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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Introduction

Intel Logo

We have with us for review the Intel Core i7-10700 processor. Today's processor specimen is the non-K, non-unlocked variant of the Core i7-10700K. This chip has a fascinating specifications sheet because it is an 8-core/16-thread processor with 16 MB of L3 cache, which matches last generation's Core i9-9900, yet the 10700 has the "Core i7" rating. At a price of US$335, this puts it in the league of the Ryzen 7 3700X and 3800X. Compared to the $400-ish Core i7-10700K, this 65 W TDP rated part has slightly lower clock speeds and tight power management out of the box. The retail package also includes a cooler, which adds to its value.

The Core i7-10700 processor in this review is based on the 10th generation Core "Comet Lake" microarchitecture by Intel, which is possibly the final refinement of the "Skylake" core design the company has been lugging along for half a decade, on the 14 nm-class silicon fabrication process due to major hiccups with its 10 nm silicon fabrication node. Before AMD "Zen" made landfall in 2017, Intel had 4-core/8-thread processors leading its mainstream-desktop (LGA115x) platform, which the company has since significantly upgraded generation over generation with increasing core and thread counts per dollar, besides higher clock speeds.



The 10th generation Core i7 "Comet Lake" desktop processor lineup consists of 8-core/16-thread processors, a doubling in thread count over the 9th generation Core i7 8-core/8-thread parts as the company enabled HyperThreading across the entire lineup. The Core i9 lineup is led by 10-core/20-thread parts; the Core i7 is 8-core/16-thread, the Core i5 6-cores/12-threads, and the Core i3 4-core/8-thread.

This is our first 10th generation Core i7 review. We have both the i7-10700 and the i7-10700K with us, but chose to run with the former because the other 10th generation Core processor reviews so far revealed that with Intel relaxing power limits and Tau control for motherboard manufacturers, letting them come up with some of the most innovative clock-speed and power-management technologies, even the non-K parts have a lot of untapped potential. We got our first hint of this in our i5-10400F review, where loosely enforced custom power limits enabled a small but tangible performance boost. This made us curious: is there a processor that's held back by its power management so much that enthusiasts could gain free performance by unlocking those limits?

The Core i7-10700 ticks at 2.90 GHz and has a maximum boost frequency of 4.80 GHz. Unlike the 10th generation Core i5 Series, it also features favored cores and Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology. However, unlike the Core i9, it loses out on Thermal Velocity Boost. Favored cores is a technique of improving single-threaded performance by identifying the two best-performing cores on the silicon at the time of manufacture, marking them out on the micro-code, and exposing them to aware operating systems (Windows 10 1709 or later, and Linux Q1 2018 kernels and later). By virtue of their physical superiority, these cores are able to sustain higher boost clocks better, so the OS prioritizes traffic to them.

In this review, we put the Core i7-10700 through its paces across four data points (that's around 300 tests). The first one (green bar) represents the processor out of the box, untouched, with the motherboard BIOS respecting Intel specs, and at our default memory configuration for CPU reviews. The second configuration (brown bar) sees the memory running at DDR4-2933, which is the maximum possible memory clock on mid-range B460 chipset motherboards. The third data point (blue bar) sees us relaxing the power limits to enable the maximum turbo frequency available for this processor. The final data point (red bar) has us eke out the highest possible manual overclock for this multiplier-locked processor by driving BCLK (base clock) up to 103 MHz (beyond which Intel processors are programmed to crash). We find out if with a little effort, you can potentially save yourself $80 by choosing this processor over the i7-10700K (more if you don't intend to use aftermarket cooling) to spend the savings elsewhere, such as a faster graphics card or a bigger SSD.

Intel Core i7-10700 Market Segment Analysis
 PriceCores /
Threads
Base
Clock
Max.
Boost
L3
Cache
TDPArchitectureProcessSocket
Ryzen 7 1700$1708 / 163.0 GHz3.7 GHz16 MB65 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 1700X$1708 / 163.4 GHz3.8 GHz16 MB95 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i5-10500$2006 / 123.1 GHz4.5 GHz12 MB65 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 5 3600$1756 / 123.6 GHz4.2 GHz32 MB65 WZen 27 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 2700$1708 / 163.2 GHz4.1 GHz16 MB65 WZen12 nmAM4
Core i5-8400$1806 / 62.8 GHz4.0 GHz9 MB65 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Ryzen 7 2700X$1958 / 163.7 GHz4.3 GHz16 MB105 WZen12 nmAM4
Core i3-8350K$1954 / 44.0 GHzN/A8 MB91 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i5-8600K$2506 / 63.6 GHz4.3 GHz9 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i5-9600K$2006 / 63.7 GHz4.6 GHz9 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i5-10600K$2656 / 124.1 GHz4.8 GHz12 MB125 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 5 3600X$2056 / 123.8 GHz4.4 GHz32 MB95 WZen 27 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 1800X$2508 / 163.6 GHz4.0 GHz16 MB95 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i7-10700$3408 / 162.9 GHz4.8 GHz16 MB65 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Core i7-8700K$3506 / 123.7 GHz4.7 GHz12 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-9700K$3808 / 83.6 GHz4.9 GHz12 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-10700K$3758 / 163.8 GHz5.1 GHz16 MB125 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 7 3700X$2758 / 163.6 GHz4.4 GHz32 MB65 WZen 27 nmAM4
Ryzen 9 3900X$43012 / 243.8 GHz4.6 GHz64 MB105 WZen 27 nmAM4
Core i9-9900K$5308 / 163.6 GHz5.0 GHz16 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i9-9900KS$6008 / 164.0 GHz5.0 GHz16 MB127 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i9-10900K$50010 / 203.7 GHz5.3 GHz20 MB125 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200

A Closer Look


Our Core i7-10700 sample came in a tray-only package. The retail packaging includes a heatsink, which will help keep overall system cost down.

Processor front view
Processor back view

The Core i7-10700 looks like any LGA1xxx processor released by Intel in the past decade. The processor is only compatible with socket LGA1200 motherboards because the position of the round notches has been changed. It will not work with an older motherboard.

Processor installed in motherboard

Luckily, socket LGA1200 retains cooler compatibility with all older LGA115x-series sockets. This means you're going to be spoiled for choice when picking a cooler to go with this processor.

Architecture


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.

Test Setup

  • All applications, games, and processors are tested with the drivers and hardware listed below—no performance results were recycled between test systems.
  • All games and applications are tested using the same version.
  • All games are set to their highest quality setting unless indicated otherwise.
Test System "Comet Lake"
Processor:All Intel 10th Generation processors
Motherboard:ASUS Z490 Maximus XII Extreme
Intel Z490, BIOS 0508
Memory:2x 8 GB G.SKILL Flare X DDR4
DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34
DDR4-2933 Test at 16-16-16-36
Graphics:EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra
Storage:1 TB SSD
Cooling:Noctua NH-U14S
Zadak Spark 240 mm AIO
Power Supply:Seasonic SS-860XP
Software:Windows 10 Professional 64-bit
Version 1903 (May 2019 Update)
Drivers:NVIDIA GeForce 430.63 WHQL
AMD Chipset 1.07.07.0725



Test System "Zen 2"
Processor:All AMD Ryzen 3000
Motherboard:ASRock X570 Taichi
AMD X570, BIOS v2.80 AGESA 1.0.0.4B
Memory:2x 8 GB G.SKILL Flare X DDR4
DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34
All other specs same as above

Test System "Coffee Lake"
Processor:All Intel 8th & 9th Generation processors
Motherboard:Core i9-9900KS: ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming X
All other Coffee Lake: ASUS Z390 Maximus XI Extreme
Intel Z390
Memory:2x 8 GB G.SKILL Flare X DDR4
DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34
All other specs same as above

Test System "Zen"
Processor:All AMD Ryzen 2000, Ryzen 2000G and Ryzen 1000
Motherboard:MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC
AMD X470, BIOS 7B77v19O
Memory:2x 8 GB G.SKILL Flare X DDR4
DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34
All other specs same as above
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