Intel Core i7-2600K 3.40GHz Processor w/Turbo Boost Technology Long Term Review (Quad Core, 8 Threads, Unlocked Multiplier, 8MB Cache) @
By: Michael Phrakaysone

A recent survey conducted by Crucial (The Memory Experts) indicated that computer owners in the United States of America, United Kingdom, and France, were electing to replace their computers after 4.5-years of purchase, meaning people are holding on to their machines for a much longer time.  There are many factors that would contribute to this number and I don’t know if the economic recession is to blame, but I am sure it is part of the reason.  Instead, people are choosing to stick with their machines by upgrading components to give it some extra life, and not surprisingly, more RAM is the number one upgrade for these consumers.

What this means is that a good chunk of you should still be running some type of Intel Core 2 offering based on the LGA775 socket, whether it be single-core, dual-core, or quad-core configuration.  If you noticed the system configuration ModSynergy was using for its testing, it was the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU.  It has served me well throughout the years (released in 2007) and still chugs away without any problems even when overclocked. Unfortunately, it is no longer sufficient for a power user or a reviewer that requires the latest system.  With that said, this is a perfect lead-in to today’s review.

In the first quarter of 2011, Intel officially announced the release of the newest generation of its ‘Core’ processor lineup, codenamed ‘Sandy Bridge’.  The new lineup consists of the i3, i5 and i7, where i3 is the entry level low-end and i7 is the top of the line high-end. Unfortunately during the release, a problem was found.  

The problem resided in the P67 chipset that was created for their new generation of CPU’s. The problem affected the SATA 3 Gb/s ports on the motherboard. Intel quickly recalled all motherboards and new shipments, resolved it within a few months, and re-released the motherboards as new B3 variants. This cost Intel about a billion dollars (if not more), but I give them credit of catching the problem, owning up to the mistake and resolving it in a timely fashion.  It would have been far worse if the problem was found at the later stages of the product life-cycle.   

Today I get to experience the fruits of Intel’s hard labor and share with you about Intel’s newest and top of the line offering in the form of the Intel Core i7-2600K microprocessor. Read on to see if you should be thinking of replacing your 4.5-year old computer with one from Intel.

About Intel Corporation

I don’t believe Intel needs an introduction to many of you, but if you haven’t known, Intel is an American based company that ranks as the largest semiconductor chip maker in the world.  They have been in the business of computing since the very beginning and have over 40-years of expertise. Their global scale is enormous and just about every advancement and innovative silicon technology have derived from Intel.

Intel’s never-ending goal is as follows (as from their website)...   

‘We are Intel Sponsors of Tomorrow™, not only through our technical innovation, but through our endless efforts in education, environmental sustainability, healthcare, and much, much more. We believe that technology makes life more exciting and can help improve the lives of people around the world. Therein lies the endless opportunity.’

Intel 2nd Generation Core i7-2600K Processor Overview

‘The Intel® Core™ i7 processor delivers best-in-class performance for the most demanding applications. This quad-core processor features 8-way multitasking capability and additional L3 cache. With adaptive performance and built-in visual capabilities this 2nd generation processor brings more intelligence to your PC.

2nd generation Intel® Core™ i7 processors feature Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0◊ and Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology◊, enabling required security applications and protocols to run efficiently in the background without compromising productivity.

Today's more visually sophisticated communication needs will be met with Intel® HD Graphics 2000 Technology, integrated into 2nd generation Intel Core processors. This eliminates the need for a discrete graphics card, reducing power consumption and system cost.’

Intel 2nd Generation Core i7-2600K Processor Features

  • Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 dynamically increases the processor frequency as needed by taking advantage of thermal and power headroom when operating below specified limits.
  • Intel® HT Technology allows each core of your processor to work on two tasks at the same time.
  • Intel® Smart Cache is dynamically allocated to each processor core based on workload, which significantly reduces latency and improves performance.
  • Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions add hardware acceleration to AES algorithms and speeds up the execution of AES applications.

Intel 2nd Generation Core i7-2600K Processor Specifications

Processor Specifications: 2nd Generation Intel Core i7-2600K
Number of Cores: 4
Number of Threads: 8
Clock Speed: 3.4GHz
Max Turbo Frequency: 3.8GHz
L3 Cache: 8MB
Instruction Set: 64-bit
Instruction Set Extensions: SSE4.1/4.2, AVX
Lithography: 32nm
Max TDP (Thermal Design Power): 95W
Max Memory Size: 32GB (DDR3-1066/1333)

Graphics Specifications: Intel® HD Graphics 3000
Graphics Base Frequency: 850MHz
Graphics Max Dynamic Frequency: 1.35GHz
Intel® Quick Sync Video: Yes
Intel® InTru™ 3D Technology: Yes
Intel® Insider™: Yes
Intel® Flexible Display Interface (Intel® FDI): Yes
Intel® Clear Video HD Technology: Yes
Dual Display Capable: Yes

Editors Note: One of the best things about the second generation Intel Core i7-2600K is that not only does it have CPU processing capability, but it also houses a graphics card on the same chip.  This is one area where today’s computing is heading towards and you will find more integrated solutions like this in the future.  What this does is now provide mainstream consumers better graphics capabilities than they ever had before.  

Let’s be honest about two things.  

First is a typical scenario.  A kid (or the parents) will go into a big retailer and ask the sales person “can this desktop/notebook play games?”.  The answer will usually end up being “yes the computer is fast, it has a fast processor”, but once the kid comes home and installs his favorite PC game he is disappointed to find out that none of what he was told was true. Unfortunately this scenario is played out far too often.

Second of all, integrated graphics from Intel was never really powerful enough to handle what was being run by computer users of today, that being graphic intensive games, HD video playback (720p, 1080p), HD video editing and YouTube HD video.  More intensive GPU requirement is now needed than ever before and what people had to do was invest in a discrete graphics card because those had more processing power to be able to do what was required. However, on a notebook platform that was not possible unless purchasing a faster system entirely. People were basically stuck on the entry-level offerings.  

Thankfully all of this is beginning to change.  Intel recognizes where changes needed to be and made more of an effort in bringing better graphics capabilities to one of their largest target audience; the average user.  And with Intel’s dominance in having their CPU’s infiltrate just about every home on a global scale, notebook or desktop, having better graphics with Sandy Bridge in the form of the Intel® HD Graphics 3000 and 2000, it’s a win-win for everyone. Intel Quick Sync Video technology that is included with the Intel Core i7-2600K uses the power of the CPU to help aide in hardware acceleration of the encoding and decoding of videos, while the actual graphics core maintains its own multi-format codec (MFX) package with support for MPEG2, VC1, AVC and also MVC.  It is possible to utilize both CPU and GPU processing power within the Core i7-2600K with their H and Z series chipsets

First Impressions

First off I would like to thank my friends at Intel Corporation for making this review possible.

Intel Core i7

Personally speaking, the Intel Core i7-2600K comes in a fantastic looking and environmentally conscious compact corrugated box.  I love the blue colored background with the glossy yellow silicon die overlay image; it’s definitely eye-catching.  There is a small square cutout window on top of the box that reveals the top portion of the CPU you have purchased.  On both ends of the box are security seals and one of them is a large seal with product specification and serial number information.

Cut open the seal to the $329.99 (NewEgg Canada price) processor and you will find enclosed in a clamshell the standard Intel heatsink CPU cooler, product manual with warranty information along with an Intel Core i7 sticker, and the actual 2600K processor inside a plastic protective package.  

The Heatsink

Intel includes a standard heatsink fan combo with the Intel Core i7-2600K.  It’s a relatively simple design that has been used throughout various models of Intel processors for a number of years.  The saying goes that if it isn't broke, don’t fix it, and that holds true in this case as it does not look like the heatsink design has changed much throughout the years. The heatsink core is constructed entirely out of aluminum while the center houses a small copper core.  This copper core is covered in pre-applied thermal compound and will make contact with the processors IHS, or integrated heat shield, while dissipating the heat that is being generated.  

Intel heatsink

The Intel Core i7-2600K having a Thermal Design Power (TDP) of only 95 watts, due in large part of the 32nm fabricating process and innovative engineering through efficient power gating for both CPU and GPU portion, means that the stock heatsink isn’t required to be powerful.  The fan is pulse width modulated and can slow down or speed up depending on what is set in the SBIOS.  It runs around 2150 - 2170RPM in full on mode and is only moderate in noise without the side panel on.  With the side panel on, you will likely not hear that much noise.  From my experience, the noise that is being generated from stock Intel heatsink/fan combo is much quieter than the ones supplied for AMD CPU's.  For the most part this heatsink will be sufficient for most users with light to medium workloads, but I would suggest purchasing an aftermarket CPU cooler for power users and gamers to ensure even lower temperatures and promote a longer CPU life.  It will help you also achieve better overclocks.

2nd Generation Intel Core i7-2600K

Here is the main component in all its glory; the 2nd generation Intel Core i7-2600K based on the Land Grid Array (LGA) interface.  This interface houses the actual socket pins on the motherboard and leaves the CPU with pads that makes contact with the motherboard socket.  I like this design better as it substantially lowers the possibility of bending or breaking any one of the 1155 pins while installing, removing or shipping.


Looking at the Core i7-2600K processor reveals that it’s not visually different from any other CPU on the market as they all basically look the same.  They all look identical because all they have to show off is the IHS (Integrated Heat Shield) which protects the die and circuitry from damage.  I wish manufactures would change up the appearance of their CPU’s by lapping their IHS to make them look like mirrors while at the same time ensuring they are truly flat as possible.  But I guess that is where the work of the thermal compound comes into play.

On the top of the IHS is the engraved CPU information and on the CPU chip there is an arrow and notch to signify the correct position to insert the CPU into the motherboard socket, making installations effectively foolproof in design.   

Performance Testing

Today’s testing consists of running the Intel Core i7-2600K in an Intel Extreme Series motherboard, namely the Intel DP67BG (B3) with the latest (at the time of testing) BIOS version of 2040 dated 6/29/11.  The full system configuration can be found in the main page.

The operating system of choice is Windows 7 64-bit with Service Pack 1 installed and Catalyst Control Center 11.5 was the driver of choice for the Sapphire Radeon HD 6970.


Today’s results of the Intel Core i7-2600K will comprise of a mixture of the following benchmarks and programs

  • PCMark 7
  • PCMark Vantage
  • Cinebench 11.5
  • PerformanceTest 7.0
  • AIDA64 Extreme
  • SPECviewperf 11
  • x264 HD BENCHMARK 4.0

From these benchmarks, I know it's an apple to orange comparison to make but I will generalize that the encoding prowess the 2600K has over the Q6000 has is very impressive.  It can shave hours off encoding times depending on what is being run.  Video encoding and audio encoding is truly impressive on the 2600K.

The Intel Core i7-2600K is run at the stock clocks of 3.4GHz and with Intel Turbo Boost Technology enabled in allowing the processor to overclock to 3.8GHz on the fly.  These options are on by default and will give you an idea of what you can expect in real world conditions.

Speaking about long term longevity, I've had the pleasure of testing the Core i7-2600K processor day in and day out for just under a full year now and I can attest to the stability and speed that it gives.  Compared to the Q6600 I was using before, the difference between the two is definitely noticeable under every day usage of a wide array of applications and tests.  The 2600K absolutely is a monster when it comes to multimedia and video encoding and games are silky smooth. I have had zero issues with this CPU and overclocking is very easy because of the Intel DP67BGB3 motherboard it is paired with.


For where the Sandy Bridge based Intel Core i7-2600K is marketed towards, the mainstream crowd, the Core i7-2600K is a fantastic package.  I think this is due to the competitive price point.  It’s value is noticeable as one does not need to break the bank in order to have a processor that can do it all, and at a high clock-speed.  The fact that you can purchase a chip, such as the Intel Core 2600K for $371CAD after taxes, that can go as high as 4.5GHz (or more) relatively easy is simply remarkable.

The performance at stock speeds is no pushover and with Turbo Boost Technology, Intel have changed the overclocking game.  Some say Intel have ruined overclocking, but on the flip-side, Intel have brought overclocking into the mainstream and to those who would have never tried it in the first place. The fact that the 2600K can overclock 400MHz on the fly (by default), is simply amazing and is something that was once unbelievably hard to accomplish, especially with stock cooling. Speaking about cooling, Intel have managed to excel at the Core i7-2600K’s efficiency only consuming 95W total meaning lower operating costs for consumers, especially when most users are not even coming close to load states.

Today’s consumers play around with more multimedia with ever before through music, HD video content, 3D games, and the Intel Core i7-2600K excels at these facets with its genius Quick Sync Technology, meaning quicker encoding and decoding times for users wanting to get their videos onto smartphones, iPods, etc.

For these reasons the 2nd Generation Intel Core i7-2600K earns ModSynergy's Editor's Choice Award and is now powering our newest 2012 PC Build.  The 2600K is brilliant and I can easily recommend it to anyone looking for a new PC build.  Go out and get one!

Editors Choice


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