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Meet Kaby Lake: Intel uncovers its new 7th generation CPUs

30 Aug 16

A while back, Intel teased geeks with their totally bonkers (and desirable) 10 core extreme edition version of their 7th gen CPU. Still salivating, we've now got the good oil on the rest of their range, codenamed Kaby Lake.

Intel’s new silicon uses the same 14nm process as their current Skylake range. While Intel were talking it up as 14nm+, no real detail exists around what 14nm+ really means. 

Either way, they're sticking to a 14nm fabrication process for Kaby Lake. This represents a big departure by Intel from their traditional Tick-Tock product roadmap. So Kaby Lake isn’t so much of a tick but more of an incremental refinement on their Skylake edition CPUs.

Kaby Lake silicon is about to ship to Intel’s PC manufacturer partners. It appears that the lineup will most likely mirror Intel’s earlier Skylake range. This should translate into an entry-level 7th gen Core i3 CPUs through to the earlier mentioned 10-core Extreme Edition Core i7 along with desktop and notebook variants.  

Kaby Lake Core CPUs will support Thunderbolt 3 and expanded capabilities for 4K video playback plus HDMI 2.0. Support for such as 10-bit HEVC hardware video decoding should make Kaby Lake equipped PCs into killer media boxes. 

In a move that will attract cheers from PC builders, Kaby Lake CPUs will also support current and previous generation motherboards. This equates to compatibility with LGA 1151 socket, existing 100-series and well as newer 200-series chipsets.

This is great news for existing Intel users wanting a quick drop-in upgrade. Those building new boxes will also be able to take advantage of Intel’s Optane SSDs and DIMM RAM to remove bottlenecks created by conventional HDDs (and even some older SSDs).

This also means that upgrading from older Skylake CPUs, (assuming BIOS updates come to market to support the new silicon) should be a straightforward undertaking. 

The prevailing consensus is that Kaby Lake should offer a 5-10% performance improvement for general compute tasks alongside sizable gains for video rendering and editing. Intel are likely to offer enthusiast-friendly overclocking and “unlocked” options too. 

Gamers and those planning high-end 4K capable media boxes will be pleased to note that Intel have beefed up media and display capabilities. This should see support for dual 5K (30Hz) and 5K (60Hz) displays. As well as HEVC 10-bit hardware decoding, there is also going to be hardware decoding for as bandwidth-friendly VP9 10-bit. 

 For PC shoppers, slimmer gaming capable notebook PCs that run cooler and sport long-life batteries are anticipated. 4K displays are likely to be the new norm as will 4K streaming. Either way, we can’t wait. Bring it Intel! 

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