Unveiling the Intel Core i7-14700K: A Comprehensive Review

Unveiling the Intel Core i7-14700K: A Comprehensive Review

Unveiling the Intel Core i7-14700K: A Comprehensive Review

                                      Intel Core i7-14700K

In the shifting landscape of desktop processors, Intel's 14th Generation Core processor family, or Raptor Lake Refresh, is a testament to the company's optimizing and refining processes. Delving deep into its architectural choices, we've established many similarities with the previous 13th Gen Core series. The introduction of faster clock speeds, particularly evident when juxtaposing the Core i9-14900K with the Core i9-13900K, certainly paints a promising performance picture. But as with anything, specifications tell just half the story. Real-world applications set the actual benchmark in relation to performance, especially considering the demanding nature of high-performance tasks and even gaming.

The balance of power, efficiency, and, ultimately, cooling becomes even more paramount, a notion evident in our experiences with the Core i9-13900KS, where thermal limits posed noticeable issues on sustaining performance. The same Gracemont-based E-cores, reused across three generations, certainly raise eyebrows, prompting us to ponder the age-old debate of innovation vs. consistency. While DDR5 memory's advances over the past year are noted, significantly as the platform has matured and faster UDIMMs of up to DDR5-8000 are available at retail, actually attaining those kinds of speeds is down to luck of the draw with memory controller or IMC, as not all chips can support such speeds. Otherwise, the contrast of allowing users to use DDR4 memory still offers a layer of flexibility, albeit with its own sets of trade-offs.

Getting straight to the point, and potentially the most significant point that needs to be made, Intel's 14th Gen Core and Intel's 13th Gen Core are virtually identical in relation to P and E-core architecture and all the silicon underneath the IHS. Aside from the bump in the E-core count for the Core i7 series (i7-14700K/KF) chips, which brings four more E-cores than the Core i9-13700K (8P+12E vs. 8P+8E), we're looking at the same core configurations as the previous generation chips, just running at slightly higher clock speeds. Still, as Intel has bridged the gap closer between the Core i9 and Core i7 series with the 14th Gen Core, it makes the Core i7-14700K ($409) a better proposition in terms of value when compared to the original 13th Gen Core i7-13700K.

One area where Intel is tooting the horn with 14th Gen, so to speak, is through overclocking. Intel is promising higher DDR5 memory speeds with capabilities of up to DDR5-8000, which is impressive. Along these lines, Intel is offering their new 'Extreme Power Delivery Profile' on capable LGA1700 motherboards, which increases the current through ICCMax that can be put through the CPU to 400 A from 307 A. Finally, overclockers also have access to the new AI Assist, which uses a consistently trained AI model run by Intel in-house, AI assist looks to intelligently go through system characteristics and telemetry to determine the best overclocking settings for a given system.

As part of Intel's Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) overclocking software, AI Assist is only currently supported on the Core i9-14900K and KF processors. However, there is a possibility that it will be made available for other K series CPUs from Intel's 14th Gen Core series. While that still remains to be seen, this is a Core i9-only feature for now.

As part of our analysis, we will separate compute performance from gaming and focus on each area individually.

Intel 14th Gen Core Compute Performance: Much The Same as 13th Gen

Digesting the computing performance of Intel's new 14th Generation Core processors, we can see striking similarities when comparing the 14th and 13th Gen Core i9s and the Core i5s. In some areas, the extra clock speeds available on the Core i9-14900K show some benefit, but generally speaking, it won't make much difference in most areas.

The most significant win performance for the Core i9-14900K came in CineBench R23 MT, one of the most recognizable CPU benchmarks worldwide. While the Core i9-14900K sits 6% ahead in this benchmark, the Core i9-14900K and Core i9-13900K trade blows consistently throughout most of our testing. The big surprise is the Core i7-14700K, which, in the same CineBench R23 MT test, is around 10% behind the Core i9-13900K and benefits from the extra 4 x E-cores made available by Intel. The Core i5-14600K and Core i5-13600K are similar in specifications; they are practically the same chip, so they are so close together in performance

Another area where the additional frequencies on the Core i9-14900K made a little difference was in our SVT AV1 encoding test at 4K, which sits around 4% ahead of the Core i9-13900K. In contrast, the Core i7-14700K once again showed enough about it to sit among the 'big guns,' with respectable performance in all areas. The Core i5-14600K and Core i5-13600K are within margins of each other and, depending on the benchmark, are so close together it would be hard to distinguish which is which.

Watch Dogs: New Legion, 1,920 x 1,080, Ultra settings  | Created with Datawrapper
While we typically saw better AI and inferencing performance from AMD's Ryzen 7000 series processors, especially with the X3D variants in certain models benefiting from the 3D V-Cache, one area where Intel took the lead was in TensorFlow with the GoogLeNet model. Again, the Core i7-14700K performed well and was consistently behind both the Core i9 chips in performance, while the Core i5-14600K doesn't represent an upgrade over the Core i5-13600K, so we would prefer users saved some money and opted for the 13th Gen variant.

In our compute section of the test suite, as we've stated, the newer Core i9-14900K with advertised 6 GHz core clock speeds doesn't perform that much better than the Core i9-13900K in most situations. The other factor to consider is how similar the Core i5-14600K and Core i5-13600K perform, and if a blind test were performed, users wouldn't notice the difference. The standout for us is the Core i7-14700K, which costs $409 and represents a better buy if users can handle the fact it's not a flagship chip, but still, it's not far away at all in overall performance from either of the Core i9 chips.

Compared to AMD's Ryzen 7000 series processors, Intel with 14th Gen remains competitive, much like they did with 13th Gen. There's the caveat of the Ryzen 7000X3D processors such as the Ryzen 7 7800X3D, which offers exceptional gaming performance where the L3 cache can be benefited from, while the Ryzen 9 7950X is still a relevant CPU, especially given its the flagship bearer for compute performance from team AMD. While we typically saw better AI and inference performance in our suite with AMD's Ryzen 7000 chips, 14th/13th Gen and Ryzen 7000 are highly capable options if AI capability  isn't your thing.

Intel 14th Gen Gaming Performance: Just Slightly Faster 13th Gen

Now, as we've highlighted numerous times throughout this review, Intel's 14th Gen Raptor Lake refresh is broadly similar to the previous 13th Gen Core series. Despite frequency bumps to maximum boost frequencies on the Core i9-14900K to 6.0 GHz, sustaining it with high temperature and power draw is an entirely different matter. That being said, we experienced very similar levels of performance between both the 14th and 13th Gen core series in our testing, which, in all fairness, was to be expected given they are the same chips with slightly faster frequencies.

Using Borderlands 3 at 360p as an example in a non-GPU-limited scenario, the Core i9-14900K, Core i7-14700K, Core i9-13900KS, and Core i9-13900K are all within seven FPS. Even the Core i5-14600K is only a few frames behind the more expensive chips, including the Ryzen 9 7950X, which does show that the Core i5-14600K represents solid value for money at $319. Even at lower resolutions, Borderlands 3 is making use of the 3D V-Cache on the Ryzen 7000X3D chips, which does put them ahead in this particular use case. Given the Core i5-14600K and Core i5-13600K are nearly identical, with the only difference being a 100 MHz bump to E-core boost frequencies, this doesn't offer anything in relation to performance gains.

At 4K in Hitman 3 at high settings, there's not much benefit to opting for Intel's 14th Gen over the previous 13th Gen chips. It must be made clear that Intel's 14th Gen Core series isn't designed as a direct upgrade over 13th Gen, but more a more refined and higher binned Raptor Lake platform that offers more performance compared to older platforms such as 12th Gen and older, or even AMD's Ryzen 5000 and 3000 series processors.

At the end of the day, users currently using Intel's 13th Gen Core processors aren't going to see any benefit, at least not in the real-world sense, by upgrading to Raptor Lake Refresh. While it's good that Intel is constantly refining its processes and methods, gaming performance is more affected by graphics card capability than CPU. However, it's still important to strike the right balance to help alleviate bottlenecks.

Intel 14th Gen Core: Our Core i9-14900K Pulled 428W, What the?!?!

One notable thing we need to sink our teeth into is the power consumption, or how much power draw these Intel 14th Gen core chips are pulling compared to their predecessors. While Intel does define formal TDPs, including PL1 and PL2 values, motherboard vendors such as MSI, as per our MEG Z790 Ace MAX, seem to throw all sense of limitations out of the window. In our power testing, the maximum power value we drew from the Core i9-14900K was a staggering 428 W; this is wild by any stretch of the imagination. In contrast, the Core i9-13900K on the same board during our re-testing pulled 343 W in the same tests, showing the disdain or lack of care motherboard vendors have for power efficiency; we can't blame Intel for this.

With such a high power draw, for very few gains in performance, at least in our testing, doesn't put motherboard vendors in a particularly favorable light. Although they are all consistently striving to be the leader in performance, there's a limit, or there should be a limit to what motherboard vendors can do in relation to power. The simple fact is 428 W for a desktop processor when Intel's defined PL1/PL2 values at spec is 253 W representing a 69% excess in power consumption, and that's just from the CPU package. We strive to test CPUs out of the box with defaults for a chip and platform where applicable, and pulling 428 W at peak power, even if just a momentary spike, gives cause for concern.

Even the Core i7-14700K was notably high in peak power, just shy of 400 W itself, much higher than our Core i9-13900K pulled. Whether this is something to do with firmware infancy, which we're not buying, as Raptor Lake has been around for a good while now, something does need to be said about this. We know that 6 GHz is an impressive feat and looks good when marketing such a high clock speed, but it shouldn't come at the cost of power and heat, at least not to that degree.

When power draw isn't erring on the side of insanity, things look good, and there is some efficiency to be had, especially in gaming when there are no AVX-512 or highly intensive instruction sets churning through the P and E-cores simultaneously. As mentioned in our power section, we have contacted MSI directly regarding the issue and await a reply. This is something we will investigate further.

Core i7-14700K at $409 is The Star of 14th Gen Core

Regarding raw compute performance, out of the three Intel 14th Gen Core chips we've tested, the Core i9-14900K has the best performance, and as the platform's flagship, it should. While we know Raptor Lake Refresh is just a refresh, albeit with 100-200 MHz bumps to turbo clock speeds, we feel users already on 13th Gen should stick with what they have. Intel hasn't designed the 14th Gen around upgrading from the 13th Gen, and that's no secret. Intel is, however, using the maturity of the Intel 7 node with 'refinements' so it can squeeze out more MHz from already high-clocked chips. Intel 14th Gen, in a nutshell, is just better binned 13th Gen, but with one exception: The Core i7-14700K.

From all of Intel's 14th Gen Core series chips, the only chip to get an actual upgrade under the hood aside from frequency bumps is the Core i7-14700K, with 4 more E-cores than the Core i7-13700K, but for the same launch MSRP of $409. That's a bigger step up than what the other 14th Gen Core chips are delivering, and we can only presume, is an insurance bet from Intel to keep AMD at bay.

If users are on an older Intel platform such as 9th, 10th, or even 11th Gen, there are plenty of performance benefits by opting for Intel's 14th Gen Core. Unfortunately, the same could be said for upgrading to Intel's original Raptor Lake-based 13th Gen. Not only are current 13th Gen retail prices cheaper than when launched last year, but with how little difference, at least in our testing, that the frequency bumps are making, users can opt for either 14th or 13th Gen and know that they are getting fast and high-performance processors.

Even with the Core i5-14600K priced at $319, there are no actual performance benefits compared to the previous generation Core i5-13600K; the only difference is a 100 MHz bump to E-core boost clock speeds. At the time of writing, the Core i5-13600K can be bought on Amazon for $285, a saving of $34, which is essentially the same processor; users could opt for that route and save a little bit of money.

The Intel 14th Gen Core series is somewhat of a somber swansong to the traditional and famed Core i series naming scheme, rounding off what feels like the end of an era. With the shift to their upcoming Meteor Lake SoC, the impending launch of the new naming scheme (Core and Core Ultra) branding, and what Intel hopes to be a groundbreaking mobile chiplet-based architecture.

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