Its only been a year since Intel’s launch of the new Haswell family and we’ve already seen a refresh of the regular processor lineup. Overall, Haswell refresh is underwhelming, giving consumers a few 100MHz boosts here and there, but nothing more. That’s all set to change today though, because Intel is finally able to share all the details on Devil’s Canyon and the Pentium Anniversary Edition processor. Its a small launch, but a very important one that shows Intel is listening to enthusiasts for once. Hit the jump for all the juicy bits.
Devil’s Canyon is different from the regular Haswell refresh. Not only are there changes to cooling and the shipping clock speeds, there are also subtle hardware changes that don’t make any difference in most cases, but are important to overclockers and power users.
The Devil’s Canyon chips only have two models – the Core i7-4790K and the Core i5-4690K. One is a quad-core chip with hyper-threading, the other is the same just without the virtual cores.
The important thing to remember is that these chips aren’t more expensive than the processors that they replace. Intel doesn’t want to cannibalise sales of their older chips, but they know that enthusiasts aren’t happy with the fact that they have to de-lid their processors to get better cooling that Intel could have provided right from the start.
These chips will also work on Z87 motherboards, provided that the boards can cope with the power delivery requirements and have a BIOS update pushed out to allow for the use of Devil’s Canyon chips. Intel obviously prefers that you use the Z97 chipset, but it won’t entirely force you into it.
Although the TDP rating changes slightly, the i7-4790K sees a big boost in the base frequency to 4.0GHz. Its been a while since Intel shipped a consumer-bound processor that has a 4.0GHz base speed. Boost frequencies are similarly high, reaching 4.4GHz, which is rather surprising considering most Haswell K-series processors don’t reach anywhere near there without a big voltage jump.
The GPU side and the memory controllers don’t see any changes and the price doesn’t change either, hence the reason why it’s still possible to use these chips in some Z87 motherboards.
The hardware changes are more under the hood and less obvious unless you have the previous and new K-series chips next to each other. There are extra capacitors added to improve power delivery and stability at the higher frequencies. A new thermal grease now sits in between the chip and the heatspreader to improve heat transfer, removing the need for any de-lidding (or at least, taking away most of the reason why anyone would be de-lidding in the first place).
None of this changes the chip’s behaviour at stock speeds or with the stock cooler, it’s all for the enthusiast’s benefit. There might be benefits further down the line for mobile variations that use this same hardware change and it might even find its way into Skylake eventually. There’s also a good chance that these chips are also binned already for operation at higher frequencies, but it’s anyone’s guess where Intel’s testing ceiling ends.
The two K-series processors also have built-in support for TSX instructions, which Intel developed to accelerate multi-threaded code. Omitting TSX from their enthusiast processors was a bit odd, but given the target market it probably wasn’t very important to begin with. VT-D and other virtualisation hardware is still chopped out, as Intel would prefer people buy locked chips for that kind of workload.
The other newcomer is a Pentium chip with some voomah inside, thanks to an unlocked multiplier. Its to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Pentium brand, a name which mostly sticks in people’s minds because of the absurd power that cheaper Pentium processors in the Core 2 era had once overclocked (and I have two of them, the E5200 and the E2180) as well as the original Pentium III (which also started off the Pentium M chip which eventually ended up as the Core Duo and the base of the Core 2 family).
It won’t be called the Pentium Anniversary Edition either, Intel simply calls it the Pentium G3258. No fanfare or sparkly things to hint at the real power inside.
How far it’ll overclock is anyone’s guess, but the relatively low levels of cache will ensure that there is quite a bit of headroom available to push it to, say, 4.4GHz. Two stupidly fast cores based on the Haswell architecture will scream past anything AMD has in the same price range. At a US RRP of $72, only the AMD Athlon X4 740 or the X4 750K are able to offer an unlocked multiplier, but those are also quad-core processors based on the Piledriver architecture.
Like the K-series chips, there are no changes to the memory controller and it’s capable of running on Z87 motherboards provided that they have a BIOS update. Availability for the Pentium G3258 and the Devils Canyon processors are slated for June, but availability in South Africa could take a month or two above that.
I know my System Builder’s guide is going to look very, very different in August! Who’s keen on snapping one of these chips up?