Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Skylake Review: Intel's 6th-gen CPU arrives with nice presents for gamers and enthusiasts

Gordon Mah Ung | Aug. 6, 2015
Intel's newest CPU was worth the wait—if you don't have unrealistic expectations.

The only real disappointment will be for those who bought into the leaked stories that Skylake would hit 5.2GHz on air cooling--not even liquid cooling--and believed it would translate into an experience for all. If Asus' data is correct (and there's nothing to indicate otherwise), the only 5GHz overclocks will live in your memories of Intel's Sandy Bridge CPUs.

As a consolation prize, you should know Asus' forecast says Skylake CPUs can hit DDR4/3600 clock speeds with all four DIMM slots filled on a good motherboard (ahem--from Asus, natch).

The unsung hero: The Z170 chipset

The real star here is the Z170 chipset. The Robin to Skylake's Batman, Z170 is probably just as important for what it finally fixes in the limitations of the chipset it replaces. Like Haswell, Skylake features just 16 PCIe Gen 3 lanes in the CPU. Any additional PCIe lanes come from the chipset. In Haswell's Z87 and Z97 chipset, the limit was just 8 PCIe Gen 2 lanes, which hadn't changed since 2011's Sandy Bridge chipset. 

In 2011 that was probably fine, but today, that's not enough expansion for modern PCs with fast M.2 drives, SATA Express drives, and USB 3.1. Even worse, to get more bandwidth to run high speed devices such as, say Intel's 750-series SSD, you had to steal bandwidth from the GPU.

With Z170, Intel is finally, finally stepping up and giving the chipset  up to 20 PCIe Gen 3 lanes. Because increasing the water pipes to your home without increasing the size of the water mains would be worthless, Intel is also doubling the interconnect from the CPU to the chipset. The new DMI 3.0 in Z170 offers up to 40Gbps using a x4 PCIe Gen 3 link. The Z97 used a 20Gbps x4 link PCIe Gen 2 link.

The upshot is that with Z170, you can run your graphics card at full bandwidth while still having a super-fast PCIe or M.2 SSD or multiple SATA SSDs along with your your 10Gbps USB 3.1 devices, without sacrificing performance as you would with older chipsets. And no, it doesn't actually support native USB 3.1. That's added through third-party chipsets only.

This may seem like a long discussion of plumbing, but believe me, the Z170 is a welcome refresh for Intel's consumer chipsets, one that's long overdue.

Numbers don't lie--keep reading for hard performance data on Skylake.


Let's get on to how well Skylake actually performs. For my testing, I used a new Asus Z170-Deluxe motherboard, 16GB of Corsair DDR4/2666, and a 240GB Kingston HyperX SSD. For the comparison I used the same Haswell Core i7-4790K and Broadwell Core i7-5775C from the last review. All three were run with integrated graphics, as the IGP is an important metric Intel is pushing.


Previous Page  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.