Intel has finally shown its hand in the 2017 CPU wars, revealing the processors that’ll power the laptops going on sale before Christmas this year. It’s just added the first details of the ‘Coffee Lake’ desktop processors, with the ‘premium performance’ chips set to launch on 5 October 2017, with the Core i7-8700K and, for the first time ever, a four-core i3.
Intel Coffee Lake official specs and prices details
Intel had already unveiled its 8th-gen laptop processors, but this time we’ve got the first set of official details for the brand new “Coffee Lake” 8th-gen desktop chips. If you’re interested in the laptop parts, which are quite different, scroll down to the next section.
For now, Intel has only released the details of what it calls its “premium performance” line; they’re the chips that Intel is aiming at gamers. All of these chips use the Coffee Lake architecture, which is the replacement of the older Kaby Lake. Confusingly, Kaby Lake is still used for laptop chips. In short, if Kaby Lake was a refined version of Skylake, Coffee Lake is a super-duper refinement (also known as 14nm++).
This year, for the first time in a long time, Intel’s performance crown is under threat from AMD’s Ryzen line-up. To compete, Intel is expanding its range of unlocked processors and is upping the coreseen leaked specifications from a German online retailer, but Intel has now given us the full rundown on the processor line-up, as detailed below, with the ‘K’ processors denoting unlocked models. Please note that the Turbo speed for all cores and price in Euro comes from the leak; the rest of the information is from Intel.
|Cores/Threads||Base clock (GHz)||Turbo all cores/one core (GHz)||L3 cache||TDP||Price (EU, inc VAT/USD 1K)|
The clear difference this year is the number of cores that each chip has. Now, the i7 range has six cores, with Hyper-threading giving 12 threads; the Core i5 range has six cores but no Hyper-threading; and the Core i3 range is now a quad-core brand. As far as pricing goes, despite the extra cores, prices haven’t increased horribly over last year. Right now you can grab a Core i7-7700K for around £320, while its six-core successor, the 8700K, looks to cost around £350 in UK money including taxes. That’s not bad at all considering the expected massive performance increase.
Of course, Intel is promising that the new Coffee Lake range will have considerably better performance than Kaby Lake. First, Intel has boosted single-core performance through a combination of architecture optimisations and higher Turbo speeds. Comparing the Core i7-8700K with the Core i7-7700K, Intel has said that gamers can expect up to 25 per cent higher frame rate in Gears of War 4. Multi-tasking has also been increased, largely thanks to the additional cores, with Intel quoting up to 45 per cent better performance in Playerunknown’s Battleground, and up to 32 per cent faster video editing.
As well as the core count change and performance enhancements, Intel is promising better overclocking controls for anyone wanting to get more out of their CPU. With any multi-core processors, the manufacturing process typically means that some cores can handle a higher overclock than others. Now, with Coffee Lake, you get per-core overclocking to let you get the best out of each core. The max memory ratio has been improved to 8,400MT/s, and there’s real-time latency control, so settings can be tweaked without requiring a reboot. Intel has updated its Extreme Tuning Utility and Extreme Memory Profile, too. We’ll have to see how far the new chips can be pushed when we run our full review.
Intel has said that each processor has a GPU that is architecturally the same as on Kaby Lake. You can expect slightly better performance due to higher clock speeds and better-optimised drivers, although Intel didn’t release the full specifications. Not that onboard GPU’s at this level are particularly interesting, as the vast majority of people that buy one of these chips will also have a discrete graphics card.
The other thing that’s worth keeping in mind ahead of the 8th-gen desktop chip launch is that it will require a new chipset, called Z370. This means the Z270 chipset that was introduced for Kaby Lake is already defunct and won’t accept any newer processors. That’s a bit of a bummer for anybody who made what they were hoping was a long-term investment in a Z270 motherboard. Intel sites power delivery requirements for the new chips as the reason behind the change. As a result of this, Skylake and Kaby Lake processors will not be compatible with Z370 motherboards, either. Z370 will also up supported memory speed to DDR4-2666.
Intel has said that Z370 will support USB 3.1 Gen 1 (up to 5Gb/s) rather than the newer 10Gb/s USB 3.1 Gen 2. It’s likely, as usual, that the faster ports will be provided by OEM motherboard manufacturers on some models of board. There’s also Thunderbolt 3 integrated into the chipset. Intel continues to push its Optane Memory technology, with the fast SSD cache helping to boost the speed of systems with mechanical storage. Optane Memory can make quite a difference, although it seems to us as though most people buying these high-end chips would be better off investing in a fast SSD.
All of the announced processors will be available on 5 October 2017, both in retail and OEM PCs. General desktop chips will not be available until the first half of 2018, with more details to come. We’ll have a review of the first Coffee Lake chips soon.
Intel 8th-generation Core laptops
Intel’s first drip of information on its new 8th-generation chips will be music to the ears of people looking to buy a laptop before the start of 2018. From 7th-generation ‘Kaby Lake’ to 8th-gen ‘Kaby Lake’ (you read that right, we’ll explain later, we promise), Intel is claiming a “once in a decade” performance boost of 40% generation-over-generation.
When you look at the figures, it’s easy to see why. The first four chips revealed are from the U-series of Core i chips. These processors are the most common you’ll find in cheaper laptops, as well as ultra-thin and light notebooks.
Where the last-generation equivalents of these new processors were dual-core parts, Intel has doubled the number of cores. Quad-core performance on an Ultrabook? Result! Well, not quite.
Yes, there will be four cores but there’s more to performance than just number of cores. These are still low-power processors. In other words, these aren’t intended to replace more powerful quad-core laptops using ‘H’-series CPUs. However, what is clear is that new laptops will be much better at handling multiple tasks at the same time (such as loads of browser tabs), and should make many tasks a lot smoother.
Intel says 80 laptops will be available with the new quad-core chips before the end of the year, although how many come to the UK remains to be seen.
The IFA 2017 show has kicked off in style, with several laptop makers announcing new laptops and updates to older models that will feature eighth-generation Intel chips. Here’s a selection of some of the big hitters that’ve been announced so far.
- Dell XPS 13 from September 12
- Asus ZenBook Flip S, Flip 14 and 15 (release TBC)
- Asus ZenBook 3 Deluxe
- Asus ZenBook 13 UX331
- Acer Swift 5 2017 from December
- Acer Spin 5 2017 from September
- Acer Switch 7 Black Edition from December
- Lenovo Yoga 920
- Lenovo Miix 520
- More to come
Intel 8th-gen laptop CPU specs
|Processor frequency (GHz)||1.9-4.2||1.8-4||1.7-3.6||1.6-3.4|
|Graphics clock speed (MHz)||Up to 1150||Up to 1150||Up to 1000||Up to 1000|
This first tranche of new chips will be running on a refined version of Intel’s previous-generation CPU architecture, called Kaby Lake. While it’s the same underlying technology, this only tells part of the story.
While there are more cores, the base clock speed of each chip is substantially lower than their predecessors. The Core i7-7600U, for example started at 2.8GHz, while the new i7-8650U will run as low as 1.9GHz.
This makes sense, given putting Intel is putting two extra cores on a chip that has the same thermal design power (TDP) as the last generation. There’s no such thing as a free lunch in the world of microelectronics and these chips will have to manage their heat somehow.
This means some cores won’t be running at their potential all of the time, but you should still get a nice combination of sprightly single-core performance and multi-task-friendly quad-core experience. This differs from Intel’s other quad-core laptop chips from the H-Series (which you’ll find in the Dell XPS 15 and 15-inch MacBook Pro among others), which run at a much higher base clock speed.
Intel hasn’t detailed how this will work, and has been a little tight-lipped on some of the more technical specifics. The maths here is a bit interesting because some might say that doubling the number of cores should straight up double the performance. As we explain above, this isn’t how things work. But what’s more interesting is that doubling the number of cores on these new chips has actually only granted an extra 25% raw performance, with the final 15% coming from an improved design and better manufacturing capabilities.
One final note on these new chips: Intel has re-branded its HD Graphics on-board GPU to UHD Graphics. Don’t be confused, however, as this really is just a re-brand. There’s no performance difference at all.
There are more laptop chips we’re still waiting to hear about: H-Series (high-end), M-Series (mid-tier quad-core) and Y-Series (ultra-low-power) all remain a mystery, as does the rest of the U-series range, which normally consists of a dozen or more chips.
Intel’s strategy shift
The new laptop processors revealed above are based on Intel’s current-generation Kaby Lake design. We had actually expected Intel to dump Kaby Lake entirely for this generation, as the company doesn’t have a habit of extending the life of older technology.
In fact, 8th-gen will encompass not just Kaby Lake, but also Coffee Lake and Cannon Lake designs. This is one of those rare occasions where CPU geeks will be more confused than the average consumer; remember that regular consumers almost never see the codenames of the chips that end up in the computers they buy.
As a reminder, Kaby Lake is an enhanced version of Intel’s 14nm Skylake design ( known as 14nm+). Coffee Lake is also known as 14nm++. Cannon Lake, is a 10nm design. Put very simply, a smaller transistor design means more power efficiency.
Intel has justified its decision to include a refreshed Kaby Lake architecture in its new generation because it believes the performance difference is big enough for regular consumers to consider it as such. Desktop chips, meanwhile, will use the upcoming Coffee Lake architecture, while laptops will see Cannon Lake tech towards the end of the year.
Ryzen to the occasion?
Most will see this laptop launch as an early response to AMD’s Ryzen Mobile. Intel’s arch consumer rival has already set the world alight with impressive new desktop processors, and while we know very little about its laptop efforts, Intel clearly believes AMD is bringing loads of cores to the table, as it did with its desktop products.
Intel has an enormous amount of clout in the laptop market, and given how many laptop companies seem to have committed to 8th-generation Intel, it’ll be interesting to see how many also launch desirable machines with AMD Ryzen processors.