Intel’s Confusing 8th Generation CPUs Launch

Since 2011, the launch of a new generation of Core CPUs has meant a new microarchitecture for Intel. Today, the company announced the launch of their 8th generation Core products. So what is the new microarchitecture? Well… it’s complicated.

Their Coffee Lake (mmmm coffee) microarchitecture will appear in 8th generation Core products, just not at launch. No, the company is bringing to market new CPUs based on the existing Kaby Lake designs. Keep in mind, their 7th generation processors based on Kaby Lake were only announced in January. Supply issues also slowed the release of the 7th gen CPUs, so if it seems like you’re only starting to see Kaby Lake on the market, it’s not just you.

So what’s different if backend microarchitecture hasn’t changed?

Intel is launching their 8th generation with a refresh of their 15W mobile U-series i5 and i7 lines. Due to some thermal tweaking, Intel is now packing these with four cores and eight threads, double their 7th generation replacements. Intel has never shipped a mobile quad-core that’s really sold at volume, so it’s a big announcement.

Those extra cores comes at the price of a little speed however. Base frequencies for the CPUs have been dialed back by about 20-25% compared to their predecessors, even while Turbo frequencies are the same or slightly higher. Hopefully OEMs will account for this and give a little more thermal headroom in laptop designs. Intel’s original Core M release was hampered by poor designs that saw high end processor perform worse because they were forced to throttle back Turbo frequencies due to heat.

Laptops have been stuck at a dual-core plateau for over a decade. Hopefully with Intel’s 8th generation Core CPUs, we’ll start to see quad-core becoming the everyday standard, with software development following along.

Ian Cutress comments:

Today the company is launching its new 8thGeneration family of processors, starting with four CPUs for the 15W mobile family. The launch of these processors was perhaps spoiled by Intel jumping the gun a few days ago and listing the processors on its own public price list, but also we have started to see laptop and mobile designs being listed at various retailers before the official announcement.

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About the author

Rich Stroffolino

Rich has been a tech enthusiast since he first used the speech simulator on a Magnavox Odyssey². Current areas of interest include ZFS, the false hopes of memristors, and the oral history of Transmeta.

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