As the holiday season is pulling into low gear, computer aficionados are looking to upgrade their configurations for the autumn. For Intel fans, the search was made easier on August 5th, the day when new 6th generation Skylake CPUs have been launched. Together with a new socket, architecture and shift towards DDR4, Core i7-6700K and Core i5-6600K are built with performance and efficiency on mind. If you are still not sure why you should upgrade to a $350 or $243 CPU, this (p)review will give you the answer.

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Unboxing

The new look of Intel Core CPU packaging is surely catering to the gamer population, one of few remaining segments of the PC industry that still has a potential for large growth. Following the trends, Intel advertises its new processors with gamers on mind. As announced in Intel, these CPUs will not be shipped with proprietary stock Intel coolers. On one hand, this is an additional expense for the end user, and on the other, this decision makes sense, as overclocking processors need more formidable cooling than a stock cooler can provide.

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New Chipset

The tests have shown that i7-6700K is only 5% faster in gaming performance than its predecessor, Haswell i7-4790K. However, the true upgrade of the new CPU is a new socket and a new Z170 chipset. Z170 brings some interesting improvements like additional bandwidth that supports more PCI lanes, more USB 3 ports and the faster DDR4 RAM. Although the upgrades won’t noticeably affect your gaming experience, on a hardware plane the improvements are significant.

Additional features of the Z170 chipset at glance include:

  • A new Direct Media Interface (DMI) 3.0 link between CPU and chipset, that doubles the effective 32 gigabit/s bandwidth of the older DMI 2.0

  • Upgrade to PCIe 3.0 will allow it to exploit full performances of ultrafast NVMe SSDs like Samsung SM951. In other words, the valuable CPU lanes will remain free for your graphic card.

Born for overclocking

Like its predecessors i7-4790K and i5-4690K, the new Skylake 6700K and 6600K processors are made with overclocking on mind. With their default clocks already high at 4.0GHz and 3.5 GHz, with a substantial air cooler, it is possible to overclock them to 4.7 or 4.6 GHz for 6600K. In addition, the new CPUs are more flexible when it comes to RAM overclocking.

The biggest advancement we saw was the reduction of TDP, given the fact that new processors are built in the same 14nm die node as Broadwell. If we look back to Haswell and TDP problems it had, Skylake’s 68 degrees at full load while overclocked to 4.8-4.9 GHz (6700K) are a mere breeze.

Upgradable motherboard 

While USB 3.1 support isn’t built into the Z170 chipset, many motherboards that are compatible with Z170 include USB 3.1 Type-C connectors, making it future-proof. There are indications that in near future this standard will spread to all devices. Instead of SATA express, many Z170 motherboards have built-in M.2 ports with PCIe lanes. This enables the use of highs speed M.2 compatible storage units like SSDs.

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Graphic performance

The flagship Core i7-6700K CPU boasts the Intel 530 graphic chip with 48 execution units, clock speed of 1150 MHz base and 1250 MHz boost. Although the overall integrated graphic performance is better than Haswell’s, albeit not as strong as Broadwell’s, it has little impact on gamers, as they will always use a dedicated graphic card. However, fully supported DirectX 12 gives developers the possibility to optimize the performance of both GPUs to the fullest.

If we skip all the hype and reportedly leaked info on impressive overclocking speed of 5.2 GHz, Intel’s new CPU still has much to offer. Although it provides 5 to 10% more performance than Haswell based CPUs, Skylake is more about the whole platform than just the processor. The transition to much faster DDR4 RAM and the advanced Z170 chipset-motherboard combo make it a great choice for users looking to build a formidable general purpose or gaming PC.

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Posted by Marcus Jensen

Marcus is an Australian IT support professional. He's running his own business, working with companies that outsource their IT maintenance. In his free time he enjoys SciFi books and movies.

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