Intel Core i7-4770K Review: Haswell Has Landed

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Z87 Chipset and Intel DZ87KLT-75K

We tested the Core i7-4770K on a quartet of Intel Z87 Express based motherboards from Intel, ASUS, MSI, and Gigabyte. The Z87 Express chipset was designed to be the companion to Intel’s high-end Haswell-based desktop processors, but there are a slew of other 8-series chipsets planned as well. The main differences between the various 8-series chipsets is in their support for things like overclocking, Intel Smart Response Technology, and management and vPro-related features. Some of the chipsets also offer support for flexible PCI Express lane configurations and vary in their number of available SATA 6.0Gbs and USB 3.0 ports.

Since we’re focusing on the Core i7-4770K here, we’ll discuss the Z87 Express a bit further. The high-level block diagram above gives a good visual representation of the Z87 Express chipset’s main features. Like the previous-gen Z77 (and a few generations to come before it), the new Z87 Express chipset is essentially an I/O hub, as all of the traditional Northbridge functionality previously found in a Northbridge chip has been integrated into the processor itself.

As you can see, Intel’s socket 1150 Core processors offer 16 lanes of PCI Express 3.0 connectivity on-die, which can be configured in a number of difference ways (i.e. 1x16, 2x8, etc.) and they feature integrated dual-channel, DDR3 memory controllers with maximum officially supported speeds of up to 1600MHz (much higher speeds are possible with overclocking, however).

The processors are linked to the chipset via Intel’s FDI (Flexible Display Interface) and 20Gb/s DMI 2.0 interface. The chipset itself is outfitted with 8 more PCIe 2.0 lanes, along with various other I/O, like six SATA ports and an integrated Gigabit MAC. You’ll also find native USB 3.0 support, with up to six USB 3.0 and fourteen USB 2.0 ports built in. The chipset has support for Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology (RST) as well, along with RAID, Smart Response Technology, or SRT, and other features like FastBoot and HD Audio.

The main benefits Intel’s 8-series chipsets offer over the previous-gen 7-series are broken down in the table above. The 8-series offers more USB 3.0 ports, more SATA 6Gbps ports, legacy PCI support has been removed from all SKUs (though PCI slots will still be offered on some motherboards using separate controllers), and the digital display options have been moved onto the processor.

  
Intel's DZ87KLT-75K Extreme Series Motherboard

Intel’s top-of-the-line Z87 Express-based motherboard is the DZ87KLT-75K, pictured here. The DZ87KLT-75K is a member of Intel’s Extreme Series of motherboards, and as such, features the black and dark blue color scheme of its predecessors and a full complement of overclocking capabilities.

As you’d expect from an Intel-built motherboard featuring and Intel chipset, the DZ87KLT-75K exploits all of the features inherent to the Z87 Express and adds a few more, like Bluetooth, WiFi and Firewire, through the use of third-party controllers. The board features Intel’s “Fast Boot” technology, which speeds the boot process by eliminating the need to complete a full POST when the hardware and configuration of the system is unchanged from the previous boot.

   

   

The DZ87KLT-75K also supports Extreme Memory Profiles for easy high-speed memory configuration and even includes an extensive set of overclocking tools via an excellent UEFI Intel is calling their Visual BIOS. We should point out that those overclocking tools are not only available via the UEFI, but also through a Windows-based application called the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility, or Intel XTU. XTU gives users the ability to tweak numerous performance-related options and monitors system temperatures and fan speeds. “One Touch” overclocking options are also available via a simple slider for those that want a quick and easy speed boost, without doing much tweaking.

The DZ87KLT-75K features heavy-duty heatsinks for the chipset and voltage regulation modules, integrated power and reset switches, solid capacitors, and a POST code error reporter, along with a number of LED status indicators. The board is outfitted with three PCI Express x16 slots, with full support for both NVIDIA’s SLI and AMD’s CrossFire multi-GPU technologies.

Included with the Intel DZ87KLT-75K, we found an Intel “Extreme Series” mouse mat, a quick installation guide, a custom I/O shield, an SLI bridge, a WiFi and Bluetooth module (with requisite cable), and a driver / utility CD.
 


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