Intel Devil’s Canyon review
Intel’s brisk production schedule should see the new 14nm Broadwell architecture arrive by Christmas, but that doesn’t mean Haswell is out of tricks. To tide us over until the next generation of processors arrives, Intel has released a new spin on the Haswell design, codenamed Devil’s Canyon, that manages to squeeze a decent performance boost out of the hardware.
Intel Devil’s Canyon review: what’s new?
It’s a feat that’s been achieved not through complex re-engineering, but by simply switching to a new thermal interface material – that is, the stuff inside the chip that conducts heat away from the transistors and up to the heatsink. Thanks to the use of “next-generation” thermal material, the new chips enjoy much better heat dissipation than the original Haswell models, so they can run faster without overheating.
What this means in practice depends on whether you go for a Core i5 or i7 processor. For the high-end Core i5-4690K, Intel has rather modestly set the base clock at 3.5GHz, only 100MHz higher than that of its predecessor, the Core i5-4670K.
With the Core i7-4790K, however, Intel has pulled out all the stops. Previously, the fastest Intel CPU on the market was the Core i7-4770K, which has a base speed of 3.5GHz; the i7-4790K takes the same design, but cranks it up to 4GHz. When it comes to single-core operations, Turbo boost technology accelerates things further – to an eyebrow-raising 4.4GHz.
Intel Devil’s Canyon review: Core i7-4790K performance
It’s no surprise, then, that the new chip tears through benchmarks. Tested under Windows 8, with 8GB of RAM and a Samsung 840 EVO SSD, the Core i7-4790K achieved a magnificent overall score of 1.27 – a huge 13% improvement on the Core i7-4770K, representing the highest score we’ve seen from any desktop chip. Predictably, the single-threaded Media section of the test was a particular strong suit: here the Core i7-4790K scored 1.35.
And, incredibly, the i7-4790K had yet more to give, since, like all K-class processors, Devil’s Canyon chips come with unlocked Turbo multipliers. We configured our Core i7-4790K to clock itself up to 4.7GHz for single- and double-threaded tasks, and 4.6GHz for more demanding scenarios. At these speeds, it achieved an overall score of 1.31 with a standard, low-profile Intel fan.
Such performance comes at a price, of course. It’s hard to complain too much, since Intel is actually selling the i7-4790K at exactly the same price as the older i7-4770K. All the same, £263 is a lot of money to spend on a CPU, and unless you do a lot of heavy-duty, multi-threaded computing, you might struggle to detect much difference between this and a much cheaper Core i3 or i5 model.
It’s also worth noting that running at these sorts of speeds takes a lot of power. Flip over a Devil’s Canyon chip and you’ll see an extra crop of capacitors that regular Haswell processors lack. To keep these fed, the new chips have a thermal design power of 88W – slightly higher than the 84W of their predecessors. This means that a regular Series 8 motherboard may need a BIOS update to accommodate a Devil’s Canyon chip.
Intel Devil’s Canyon review: verdict
But so what? Devil’s Canyon isn’t aimed at the low-cost, low-power market. It’s for enthusiasts and can’t-get-enough workstation jockeys, and for them it delivers better performance than Intel’s previous flagship at a reasonable price. If you’re looking for exceptional desktop performance, there’s only one reason we can think of to hold off on buying a Devil’s Canyon system: with Intel wringing such phenomenal performance from its 22nm architecture, who knows what might be possible with its forthcoming 14nm parts?
|Cores (number of)||4|
|L2 cache size (total)||8.0MB|
|Thermal design power||88W|