Intel Core i7-6900K Broadwell-E CPU Performance
AMD showed at the New Horizon event
that their upcoming Ryzen 8-core 16-thread processors running at 3.4 GHz with 20 MB of cache can compete with the Intel Core i7-6900K Broadwell-E processor, which is Intel's High-End Desktop Platform (HEDT) 8-core 16-thread CPU (3.2 GHz base/3.7 GHz Boost/20MB Cache) that costs $1029.64 shipped over at Amazon
. That is impressive seeing how the AMD FX Series of processors struggles to keep up with most any Intel quad-core processor released over the past several years. We've never actually benchmarked the Intel Core i7-6900K processor and seeing how AMD is focusing the performance of Ryzen against that particular processor it seemed like it might be a good idea to have an Intel 8-core processor in our benchmark charts for comparison sake. We are also very interested in seeing how the 6900K performs in our updated benchmark test suite for 2017.
Intel Broadwell-E LGA2011-3 Desktop CPU Lineup
The Intel Core i7-6950X and Core i7-6900K processor are aimed at those that need as many processing cores that they can get on a desktop platform. If four or six cores aren't enough and you have the proper funds, you can move up to an eight or ten core processor. Thanks to Intel Hyper-Threading technology you'll actually end up with double that number when it comes to threads, so you can run up to 20 simultaneous operations at once! All four of these HEDT parts have Intel Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and the good news on that front is that Microsoft has been offering native support for that since Windows 10 Anniversary Update (version 1607 and beyond). If you are running an older OS you'll need to install a separate driver on Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and earlier Windows 10 releases. You can find that driver here
if you are needing it.
For those that have unlimited cash and want the most cores available, the Intel Core i7-6950X for $1635
is the easy choice. If you actually have a budget the Intel Core i7-6900K is an interesting processor as it costs roughly 37% less than the 6950X and has faster clocked cores despite having 20% fewer. The Core i7-6900K's base and boost clock speeds are each 200 MHz higher than the Core i7-6950X 10-core processor, so it might actually be faster on lightly threaded applications. Both processors have 40 PCI Express lanes, so you don't have to worry about the limitations of the Intel Core i7-6800 on Intel X99 platforms.
Since this processor has been out since Q2'2016 we'll get right to the benchmarks after looking at the test systems on the next page.
Our CPU Test Systems
Before we look at the numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro Anniversary Update 1607 build 14393.10 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. We tested on five different desktop platforms (Intel Z77, Intel Z97, Intel Z270, Intel X99 and AMD AM3+) in this article, so we'll just quickly touch on each as all shared common parts (CPU Cooler, Video Card, SSD, Power Supply) and only differed in the board, processor, memory kit and memory timings.
The Intel Z270 platform that we used to test the Intel 1151 processors was running the Gigabyte Aorus Z270X-Gaming 5 with UEFI F5e that came out on 12/28/2016. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 4000MHz DDR4 dual channel memory kit was manually set to 3000MHz with 15-15-15-36 1T memory timings as we wanted to test with one of the most popular clock frequencies sold today. We used an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition video card with GeForce 376.33 WHQL drivers for all of the systems. We also used the Corsair AX860i digital power supply, Corsair Hydro Series H105 water cooler and Crucial MX300 1050GB SSDs on all of the desktop systems.
Intel Z97 Platform:
The Intel Z97 platform that we used to test the Intel 1150 processors was running the ASUS Z97-A motherboard with BIOS 2801 that came out on 11/15/2015. The Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB 2400 MHz DDR3 memory kit was set to 11-11-11-28 1T memory timings.
Intel Z77 Platform:
The Intel Z97 platform that we used to test the Intel 1155 processors was running the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H (rev 1.0) motherboard with BIOS F16h that came out on 07/11/2016. The Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB 2133 MHz DDR3 memory kit was set to 10-11-10-28 1T memory timings.
Intel X99 Platform:
The Intel X99 platform we picked to use for the LGA2011-v3 processors was the ASUS X99-E-10G WS board with BIOS 0403 and that is the initial release UEFI as no newer version has come out since the introduction of that board in 2016. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 4000MHz DDR4 dual channel memory kit was manually set to 3000MHz with 15-15-15-36 1T memory timings.
AMD AM3+ Platform:
The AMD AM3+ platform that we used to test the AM3+ processors featured the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer motherboard with BIOS 1.60 that came out on 01/14/2016. The Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB 2400 MHz DDR3 memory kit was set to 10-11-10-28 1T memory timings.
Just for fun we also included Dell XPS 13 9350 and Dell Dell XPS 13 9360 laptop results! These are retail Dell laptops with clean installs of Windows 10 Pro Anniversary Update 1607 build 14393.10 installed for comparison to the desktop platforms.
Let's take a look at overclocking and move onto the benchmarks!
Memory Bandwidth Benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2016 SP3 Memory Bandwidth: link
SiSoftware Sandra 2016 is a utility, which includes remote analysis, benchmarking and diagnostic features for PCs, servers, mobile devices and networks. This test has been popular for CPU and memory benchmarks for well over a decade and it is one of the easiest benchmarks out there to run.
AIDA64 5.80 Memory & Cache Benchmark: link
AIDA64 is an industry-leading system information tool, loved by PC enthusiasts around the world, which not only provides extremely detailed information about both hardware and installed software, but also helps users diagnose issues and offers benchmarks to measure the performance of the computer.
Memory Bandwidth Results Summary:
The Intel Core i7-6950X and Core i7-6900K were tested on the same exact board and the Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3000MHz memory kit with CL15 timings was the same. Due to this fact, it's not a big shocker that the memory performance being very close, but we were shocked to see that the 6900K was slower in most the tests as we weren't sure if having more than 8-cores would really impact memory bandwidth since they were running at lower clock speeds.
Real World Benchmarks
Dolphin 5.0 x64 Emulator Benchmark: link
The long awaited Dolphin 5.0 release happened in 2016 and thanks to a major cleaning up of the codebase Dolphin has reached a new level of efficiency, powered by a revitalized dynamic recompiler. Dolphin is considered by many to be the best Nintendo Wii emulator for PC you can find. It also works for Gamecube. We are running the official Dolphin 5.0 benchmark as it offers closer mapping to real world Dolphin performance as the previous version was extremely floating point heavy. We feel this is a pretty good general CPU benchmark for real world performance as emulation workloads are something that most gamers will run at one point or another. We benchmark the standard Wii homebrew application and run it with the speed limit set to 'unlimited' and the External Frame Buffer set to 'real' in case you wanted to run this on your personal system.
Agisoft Photoscan 1.2.6 x64 - 2D to 3D Image Manipulation Benchmark: link
Agisoft PhotoScan is a stand-alone software product that performs photogrammetric processing of 2D digital images and generates 3D spatial data to be used in GIS applications, cultural heritage documentation, and visual effects production as well as for indirect measurements of objects of various scales. We us the 50 images from the 'Building
' sample data download page for our benchmark. We take the total time it takes to complete four steps: Align Photos, Build Dense Cloud, Build Model, Build Texture with all the default settings for each.
KeyShot 6.3 - 3D Rendering and Animation: link
KeyShot 3D rendering and animation software is one of the fastest, easiest way to create amazing, photographic visuals of your 3D data. We installed
KeyShot 6.3 to do some benchmarking and real-world stress testing using the camera_benchmark.bip scene that is included with the application. This benchmark tests a 800x554 pixel image with a continuous sample rate and shows the Frames Per Second (FPS) that the scene is being rendered from. This scene has nearly 42,000 triangles and does a good job at using all available cores to render the scene.
Blender 2.78a Open Source 3D Creation Benchmark: link
is the free and open source 3D creation suite.
It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation. We use the BMW CPU Benchmark (CCO, 3MB) created by Mike Pan for our testing.
Real World Benchmark Results Summary:
When it comes to our 'real world' benchmark tests we found the Intel Core i7-6900K does really well in applications that use more than 4-cores as you can see in most of the charts. Our Dolphin emulation benchmark doesn't use more than 4-cores, so you can see how clock speed and CPU architecture plays more of a roll in that benchmark. Single threaded and lightly threaded applications will run faster on the Kaby Lake desktop processors as they have nearly a 1GHz clock speed advantage on the 2 or 4-cores that they offer.
Media Encoding & Encryption Benchmarks
HandBrake v1.0.1 - link
HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded video transcoder, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows. It is popular today as it allows you to transcode multiple input video formats to h.264 output format and is highly multithreaded. We used Big Buck Bunny
as our input file, which has become one of the world standards for video benchmarks. For our benchmark scenario we used a standard 2D 4K (3840x2160) 60 FPS clip in the MP4 format and used Handbrake version 1.0.1 to do two things.
We used the new Fast 1080p30 preset to shrink that down to a 1920 x 1080 video clip to reduce the file size. This is something people often do to save space to put movies onto mobile devices. We also ran the workload using the normal preset as it puts the CPU at a higher load than the Fast 1080p30 preset.
X264 HD Encoding - link
the x264 HD Benchmark is a reproducible measure of how fast your machine can encode a short HD-quality video clip into a high quality x264 video file. It’s nice because everyone running it will use the same video clip and software. The video encoder (x264.exe) reports a fairly accurate internal benchmark (in frames per second) for each pass of the video encode and it also uses multi-core processors very efficiently. All these factors make this an ideal benchmark to compare different processors and systems to each other. We are using x264 HD v5.0.1 for this test.
Media Encoding Benchmark Results Summary:
Our media tests showed that the Intel Core i7-6900K and Core i7-6950X CPUs were significantly faster than the rest of the processors, so if you do a bunch of video work you'll be able to justify purchasing one of these processors as it can save you a ton of rendering/processing time!
VeraCrypt 1.19 - link
VeraCrypt is an open-source disk encryption software brought to you by IDRIX and is a fork based on the discontinued TrueCrypt 7.1a utility. The developers claim that weaknesses found in TrueCrypt have been resolved with the VeraCrypt project. This is a popular utility used by people that don't want to use Microsoft's built-in encyption tool for Windows 10 called Bitlocker.
Encryption Benchmark Results Summary:
If encryption is something you do, you'll find having more cores and threads to be very beneficial as you can see from the results above.
Mozilla Kraken 1.1: link
Google Octane 2.0: link
JetStream 1.1: link
WebXPRT 2015: link
When it comes to online browsing you don't need 8-cores or 10-cores, so you'll see the faster clocked quad-core processors at the top of these performance charts. The Intel Core i7-6900K actually performed better than the Core i7-6950X in Google Octane 2.0, so it once again shows that higher clock speeds and fewer cores can still perform well in some tasks.
3DMark & Cinebench
Futuremark 3DMark 2.2.3509 - link
3DMark is a popular gaming performance benchmark that includes everything you need to benchmark your PC whether you're gaming on a desktop PC, laptop, notebook, or a tablet. 3DMark includes seven benchmark tests and we'll be running 'Sky Diver' that is aimed at gaming laptops and mid-range PCs.
Maxon Cinebench R15.038 - link
CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software Cinema 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Iron Man 3, Oblivion, Life of Pi or Prometheus and many more.
3DMark and Cinebench Benchmarks Results Summary:
The Intel Core i7-6900K performs well in 3DMark thanks to being boosted by a higher Physics score that drives up the overall score!
Discrete GPU Gaming Performance
Thief is a series of stealth video games in which the player takes the role of Garrett, a master thief in a fantasy/steampunk world resembling a cross between the Late Middle Ages and the Victorian era, with more advanced technologies interspersed. Thief is the fourth title in the Thief series, developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix on February 25, 2014. We picked this game title for CPU testing as it is known to scale well with CPUs. We use the games built-in benchmark and test with the default settings with these changes; exclusive fullscreen, vSync off, 1920 x 1080, 60Hz.
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V, currently one of the hottest PC
games, was finally released for the PC on April 14, 2015. Developed by Rockstar, it is set in 2013 and the city of Los Santos. It utilizes the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE) which Rockstar has been using since 2006, with multiple updates for technology improvements. We picked this game title for CPU testing as it is known to scale well with CPUs. We use the games built-in benchmark and test with the default settings with these changes; vSync off, 1920 x 1080, 60Hz.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an action role-playing stealth video game developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix. Set in a cyberpunk-themed dystopian world in 2029, two years after the events of Human Revolution, Mankind Divided features the return of Adam Jensen from the previous game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, with new technology and body augmentations. The game was released on August 23rd, 2016 for PC users and we are using it to show DX12 performance on the CPUs that we tested. DX12 removed most all of the CPU overhead, so we wanted to see what happens to performance on DX12 game titles as well. We use the games built-in benchmark and test with the default settings with these changes; DX12 enabled, exclusive fullscreen, vSync off, 1920 x 1080, 60Hz, medium graphics.
Discrete Gaming Benchmarks Results Summary:
On the three game titles we tested with, the Intel Core i7-6900K processor performs reasonably well in stock form. It doesn't lead any tests, but it's competitive and just begging to be overclocked.
No review is complete without taking a look at power and the Intel Core i7-6900K did fairly well considering it is an 8-core processor with a 140W TDP.
At idle the Intel Core i7-6900K Broadwell-E platform used 101W at idle and that is impressive as includes the ASUS X99 motherboard, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 FE video card, Crucial MX300 1050GB SSD and the Corsair H105 water cooler. The processor topped out at 204W in Handbrake and 332W when playing Thief at 1080P.
Let's wrap up this quick review on the Intel Core i7-6900K processor!
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
The Intel Core i7-6900K is a very capable consumer desktop processor since it has 8-cores and is perfectly suited for power users and researchers that are crunching highly threaded workloads all day long. If you are looking for the fastest processor around that would still be the Intel Core i7-6950X, but most people have a budget they need to adhere to and that is where we feel the Intel Core i7-6900K comes into the picture. At $1635 shipped
, the Intel Core i7-6950X is a bit much for most people. The Intel Core i7-6900K at $1030 shipped
will give you a couple extra cores and significantly improved performance on heavy workloads for over $600 less than Intel's flagship part.
The million dollar question is how will the Intel Core i7-6900K hold up against AMD's upcoming Ryzen processors. We can't answer that just yet, but the latest rumors have AMD's flagship Ryzen processor priced at around $749 and AMD's CEO stated they Ryzen will have a higher ASP (average selling price) than the current CPU offerings. If, AMD Ryzen is competitive and priced $250 lower than Intel we can see that competition forcing some price changes by Intel in the months ahead. We found the Intel Core i7-6900K to be an impressive processor, but with AMD Ryzen coming in just weeks with the promise of similar performance we suggest waiting for it to be released before you pull the trigger on a $1000+ processor. The Intel Core i7-6900K has been out since Q2 2016 and is almost a year old, so waiting 3-4 weeks to see what the real Ryzen numbers are from independent review sites like this one is advised. The AMD Ryzen R7 1800X is supposed to be the flagship processor that is a direct competitor to the Intel Core i7-6900K and we hope to have that review for you to see in the next 30 days or less!
Legit Bottom Line:
The Intel Core i7-6900K processor is a beast, but it will be interesting to see how it performs against the AMD Ryzen R7 1800X processor next month when AMD finally re-enters the high-performance CPU market.