Enthusiasts, rejoice! After what has been a very long dry spell, Intel has reawakened to the enthusiast market and is poised to deliver two impressive processor launches this month. Both chips are part of the larger Haswell-refresh launch with several other models receiving normal 100MHz frequency bumps.
The first launch is Devil’s Canyon, a chip that starts out at 4GHz and only clocks up from there thanks to some specific design tweaks that we will get into in a moment. The second launch is the Pentium 20th Anniversary Edition which will be an unlocked 3.2GHz dual-core part. The eye-popper is that the Pentium G3258 is fully unlocked yet has the price of a mere $72 in 1K quantities, making this a very affordable chip for anyone that doesn’t need four cores and/or simply wants to overclock a cheap chip to the moon.
Devil’s Canyon has some surprises in store besides “just” its 4GHz base clockspeed. Intel went back to its engineers and had them refine the 4770K’s power circuitry with the goal of achieving higher frequencies. Borrowing from the slide deck, it is readily apparent that Intel has added a great number of smaller capacitors to smooth power delivery as well as shuffling circuitry around to make it all fit.
But with higher clocks comes more heat, and so with complaints about Haswell’s TIM still ringing in everyone’s ears, Intel also had its engineers develop a new TIM material. Christened with a very Intel-ish name of “Next-Generation Polymer Thermal Interface Material” or NGPTIM for short, Intel wouldn’t disclose performance characteristics but indicated it would be an improvement over the TIM in current processors. At the present time only the 4790K will be using this new thermal compound, as even the Pentium G3258 will be using the standard TIM.
Intel also decided to not tease any overclocking numbers but that is modus operandi for the company. Intel was instead happy to point out that on June 3rd it will be hosting a public overclocking event at Computex featuring Devil’s Canyon processors, so if enthusiasts want to get a good idea of the overclocking capabilities of the 4790K, then that should do it!
While all Haswell-refresh parts should work fine in Z87 motherboards after the appropriate UEFI updates, Intel is recommending enthusiasts pair Devil’s Canyon with its just launched Z97 series chipsets for best results. Intel did also confirm that future Broadwell processors will require a 9-series chipset.
That leaves us with pricing. We already mentioned the Anniversary Pentium G3258 will launch at $72, but of equal surprise to me about this launch was finding out that Devil’s Canyon would be launching at the same MSRP as the current 4770K ($339). Not only do all these overclocking-focused tweaks deliver some real value to enthusiasts, but the base clock-speed jump between the 4770K and 4790K is a whopping 500MHz as well. This in itself is highly unusual from Intel and might even be one of the largest frequency jumps between neighboring SKUs the company has ever done.
Needless to say Intel has recently become keenly aware of the role enthusiasts and gamers currently play in the desktop market. PC gaming is currently fueling growth in hardware sales, and enthusiasts are also behind the strong sales of Intel’s i5 and i7 offerings in the desktop market segment. We most likely have Lisa Graff, recently appointed VP and GM of Intel’s Desktop Client Platform Group to thank for this, and it will be intriguing to see what this new focus from Intel may bring to the enthusiast market in the future.