Everything you need to know about Intel’s 8th-gen Coffee Lake processors
Latest news at a glance:
- LATEST: Intel Coffee Lake release date revealed as August 21 2017
- NEW: Three six-core chips ‘leaked’
- Will be 30% more powerful than 7th-gen Kaby Lake
- Should launch in the second half of 2017
(Update: August 14, 2017): Intel has officially confirmed that the eighth generation of ‘Coffee Lake’ CPUs will officially debut on August 21, which is tantalisingly close. Read on to find out more.
Intel’s next generation of processors is almost upon us. Intel has confirmed that its 8th-generation “Coffee Lake” processors will be revealed on 21 August in a Facebook Live broadcast. Yes, that’s the same day as the American Solar Eclipse. Will Intel eclipse the competition, or will its rivals cast shade onto its announcements? We’ll find out in less than two weeks.
Here’s everything you need to know about how the 8th-gen announcement will affect your tech buying experience.
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Coffee Lake laptop chips: A major step forward
How will 8th-gen processors affect your next laptop purchase? At the very least, you’ll get up to 30% more performance in certain tasks, according to Intel. At its Computex press conference in May, the company revealed that it had doubled its laptop chip performance improvement estimates up from 15% to 30%. Some have since speculated that the reason for this is because Intel turned its dual-core laptop chips (U-series) into quad-core parts in response to AMD’s Ryzen processors throwing extra cores at the problem without any problems with heat and power consumpion. This is, as we say, speculation. However, if it’s true, it would be a complete game-changer for the Ultrabook market, turning thin and light machines that were already semi-capable video editing machines into proper powerhouses. This remains to be seen, however.
Even if this turns out not to be true and Intel has made its 30% gains elsewhere, this is a big enough improvement to give people in the market for a new laptop pause for thought. For the last few generations of Intel processor upgrades, peformance gains have been minor, at around 15%. 30% is much more significant.
Related: Best gaming laptops
Coffee Lake desktop chips:
The latest news on Intel Coffee Lake is shaky confirmation of what we already thought we knew. According to WCCFTech, which has a mixed-to-good record on this sort of thing, Intel’s eighth-gen Coffee Lake chips line-up will feature at least three products with six cores. We’ve also had more recent leaks that Core i3 processors could get the quad-core treatment for the first time. Previously dual-core desktop parts, Core i3 was always in danger of falling behind as games start to use quad-core processors more effectively than dual-cores.
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Those aforementioned six-core don’t have names yet, but the level of detail on the spec sheet is surprisingly detailed. This doesn’t mean much, especially if we’re carrying our trusty pinch of salt, but it’s an interesting piece to analyse either way. The three chips that have been revealed use the LGA1151 socket, which is good news for anybody with a sixth or seven-gen processor and motherboard, as they could slot straight into an existing setup. However, a recent tweet by the account of motherboard manufacturer AsRock (which has since been deleted) stated that 8th-gen desktop chips would require a new generation of motherboards.
The first six-core chip has a 3.7GHz base clock speed and up to 4.3GHz boost clock speed. The TDP (thermal design power) is rated at 95W, which is the same as the K-suffix, overclockable processors from the current generation.
This might sound a little lacklustre compared to top-end quad-core chips such as the current-gen i7-7700K, but keep in mind that there are 50% more cores here to contend with, and the extra heat that comes with that.
If all six cores are fully clocked, they’ll reach a maximum of 4GHz in this top-spec chip. This processor is also marked as overclockable, but it’s not clear whether it will come with Intel’s Hyper-Threading tech, which would double the number of accessible threads to 12, putting it in line with AMD’s six-core Ryzen 5 1600X as far as cores and clock speeds go.
The second chip is very similar, but with much lower clock speeds ranging from 3.2GHz to 3.6GHz in single-core Turbo Boost mode. It’s still a 95W chip, and is overclockable. The final chip listed has a 65W TDP, which suggests it’s a lower-power part for more compact PC builds.
With so many cores, expect Intel to make lots of noise about its fabled ‘mega-taskers’, the people for whom four cores just isn’t enough. Also expect talk about Twitch streaming performance; that was a big marketing focus for AMD, so we’d expect Intel to hit back.
That’s the latest on Coffee Lake; there’s more info below on what we already think we know.
Related: What is a CPU?
Does this matter?
Let’s take a step back: why does this matter to you and the laptop or PC purchase you’re thinking of making this year?
You may have heard of 7th-gen Intel Core processors, otherwise known as Kaby Lake. This is the marketing name for the latest generation of Intel Core i processors you’ll find in new PCs and laptops, and represents the follow-up to 6th-gen Skylake.
The 8th-gen chip uses a 14-nanometre (nm) ‘process’, which is the same as Kaby Lake. At its most basic, the smaller the process the more efficient the processor is, allowing you to squeeze more transistors onto the same-sized piece of silicon.
Silicon is expensive, so fitting more of the ultra-important transistors onto them means you can make more efficient use of each little piece. The process of making smaller transistors is also expensive, so Intel has used this 14nm architecture for its 5th-gen Broadwell, 6th-gen Skylake and 7th-gen Kaby Lake products.
This new product will use the same 14nm size and, like with all previous advancements, take advantage of new technology to make the process even more efficient.
If you’re thinking of building a PC in the second half of this year, you might be interested in waiting to see whether 8th-gen Coffee Lake chips can take the fight to AMD’s Ryzen 5 and 7 processors, both in terms of price and performance.
So far, AMD has managed to undercut Intel on price, but if Intel fights back with Coffee Lake, things should get very interesting.
Intel Coffee Lake Release Date: What’s the roadmap?
We now know that Intel’s new-gen Coffee Lake chips will launch on August 21.
Here’s how things have shaped up for new Intel processors in 2017 so:
- Early 2017: 14nm Kaby Lake
- First half of 2017: 14nm Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X (Extreme, enthusiast chips)
- Second half of 2017: 14nm Coffee Lake (now confirmed for August 21 reveal)
- Late 2017: 10nm Cannonlake
Watch: Intel processors explained
Will you wait for Coffee Lake to buy a new computer, or are you already sold on a Kaby Lake machine? Share your thoughts in the comments below.