Final thoughts and ratingIntel's Core i5 655K and Core i7 875K CPUs represent the chip giant's tacit appreciation of the enthusiast community. Ostensibly the same as the regular 650 and 870 models but shipping in OEM form and unshackled from any possible limitations imposed by mulitplier locks, Intel hopes that enthusiasts takes them on and pushes to the limit.
The 875K should appear at etail for around £300, representing a £100-plus saving over a full-retail 870. Intel knows that it won't sell many 870s in the channel due to the noisome combination of high price and roughly equivalent performance from its Core i7 930 and, looking across, from AMD's Phenom II X6 1090T. £300 is still £50 too much for a chip whose defining characteristic is an unlocked (upwards) multiplier, which will only come into play if it can be pushed to 5GHz-plus. What's more, the air-cooling headroom of the chip appears to be rather limited, compromised no doubt by the 875K becoming too hot when under load.
Switching gears, the dual-core Intel Core i5 655K's value proposition isn't good. Due to hit the etail shelves for £200, thereby putting it in the crosshairs of the six-core Phenom II X6 1055T and ever-useful Core i7 920, the high-frequency overclock cannot compensate for the lack of cores. We also doubt if users will bother with the chip's integrated graphics.
Intel's decision to launch a couple of K-class chips is laudable but perhaps hamstrung by the way the current Core range lines up. Having an unlocked multiplier on two average-value CPUs isn't ideal; we'd much rather see a Core i7 935K, yet that won't happen because it would nullify the more-expensive models higher up in the range.
Bottom line: Intel's Core i7 875K and Core i5 655K are semi-interesting chips that may tickle the fancy of a few enthusiasts. The inescapable problem they face lies with the quality of sub-£200 full-retail CPUs from both Intel and AMD.
Intel Core i7 875K
Intel Core i5 655K
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