Intel Reveals Two New Unlocked CPUs, Big Price Drops

Alex Castle

Intel’s Got Unlocked Procs Too; and Cheap

AMD isn’t the only company with modestly priced unlocked chips now. Intel on Thursday released two new “K” series chips which feature unlocked multipliers with extremely attractive pricing.

The 2.93GHz Core i7-875K clocks is essentially an unlocked version of the company’s top LGA1156 chip; the 2.95GHz Core i7-870. The new 875K has 8MB of L2 cache, Turbo Boosts up to 3.6GHz and has a 95 Watt TDP rating. We’ve buried the real news though: the price. The new Core i7-875K has a volume price of $342. The Core i7-870 has a volume price of $562.

Will Intel slash the prices of the 870 and other LGA1156 procs? The company didn’t give out details at press time, but it did say it will bring its product in line. We’d guess that it means a price cut not only for the Core i7-870, but also to the $284 2.8GHz Core i7-860 and Core 2.66GHz i5-750 which has a volume price of $196.

Dual-core lovers will also get some action in the new 3.2GHz Core i5-655K. We don’t expect the dual-core lineup to get the same rejiggering as the quad LGA1156 parts. The new 655K has a volume price of $216. That’s slightly more than the 3.2GHz Core i5-650’s $176.

Obviously, the excitement will be over the quad-core LGA1156 components. For those who aren’t in the know, an unlocked part, means there’s no fixed clock multiplier. Clock multipliers are used to set the default maximum clock speed of a CPU. For example, the 2.93GHz Core i7-870 features a clock multiplier of 22x. When factored in with a stock Base clock or bclock of 133MHz, that makes the chip 2.93GHz. If the chip were unlocked, you could set the multiplier to, say, 25x and it would hopefully boot the system at 3.3GHz. Intel, however, locks the multiplier at 22x. Users cannot dial up the multiplier to overclock (they are, however, underclock the chip).

With the Core i7-870, the only way to overclock would be to increase the bclock above 133MHz. Using a 22x multiplier on, say, a 166MHz bus, the system would boot at 3.6GHz.
The Core i7-875K’s the unlocked multiplier allows a user to use a combination of higher stock multiplier and bclock to hit higher speeds. There’s other overclocking features enabled as well. The 875K will give you more memory ratios and also change the power and current limits of the chip.  These last two self-regulate in the CPU and can limit an overclocking run’s top range.

Despite all these new features, you should temper your expectations. The $1,000 3.2GHz Core i7-965 Extreme Edition pretty much topped out at 4GHz with good air cooling. It had all the unlocked bells and whistles too. Many users have successfully pushed the 2.66GHz Core i7-920 to the same levels and that chip was locked and cost $284 when released.
So don’t expect to swap out your Core i7-870 for a Core i7-875K and suddenly jump past that 4GHz overclock to 5GHz.
Although we did not run benchmarks on the Core i7-875K, we’d be really surprised if the stock speeds really had any change from the Core i7-870. If you want to see numbers see our Gulftown feature here and our http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/intel_rolls_six and our Thuban feature here: http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/power_six. The performance summary is that the chip, like its near duplicate, Core i7-870, is stellar. It’s damn near the performance of the Core i7-965 Extreme Edition but a hell of a lot cheaper.

The take away is that price is the real news. The Core i7-875K at $342 puts a definite crimp into AMD’s Phenom II X6 10 1090T. In the vast majority of today’s content creation apps and games, the 1090T had a hard time competing with the 2.8GHz Core i7-860. The Core i7-870 was never considered serious competition because it cost $562 vs. $300. With the Core i7-875K at $342, it’s hard to make an argument for the Phenom II X6 1090T. The Core i7-870 and by extension, the Core i7-875K, whips the 1090T in everything except 3D rendering.

For Intel buyers, the Core i7-875K also makes it a tough call when deciding to build between a LGA1156 and LGA1366 but we break it down like this: If you don’t care about upgrading  to a hexa-core Gulftown and you don’t care about multi-GPU gaming, the LGA1156 platform is fast and much cheaper to get into. If you do want to eventually upgrade to a hexa-core processor (there’s rumors of a $562 Core-i7 970 part for later this summer) and you want multi-GPU gaming, you should pay the extra and build on LGA1366.

Either way, the technology in the Core i7-875K is nothing to get excited over – the pricing, however, is something to do cartwheels down the aisle at your local electronics store.

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