Intel 6th Gen Skylake Review: Core i7-6700K and i5-6600K Tested

It’s the Intel review you’ve been waiting for. Today is the launch of the first two CPUs from Intel’s Skylake architecture, the 6th Generation Core i7-6700K and the Core i5-6600K. With the new processors we get a new architecture, a new socket, the move to DDR4 and the potential to increase both performance and efficiency at the same time. A lot of readers have asked the question – is it time to upgrade? We had a CPU or two in to test to answer that question.

Launch Day for Skylake-K: August 5th

For those in the industry, predicting Skylake’s launch has been a minefield. Even at Computex in June, some companies were discussing a large six-week window in which they expected Skylake but were waiting on official dates. But as we've seen with a number of previous Intel mainstream launches, Intel likes to aim at the gaming crowds release at a gaming events. It just so happens that today is Gamescom in Germany, two weeks before what everyone expected would be a launch at Intel’s Developer Forum in mid-August.

Image courtesy of Splave

Today is a full launch for the Skylake-K processors, with the two CPUs being launched alongside new Z170 series motherboards and dual channel DDR4 memory kits. Having spoken to a few retailers, they have stock ready to go today. That being said, a number of them would have liked more stock on launch day, suggesting that they expect the processors to sell out rather quickly when the buy buttons are activated.

All the motherboard manufacturers should be ready to go as well – take a look at our breakdown of the retail motherboard information we could get before launch for a good overview of what to expect this generation. DDR4 manufacturers have been selling the new standard of memory for over a year due to Intel’s high-end X99 platform supporting it, but today will see the introduction of dual channel kits to go with the Skylake platform as well as a number of higher speed modules ready and waiting.

‘Where are the non-K processors?!’ you may ask. Intel tells us that these will be released later in the year, sometime in Q3. As a result, we have to wait and see what range of models come out at that point and we will get a number in to review.

Retail Packaging

To go with the launch is a new look of Intel's Core processor packaging, in part to appeal to the gaming crowd. As the gaming industry is considered one of the few remaining areas for potentially large growth in the PC industry, Intel is increasing its focus on gaming as a result.

Aside from changing the graphics on the box, it has been reported – and seemingly confirmed by the thinner boxes in the official pictures from Intel – that these processors will not be shipped with a stock Intel cooler. Users will have to purchase third party coolers. Part of this makes sense – overclocking processors need beefier cooling in order to extract the maximum overclock and buying something above the stock cooler should be good. The downside of not having a stock cooler means an added cost to the end user. However as the hole mounting for the new socket, LGA1151, is similar to that of LGA1150/1155/1156 – spacing is still 75mm – many existing CPU coolers for the current LGA115x sockets should be compatible, making it possible to reuse many coolers for no more than the cost of a new thermal paste application.

For users looking for a new air or liquid cooler, head on over to our recent roundup of Top Tier CPU Air Coolers Q3 2015: 9-Way Roundup Review and the Closed Loop AIO Liquid Coolers: 14-way Mega Roundup Review published last year.

The Skylake CPUs: Intel’s 6th Generation Core

Intel’s tick-tock strategy has been the bedrock of their application to bring new processors to the market, growing in terms of user experience for either power, efficiency, or both. It has been noted that certain generations either have an enterprise focus or a mobile-first focus, which always seems to tip the scales in one direction of the other. However, with the recent announcement of a third CPU line at 14nm called Kaby Lake for 2016, tick-tock just became tick-tock-tock.

Intel's Tick-Tock Cadence
Microarchitecture Process Node Tick or Tock Release Year
Conroe/Merom 65nm Tock 2006
Penryn 45nm Tick 2007
Nehalem 45nm Tock 2008
Westmere 32nm Tick 2010
Sandy Bridge 32nm Tock 2011
Ivy Bridge 22nm Tick 2012
Haswell 22nm Tock 2013
Broadwell 14nm Tick 2014
Skylake 14nm Tock 2015
Kaby Lake (link)? 14nm Tock 2016 ?

Intel’s early issues with 14nm yields have been well documented and we won’t go into them here, but 14nm is a more expensive process with an increased number of lithography steps as we reach the limits of current semiconductor technology. FinFET was introduced back in 22nm, but to move down to 10nm makes either the current process more expensive or other methods have to be used. As a result, we see Moore’s Law stretching out from an 18-24 month cadence to a 24-30 month cadence for the first time in fifty years. As we’ve seen with the graphics card market recently stalling at 28nm, there is a need (or at least opportunity) to develop more power efficient architectures rather than just relying on die shrinks to do it for you.

Future development aside, today Skylake will hit the shelves in the form of two overclockable processors, the Core i7-6700K and the Core i5-6600K.

Intel i7 Lineup
  i7-4770K i7-5775C i7-6700K
Price $339 $366 $350
Cores 4 4 4
Threads 8 8 8
Base CPU Freq. 3.5 GHz 3.3 GHz 4.0 GHz
Turbo CPU Freq. 3.9 GHz 3.7 GHz 4.2 GHz
Graphics HD 4600 (GT2) Iris Pro 6200 (GT3e) HD 530 (GT2)
EUs 20 48 24
iGPU Freq. 1250MHz 1100MHz 1150MHz
TDP 84W 65W 91W
DDR3/L Freq. 1600MHz 1600MHz 1600MHz
DDR4 Freq. - - 2133MHz
L3 Cache 8MB 6MB 8MB
L4 Cache None 128MB (Crystal Well) None
Interface LGA1150 LGA1150 LGA1151

As with previous nomenclature, the i7 model will be quad core CPU with HyperThreading and 8MB of L3 cache. This matches up with the Haswell parts to which Skylake is more closely aligned (Desktop Broadwell is rather a blip, using an external on-package eDRAM and you can read our review here), in a large number of aspects including the other cache levels. The 6700K runs at a base frequency of 4.0 GHz and an all-core frequency of 4.2 GHz. This is a slight speed bump over the 4770K which was launched at the start of Haswell, but a minor reduction in clockspeeds compared to the i7-4790K, which was an upgraded Haswell part launched later under the name of ‘Devil’s Canyon’.

The integrated graphics nomenclature has changed, with the new i7-6700K having the Intel HD 530 graphics, compared to the HD4600 in the Haswell parts. We know that the HD 530, like the HD 4600, has 24 of Intel’s execution units in the iGPU, and they run at a peak frequency of 1150 MHz. The introduction of the HD 530 marks the launch of Intel’s 9th generation graphics, and we'll cover Gen9 in a bit more detail later.

Intel i5 Lineup
  i5-4670K i5-5675C i5-6600K
Price $242 $276 $243
Cores 4 4 4
Threads 4 4 4
Base CPU Freq. 3.4 GHz 3.1 GHz 3.5 GHz
Turbo CPU Freq. 3.8 GHz 3.6 GHz 3.9 GHz
Graphics HD 4600 (GT2) Iris Pro 6200 (GT3e) HD 530 (GT2)
EUs 20 48 24
iGPU Freq. 1200MHz 1100MHz 1150MHz ?
TDP 84W 65W 91W
DDR3/L Freq. 1600MHz 1600MHz 1600MHz
DDR4 Freq. - - 2133MHz
L3 Cache 6MB 4MB 6MB
L4 Cache None 128MB (Crystal Well) None
Interface LGA1150 LGA1150 LGA1151

The i5 model for Skylake also has quad cores, but without HyperThreading and only 6MB of L3 cache. Like the i7, it also has the Intel HD 530 graphics but operates at a lower frequency band.

Both the Skylake processors will support DDR4 and DDR3L memory in order to ease the transition to DDR4 for the mainstream segment, although it should be said that DDR3L is implemented here due to its lower than standard DDR3 operating voltage of 1.35 volts. This more closely aligns with DDR4’s standard voltage of 1.20 volts or the high end DDR4 kits at 1.35 volts, and as a result we are told that motherboards that support DDR3L will typically only be qualified to run DDR3L kits, rather than DDR3 kits.

This leads onto the point that both of the K processors for Skylake sit at 91W, which is a small increase over Haswell at 84W and Devil’s Canyon at 88W. In the past Intel has historically run a 1:1 policy whereby a 1% performance gain must come at a maximum of a 1% power penalty – this was adjust to 2:1 for Broadwell, and we should assume that Skylake had similar requirements during the planning stage. Depending on the specific architecture details, one potential source for this increase in power consumption may be the dual memory controller design, although Skylake has a significant number of features to differentiate itself from Haswell.

Intel Core i7-6700HQ High-End Quad-Core 6th Gen Skylake Processor

The 6th Generation Intel Core i7-6700HQ is a processor commonly used in gaming-class and other high-performance laptops and combined with dedicated video cards. The i7-6700HQ “Skylake” CPU is based on 14-nanometer production technology, as same as its 5th Gen”Broadwell” i7-5700HQ precursor. The i7-6700HQ brings many improvements, such as support for DDR4 memory, newer and somewhat faster Intel HD 530 integrated graphics, and high-resolution (4K) video playback optimizations. But unfortunately, raw computing performance boost is missing. As a matter of fact, benchmarks show the i7-6700HQ is actually slower than the 5700HQ. That’s primarily due to different clock speed configurations. The 6th Gen part runs at between 2.6 and 3.5 GHz, depending on usage, whereas the 5th Gen model is clocked at 2.7 to 3.5 GHz. Not a big difference, but the gap is bigger when the CPU runs in TurboBoost mode. The 6700HQ can achieve the maximal 3.5GHz TurboBoost speed only on one core at a time, while the 5700HQ can run at 3.5GHz on all four cores. That’s why the older i7 chip is actually faster, as you can see in the PassMark CPU test results below.

Intel Core i7-6700HQ Benchmark

Regardless of the gap in benchmark results, chances are you won’t be able to tell the difference between the i7-6700HQ and its precursor in the real life use. For sure, both quad-core parts belong to the top of the laptop processor list performance-wise and are noticeably faster than their dual-core i7 relatives and other mainstream notebook chips.

For a list of laptops with the Intel Core i7-6700HQ i7-6700HQ.

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