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Our testing methods
For each of our benchmarks, we ran each test at least three times, and we've reported the median result. Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor AMD FX-8370 Intel Core i7-2600K Intel Core i7-3770K
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-990FX-Gaming Asus P8Z77-V Pro
Chipset 990FX + SB950 Z77 Express
Memory size 16 GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Vengeance Pro Series
DDR3 SDRAM
Memory speed 1866 MT/s
Memory timings 9-10-9-27 1T

 

Processor Intel Core i7-4790K Intel Core i7-6700K Intel Core i7-7700K Intel Core i7-6950X
Motherboard Asus Z97-A/USB 3.1 Aorus Z270X-Gaming 5 Gigabyte GA-X99-Designare EX
Chipset Z97 Express Z270 X99
Memory size 16 GB (2 DIMMs) 16 GB (2 DIMMs) 64GB (4 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Vengeance Pro Series
DDR3 SDRAM
G.Skill Trident Z
DDR4 SDRAM
G.Skill Trident Z
DDR4 SDRAM
Memory speed 1866 MT/s 3866 MT/s 3200 MT/s
Memory timings 9-10-9-27 1T 18-19-19-39 1T 16-18-18-38 1T

They all shared the following common elements:

Storage 2x Kingston HyperX 480GB SSDs
CPU cooler Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro 280
Discrete graphics Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming
OS Windows 10 Pro
Power supply Corsair RM850x

Thanks to Corsair, Kingston, Asus, Gigabyte, Aorus, Cooler Master, Intel, G.Skill, and AMD for helping to outfit our test rigs with some of the finest hardware available.

Since the Aorus Z270X-Gaming 5 motherboard that we're using to test our Core i7-7700K is  equally compatible with the Core i7-6700K, we chose to use that board instead of a Z170-powered one to perform testing for both CPUs. That decision gives the Core i7-6700K even footing with its successor when it comes to RAM speeds, so any difference in performance results between the two should come down to the differences between Skylake and Kaby Lake. Our Z170 motherboard claims DDR4-3866 support with only one DIMM, and it didn't seem ideal to us to produce a set of results with the Core i7-7700K that didn't take advantage of its support for higher RAM speeds.

For perspective (and also for fun), we've run the Core i7-6950X through our benchmarking suite alongside the Core i7-7700K. We didn't get a good opportunity to review that chip when it first arrived, so it only seemed fair to give it a turn in the spotlight. That 10-core, 20-thread CPU sells for $1650 right now, so it's in a completely different ballpark than Intel's mainstream CPUs. Still, it's good to finally get an idea of what Intel's biggest, baddest consumer chip can do.

Some further notes on our testing methods:

  • The test systems' Windows desktops were set at a resolution of 1920x1080 in 32-bit color. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled in the graphics driver control panel.

  • After consulting with our readers, we've decided to enable Windows' "Balanced" power profile for the bulk of our desktop processor tests, which means power-saving features like SpeedStep and Cool'n'Quiet are operating. (In the past, we only enabled these features for power consumption testing.) Our spot checks demonstrated to us that, typically, there's no performance penalty for enabling these features on today's CPUs. If there is a real-world penalty to enabling these features, well, we think that's worthy of inclusion in our measurements, since the vast majority of desktop processors these days will spend their lives with these features enabled.

The tests and methods we employ are usually publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.