Intel's affordable hex-core chip could future-proof your PC

Intel's eight-core i7 5960X super chip may have grabbed a lot of headlines for its unprecedented multi-threading capabilities, but as a $1,000 CPU it was effectively irrelevant for most PC gamers. Their significantly cheaper Core i7 5820K , though, is a serious step up in performance from the Devil's Canyon quad-core, and I've just got my hands on it for the first time.

Scan sent me their 3XS X99 Carbon, a £1,830 / $2900 gaming PC, and it's rocking the six-core, twelve-thread 5820K in an overclocked state. You also get a 500GB SSD, 16GB of DDR4 running at 2,666MHz and the excellent EVGA GTX 780 Ti SC edition.

That is still a lot of money for a gaming rig; if you were to build a similar setup yourself you could probably shave a good chunk of cash off that final bill.

The important thing is in this overclocked state the i7 5820K is performing just as quickly as Intel's $1,000 CPU from their last generation of Extreme processors. We're talking about a $300 chip hitting the same level as the most powerful desktop processor on offer just a month or so back.

My Ivy Bridge E i7 4960X is capable of hitting 4.62GHz, but still isn't able to outperform the new six-core chip—which is about a third of the price—when it's operating at 4.25GHz.

In Cinebench R15 they both post index scores of 1,238. Significantly though, while the 4960X is running at 78 degrees C at full CPU load, the 5820K is sauntering along at just 62 degrees C.

This is all very impressive stuff from the first genuinely affordable Intel hex-core CPU, but there are always the multi-core caveats of today's game engines to keep in mind. Right now those extra cores/threads don't make a huge amount of difference when it comes to gaming performance. In most games we're at a stage where we're more GPU-bound than CPU-bound, so extra graphics performance is what we're really after to boost frame rates.

But, given that there isn't much of a price difference between Intel's top Devil's Canyon i7 and this great value hex-core i7, it means you've got something to think about when you're looking to put together a future-proof, high-end gaming rig. Game engines will (hopefully) start to take advantage of multi-threaded processors in the coming years and the i7 5820K will definitely stand you in good stead.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.