The seventh generation of Intel’s Core desktop processors has arrived. Code-named Kaby Lake, these new chips bring with them a number of improvements and advances over Intel’s 6th-gen Skylake processors.
Intel has moved away from its old “tick-tock” model of processor releases where it created new architectures then shrunk them down to a new manufacturing process. These new Kaby Lake chips are part of a new approach to processor releases being called “process-architecture-optimisation”.
Kaby Lake chips are part of the “optimisation” part of that approach, as they are “14nm+” chips that offer tweaks over the previous-generation Skylake processors as well as a slight reworking of the manufacturing process. The end result is faster processors with some new features that are more power efficient than their forebears.
Increased Clock Speeds
The most noticeable change is a 300 – 400MHz increase in clock speeds across the entire series when compared to their Skylake counterparts. The top model for now, the Core i7-7700k, sports a stock speed of 4.2GHz, which bursts up to 4.5GHz out the box; the Core i7-6700k, by comparison, offered a 4.0GHz stock and a 4.2GHz burst rate.
Intel has given one third of all Kaby Lake processors their own dedicated video processor as well, called Intel HD 630. It’s a surprisingly capable graphics chip, too, able to run many modern games using DirectX11 and 12 at playable levels, albeit at low-to-medium settings.
This is a big improvement on previous-gen Intel HD Graphics chips, which weren’t even able to run some games at all. Obviously a dedicated graphics card will perform better, but this still bodes well for gaming on mobile platforms and entry-level system performance.
Intel also refined Kaby Lake’s multimedia capabilities with built-in 4K HEVC encoding and decoding, which will make playing Ultra HD 4K videos like those available on YouTube and via video on demand services like Netflix possible without a dedicated graphics card.
With any new processor comes new motherboard chipsets to enable the OS to take advantage of all new features. Kaby Lake means a jump to the Z200-series chipset, and at the high-end power users get a lot of love: the Z270 chipset which goes on performance motherboards sees support for up to 24 PCIe Gen3 lanes and the option to fit up to three M.2 x4 SSDs onto the board.
Those motherboards are also Intel Optane ready. Optane is Intel’s new memory technology that provides memory-based cache for mechanical hard drives which keeps the most-requested data cached and ready for the OS. This speeds up mechanical hard drive performance substantially, but of course a dedicated SSD is still faster.
USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt
Along with those tweaks, Z270 motherboards get out-the-box support for USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt v3.0. Both interfaces boast data transfer speeds that’s even higher than that of vanilla USB 3.0: USB 3.1 operates at 10 gigabits per second, while Thunderbolt does a whopping 40 gigabits per second. This facilitates options like connecting multiple displays to a system and daisy-chaining of devices without performance drops.
Intel’s newest processor family also has also come to server architecture. The Kaby Lake Xeon E3-1200 V6 launched in late March, intended to encourage an upgrade for servers older than three years. In fact, all Kaby Lake processors are excellent upgrades for systems older than three years.
Kaby Lake desktop and Xeon processors are available right now; for a closer look or to place your orders, contact your Tarsus representative today.