If I’m being honest the Kaby Lake launch in the beginning of the year was somewhat of a damp squid. I’m aware that’s not the original phrasing, however the Intel Core i7 7700K bears more regards to a soggy cephalopod than it can a firecracker. As ever though, for all of us gamers, it’s the cheaper Core i5 which is arguably more interesting and the i5 7600K now is looking just like the go-to Kaby Lake chip for gaming.

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I rarely give a couple of fetid dingo’s kidneys in regards to a new Core i7 unless it’s got more cores in it when compared to a boozy West Country cider. Therefore it found pass with the Kaby Lake Core i7 – it had been a frickin’ yawn-fest.

A CPU generation’s K-series i5 however continues to be in a position to deliver almost identical degrees of gaming performance but also for a substantially reduced price. And the same holds true here, with the 7600K at $229 (£215) being over $100 cheaper compared to the 7700K.

Intel Core i5 7600K specs
As it’s a Core i5 processor the huge difference between it and the i7 is its insufficient HyperThreading. Intel’s HyperThreading allows an individual CPU core to process two threads simultaneously, giving it greater multithreaded grunt than it could normally possess. Which means, as the Core i7 7700K has the ability to effectively operate with eight virtual cores, the Core i5 7600K must put up with only four actual cores.

If you’re performing a large amount of CPU-intensive media work, such as for example image manipulation or video/3D rendering, those extra processing threads make plenty of difference, however when you’re discussing gaming, not really much. We may be surviving in a global where consoles have many, many (admittedly rubbish) CPU cores but nonetheless our games benefit most from having excellent single-threaded throughput. That’s why AMD’s previous processor architecture foundered so badly – Bulldozer hedged its bets on a multithreaded future which still hasn’t quite happened – and just why Intel still rules the roost regarding the very best CPUs for gaming.

Just like the i7 Kaby Lake chip, the i5 7600K in addition has had a comparatively healthy speed bump over its predecessor. The Skylake version runs at 3.5GHz out of your box, with a 3.9GHz Turbo, while this Kaby Lake chip starts at 3.8GHz and Turbos up to 4.2GHz. Immediately that gives the brand new chip an advantage. Although same could possibly be said for the rival Kaby and Skylake i7 chips, and appearance how that turned out…

Elsewhere it’s quite similar story as with the prior generation’s i5. It’s still rocking a 91W TDP, 6MB of cache and the same socket and memory compatibility configuration. As it’s a Kaby Lake chip though it can come with the brand new media engine within it, which means you is now able to stream 4K content from Netflix to your personal computer. In the event that you get the upgraded Netflix sub, have a 4K monitor and be sure you utilize the Edge browser.

The Edge browser. The main one Windows keeps letting you know to use. No, it’s not WEB BROWSER. Well, it sort of is. Anyway, it’s the only person that’s allowed to speak to Netflix’s 4K catalogue, so just make utilization of it for that and don’t blame us.

The i5 7600K also offers some CPU graphics silicon within it too, but we’ve all got graphics cards inside our PCs, right? So we are able to just about ignore that right now…

Intel Core i5 7600K benchmarks
Intel Core i5 7600K performance
Inevitably the straight CPU performance of the Core i5 7600K is off the pace weighed against the a lot more expensive, eight-threaded i7 7700K, but as a result of its relatively high out-of-the-box clockspeed it’s mighty close regarding single-threaded grunt. That higher clockspeed does mean it’s got the join its i5 6600K predecessor.

Those single-threaded performance numbers listed below are key when you shift focus to the gaming performance of the 7600K. As the i5 performs so closely to the i7 when it’s prioritising an individual thread the gaming frame rate difference is, to all or any intents and purposes, invisible. Even in the CPU-aware DX12 and Vulkan APIs it’s difficult to discern any variation in gaming performance.

The synthetic Time Spy DirectX 12 benchmark does though highlight the disparity on the CPU side, with the i5 7600K showing a lower CPU score compared to the i7 7700K. Maybe when games are designed from the bottom up for DX12 the dissimilarities can be more stark in frame rate terms, but until then why would you, as a gamer, need an i7?

There are, however, clear variations with regards to the relative storage performance of both CPUs. When plumbed in to the system’s PCIe bus the sequential speeds are almost identical, however when you consider the random write performance you will find a drop-off with the i5. The Core i5 7600K can be an impression slower regarding compressing and unpacking a mixed media folder.

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Where things get more exciting is in the overclocking stakes. That is more like it. This is exactly what we were longing for from the 14nm+ lithography of Kaby Lake. Without the HyperThreading of the i7 7700K our Core i5 7600K blasted at night 5GHz mark easily. Our sample ran completely up to rock-solid 5.1GHz, only tapping out whenever we pushed it up towards 5.2GHz – and even then it had been still booting. Looking at the 5.1GHz Time Spy benchmark you can observe the variations between your two Kaby Lake K-series chips really shrink down.

That’s though all at the trouble of the thermals. Realistically you’re not likely to want your expensive silicon to be running at 99°C for long… That’s where features just like the Overclocking Temperature Control in the Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 motherboard really makes its own.

Intel Core i5 7600K verdict
The Kaby Lake generation isn’t likely to set the world alight just how a few of Intel’s previous chips did. Instead of Process>Architecture>Optimisation it’s seeming a bit more like Process>Architecture>Flog horse. The tertiary optimisation phase of Intel’s CPU release cadence is more about consolidation than other things; certainly not innovation.

However the Core i5 7600K still has more about any of it compared to the superbly uninspiring i7 7700K. The purchase price is right, the gaming performance will there be and it’s in a position to overclock such as a champ. Sure, if you’re sitting down on an i5 from the last handful of generations you’re not likely to gain much from making the upgrade switch, but if you’re beginning with scratch then your i5 7600K is excellent location to build from. You can gamble there will be some impressive pre-overclocked full rigs released with the 7600K at their hearts.

The caveat here though is that for anyone who is beginning with scratch then there exists a very good case to be produced for picking among the latest AMD Ryzen CPUs. The great AMD Ryzen 5 1600X specifically may be the biggest challeng to Intel’s Core i5 range and among the driving forces behind the next-gen Coffee Lake range supplying a six-core i5 processor for the very first time.

The 1600X includes 3 x the thread-count of the 7600K and all for the same price. In conditions of gaming performance the speedy single-threaded chops of the Intel chip gives it the win, but only ever by a tiny margin. With the purchase price being so close you’re sacrificing an extremely little bit of legacy gaming performance for an enormous uptick in multi-threaded prowess.

For pure gaming performance the Intel chip still gets the win, so if all you’re ever likely to do is single-thread-heavy gaming then your overclocked i5 is an excellent substitute for form the beating heart of the next PC build. But so most of us use our PC for many other things, and with the continuing future of PC gaming assuredly being multi-threaded, it could end up being a short-sighted choice.