intel_devils_canyon_good_bad_ugly - 1 HARDOCP - Devil's Canyon: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly - Intel Devil's Canyon: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Intel Devil's Canyon: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

When Intel pulled back the covers from its new Devil's Canyon enthusiast processor last week, there was one thing missing: the Devil's Canyon processors in reviewers' and enthusiasts' hands. We have now had a single Core i7-4790K engineering sample in our hands for 72 hours and this is what we have found.

The Good

Last week we reported to you the ins and outs of Intel's new Devil's Canyon processor. This new processor has had us in a very upbeat mood as far as the outlook on overclocking. Intel positioned the Devil's Canyon CPU to be the next big thing for enthusiasts.

First off, this Core i7-4790K processor has big teeth as it comes out of the box sporting 4GHz base frequency and a 4.4GHz Turbo Frequency. That is hardly slow in anyone's world, and honestly there have been many overclockers that have found their Haswell processors not able to hold 4.4GHz with the best cooling.

Intel has specially spelled out that this new Devil's Canyon processor has "Robust Overclocking Capabilities." Many were expecting 5GHz overclocking on air with this processor. Why are we expecting 5GHz overclocking on air? That would be because that is what Intel is quoted as saying.

It can be overclocked to 5GHz in air-cooled systems, said Renee James, president of Intel, during a keynote speech at the Computex trade show in Taipei.

We do know that Intel communicated to hardware ODMs that it "rather enthusiastically" expected 5GHz on air cooling with Devil's Canyon.

The last good thing we have to say is that street pricing has been lower than we expected, coming in at $339.99 with Prime Shipping. The Core i7-4770K is currently retailing for $334.98 with Prime Shipping. We have seen both these prices fluctuate greatly over the last few days, so keep your eyes peeled.

The Bad

Intel soft launching the Devil's Canyon and the way it shared information about compatibility is somewhat "the bad." With the recent release of the Z97 Intel Express chipset, and Intel's communicating that it seemed a Z97 chipset motherboard would be required for Devil's Canyon usage, has surely left some with a bad taste in their mouth especially if you are an early adopter and geared up with a Z97 motherboard in hopes of getting that shiny new Devil's Canyon to 5GHz the moment you took delivery. As we explained in our DC preso article, Z97 is not required. Many Z87 chipset motherboards will work just fine as has been confirmed by Intel and ASUS.

We have spent a good bit of time here at HardOCP overclocking our Core i7-4790K engineering sample. We have been using an ASUS Z97-Deluxe motherboard with the 1008 BIOS. We are using a very robust Koolance EX2-755 cooling system with a Koolance 380 model waterblock. Our ambient temperature on the bench is ~75F.

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This is the best stable overclock we reach at this time; 4.7GHz at 1.36v core with a 2400MHz RAM speed. This overclock is fully stable for hours running Prime95.

Overclocking the Devil's Canyon has been NOTHING like overclocking the multiple Core i7-4770K processors we have used. Since the 4770K release we have purchased 5 or 6 retail processors. With all those processors we have been able to install the processor on just about any motherboard, set our core voltage to 1.28v manually, with a 1866MHz RAM clock, and get very good stability. That is not how it has worked for the 4790K. I experimented with 20 different manual core voltage settings from 1.28v to 1.45v on the 4790K and none of these were stable. And when I say "not stable" I mean the system would BSOD under any kind of heavy load immediately. So if you are going to purchase one of these processors, you might have to ditch some of your old ways of thinking.

Surely we are working on a time crunch here in trying to get an informative report to our readers, but that still does not change the truth. Much to my embarrassment, ASUS' "Dual Intelligent Processors 5 with 5-Way Optimization" auto-tuning process almost immediately got me to a 4.6GHz all-core overclock at 1.32v. Getting into the tuning program and basically maxing out all of the "Digi+ Power Controls" I was able to push the 4790K to an extremely stable 4.7GHz/2400MHz as shown above in the screen capture. Using "manual" voltage tuning does not seem to be the way to go but to rather rely on "adaptive" voltage control with ASUS motherboards. This can however push voltages up higher than you might expect under loads, and you will need to keep an eye on this. It seems that manual mode is working for extreme cooling however. It does however look like to get the same clocks on Devil's Canyon, you will need a bit more voltage than we used on previous Haswell processors. That is a bit flustering considering we were expecting higher clocks at less voltage.

We did rein in our Corsair Dominator 2400MHz RAM as well. Bringing it back to 1866MHz had no effect on our CPU overclocking abilities.

The results I have shown here seem to be very representative of CPUs out in the wild at this time.

While we were expecting wide 5GHz overclocking, that seems to be far from the case. But surely Intel was expecting otherwise as was recently pointed out by Francios Piedonoel of Intel.

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It would seem that Intel is going to be doing a lot of training here very soon since so many Devil's Canyon parts are not running 5GHz on air, stable under load.

The Ugly

We are hearing information from many ODM sources that testing Devil's Canyon processors at the moment, but this one quote seems to sum the situation up better than any other.

Truth is, it’s (5GHz) only possible on few samples and that the CPUs will throttle if used with air coolers at the voltages needed to get to the desktop. On average, the TIM change and extra decoupling on the rear of the CPUs has resulted in around 200MHz headroom over first gen Haswell in our testing so far.

From information shared with me currently I would expect no more than ~5% of Devil's Canyon processors to reach 5GHz, and that would be on water cooling. Judging from these first engineering samples, 5GHz fully stable and not throttling on air seems to be unobtainable. Consider most of your 5GHz hopes dashed.

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The Bottom Line

The way it currently sits, Intel's claims of 5GHz on air is little more than hot air. It seems that Intel got the marketing cart before the silicon horse.

Intel's Devil's Canyon processor is marginally better than its predecessor when looked at through overclockers' eyes. From our vantage point there is little to make one want to go out and purchase this new Haswell CPU if you already have a Haswell CPU. There will likely be some lucky enthusiasts that get a 5GHz Devil's Canyon CPU, but the same can be said for Intel Core i7-4770K owners as well.

That all said, considering the strong out-of-box clocks that the Core i7-4790K sports, and the small price difference between it and the 4770K, there seems to be little reason to consider the 4770K for a new build.

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