The Coffee Lake Story: Intel Core i7-8700K and Core i5-8400 Review
Perf per Dollar, Pricing, Conclusions
Performance Per Dollar
Pricing is based on current pricing as of the writing of this review.
The results provide some interesting commentary. When looking at single threaded performance, the Core i5-8400 is easily the best value on the market. With a price tag of $184, it is going to be a darling selection for a lot of enthusiasts for the foreseeable future. The Core i7-8700K is also high on this list, in the mix with the Core i7-7700K and the Core i5-7600K. For multi-threaded performance per dollar, the Core i5-8400 is again the standout product with the 8700K making a strong case for value in addition to raw performance.
(Note that since the creation of this data, AMD Ryzen 7 1800X has been selling for $399 and the Ryzen 7 1700X has been selling for $299. This definitely changes the performance per dollar story towards AMD, and giving the 1700X in particular, a significant jump.)
The performance story surrounding the 8th Generation Intel Core processors codenamed Coffee Lake is straightforward. Take the Kaby Lake parts that were already damned good, increase the core count in Core i7, Core i5, and Core i3 families, and also increase the clock speed by a couple of bins as well. The result is a collection of processors that is flat out better than the ones that existed previously on the Intel platform, with aggressive prices. You can pick up a 6-core, 12-thread Core i7-8700K for essentially the same price (+$20) as the 4-core, 8-thread Core i7-7700K just a week ago. And it runs at higher clock speeds in all cases based on our testing!
The performance of the Core i5-8400 is more interesting. Intel is proving the advantage of “true” cores over logical cores created by SMT with the 6-core, 6-thread 8400 able to match or outperform the Core i7-7700K (4c/8t) in many multi-threaded workloads. Couple that with impressive single threaded value and performance, even with lower clock speed peaks compared to the 8700K, and the $180 processor should be quite popular in budget builds this fall and winter.
AMD is in an interesting spot as well. The Ryzen 7 family of processors has more cores and more threads than even the Core i7-8700K but thanks to the IPC and clock advantages that Intel holds over the Zen designs, it can hold its own. In heavily threaded tests like Cinebench, Handbrake, and X264, AMD’s Ryzen 7 1800X and 1700X continue to hold the performance advantage over the 8700K. (Only in our Blender testing did the 8700K outshine Ryzen in MT testing.) This is significant, as it means this release from Intel didn’t push AMD out of the game. And thanks to some timely price drops (here’s hoping they stick), the 1800X and 1700X now sandwich the Core i7-8700K in the market.
- Intel Core i7-8700K - $359 - Amazon.com
- Intel Core i5-8400 - $184 - Amazon.com
- AMD Ryzen 7 1800X - $399 - Amazon.com
- AMD Ryzen 7 1700X - $299 - Amazon.com
Even though the Core i7-8700K and surrounding processors do not fundamentally change the mainstream consumer product stack or positioning, their release is impressively timed and appropriately aggressive. Ryzen shipped and proved that people valued core and thread counts, that they were willing to pay for performance improvements in these areas. Intel had been stuck in the quad-core game for too long, and Coffee Lake takes the same architecture that was Kaby Lake and simply adds more cores, while reshuffling the product lineup to raise performance across the board. Where Intel excelled before (1080p gaming, single/lightly threaded), it has improved its advantage by raising clock speeds. Where Intel struggled against Ryzen (multi-threaded applications), it has made significant inroads.
On the downside, however, there will be quite a bit of frustration in the community around the Z370 chipset and the requirement for consumers that may have JUST bought into the Kaby Lake family to buy brand new motherboards in order to take advantage of Coffee Lake processors. I get it, it sucks. It was only January that we had the Z270 and Core i7-7700K first hit the street. Doing a complete motherboard, chipset, and CPU update in the mainstream market this quickly is unheard of. But Intel needed to make some changes in order to update it positioning against Ryzen, and this clearly accomplishes that.
Overall, if you are building a new PC today, I think the Core i7-8700K or the Core i5-8400 (depending on your budget) make exceedingly excellent options. The single threaded performance advantages that Intel provides, as well as the potentially better gaming, give Intel continued leadership is many consumers' eyes. If you are a heavy multi-threaded user, doing video rendering or 3D modelling, Ryzen likely remains a better option in the enthusiast price range, though with 6-cores now available in the mainstream CPU family, the Intel is closer and more competitive than it has been since March.