Intel’s Coffee Lake processor family was originally slated for a worldwide launch in early 2018, but thanks to a myriad of unforseen developments – AMD’s Ryzen being one of them – Intel had to make the difficult decision to pull Coffee Lake’s launch a few months forward. Sometime in the next few months, Intel will effectively be retiring Kaby Lake barely a year into its planned lifespan, and bumping up the core counts for their consumer platform for the first time in over a decade. A leak from French magazine Canard PC has now given us a better look into what Intel is planning, and it’s going to be a very interesting end to the year.
According to Canard PC, Intel’s core count alteration is basically going to affect their entire lineup, shaking up the status quo for the Celeron and Pentium families as well as the rest of the Core lineup. Perhaps the recent changes to the Kaby Lake family, where Intel gave the Pentium G46xx processors hyper-threading and more cache wasn’t a mistake at all. They could have just been testing the waters.
Intel Coffee Lake CPU Comparison
|Core i7-8700K||Core i7-7700K||Core i5-8600K||Core i5-7600K||Core i5-8400||Core i5-7400|
|Base clock speed||3.7GHz||4.2GHz||3.6GHz||3.8GHz||2.8GHz||3.0GHz|
|Boost clock speed||?||4.5GHz||?||4.2GHz||?||3.5GHz|
|Max boost speed||?||—||?||—||?||—|
|GPU Family||Intel 8th Gen||HD 630 1.15GHz||Intel 8th Gen||HD 630 1.15GHz||Intel 8th Gen||HD 630 1GHz|
Straight away, you can see how disruptive this lineup would be to Intel’s old way of doing things, and it’s going to be interesting to see if these rumoured specifications hold up to the real-world products. By the looks of things, Intel is planning to segment their Core i5 and Core i7 lines again using hyper-threading, with the Core i7 lineup maxing out at twelve threads per processor. It’s a substantial improvement over their previous lineup, and a deadly weapon against AMD’s Ryzen processors if they maintain the same price points.
There will have to be some cuts on Intel’s side though, and these will lead to them seeing less performance unless enthusiasts and gamers picking these chips up have good enough cooling solutions. For example, adding in two cores with hyper-threading will send power use for the Core i7-8700K through the ceiling broken by the Core i7-7700K (which is an average of 80ºC at stock settings), but the fact that the cores are underclocked, along with the TDP only being four watts higher, means that Intel is reining in their boost clock speeds significantly to counteract heat issues.
Not listed in the table, but mentioned by Canard PC, is also the Core i7-8700, which has a base clock speed of 3.2GHz. A 500MHz drop between the K-series and locked processors isn’t unusual for Intel by now, and it has a 65W TDP, but compared to Intel’s Core i7-7700, that’s a significant drop in clock speed for a single core. Intel is claiming, however, a 15% performance improvement compared to Kaby Lake.
If that’s accurate, it means that there’s a per-core 4% performance increase for the Core i7-8700K compared to the Core i7-7700K, a 10% increase for the Core i5-8600K compared to the Core i5-7600K, and a 10% increase for the Core i5-8400, all accounting for the clock speed drops. With a slight IPC boost along with a core count increase, Intel might be able to hang on to their significant market share even with AMD’s Ryzen processors now gaining ground against them.
But that promise was made at CES 2017, two months before Ryzen hit the ground. Intel revised this statement a few months later at Computex 2017 when they revealed more details about their future and the new 10nm process they’re developing. Coffee Lake now has a 30% projected performance increase (at a minimum) over Kaby Lake.
There’s the small catch about this claim that it applies to Intel’s mobile processors only, so I’m not sure what to make of it. For the desktop lineup, a 15% per-core improvement is nothing to laugh at, and you’re getting more cores on top of that. There’s still the issue of a new socket and chipset to support these processors as well. LGA 1151 isn’t going to be big enough, and the Z200-series chipset might need to be updated as well.
Is it enough to stem the Ryzing tide? Maybe, maybe not. We don’t have to wait too long to find out, as Intel is expected to release Coffee Lake somewhere between October and November 2017.