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Intel 8th Gen Spans Architectures

September 12, 2017

Author: Linley Gwennap

Unlike previous homogeneous families, Intel’s 8th generation Core PC processors will use three different CPU architectures. The initial products, targeting high-end laptops and 2-in-1 PCs, employ a four-core version of Kaby Lake. The next round will include new desktop-PC processors based on a six-core Coffee Lake design. The 8th generation will eventually encompass Intel’s first 10nm chips, known as Cannonlake; they will likely target smaller 2-in-1s. This architectural diversity will be largely invisible to end users, but it will complicate the manufacturing process for both Intel and PC makers.

The focus of the new generation is on high-end notebooks, enthusiast desktops, and business PCs, all of which are among Intel’s most profitable PC segments. To deliver greater performance to these users with minimal changes in CPU architecture and process technology, the company is increasing the number of cores for this generation. Ultrathin laptops will leap from two to four cores, and most desktops will jump from four to six. Intel has also raised the core count for its X-series “extreme” PC processors.

Integrating more cores adds raw performance, but this approach has two problems. One is that users may not see greater performance. Many PC programs don’t generate enough threads to fully utilize all the cores. A second problem is the extra cores (and their associated cache) increase the die area, which in turn raises manufacturing cost. Although these high-end segments have plenty of margin, the greater core counts are unlikely to trickle down into the company’s lower price tiers. Thus, products that have a list price of less than $200 may be stuck on Kaby Lake for two years (or more).

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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