Overclocking & Wrap-Up
After months of hype over Devil's Canyon, it seemed clear to us that the Core i7-4790K was meant to be an overclocking beast for enthusiasts.
At Computex, Intel president Renee James said the chip could be pushed to 5GHz in air-cooled systems and the company's Francois Piednoel tweeted that he got 4.6GHz without a fan, so he'd have to offer some training to those who couldn't manage to hit 5GHz.
Unfortunately, I may have to take Piednoel up on his course in Devil's Canyon overclocking because our review sample wouldn't budge past 4.7GHz at 1.36v and it wasn't for a lack of trying. Intel's Australian PR company demanded to have the processor back within 7 days, so without a chance for future testing we weren't afraid to give the 4790K everything it could handle.
We forced dangerous voltage levels in an effort to stabilize the 4.8GHz overclock but no matter how much voltage we fed the chip our system would BSOD under minimal load.
In our book 4.7GHz is a far cry from effortless 5GHz we were somewhat promised, and it's no better than what we have been able to do with the 4770K for quite some time. After looking around, it seems almost everyone who has tested the 4790K so far has been limited to 4.7 - 4.8GHz as well.
For the record, we tried both air and water cooling when overclocking the 4790K as well as Z97 boards from Asrock and Gigabyte. We also reined in the 2400MHz memory to 1600MHz and 1866MHz while overclocking, albeit to no avail. Granted, our tests were done on an engineering sample, but we're disappointed in the results and it's hard not to wonder whether 5GHz on air was just marketing hype.
As expected, power consumption has increased 10% from the 4770K to the 4790K, which isn't bad given the 14% increase in clock speed. When it comes to operating temperatures, the 4790K seemed to run just a degree or two cooler than the 4770K, but any cooler at all is an achievement given the clock boost.
The good news for the i7-4790K is that it costs the same as the 4770K at $339, which should give you more bang for your buck if you were looking at buying a 4770K. Meanwhile, if you already own the year-old chip you can simply change its clock multiplier to x40, receive 4790K-like performance and feel good about your investment.
Pros: The Core i7-4790K is clocked 14% higher than the i7-4770K while running a degree or two cooler and costing the same at $339.
Cons: The chip's overclocking performance isn't as strong as Intel led us to believe, certainly not enough to upgrade from the 4770K.