A while back, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) teased a next-generation processor aimed at desktop PC enthusiasts. This part, built on Intel's 14-nanometer manufacturing technology and based on the Broadwell architecture, would feature an "unlocked multiplier" (meaning the user can adjust the speed at which the chip runs, even beyond specifications). It would also come with the company's Iris Pro graphics built in, rather than the standard HD graphics normally found on user-replaceable Intel desktop processors.
Although it was known from the get-go that the chip would feature improved graphics, an open question among PC geeks (including yours truly) everywhere was whether it would bring CPU performance improvements.
The answer to that question is apparently "no," which makes me seriously question the whole point of this part.
Lower power, lower CPU performance, higher graphics
According to a recent leak from Chinese VR-Zone, the highest-end unlocked Broadwell -- known as the i7-5775C -- will run at 3.3GHz base, with maximum turbo to 3.7GHz. The current Core i7-4790K aimed at enthusiasts runs at a base clock of 4GHz with maximum turbo to 4.4GHz.
The integrated graphics performance of this part should be much higher than that of the i7-4790K, but the CPU performance out of the box should be lower. Also, the 4790K is rated at an 88 Watt thermal design power, which is significantly higher than the 65 Watt thermal design power at which the 5775C is rated.
In other words, Intel brought power down, CPU performance down, and graphics performance up.
So, uh, who cares?
This is an unlocked part going into desktop PCs with user-replaceable processors. This means if a user wants to improve CPU performance, he or she can run it at a higher speed, with the trade-off being higher power consumption.
However, it would take a substantial overclock of the 5775C to just get to the out-of-the-box performance of the 4790K; in that respect, it's hard to see enthusiasts opting for the former over the latter.
Also, while it could be argued the 5775C has much better integrated graphics than does the 4790K, this isn't really that relevant. If that person wants to play games, then odds are good he or she will simply buy a fast stand-alone graphics card. A $100-$150 card with either an AMD or NVIDIA GPU would probably run circles around the graphics integrated into this chip.
Furthermore, given that the 5775C is a premium part likely to sell for over $300, it could hardly be argued that someone who buys the chip and cares about gaming performance can't spring for a discrete graphics card.
Move along; nothing to see here until Skylake
Intel is expected to release its Skylake family of chips for desktops in August, per a leak from Chinese VR-Zone. The four-core unlocked model is expected to be rated at a thermal design power of 95 Watts, and all of the initial user-replaceable Skylake desktop chips are expected to feature a smaller graphics configuration than what the unlocked Broadwell chips will have.
Until those chips arrive, the i7-4790K will be the unlocked desktop chip of choice for PC enthusiasts and gamers. The 5775C, at least to me, seems utterly pointless.
Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel and Nvidia. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.