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Skylake Review: Intel's 6th-gen CPU arrives with nice presents for gamers and enthusiasts

Gordon Mah Ung | Aug. 6, 2015
Intel's newest CPU was worth the wait—if you don't have unrealistic expectations.

The good news is the price of DDR4 isn't the deal-breaker it was when first introduced with Intel's Haswell-E CPUs last year. Today, you can get 8GB of DDR3/1333 for $40, while 8GB of DDR4/2133 costs $50.

You will need two of those modules for dual-channel support, because Skylake, like the last few consumer-grade chips, needs two modules to operate at its maximum bandwidth.

For those who always felt the 32GB of maximum RAM in the mainstream Haswell-based desktops was a limitation, Skylake's use of DDR4 means you can get 64GB of RAM into your rig without having to step up to a pricier Haswell-E system.

It's overclocking-friendly

Remember when Intel trumpeted that moving the circuits that govern the power for the processor into the CPU was a big leap forward for Haswell? Well, maybe it wasn't, because it's now been 86'ed with Skylake. 

The Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator (FIVR) was controversial from the beginning. When introduced with Haswell, overclockers and motherboard makers complained that it put a laptop architecture in the driver's seat, to the detriment of desktops.

While we probably won't know why FIVR missed the Skylake boat until IDF, Intel at least acknowledges that motherboard makers and overclockers should be happier this time. In fact, the company said it's produced one of its most "exciting" chips for overclockers in a long time.

If you think of overclocking as turning a bunch of interconnected knobs until you can run your CPU at the highest clock speed possible, Skylake offers far finer adjustments. For example, with Core i7-4790K, the base clock knob allowed settings of only 100MHz, 125MHz and 166MHz. With Skylake, that knob now changes in 1MHz increments, which means overclockers can tune in their highest clock speeds with more granularity.

Memory overclocking is another prominent feature. Skylake supports overclocked RAM up to DDR4/4133 speeds, and with finer resolution, too.

Keep reading--we're getting to the good stuff, about overclocking!

How well does it really overclock?

Rather than trying to overclock my single CPU sample on an unfamiliar chipset and motherboard and draw a conclusion that would be useful, wouldn't you rather know the results from someone who's already tried overclocking a ton of them?

That's what motherboard company Asus has done to help tune its automatic overclocking routines for Skylake.

Taking the results of what it achieved after trying to overclock trays of CPUs, Asus produces its pre-launch forecast that's usually an accurate predictor for what consumers can overclock to reliably.

You can basically expect to hit 4.6GHz to 4.7GHz with a retail Core i7-6700K chip, the company says. The absolute best samples will push 4.8GHz. That's actually a slight improvement over Haswell, which topped out at 4.5GHz on liquid cooling for most. Higher usable overclocks were few and far between, and many had worse overclocking experiences with Haswell, so Skylake is indeed an improvement

 

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