Overclocking The Core i3-7350K
The Intel Core i3-7350K could be an interesting chip for overclockers on a budget, so we also spent some time overclocking the chip using the Gigabyte Aorus Z270X-Gaming 9 motherboard to see what kind of additional untapped horsepower the processor had lurking under its hood.
Kaby Lake K-SKU processors can also be overclocked by adjusting BCLK frequencies though, so it's possible to really fine tune the end result if you so choose. With the Core i7-7700K, we took a conservative approach to overclocking and stuck with air-cooling, to give you all an approximate “worst case scenario.” This time around, we opted for a closed-loop liquid cooling system from Corsair to see how far we could push the Core i3-7350K.
Although there are more powerful options available, we chose the Corsair H80i v2 for a couple of reasons. First, it was relatively affordable. We don't think anyone buying a sub-$200 processor is going to drop a similar amount on a cooler. Second, since the Core i3-7350K has only a 60W TDP, the H80i V2 offered more than enough cooling performance.
To see what our 7350K could do, we manually cranked the core voltage up to 1.4v and shot for a modest 4.6GHz (45x100MHz), which worked without incident. We continually cranked things up and could actually get Windows to boot into Windows 10 at 5.2GHz, but we couldn't stabilize the system -- it would throw a blue screen in most benchmarks. After coming back down to 5GHz, things stabilized though and we were able to complete every benchmark we threw at it. We should note, that while the CPU was overclocked to 5GHz, we also employed XMP with the G.SKILL memory kit we used and were able to run the memory at DDR4-3600. The H80i V2 was able to keep the chip in the low 80'C range as well, so there were no throttling issues to contend with.
Overclocking the Core i3-7350K to 5GHz gave it a nice boost in performance in the multi-threaded tests, but not enough to push it past some of the more expensive processors with additional CPU cores. In the single or lightly-threaded tests, however, the increased clock speed pushed the Core i3-7350K to the top of the charts.
The graphics related tests also showed some performance improvements as well, especially with the discrete GPU installed. You'll notice the Crysis graph is particularly crowded with data points. Over the course of testing the 7350K, we overclocked it with an air-cooler, and also ran some tests with the memory running at its maximum, officially supported speed of 2400MHz. So, we've got Crysis numbers with the Core i3-7350K running at its stock speed, at 4.9GHz -- which was the peak frequency we could hit on air, at 5GHz, and at 5GHz with the memory cranked up to 3600MHz as well. As you can see, bumping up the CPU core clock and memory speed with the discrete GPU installed, pushed performance up quite a bit.
Some of you are probably wondering how overclocking the Core i3-7350K to 5GHz affects framerates and graphics performance in games as well. So, we also ran a couple of higher-resolution tests with a GeForce GTX 1060 installed into the test rig. 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme (which runs at 2560x1440) showed only a marginal improvement due to the higher physics score mostly. Actual framerates didn't change much in this GPU bound scenario. In the DX12-benchmark Hitman, with a more modest 1080p resolution and "high" image quality settings, the CPU's boost in clock speed, along with the faster memory, pushed the frame rate up by about 8%.
High-res game test results may be different with a higher performance GPU, that's more likely to be bound by CPU performance, more often, but we doubt there are many of you planning to pair a Core i3 to a $600+ graphics card...