Everything You Need To Know About Intel’s 8th Generation Coffee Lake Processors

Intel 8th Generation Coffee Lake

The curtain has finally been lifted and Intel has officially revealed the detailed specifications of their 8th generation Coffee Lake processor family, which marks a lot of major changes from the company for their mainstream Core series processors. Releasing on 5th October, the 8th generation Intel processor lineup boasts around 35% performance improvement over the current 7th generation Kaby Lake series which is a pretty big claim. However, the biggest change in Intel Coffee Lake series is the increase in core count for all processors, a move which was undoubtedly spurred by the launch of AMD’s Ryzen series which aims to deliver more cores to mainstream desktop processors without a premium price tag.

While Intel has also launched high core count processors in the past, the first one being the Core 2 Extreme in 2006, this is the first time the company is doing it for their mainstream Core desktop series rather than just for the extremely expensive high-end enthusiast processors. For users whose work relied a lot on raw core count, the only solution was to either upgrade to the high-end processors or switch to AMD Ryzen series. However, that is no longer the case as all across the board, Intel Coffee Lake series is getting an increase in core count while the price point remains mostly the same.

Intel Coffee Lake Base Specifications

Intel Coffee Lake features

As mentioned earlier, all the processors in Coffee Lake series will see an improvement in core count as well as performance over the current 7th generation series. Intel Core i3 series will be moving from dual-core processors to quad-cores, Core i5 will make the jump to hexa-core while the top of the line Core i7 series will not only see the core count increased to 6 but also have hyper threading enabled for a total of 12 threads for multitasking. According to Intel, when mega-tasking, the Core i7 8700K will deliver 45% better performance compared to i7 7700K. Mega tasking here entails gaming, streaming as well as recording on the side and thanks to the increased core count, this should no longer cripple your PC.

At launch, Intel will have a total of six 8th generation Coffee Lake processors available, two for each processor class. Their specifications are given below so you can see how much of on-paper improvement there is as compared to the 7th generation counterparts of the same processor.

  • Core i3-8100 – 4 cores / 4 threads at 3.6GHz 65W TDP
  • Core i3-8350K – unlocked 4 cores / 4 threads at 4.0GHz 91W TDP
  • Core i5-8400 – six core / six threads clocked at 2.8GHz with boost up to 4.0GHz 65W TDP
  • Core i5-8600K – unlocked six cores / six threads at 3.6GHz and boost up to 4.4GHz 95W TDP
  • Core i7-8700 – six cores / 12 threads clocked at 3.2GHz with boost up to 4.6GHz 65W TDP
  • Core i7-8700K – unlocked six cores / 12 threads clocked at 3.8GHz and boost up to 4.7GHz 95W TDP

Intel 8th Generation Coffee Lake Desktop Prices

With the increased core count and performance, of course, an increased price tag is to be expected over the current Intel Kaby Lake series processors. However given the competition with Ryzen, Intel couldn’t go overboard with the price which is why the Intel 8th generation processor series sits at a nice price point with only small price increments over those of the 7th generation’s launch prices.

  • Core i3-8100 – priced at $117 compared to $117 of i3-7100
  • Core i3-8350K – priced at $168 compared to $168 of i3-7350K
  • Core i5-8400 – priced at $182 compared to $182 of i5-7400
  • Core i5-8600K – priced at $257 compared to $242 of i5-7600K
  • Core i7-8700 – priced at $303 compared to $303 of i7-7700
  • Core i7-8700K – priced at $359 compared to $339 of i7-7700K

While these may not be cheaper than AMD’s Ryzen offerings as the 8-core Ryzen 1700 costs $300, the actual performance results will be the deciding factor as to whether the AMD processors are better value for money or Intel’s 8th generation desktop processors.

However, while the processors may not be that high priced for the upgrade they offer, the actual upgrade to 8th generation Coffee Lake processor series will end up costing you a significant amount. To everyone’s dismay, Intel has confirmed that despite snapping into the same LGA 1151 sockets as 6th and 7th generation processors, the latest Coffee Lake series will not use the same chipset as the older generations. Previously, if someone had a 6th generation processor, they could upgrade to 7th generation without having to change their motherboard due to backward compatibility with Z170 chipset. With Intel 8th Generation Core processor series, that is no longer the case as the new processors will require the Z370 chipset, which will be very expensive.

According to Intel, they have worked on a lot of improvements for the 300 series chipset such as official support for DDR4-2666 memory, which is why the Z370 motherboards will be a requirement for the new processor series but nothing really adds up as the Z270 motherboards seem to have pretty much the same capabilities as the new ones. While the TDP of 8th generation processors is higher, 95W compared to 91W of Kaby Lake, that still doesn’t seem enough to justify a massive upgrade like this.

Anyone who recently purchased a Z170 or Z270 motherboard will have to drop a hefty sum of money once again on a new motherboard. By comparison, AMD’s AM4 socket is going to be under by all their processors releasing till 2020. What makes matters worse is that the budget offerings of the 300-series chipset, the H370 and B350 motherboards will not be available until next year. Therefore, for anyone looking to make an upgrade to Intel Coffee Lake processors, the more expensive Z370 motherboards are the only option. While switching motherboards for a newer generation of processors isn’t exactly something new, just the fact that an expensive motherboard you bought barely 8 months ago will not work with a new processor is pretty disheartening.

A performance upgrade is nice but is it really worth it when you have to spend so much on a motherboard upgrade, which might become obsolete for the next generation of processors. As there are already rumors that the next generation of processors, Intel Canon Lake, will require the Z390 motherboards. Whether those will work with 8th Generation Core desktop processors or not remains to be seen.

Performance Analysis

Intel 8th Generation processor improvements

While detailed performance information and benchmarks aren’t available yet, Intel claims that on average, the Coffee Lake processor series will deliver up to 30% improved performance over the previous 7th generation and up to a massive 65 percent over 4th and 5th generation processors when it comes to video editing and content creation. Intel originally claimed that the processor series will offer a 15% performance improvement over Kaby Lake but later Intel’s Gregory Bryant confirmed that their engineers were able to kick things up a notch and managed to increase the performance gain up to 30%. Surprisingly that is a first for Intel considering all their previous generations have relied on small improvements like 10-15%. The i7-8700K is also being hailed as Intel’s best gaming desktop processor ever, which might be good news for professional gamers and streamers. While the Coffee Lake series may not have seen a massive generational leap in manufacturing, since it is built in the 14++nm node while Kaby Lake was on 14+nm, Intel has assured that the later products released in 8th generation lineup will use the 10nm processing node for much better performance and results.

Surprisingly that is a first for Intel considering all their previous generations have relied on small improvements like 10-15%. The i7-8700K is also being hailed as Intel’s best gaming desktop processor ever, which might be good news for professional gamers and streamers. While the Coffee Lake series may not have seen a massive generational leap in manufacturing, since it is built in the 14++nm node while Kaby Lake was on 14+nm, Intel has assured that the later products released in 8th generation lineup will use the 10nm processing node for much better performance and results.

The requirement of a Z370 motherboard means that by default a Coffee Lake processor will have improved memory routing and RAM performance due to native DDR4-2666 support. While the support could be enabled for Kaby Lake processors by overclocking, Intel claims that expanded memory multipliers with support up to 8400 MT/s and real-time memory latency control features would greatly benefit performance.

From some leaked Cinebench scores, we can see that the 8th generation of processors offers an amazing improvement over the current 7th generation Kaby Lake and even AMD’s Ryzen lineup. The Core i7-8700K running at 3.7GHz had a single thread score of 196 and multithread of 1230 compared to 194 and 973 of Core i7 7700K. Given Intel’s traditional edge when it comes to delivering performance in gaming, it is highly likely that even with more core counts, the AMD Ryzen offerings will be unable to beat Intel Coffee Lake series in performance under the $350 mark.

The Intel Coffee Lake processors will have the following L3 cache sizes:

  • Core i3-8100 – 6MB
  • Core i3-8350K – 6MB
  • Core i5-8400 – 9MB
  • Core i5-8600K – 9MB
  • Core i7-8700 – 12MB
  • Core i7-8700K – 12MB

There are also some other “hidden” performance enhancements in the 8th generation Core desktop platform as Intel’s slides mentioned Thunderbolt 3 support, enhanced overclocking that allows per-core overclocking and improve Optane Memory support. For those that don’t know, Optane Memory is Intel’s own brand of cache memory designed to be a bridge between mechanical hard drives and SSDs by delivering high performance at a fraction of a cost.

Intel 8th generation overclocking

Sadly, Intel has confirmed that despite the bump in core count, Coffee Lake will retain the old CPU and GPU architecture, which means Skylake CPU cores and Kaby Lake GPU cores, possibly with improved clock speeds.

Alternate Offerings

Intel 8th generation processors

Intel Coffee Lake processor series doesn’t just revolve around the desktop series of processors. The newer architecture will also extend to their entry-level Pentium and Celeron family. As well as the high-end Core X series for extreme performance. While the Core desktop series will deliver amazing performance, those looking for more will still have the option to go for the super expensive Core X series for even higher core counts and performance especially when it comes to multi-threaded performance. Intel had already confirmed the specifications of Coffee Lake offerings for laptops.

The entry-level Coffee Lake offerings will have three Pentium processors, listed below, priced under $100:

  • Intel Pentium G4720
  • Intel Pentium G4700
  • Intel Pentium G4660

All of these processors will feature 2 cores and 4 threads as they aim to take over from Core i3 processors as the dual-core offerings with clock speed up to 3.90GHz and 4MB of L3 cache.

The 15W processors used in laptops will offer up to 40 percent improved performance over Kaby Lake processors used in laptops in basic tasks such as Excel and Word. Photo editing in softwares like Adobe Lightroom will be 28 percent faster while editing and running slideshow should be 48 percent faster. The biggest performance improvement according to Intel is compared to 5-year-old processors where a 4K video should now render in just 3 minutes compared to 45 minutes on older processors. The desktop processors aren’t the only ones getting an overhaul as all the laptop Coffee Lake processors will also have their core counts increased. The U-series of processors, which is typically dual-core, will now be quad core and have 8 threads on all Intel 8th Generation processors including i5-8250U and i7-8650U. While the performance is increasing, Intel has also worked on battery life and claims that running 4K videos should ensure a 10-hour battery life when previously the 7th generation laptop processors would deliver around 7 hours.

If the mainstream desktop processors of Intel Coffee Lake aren’t up to the task for your usage, there is always the extremely expensive but also extremely powerful Core X family of processors. The 8th generation Core X series also includes the newly announced top of the line Core i9 series alongside powerful versions of Core i5 and Core i7 processors. Like previous HEDT (high-end desktop) processors before it, the 8th generation Core X series is also targeted towards enthusiastic gamers, streamers and content creators who want the best quality results and performance from a single machine such as gaming at the highest possible resolution while also streaming using high CPU usage encoders like x264.

While Intel hasn’t unveiled the actual models of its Coffee Lake Core X series lineup, the previous generation of processors started with quad-core Core i5 and went up to a massive 18-core Core i9 processor as part of the Kaby Lake X lineup. Their price points remain a mystery right now as well but considering their performance, expect to pay a lot more than what the current price of Coffee Lake 8th generation processors is. The Core i5-7640X was priced at $242 for 4-cores while an octa-core Core i7 X series processor was for $600. The Core i9 series begins at the 10-core processor for $1000 and goes up to a massive 18-core Core i9 Extreme chip for $2000.

All the Core X processors will use a new Turbo Boost technology. Turbo Boost Max 3.0 should considerably improve multitasking performance so that applications can fully utilize all the extra cores that come with 8th generation Coffee Lake processors. This combined with the per-core overclocking feature of Coffee Lake should deliver amazing results in benchmarks. If Intel stays with the same trend of pricing the Coffee Lake Core X series which they did with the standard Core series desktop models, expect each offering in the enthusiast series processors to be $50-100 more expensive than their Kaby Lake counterpart.

Conclusion

While Coffee Lake was originally intended for a 2018 launch, this sudden announcement that it will now be launching on 5th October 2017 seems a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to AMD’s high-core count mainstream processors from the Ryzen family. Whether they are able to live up to the task and provide decent competition or not remains to be seen. AMD currently continues to lead the market when it comes to delivering an increased number of cores for a reduced price tag, however that looks good on paper but differs in actual performance, especially when it comes to gaming. Intel has had a history of delivery great gaming performance but their recent few generations have been somewhat lacking.

Perhaps with this slightly increased core count of the 8th generation Coffee Lake processors, while maintaining the same high standard of performance, Intel might continue to remain the main processor of choice for gamers and content creators. However, despite the 50 to 100 percent increase in core count for only a small increase in price means that this is the fourth processor generation from Intel that continues to use the old 14nm architecture and is more of a refresh than an actual upgrade. Currently, the 9th generation series referred to as Canon Lake seems to be the actual upgrade with its 10nm node and hopefully increased core count, performance and lucrative price point.

Perhaps with this slightly increased core count of the 8th generation Coffee Lake processors, while maintaining the same high standard of performance, Intel might continue to remain the main processor of choice for gamers and content creators. However, despite the 50 to 100 percent increase in core count for only a small increase in price means that this is the fourth processor generation from Intel that continues to use the old 14nm architecture. And is more of a refresh than an actual upgrade. Currently, the 9th generation series referred to as Canon Lake seems to be the actual upgrade to previous generation Intel processors with its 10nm node and hopefully increased core count, performance and lucrative price point.

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