Kaby Lake System Build


Intel has finally gotten the performance up enough with their latest “Tock” for me to upgrade the Core i7-3770K system I built way back in 2012. As part of that tiny segment of hardcore flight sim fans, I still have stuff that can benefit from a CPU boost, but all the way up through SkyLake the extra perf wasn’t enough over my 4.5-year-old system to warrant an upgrade.

The extra 15-30% on Kaby Lake, added to the previous incremental upgrades, means I might see a realistic improvement in overall performance. Plus some of the upcoming enhancements like Intel Optane seem interesting.

Also, my f*#$@ing Oculus software will stop bitching about my CPU, despite it being faster in real life than their minimum spec CPU. :)

So reading what’s out there today, looks like I’ll be going for the:

  • Core i7-7700K
  • Asus Strix 270E Gaming motherboard
  • 32GB of DDR4/2133 RAM
  • Some kind of bigass M.2 SSD, since 1TB M.2s are now in the under-$300 range.
  • GTX 1080, drives, and power supply from my existing rig

On the case… I need to research what’s out there now, but it looks like the Corsair Carbide Air 540 would be easier to work in than my old traditional Antec. (Antec is a nice, quiet case, but too tight for the GTX 1080 and other stuff I have crammed it in after years of upgrades.)

On the M.2 SSD front, I know the Samsung 860 is the top performer, but looking at the current selection of 960GB-1TB M.2 SSDs on Amazon, I can get something like a Crucial, WD, or SanDisk for a fraction of the price, and I imagine the real-world difference will be pretty insignificant. Certainly not a big enough difference to warrant more than double the price! I considered making this my first spinning-drive-free system, but I’ll throw in one of the big drives I pulled from my retired Media Center PC just so I can keep easily create and keep additional backups of all my music, photos, and videos there in case the other family desktop, our productivity system, craps out.

From looking at the motherboard, looks like power supplies mercifully haven’t added new connectors in the past five years, so I should be good with my old Corsair 80+ Gold 800W overkill supply.

Man. I remember when I used to change graphics cards yearly and motherboards every two years and every generation was a huge improvement. And they wonder why the PC market has slowed down…


Also thinking I am gonna hop on this upgrade train, that 7700k seems like a decent upgrade for my 2600k. I know my GTX1080 is being held back by my older parts like my RAM (DDR3/1600 RAM).


BUT now that I am reading more, ARS thinks its not a huge upgrade from Sandy Bridge. :|

As it stands, what we have with Kaby Lake desktop is effectively Sandy Bridge polished to within an inch of its life, a once-groundbreaking CPU architecture hacked, and tweaked, and mangled into ever-smaller manufacturing processes and power envelopes.

I shall fence sit and read more… :p


I can just drop a Kaby Lake in my existing Z170 mobo, with a BIOS upgrade. What does Z270 bring to the table?


I love that Carbide Air so god-damned much. I would marry it were it legal.

It made my build so easy. Nice and roomy, and all of the cabling goes on the unseen side out of the air path and you don’t have to spend much effort cleaning it up. Apart from some fan lighting, it doesn’t offer any of the gamerz aesthetic (thank God).

It’s a bit big, but smaller than my previous monolith so win-win.


Not a lot. A few extra PCI-E lanes, support for faster memory, and Optane support. I don’t see any reason for a Z170/Skylake user to upgrade. But I’m running Z77/Ivy Bridge, not a Z170.

@Biggerboat, thanks for the backup on the case choice! Nice looking rig. I went ahead and ordered one as NewEgg has them for $119 right now, and I’m a little concerned Corsair is going to replace the 540 with the 740, which I don’t like as much.


I’m also on a Z77 board with an Ivy i7. I’m thinking I’ll wait for the next generation and just replace my GTX 980 whenever the 1080 TI comes out. Or a comparable AMD GPU, perhaps. I do have that freesync monitor after all.


I think I’ll wait to see if AMD has finally pulled off something impressive with Ryzen before making a final decision, or if it’s another generation of disappointment.

My i7-3700K only runs reliably at about 4GHz, so when you add the MHz jump (sounds like the 7700K is reliable at 5GHz) plus process improvements, I should see a reasonable performance jump.

Ideally I’d wait one more generation for the next process Tick, but with Intel that’s realistically probably going to be 12-18 months minimum. Last I read about Coffelake and Cannon Lake, there were some serious yield issues still at 10 nm, so the next “performance chip” upgrade may be another 14nm “Tock” anyway.


I went with a 6700K literally last week, and I’m not sure it’s perceptibly superior to the 2600K it replaced :)


But it has that new cpu smell!


Yep, outside benchmarks, my heavily overclocked excessively cooled 6700K feels basically identical to my old i920.


Depends what you run. Try the Dolphin emulator!

i920 is even worse than Sandy, I think. Down near the FX-8370?


I don’t use the dolphin emulator, so I don’t actually care how it performs. Canned benchmarks are great for comparing performance through eliminating variables, but they have very little to do with the actual user experience.

Upgrading from an overclocked i920 to an OC 6700K was not a big deal. Couldn’t really tell the difference.

Upgrading from a GTX770 to a GTX1080 was a nice noticeable bump in performance. Depending on the game I went from medium/high quality 1440p at 40-50fps to max quality 1440p at 144fps.

Upgrading from a magnetic hard disk to a SSD was ball-droppingly amazing.


It’s the actual performance of the emulator; below a certain level it can’t emulate the Wii / GameCube games. Some games require more emulation power since they’re doing in software, what was done in dedicated hardware.

Not sure how that’s “canned”.


Part of my incentive to go ahead and upgrade is that I want to go up to 32GB of RAM for video editing and X-Plane 11, Right now I have all four DIMM slots full, so I’d have to buy 32GB of dead-end DDR3 RAM to do the upgrade.


It’s canned because it’s, well, canned. It measures the usage of a single application, that emulator, in a specific use-case, the built-in benchmark. It’s no different than 3dmark-- in fact it’s a bit worse, because 3dmark at least attempts to test different use cases so it works more like a bunch of different programs rather than just one.

Canned benchmarks are great for evaluating a single use case but can only be vaguely extrapolated to overall performance. All those Dolphin benchmarks actually prove is one CPU definitively performs better than another in Dolphin.

Same deal with your javascript benchmarks too, by the way, but javascript is used by thousands of different “applications” so its performance applies to many more use cases.

The reason why javascript benchmarks are so prevalent these days isn’t because everybody wants Discourse to perform better on their hardware-- it’s because every platform has a web browser, even the mobile ones.


Um, how do you turn on the fan lighting? Mine doesn’t have lighting. :(


Curious as to which flight sim you play… personally I haven’t found many games that really benefit from high end CPUs.


Prepar3D (the evolution of MS Flight Sim, and likely the oldest codebase still being actively developed for any game) is CPU-intensive. X-Plane is as well; both bog down with lots of scenery and cloud effects, and GPU figures in far less than for the other 99% of games. A fast GPU does help, but both visibly benefit from any CPU speedup too.


What’s that Optane memory thing all about? A whole new kind of neo/non-DDR RAM stick or something? Can’t quite make it out from the technical articles I googled.


I used to “play” Flight Sim a lot and I remember Flight Sim X was very CPU dependent (to the point of being criticized as horribly optimized, as even a $5k gaming rig at the time couldn’t run it well). Prepar3d looks interesting.