As a PC gaming enthusiast, there is always one thing you think when you see a stuttering performance in gameplay: “I need to upgrade”. The word “need” is the operative one here. In truth, when my AMD Phenom, a vintage model I had bought when it was already old in 2012, began to cough and splutter playing Total War: Attila, I could have just decided that I couldn’t handle the game and leave it at that.
That’s not how my mindset works, however. As soon as I can’t run a game smoothly at at least 50-60FPS I begin to get annoyed, and when I get annoyed I start to look at new components. When I start to look at new components I also tend to go overboard.
Intel’s Core i7 Series is one that packs a punch. Continuing its dominance of the CPU market, its Haswell chips once again proved that you can have power and stability. With the fight between Intel and AMD being akin to a professional boxer holding a child at arm’s length, there was only one upgrade route I could see.
I’m a man who likes to research. When I built my first computer in my early teens I spent hours upon hours reading up on parts and comparisons. With the big money I was looking to spend it was absolutely necessary this time around.
The i7-4790k is a chip that many look to as soon as they want to upgrade. It’s Intel, it’s i7 and it’s not as extortionately expensive as the true enthusiast CPUs out there. Still, clocking in at an eye-watering £250-280, it’s by no means a light decision.
There are arguments that getting an i7-4790k is too much for the average gamer. Not in some patronising “oh you simply wouldn’t understand” way, of course, it’s more that for gaming performance you could get a similar return from a £70 cheaper i5. That is certainly true. In a number of benchmarks the i7-4790k has shown only a few frames better performance than i5 machines.
Then why did you buy it? I can hear you asking.
The processor’s hyper-threading, essentially allocating power evenly across the cores with such efficiency that it’s like having eight rather than four, is less so useful for gaming but fantastic for rendering. On my old Phenom I was clocking in at around 20-30 minutes to render a five minute video. With the new i7 those figures are the other way around. Even for someone who only produces the occasional video it’s a great time-saver. As well as that, the i7 packs a massive punch when used for gaming and will easily run every game on the market flawlessly when paired with a high-end GPU.
Arriving clocked in at 4.0 Ghz out of the box, the i7-4790k leaves plenty of room for overclocking. Tests on other sites have recorded that, when pushed to the limit and when supported by a terrifyingly powerful water-cooling system, it can manage to clock at 4.9 to 5.0 Ghz. As a man who has fried a previous CPU through OC’ing (and one who has a less than stellar fan arrangement) I decided to leave the overclocking for the time being.
Installation of the CPU was a simple as any other chip – the stock fan that arrives with the i7-4790k is sufficient but anyone wanting to overclock may want to invest in a third party piece of kit.
A cursory reading of tech forums will bring up complaints of overheating and high temperatures at idle – something that a chip as powerful as the i7-4790k shouldn’t be reporting. Though it’s a beefy piece of tech when running under load it should not be hitting the higher, more worrying temperatures. Unfortunately that was an issue I ran into.
Let me add that this problem could be down to my motherboard. However, it seems that the installation of an i7-4790k onto some boards (including my Gigabyte 797x – review coming soon) caused some issues. My motherboard, whether instructed to or not, decided to promptly channel ALL of the power it could to the CPU under load.
This resulted in me reaching temperatures as high as 100 degrees Celsius when gaming, rendering or other intensive work. After tweaking the motherboard using Intel’s own software, however, the problem vanished.
I hate the term “futureproof” as much as the next tech enthusiast yet, when it comes to a processor that will last down the years, it’s hard to argue against the i7-4970k. At a beefy 4.0Ghz stock clock speed it's already fast enough for anything you may need it for, with plenty of room for overclocking.
Heat issues and the steep costs of the kit may make some people think twice and if gaming is your focus then a powerful i5 may be a better option for less of your hard-earned cash. With all that said, however, Intel’s chips are still setting the benchmark (forgive the pun) for great design. Paired with a high-end graphics card the i7-4790k will hum along nicely for years to come.
Speaking of which, my GTX 660 is looking a little long in the tooth…
Intel i7-4790k CPU Review
Heat issues and the steep costs of the kit may make some people think twice but the i7 is the best for gaming and media you can get for the money. Paired with a high-end graphics card the i7-4790k will hum along nicely for years to come.