Intel Coffee Lake Vs. Ryzen: A Side-By-Side Comparison

Intel's 8th Gen Coffee Lake processors make their debut on October 5 with more cores and more cache to challenge AMD's Ryzen lineup. Intel's steady cadence of iterative updates have improved frequency over the years, and that has boosted performance in common, lightly-threaded applications. But the arrival of AMD's Ryzen has radically altered the status quo. Suddenly, AMD CPUs have more cores to tackle more taxing workloads, and those processors come at a significant price discount. Now, Intel is firing back.

AMD still holds the core advantage. Intel's top-end parts wield only six cores compared to Ryzen's eight, but Intel leverages its per-core performance advantage, a combination of both IPC throughput and frequency, in this battle. AMD will respond next year with the 12nm LP process, but for now, the Coffee Lake and Ryzen lineups go toe-to-toe in a fight for enthusiast dollars. 

One of AMD's biggest advantages comes in the form of looser market segmentation practices. The company offers an unrestrained feature set that includes unlocked multipliers on all models and supports overclocking on value-oriented motherboards. Nevertheless, we didn't expect Intel to stray from its notorious segmentation with Coffee Lake, and the company met our expectations by continuing to charge a premium for unlocked "K" SKUs. Intel claimed that sales of unlocked processors have increased 80% from Q2 2014 to Q2 2017, so the strategy appears to be working.

Surprisingly, the company added a relatively small premium (over Kaby Lake models) to the "K" SKUs to offset the increased core counts, but the MSRP deltas between the two lineups are still slim. AMD processors often retail well below MSRP, particularly the Ryzen 7 series, but Intel's MSRPs have also fluctuated in the past weeks. You have to check pricing frequently to find the best deals.

Intel’s performance projections, which focus primarily on application-level performance as opposed to synthetic benchmarks that scale linearly, appear somewhat modest. Intel says Coffee Lake offers 25% more FPS in games and 45% better “mega-tasking” performance compared to its Kaby Lake processors. However, adding 50% more cores to the i7 and i5 series and 100% more cores to the i3 lineup promises to help fend off AMD’s core-laden assault. We’ll find out if these CPUs reflect the company’s promises when we load them up on our test bench, but for now, let's put the lineups under the microscope.

Core i7 Vs. Ryzen 7

The Core i7 and Ryzen 7 products serve the vast majority of high-end enthusiasts, and both lineups feature threaded cores. AMD still holds the unequivocal lead with eight cores and 16 threads slugging it out with Coffee Lake's six cores and 12 threads.

Intel's Coffee Lake processors take a step back in base frequency compared with Kaby Lake, necessitated by the thermal challenges associated with adding more cores within the same package, and this erodes some of the company's frequency advantage. Intel still holds the advantage of higher base frequencies, albeit by a slimmer margin. However, the company relies on its Turbo Boost feature to increase performance when all the cores aren't needed. That gives Intel a 900 MHz boost frequency advantage, but due to the sometimes finicky nature of boost behavior, we'll have to put the processors to the test to decide if that equates to a win in the performance department.


Intel Core
i7-8700K
Intel Core
i7-8700
Ryzen 7
1700X

Ryzen 7
1700
Suggested Retail Price(MSRP $359)(MSRP $303) Ryzen 7 1700X ($348 On Amazon) Ryzen 7 1700 ($259.99 On Newegg)
Socket
LGA 1151
LGA 1151
PGA 1311
PGA 1311
Cores/Threads
6 / 12
6 / 12
8 / 168 / 16
Base Frequency
3.7 GHz
3.2 GHz
3.4 GHz3.0 GHz
Boost Frequency
4.7 GHz
4.6 GHz
3.8 GHz3.7 GHz
Memory Speed
DDR4-2666
DDR4-2666
DDR4-1866 to DDR4-2677DDR4-1866 to DDR4-2677
Memory Controller
Dual-Channel
Dual-Channel
Dual-ChannelDual-Channel
Unlocked Multiplier
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
PCIe Lanes
x16 Gen3
x16 Gen3
x16 Gen3
x16 Gen3
Integrated Graphics
Intel UHD Graphics 630 (up to 1,200MHz)
Intel UHD Graphics 630 (up to 1,200MHz)No
No
Cache (L2+L3)
13.5MB13.5MB
20MB
20MB
Architecture
Coffee Lake
Coffee LakeZen
Zen
Process
14nm++
14nm++14nm GloFo
14nm GloFo
TDP
95W
65W
95W65W
Price
(per 1K Unit)
$359
$303
$399
$329

Intel also bumped up its memory to DDR4-2666, matching Ryzen's best-case transfer rates that come with single-rank memory and one DIMM per channel. Both processors feature dual-channel memory. Of course, memory performance is more nuanced than numbers on a spec sheet. Latency and throughput are crucial factors, so testing will give us a deeper understanding of performance. It's notable that Intel has expanded the maximum memory ratio up to 8400 MT/s (without BCLK adjustments), and although we expect that those incredible transfer rates will apply only to the most extreme overclockers, it appears Intel is confident in Coffee Lake's memory overclocking capabilities. The Ryzen models also come with a more generous helping of 20MB of L3 cache.

Intel soldiers on with its UHD Graphics 630, which is a marketing-upgraded version of the HD Graphics 630 found in the Kaby Lake processors. (They're fundamentally the same). Nevertheless, Ryzen processors lack the feature entirely. Although we strongly discourage it, the majority of users still roll without discrete graphics cards. AMD will address that deficiency soon with its Raven Ridge APUs.

AMD's Ryzen 7 products both admirably feature unlocked multipliers, but due to Ryzen's relatively mundane frequency ceiling, overclocking headroom has been Intel's key advantage with the Kaby Lake series. We'll have to see if that advantage holds with Coffee Lake, but according to Intel, we should see a similar story play out thanks to Coffee Lake's power delivery optimizations. Intel's all-core Turbo Boost frequencies, which the company no longer officially lists, also tend to move beyond Ryzen's all-core overclock frequencies. We'll quantify those frequencies in our review.

Both series feature similar TDPs, although it's noteworthy that the Ryzen 7 1700 comes with an excellent bundled cooler that allows for solid overclocking, whereas Intel's stock coolers just aren't of the same caliber.

The i7-8700K doesn't have a direct pricing equivalent in the Ryzen 7 lineup. The Ryzen 7 1700X is $40 more expensive, but the beefier Ryzen 7 1800X extends that delta to $140. We expect there might be some price manipulations on those models after the Coffee Lake launch, so keep an eye out for deals. AMD retains the advantage of allowing overclocking using less expensive chipsets, whereas you'll need to factor in a Z370 motherboard to unlock the Core i7-8700K's full potential. Meanwhile, the i7-8700 undercuts the venerable Ryzen 7 1700, but we'll have to see how its locked multiplier impacts the value equation.

Core i5 Vs. Ryzen 5

The Ryzen 5 and Core i5 series target the mass of the mainstream market, so competition is pitched here. However, Intel's segmentation practices become more of a liability as you move down the stack. Intel is sticking with its established i5 strategy: The additional two cores come without Hyper-Threading, whereas AMD's Ryzen 7 1600X employs the company's SMT (Simultaneous Multi-Threading) implementation to provide six cores and twelve threads.

AMD's Ryzen 7 1600X remains competitive, at least on paper, with similar base frequencies and competitive boost frequencies compared with Intel's i5-8600K. Both products feature unlocked multipliers, but the Ryzen 5 1600X also holds a cache capacity advantage.


Intel Core
i5-8600K
Intel Core
i5-8400
Ryzen 5
1600X
Ryzen 5
1500X
Suggested Retail Price(MSRP $257)(MSRP $182) AMD Ryzen 5 1600X ($219.99 On Newegg) AMD Ryzen 5 1500X ( On -)
Socket
LGA 1151
LGA 1151
PGA 1331
PGA 1131
Cores/Threads
6 / 6
6 / 6
6 / 12
4 / 8
Base Frequency
3.6 GHz
2.8 GHz
3.6 GHz3.5 GHz
Boost Frequency
4.3 GHz
4.0 GHz
4.0 GHz3.7 GHz
Memory Speed
DDR4-2666
DDR4-2666
DDR4-1866 to DDR4-2677DDR4-1866 to DDR4-2677
Memory Controller
Dual-Channel
Dual-Channel
Dual-ChannelDual-Channel
Unlocked Multiplier
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
PCIe Lanes
x16 Gen3
x16 Gen3
x16 Gen3
x16 Gen3
Integrated Graphics
Intel UHD Graphics 630 (up to 1,150MHz)Intel UHD Graphics 630 (up to 1,150MHz)NoNo
Cache (L2+L3)
10.5MB
10.5MB
16MB16MB
Architecture
Coffee Lake
Coffee Lake
Zen
Zen
Process
14nm++
14nm++
14nm GloFo
14nm GloFo
TDP
95W
65W
95W
65W
Price
(per 1K Unit)
$257
$182
$249
$190

Moving down to the Core i5-8400 exposes a possible hole in the Ryzen lineup. The similarly-priced Ryzen 5 1500X features only four cores, albeit with eight threads, which do battle with Coffee Lake's six cores and six threads. However, it features a 700 MHz base clock advantage, and yet it trails by 600 MHz at boost frequencies. Again, the Intel models feature integrated graphics that broaden their appeal to the mass market, whereas the Ryzen models do not.

The Ryzen 5 1600X holds a relatively slim price advantage compared to the i5-8600K, but we often find this model below MSRP. Neither model comes with a stock cooler, but the 1600X can overclock on budget-friendly B350 motherboards, whereas the Coffee Lake model will require the more expensive Z-Series chipset.

The Ryzen 5 1500X finds itself with a higher MSRP than the Intel Core i5-8400, but with fewer physical cores. However, it has the advantage of an unlocked multiplier, which is appealing to the enthusiast market.

Core i3 Vs. Ryzen 5 And Ryzen 3

Intel's Coffee Lake Core i3 series features a much-needed boost to four cores (from Kaby Lake's two), but they still come without Hyper-Threading, which gives the i5-8350X a disadvantage on paper compared with the Ryzen 5 1400. The -8350X features a higher base frequency than the Ryzen 5 1400; in fact, that base frequency is higher than the 1400's boost frequencies. However, Intel sticks with its practice of disabling the Turbo Boost feature on the i3 series, so the unlocked multipliers on both models come into play. Intel's Core i3-8350X also features a much higher 91W TDP rating compared to the 1400's 65W.

The Ryzen 3 1300X has proven to be brutally competitive against Intel's locked Kaby Lake i3 models, and although Intel hasn't responded by providing us with an unlocked multiplier, the company has surprisingly lowered the price to $117 with the Coffee Lake version (i3-8300). That should set us up for a fierce battle in the value segment, but only testing can quantify the advantage of the 1300X's unlocked multiplier.

Intel also decided to stick with DDR4-2400 for the Coffee Lake Core i3 models, instead of boosting to DDR4-2666 as we've seen with the i5 and i7 processors. That leaves the company with a lower stock data transfer rate than the Ryzen 5 1400 and Ryzen 3 1300X.


Intel Core
i3-8350X
Intel Core
i3-8300
Ryzen 5
1400
Ryzen 3
1300X
Suggested Retail Price(MSRP $168)(MSRP $117) Ryzen 5 1400 ( On -) Ryzen 3 1300X ( On -)
Socket
LGA 1151
LGA 1151
PGA 1331
PGA 1131
Cores/Threads
4 / 4
4 / 4
4 / 8
4 / 4
Base Frequency
4.0 GHz3.6 GHz3.2 GHz
3.4 GHz
Boost Frequency
N/A
N/A
3.4 GHz
3.6 GHz
Memory Speed
DDR4-2400
DDR4-2400
DDR4-1866 to DDR4-2677DDR4-1866 to DDR4-2677
Memory Controller
Dual-Channel
Dual-Channel
Dual-Channel
Dual-Channel
Unlocked Multiplier
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
PCIe Lanes
x16 Gen3
x16 Gen 3
x16 Gen3
x16 Gen3
Integrated Graphics
Intel UHD Graphics 630 (up to 1,150MHz)Intel UHD Graphics 630 (up to 1,150MHz)No
No
Cache (L2+L3)
9MB
9MB
10MB
10MB
Architecture
Coffee Lake
Coffee Lake
Zen
Zen
Process
14nm++
14nm++
14nm GloFo14nm GloFo
TDP
91W
65W
65W
65W
Price
(per 1K Unit)
$168
$117
$169
$130

Integrated graphics become more important as we dive into the value portion of the stack, and Intel will continue to wield the advantage until AMD's Vega-infused Raven Ridge products make their way to market.

In either case, it's clear that Intel is responding to the threat in the high-volume budget segment, which should be exciting to see play out as we crank out test results. For now, it's back to the test bench for us.

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  • octavecode
    Overclocking headroom has been Intel's key advantage with the Kaby Lake series???
    My 7700K is pretty hot for my taste at stock speed with slightly reduced Vcore and a decent air cooler.What kind of overclocking headroom are we talking about here? A decent watercooling solution plus delid? That's not overclocking headroom.
    0
  • shaheereehahs
    Coffee Lakes reeks of desperation.
    1
  • nate1492
    @Octavecode You must have something wrong with your rig, as the vast majority of 7700k can easily hit 4.9 or 5.0 ghz OC on typical air coolers.
    0