Figures from 100 tested Core i7 7740X chips have surfaced in an X299 motherboard reviewer’s guide, showing the best of the bunch can overclock as high as 5.2GHz. That’s right, it sounds like the CPU can clock even higher than the i9 7900X, and all without popping the lid.
The new breed of CPUs are hitting some impressive speeds, but are they going to end up sitting atop our guide to the best processors for gaming?
A chapter of one manufacturer’s X299 reviewer’s guide is reportedly concerned with the overclocking capabilities of the quad-core, eight-thread Kaby Lake-X chip. After testing 100 i7 7740X samples, the unnamed company discovered the CPUs rocking the most robust silicon could hit 5.0GHz in Cinebench R15 with only 1.205v of core voltage, and can be pushed up to a maximum speed of 5.2GHz.
What do Intel themselves say, though? At E3, we interviewed Frank Soqui, their general manager of enthusiast desktop. Given Intel’s Gregory Bryant heralded them as having 'ultimate overclocking performance', we asked whether the Kaby Lake-X parts would have more overclocking headroom than standard Kaby Lake CPUs, like the 7700K.
“I don’t know that there’s more headroom,” Soqui says. “It’s really process dependent and architecture dependent. We never spec a frequency for overclocking. There’s enough variability in there that we cannot predict the max overclocking frequency.”
But can you get higher clocks out of Kaby Lake-X?
“I would say, in general, that would be a fair guess…” Soqui says with a smile. “There’s no way for us to screen predictably in manufacturing to a specific frequency of overclocking. Even if we did those conditions would be different in a real motherboard situation.”
As we’ve mentioned before, though, the X-series CPUs are going to live up to their predecessor’s reputation for pumping out silly amounts of heat when overclocking. The guide recommends liquid cooling for both Kaby Lake-X and Skylake-X chips whether or not you’re overclocking, which is no surprise: the guide shows the lowest-quality i7 7740X running at up to 87°C.
So, the overclocking potential of these chips is pretty impressive, if toasty. But what the reviewer’s guide doesn’t say is how many of those 100 samples were capable of these overclocking heights. Though, if all the noises from Intel are true, there might actually be a valid reason for the i7 7740X’s existence - with the potential overclocking performance on offer the single-threaded speeds of the Kaby Lake-X could make it the fastest gaming CPU of all the X-series.
But then there’s the matter of the expensive X299 motherboard platform, adding a hefty premium on top of what you’d pay for a 7700K and Z270 board. The Kaby Lake-X chips won’t be able to take advantage of the standard X299 boards’ quad channel memory, and only support 16 PCIe lanes. That means if you shell out for a full-sized X299 board to go with your shiny new chip you’re wasting a great deal of your money. Intel have said motherboard makers can create cut-down X299 boards, but whether any of them will actually bother is still very much an unknown.
In these rapidly changing times, however, do you really want to drop a whole lot of cash on a quad-core CPU? In gaming terms, single-threaded performance is still very much the key spec for now, but for how much longer? With the core-count war now raging between AMD and Intel, game developers are going to start taking advantage of the extra silicon going forward, and that’s going to leave these chips behind.