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Intel officially takes the wraps off seventh gen Kaby Lake architecture; here’s everything we know

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Intel has officially taken the veils of their seventh generation processor platform called Kaby Lake. This latest platform is built via an improved 14nm manufacturing; it’s also the third architecture based on this 14nm process.

What is Kaby Lake?

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Meet Intel’s new baby, Kaby Lake. Note the size of the GPU section

Kaby Lake is a third generation chip made on the 14nm manufacturing process and probably the last. It’s also the seventh generation chip in Intel’s Core i series of CPUs.

Intel-PAO

Intel has been following a tick-tock upgrade cycle for a while now, but with the 14nm process, they shifted to a PAO (Process Architecture Optimisation) system. Tick-tock essentially introduced a new manufacturing process in the tick, then optimised it by the tock. The second, fourth and sixth generation Intel CPUs comprise the ‘tock’. With PAO, Intel adds another step, where they further optimise and enhance the results of a ‘tock’ cycle.

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A representation of the Intel U series Kaby Lake chip

While Intel didn’t reveal a whole lot about their entire line-up, it did share a great deal about its Y and U series mobile platform. Intel sums it up best when they say that the focus of Kaby Lake is the “immersive web.”


All you performance junkies and overclockers can stop reading right now though. Intel made no mention of their K series SKUs and Kaby Lake’s desktop variants. The only thing you really need to know is that the CPUs are socket compatible with the previous generation. Details of an Intel i7 7700K were leaked some time ago, but performance figures are lacking.

The immersive web

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Intel’s entire pitch for Kaby Lake revolves around the fact that the future’s the internet and the future of the internet is video. They expect to see an increasing amount of 4K content and even 4K 360-degree video. If everyone’s going to be watching video, one might as well optimise for video.

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While Skylake, the previous generation architecture, was perfectly comfortable dealing with FHD video content, its power consumption for 4K decoding is very high. Kaby Lake incorporates dedicated hardware channels for HEVC 10-bit and VP9 video codecs, making for extremely efficient 4K rendering and editing.

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Intel claims that Kaby Lake will be capable of rendering multiple 4K video streams while still allowing you to work or browse the web. They also add that the impact to battery life will be minimal. In fact, they claim up to 2.6 times the battery life when playing back 4K video, as compared to Skylake.


If the data they provided is correct, we’ve no reason to doubt them, Kaby Lake uses barely 0.5W on average to decode a 4K video, while Skylake would require 10W of power.

Performance boost

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Compared to Skylake, Intel claims that Kaby Lake will offer a 12 percent bump in productivity and a 19 percent bump in web browsing tasks.

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The boost in web browsing is notable because Intel says that Kabe Lake uses an improved version of Speed Shift, which is more efficient at boosting performance for very short periods, a performance burst if you will, which is extremely useful in web browsing scenarios.

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Intel states that part of this bump is down to the higher clock-speeds that they’re able to extract from the new manufacturing process. The rest can be attributed to overall platform improvements (such as HEVC and VP9 support).

Most of these comparisons were between an Intel i5 6500U and an Intel 7500U. When compared to Sandy Bridge, a 5-year old architecture, Intel claims a performance bump of 70 percent and a 3.5x improvement in graphics performance.

Features

Along with the usual Intel bells and whistles, Kaby Lake will support PCIe Gen 3.0, which offers higher bandwidth when compared to the previous iteration (8GT/s vs 5GT/s). PCIe-based SSDs should benefit the most from this.

All Intel Core m series, Y series and U series chipsets will be dual-core CPUs with support for 4 threads via hyperthreading.

The rest of the architecture remains very similar to Skylake.

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Judging by what Intel has told us so far, it’s clear that Kaby Lake will greatly benefit mobile devices (laptops, 2-in-1s, etc.). Since 4K content is still sparse, the average user will probably not notice much of an improvement in performance, especially if they’re on Broadwell or Skylake. For the high-end desktop user though, the performance rewards will also be less tangible, especially since battery life is not an issue.

Obviously, if you’re still on an older generation platform like Sandy-Bridge, it’s high time you upgraded.


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