It’s been a long time coming, but Haswell has made it to the MAX-IT offices! Intel’s new microarchitecture is now available at retailers all across the world, and comes in your familiar Core i3, i5 and i7 naming scheme, albeit with a “4” rather than a “2” (Sandy Bridge) and “3” (Ivy Bridge). Of course, you’re wondering how much of a performance gap you can expect from investing in this new piece of technology. So without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Let’s start with a brief overview of what Haswell is. It is a new “tick” in Intel’s development cycle (note: “tick” is a brand new product, while “tock” is an improvement over the “tick”. Example: Sandy Bridge is a “tick”, while Ivy Bridge a “tock”). With this new microarchitecture altogether comes a few differences. Desktop Haswell chips conform to the LGA1150 socket, which means investing in a new, 8-series motherboard, since the new processors will not fit in previous generation bards, which have the LGA1155 socket. Another major improvement is in the integrated graphics. Intel has updated its HD Graphics component to “Intel HD Graphics 4600”, and we’ll look at its performance when we get to the benchmarks.
The processor to showcase Haswell’s power is none other than the Core i7-4770K. Like the Core-i7-3770K and Core i7-2600K before it, it is a quad-core processor capable of eight threads – great for multi-tasking. It packs Intel’s HD Graphics 4600, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, which should run games at 720p resolution with lowered details. The “K” suffix means it’s unlocked, so you can overclock it beyond the 3.9GHz Turbo clock speed. By default, it runs at a snappy 3.5GHz.
Of course, what good is a processor without a motherboard to accompany it? So head on to the next page to take a look at Intel’s own Z87 board, the DZ87KLT-75K.
[[Introduction: Intel DZ87KLT-75K]]
The DZ87KLT-75K is a full-featured board by Intel, coming with all the goodies that the Z87 has to offer. For starters, it goes with Haswell processors, as it uses the LGA1150 socket. The board supports dual channel RAM, up to 32GB of the stuff. By default, it supports up to 1600MHz, but with a bit of tinkering, you can raise it up, or if your sticks support XMP, just opt for that profile instead.
Like Ivy Bridge before it, there is a PCIE x16 3.0 slot smack in the middle, followed by a PCIE x8 3.0, so you can get an SLI setup going (an SLI bridge comes bundled). There are several PCIE slots (three x1, one x4), and a vanilla PCI slot, so you’re never short of expansion options.
If you look closely, you can also find a mini-PCIE slot which is compatible with mSATA SSDs. Instead of a mere two SATA 6Gbps connectors, the new 8-series board comes with eight (six from Intel, two from Marvell), getting you the best possible transfer speeds.
In terms of connectivity and expansion, the DZ87KLT-75K does not disappoint. Intel has increased the number of native USB 3.0 ports with the new chipset, with six of them at the back, and a USB 3.0 header that can form another pair. There are also a pair of USB 2.0 ports, with another six available in the form of three headers. Personally, I would have preferred if they put in another USB 3.0 header rather than clumping all the USB 3.0 ports, to accommodate the usage of USB 3.0 card readers as well as front panel connectors, but I digress. A PS/2 port can be found, which is great for some mechanical keyboards, or older peripherals.
Display expansion comes in the form of HDMI and Thunderbolt (now in its second iteration), and completing the lineup are two RJ45 connectors and a single Firewire connector. Your audio options are either your usual line-in or SPDIF.
But wait, there’s more! Head on to the page to look at our second Z87 entrant, the Z87-C by ASUS.
[[Introduction: ASUS Z87-C]]
As you can surmise from the product name, the Z87-C belongs to ASUS’ family of new Z87 motherboards. The board is catered towards the everyman, with the TUF and ROG line the choice of gamers and enthusiasts. You still get a fair bit of performance from this board, so if you are not the tinkering type, this is a safe bet.
The colour scheme departs from the blue-black combo found in previous boards, and instead goes with a champagne-black look. ASUS haven’t ditched the blue-black design, however, as you can still find them on their AMD offerings instead.
Aesthetics aside, this ATX board has got all the bare essentials covered, and then some. The motherboard supports four sticks of DDR3 RAM, up to a maximum of 32GB. So far, so run-of-the-mill. However, look a little closer and you’ll see that you can tweak your memory to run at an impressive 3000MHz. In comparison, our best pair of memory sticks in the MAX-IT offices are capable of 2400MHz under Intel’s XMP. So overclockers, rejoice!
The Z87-C features a single PCIE 3.0 x16 slot as well as a PCIE 2.0 x4 slot, but rather than SLI compatibility (found in the Intel DZ87KLT-75K), the board goes with AMD’s CrossFire. If you’re going for a multi-GPU setup, then you should be going for Team Red with this board. In addition, there is a PCIE 2.0 x1 slot, and three PCI connectors. The features continue with the same native SATA 6GBps support, now available on all six connectors.
Looking at connectivity and expansion, the Z87-C differs slightly from the Intel board. Four USB 3.0 ports and a pair of USB 2.0 ports can be found on the back, with an extra pair of USB 3.0 ports and an additional six USB 2.0 ports found as headers on the board proper. The board covers all three major display outputs – VGA, HDMI and DVI, in lieu of only HDMI and Thunderbolt on the Intel. You will also find a single RJ45 port, a PS/2 connector and a surround audio solution. As you’ll notice, there are omissions when compared to the Intel offering, but it should satisfy most users.
So with that (not so) brief overview, let’s head to the benchmarks segment of the review.
For a comparison, I pit the newcomers with their older siblings from Ivy Bridge. The variables and constants for this test are:
- Intel Core i7-3770K – Intel DZ77GA-70K, ASUS Maximus V Gene
- Intel Core i7-4770K – Intel DZ87KLT-75K, ASUS Z87-C
- 2x 8GB Kingston HyperX Beast, 2400MHz
- 128GB SSD
- No graphics card
Scores from previous motherboards were also entered into the charts, but do note they were equipped with a lower amount of memory than the four on test.
For the computing part, tests were done twice – once without touching the base clock speed, and after a slight overclock (around 4.4 – 4.6GHz).
Unfortunately, the DZ87KLT-75K was not able to boot when its processor and memory were tweaked. Despite updating the BIOS version, the board was still unable to accept the boost. So the clock speed was left as is, while memory speed was stuck at 1333MHz. Considering that we have another Z87 board, you’ll still get to observe the full potential of Haswell.
Perhaps due to the slower clock and memory speed, the Intel offering only managed to put itself neck-and-neck with the other boards in the list when put through PCMark Vantage. ASUS, seem to have tweaked their board for the best performance right out of the box, as seen through its higher score, but that comes with a drawback: you won’t get much out of small tweaks.
Whether it’s Home, Creative or Work, Haswell aces PCMark 8 with ease. You can observe a performance advantage of at least 10% across all three scenarios when using the Intel board, and more with the ASUS.
The tables are turned in SiSoft Sandra’s arithmetic benchmark, with the Intel-Intel combo leading, even overtaking the ASUS Z87-C.
The performance gap between Haswell and Ivy Bridge is very visible in Sandra’s Multi-Media benchmark, with the Haswell group leaving the Z77 group in the dust.
In Sandra’s Cryptography benchmark, the Intel and ASUS boards, despite housing the same processor, showed very different results, with the ASUS offering leading in both SHA2-512 and AES256 encryption.
And that concludes the computing side of the benchmarks. In the next page, we see how Intel HD Graphics 4600 fares.
[[Benchmarks: Intel HD Graphics 4600]]
To test the gaming prowess of Haswell, we set all the games to run at 1280 x 720 pixels with Medium settings. If you’re looking to play games at 1920 x 1080 pixels, then you should invest in a graphics card.
We start with Crysis Warhead. At 720p, the game managed showcase the performance gap between Intel HD Graphics 4000 and 4600. The newer solution managed to take a 35% lead in average framerate, moreso with the ASUS board. Yes, this can definitely run Crysis.
Next in the lineup are Resident Evil 5 and 6, and in both games, the performance gap is not that significant. In RE5, a mere 3fps separates Haswell from Ivy Bridge.
The same results can be observed in RE6, with a narrow gap separating the new from the old. With the ASUS board however, the gap was easily observable, even distancing itself from the Intl DZ87KLT-75K with a 10% gap.
In Mafia 2, the new Core i7 managed to break 30fps, with a 10% lead over the the older Intel HD Graphics 4000, while the ASUS board goes further, offering an average framerate of 38fps.
Intel HD Graphics 4600 takes off in Batman: Arkham City, with a 24fps lead over the previous generation’s offering in average framerate – a 60% advantage. The ASUS board further solidifies that lead, with an extra 8fps advantage of the Intel board.
Last but not least, we have the Tomb Raider reboot. The current offering bests its older siblings with a difference of about 4fps in average framerate, which translates to a sizeable 13% gap. ASUS, with their tweaking, manages to extend that lead, bringing you closer and closer to the 60fps mark.
And that concludes the benchmark section of the article. My concluding remarks can be found at the last page.
If you’ve missed out on both LGA1155 offerings, then you should get the new Haswell chip. With great performance overall as well as a lot of improved features on LGA1150 motherboards, Intel’s latest solution is pretty hard to pass.
Judging from the benchmark scores, the ASUS Z87-C seems to have gone through some prior tweaking before reaching the consumer. This is great if you’re looking a powerful setup right out of the box, but tweakers might find limited gains when overclocking. That is, unless you decide to push it beyond 4.6GHz. For a painless powerhouse, this might be your best option.