Intel Core i7-10700 Review - Way to Overclock without the K 83

Intel Core i7-10700 Review - Way to Overclock without the K

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Under the hood of the Core i7-10700 is the 10-core "Comet Lake-S" silicon built on the same 14 nm++ process as the previous two generations, with two disabled cores. The die area is estimated to be 200 mm².

The "Comet Lake-S" silicon is laid out similar to the past four generations of Intel mainstream processors, with two rows of CPU cores flanked by the iGPU on one side and the system agent (integrated northbridge) on the other, and a Ringbus Interconnect serving as town square between the various components. The last-level cache is scattered across as slices, adding up to 16 MB of unified L3 cache all cores can access equally.

Much of the processor's uncore components are clumped into the System Agent, which contains the memory controller, PCI-Express gen 3.0 root-complex, DMI interface, and memory PHY. The iGPU solution, though present on the silicon, is permanently disabled by Intel. On the other end of the ringbus is the Gen 9.5 integrated graphics, which has practically been carried over for the past three generations, featuring 24 execution units in the GT2 trim. All SKUs in the desktop 10th generation processor series appear to have the top GT2 trim. Don't expect to play PUBG at 4K on this; the "UHD" moniker only indicates that the IGP can handle 4K Ultra HD displays, features modern connectivity options, such as DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.0, and can playback 4K video in new formats with 10-bpc color and HDR10/Dolby Vision standards.

The core itself is identical in design to "Skylake," and there are hence no IPC increases to be had. As we explained in the introduction, all of Intel's efforts to increase gaming, single-threaded, and less-parallelized application performance revolve around increasing clock speeds and deploying as many as three intelligent boosting algorithms to achieve the advertised clock speeds.

The Core i7-10700 has a nameplate base frequency (aka nominal clock) of 2.90 GHz and a maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 4.80 GHz. Unlike the top Core i9-10900K part, it lacks Thermal Velocity Boost and makes do with classic Turbo Boost 2.0 and Turbo Boost Max 3.0. The TDP of the chip is rated at just 65 W, compared to the 125 W of the i7-10700K, so out of the box, the processor comes with some aggressive power management.

Intel introduced a handful of overclocking enhancements with the 10th generation, including the ability to toggle HyperThreading on a per-core basis rather than globally. This could be an interesting option for those gaming and streaming, where a certain number of cores have HTT disabled for the best gaming performance and certain cores have them enabled, with Windows process core affinity settings taking care of the rest.

The company also introduced the ability to overclock the DMI chipset bus. DMI is a PCIe-based interconnect that handles transfers between the processor and the chipset (PCH). The LGA1200 platform uses DMI 3.0 (comparable to PCI-Express 3.0 x4 in terms of bandwidth). Intel has apparently decoupled PCIe clock domains to enable you to overclock the DMI and PEG (that topmost x16 PCIe slot) without destabilizing your PCIe setup for graphics cards. Multiplier-based overclocking, however, isn't possible on the i7-10700.

The Z490, H470, and B460 Platforms

Z490 is the top 400-series chipset targeted at gaming desktops and PC enthusiasts, as it enables serious overclocking and multi-GPU support. In terms of I/O capabilities, the chipset is nearly identical to the Z390, with 24 downstream PCIe gen 3.0 lanes, six SATA ports, six USB 3.2 gen 2 ports that can be converted to three USB 3.2 gen 2x2 ports, ten USB 3.2 gen 1 ports, and fourteen USB 2.0 ports. Intel is recommending its i225-V 2.5 Gbps Ethernet chip as the wired networking solution to go with Z490, and the company's AX201 802.11ax WiFi 6 WLAN solution to go with the chipset's CNVio interface.

You are more likely to pair locked and entry-level processors such as the i3-10100 with the B460 or H470 chipsets. B460 has motherboards start at around the $90 mark. It comes with 16 downstream PCIe gen 3.0 lanes (compared to just 12 on the previous-generation B360). Compared to Z490, you get fewer PCIe lanes (16 vs. 24) from the chipset, and fewer USB 3.2 ports (eight 5 Gbps ports and no 10 Gbps ports compared to six 10 Gbps and ten 5 Gbps ports on the Z490). You also lose out on CPU overclocking features and multi-GPU capabilities (such as SLI). B460 motherboards also come with memory frequency restrictions set to DDR4-2933. The H470 is an interesting middle ground between the Z490 and B460. You still lose out on multi-GPU and overclocking, but get more platform PCIe lanes (20 vs. 16 on the B460 and 24 on the Z490), as well as four 10 Gbps USB 3.2 ports in addition to what you get from the B460.

For multiplier-locked chips like the i7-10700, you could save a lot of money by opting for cheaper B460 or H470 chipset motherboards.
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