Deciding on a Skylake CPU--i5 vs i7, k vs. non-k, etc., also RAM


So I’m contemplating a build for later this month or next month, and have pretty much made up my mind that I want an ASUS Z170-A motherboard. Now I just have to figure out what CPU I want, and what RAM.

First, i5 or i7? If I want to dip my toes into game streaming on Twitch or YouTube, would the i7 come in handy, what with the extra overhead and processing power?

Then the question is, “to k or not to k”. Despite having an i5 2500k I’ve never really overclocked it. Tried doing so once mildly to 4 GHz just by bumping the multiplier to 40 “by all cores” on my ASUS motherboard—didn’t mess with voltages or anything-- but soon had an issue where my keyboard wasn’t being recognized so I got scared and set everything back. In retrospect the problem was probably cause by something else.

To hear the motherboard manufacturers tell it, overclocking is an automatic “fire and forget” thing, but then you learn maybe it’s not so much that. I definitely don’t want to have to manually adjust voltages and such. Also I don’t want to mess with water cooling, so should I just let overclocking be? Or is it really as easy as they say now?

Finally, is a Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO a decent enough HSF for either of those k processors?


More cores are rarely gonna be more useful in gaming, but that’s not as true as it used to be. Some games take advantage of it well–it’s just that a ton of console ports (which make up the overwhelming majority of system-choking AAA titles these days) tend not to multi-core very well. So, one of the chief selling points of an i7 is sorta undersold by that. Now, if you plan to do stuff like video encoding or, like you said, streaming-while-gaming, it becomes a lot more attractive. If cost’s not an issue and you think that’ll be a significant use case for you, I say go for it!

The Hyper 212 EVO is a perfectly respectable cooler and will let you achieve good overclocks with an Intel K processor. I think that there are newer options that are better, like the Cryorig H7, which I bought this year, costs almost the same as the current-gen Hyper 212X from CM, and is generally considered a better performer and marginally quieter to boot. But if you’ve got a 212 EVO already? Stick with it; water-cooling’s for folks interested in cool-looking gear, edge-case overclocking levels, or e-peen-measuring contests ;)

Overclocking’s not super necessary, but it can help an older processor eke out another year or so of useful life. If you’re gonna be pushing the budget picking up an i7, for instance, and really want your money’s worth, it might be a useful step-up. A modest-but-noticeable overclock’s almost certainly not gonna cause any kinda issues that’d crop up during its lifespan. And yes, the auto-overclock settings on modern mobos are pretty good, and if you don’t want to pull out every last ounce of performance you possibly can, will probably be good enough. Almost certainly. Unless they aren’t for you and you’ve gotta go muck with manual crap after all :)

That said, realistically, outside of a handful of super-CPU-bound games (e.g., Cities: Sklylines, some of the recent Total War games, etc.), an overclock’s not gonna mean much more than a couple FPS here or there. If the money you save on that let you spend on a better GPU 6 months from now, that’d probably be a better buy, overall.


YMMV, but I decided the benchmark score chase was not worth my time, bought an i5-6500 ( and called it a day. I haven’t been unhappy at all with my decision.

I actually bought a Hyper 212 EVO but it came a day or two after the rest of my hardware. So I built my system with the stock Intel cooler, and then never bothered slapping on the 212. Haven’t noticed, my temps are fine.


Also the ETS/ATS games, which are very CPU-bound.

Personally I’d go with an i5, but I don’t stream.


Thanks for the replies, guys. @Ginger_Yellow, I didn’t realize that the truck sim games were that CPU-bound–good to know.

I realize that I didn’t ask about RAM up there. For my purposes I figure any compatible 16GB kit of DDR4 at 2800 or 3000 MHz will do, right?


Yeah, it’ll be fine. RAM differences are absurdly small at most.


I do a lot of transcoding. More votes is life. I’d get a 6-core Intel CPU if I could afford it.


I’ve always believed that if you get the best CPU you can now, then your computer lasts longer before you upgrade it. Mainly because upgrading the CPU always involves a new motherboard and ram, whereas most other parts can be done incrementally (well, you’ll never usually upgrade a motherboard), so upgrading the CPU is a more expensive undertaking.

I’d go for the i7, no k. More cores is more useful. (Especially when random windows services decide to peg one of them at 100%)


The non-k versions still come with a stock HSF, right?


At this point going for an i5 over an i7 is a fool’s bargain.


I’m definitely leaning toward an i7.


I have an i5-4670 that’s been kicking ass for something like 2+ years now. Paired with a 970 I’m getting really great frame rates in just about every game at high settings. It’s a non “k” CPU so I never really looked into overclocking it, but stumbled across the option in my BIOS and adjusted it out of curiosity and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t overclock. Apparently certain motherboards have some work around that bypasses the multiplier lock on the non “k” CPUs from what I’ve read but I didn’t delve too deeply. It ran hotter than hell with even a 200-300mhz bump and I’m running the stock heatsink, so I put it back to default until I decide to spend $50 on a heatsink. (Speaking of that, anyone got recommendations for a heatsink for this thing that isn’t $100 and covered in neon LEDs? :P).


I want to upgrade my rig, but I’m kind of annoyed the high-end processors are generationally behind. If I want to spring for 6-core, I get Haswell architecture? (I do a lot of video work, so 6 or even 8 cores is really appealing.) On a single-core basis, I wonder how much extra Skylake offers over Haswell-E?


Consider a Xeon? They’re down to $250 for a prior-gen with 8 threads instead of 4 and double the cache, plus the bonus of no integrated graphics for lower power consumption. And the cool factor of having a server-class processor crunching your numbers instead of consumer-grade tech.

For the vast majority of users the lowly i3 is the best processor. The same or faster for games and productivity for half the money.

Just my irritating opinion :).


I am ready to upgrade my wife’s computer this week, but am unsure what to go with like DennyA above.

When I built my machine 15 months or so ago, I went with a Haswell-E 5820(K?) and the newer generation MB including quad channel RAM, etc. knowing that while it may not be currently faster for games, it should future-proof me a little longer with a more modern MB structure and support (not sure if this is true or not, though). I recall at the time I purchased my new i7-920 back in the day when it was very new, much of the same was said on that CPU that it wasn’t needed for modern gaming, but I believe it allowed me to wait a lot longer before I finally upgraded last year. My wife currently has the i7-920 that I want to upgrade.

So I am currently looking at an i7-6700K, i7-5820K or i7-6800K. I would like to future-proof this as much as I can for 5-7 years hopefully for modern gaming other than video card upgrades.

We both plan to get new GTX 1070 video cards and new monitors, but that is another story. I need to find the other thread for that as I am not sure if I want 2K or 4K and 144Hz or 60Hz, etc. I am leaning toward 2K and fast updates paired with a 1070 for now, but would like the monitor to at least last for 5-7 years too. We are upgrading from 1920x1200 and don’t feel too bad missing out on 2K so far, but am wondering if I will regret not going 4K now if I don’t plan to purchase another for 5 years at least.

I should probably edit that I really don’t want an ultra-wide or curved monitor. It is going to bug me enough going from 16:10 to 16:9 that anything skinnier would drive me nuts ;).


Do you do video editing, a ton of transcoding, or really, really hardcore photo editing? If the answer is no, I’d go for the fastest four-core i7 rather than spending extra for 6+ cores. The only reason I was considering the 6-core-plus models is that I do a lot of video work. But that and transcoding videos to watch on my iPad are about the only places where I really see benefits from the extra cores on my existing PCs.

If you don’t want to go ultra-widescreen, I’d say check out the 2560x1440 27-inch monitors. They’re a nice upgrade from 1920x1200, but don’t put as crazy demands on the GPU if you want to game in native resolution. (That said, I love my ultra-widescreen. It’s super-immersive because it fills your field of view. And gives me the real-estate of dual monitors on one display.)


Speaking of monitors, I really wish more name brand manufacturers would make 16:10 ones larger than 24" that weren’t crazy expensive. Like maybe a 30" 2560x1600 IPS panel for 550 or something. I really like the extra vertical real estate.


Yeah, me too. It may just be what I am used to, though.

Thanks for the feedback, Denny.


I’m also looking to upgrade my computer during the holiday season. 90% of my usage is gaming, the other 10% boring productivity stuff. I do light editing of photos and some video. Are the top 4-core i7 and i5 CPUs the i7 6700 ($300) and i5 6600 ($236)? It looks like a 6 core CPU jumps to $434 and since I’m looking to stay under $600 I don’t think I’d consider it. Since the i7 and i5 are both quad cores, do you think there is a noticeable performance difference between the two?

They both use LGA 1151 motherboards. Does anyone have any favorites? I don’t plan on overclocking. Is it still worth getting the Hyper 212 EVO cooler? I suppose if the motherboard makes overclocking super easy I may do it at some point but it isn’t a top priority. I’ve always just used the stock coolers. Is it a pain to apply the thermal paste for the non-stock cooler?

I’d probably go with 32 gig RAM if it isn’t cost prohibitive. If it is I’d go with 16.

This is upgrading my system I built 5 or 6 years ago, based on an i7 860.

Any other advice that maybe I’ve overlooked? Thanks.


I would recommend something like this for a gaming build.

If you have a 1080p monitor, you can get a GTX 1060 instead of a 1070.

You could compromise on many of the components, but they are pretty much what I would personally choose for a gaming build.