Intel Launches 8th-Generation Mobile Kaby Lake Refresh

Intel Kaby Lake-R Die Shot
A false-color die shot of Intel Kaby Lake-R.
Credit: Intel.

In late 2016, Intel first unveiled the seventh-generation Kaby Lake mobile microprocessors. They marked a minor improvement over their Skylake-based predecessors. The first wave of eighth-generation Intel Core processors has finally arrived. These chips are based on the same Kaby Lake architecture as last year’s models, however core and thread counts have been increased. As such, the entire product stack has shifted down. Last-level caches have also increased to compensate for the additional cores. The following four models were released:

Intel Kaby Lake-R SKUs
The four brand-new Intel Kaby Lake-R processors.[1][2][3]
Credit: CompuShelter.

Kaby Lake Refresh (Kaby Lake-R)

Fundamentally, the new refresh of Kaby Lake processors aim to replace several variations of the seventh-generation. While currently unknown, we can guess that the new mobile ‘U’ Core i3 models will be based on a four-core, four-thread design, which mirrors that of the upcoming Coffee Lake series. We also expect to see a Core M refresh later down the road.

You shouldn’t expect the new four-core, eight-thread Kaby Lake-R chips to reach the performance levels of the seventh-generation mobile ‘H’ chips (examples: Core i5-7300HQ and Core i7-7700HQ), but they will certainly be closer than before.

What’s New with Kaby Lake-R?

While the underlying core architecture remains unchanged, Kaby Lake-R did receive some minor tweaks from its predecessors. The memory controller has now dropped DDR3L module support. In return, DDR4-2400 is now supported by all mobile ‘U’ chips; up from DDR4-2133. This provides a slight memory bandwidth increase to the integrated graphics, which Intel has now renamed as UHD Graphics to indicate that onboard graphics solutions are now fully capable of 4K/UHD (3840×2160) processing. However, as with the processor, the underlying silicon remains the same, and previous generations could have also carried this moniker.

Aside from these tweaks and the aforementioned core/thread increase, Kaby Lake-R will provide slight improvements in efficiency and clock frequency. As the core count has been doubled, base frequencies have suffered a little. Maximum turbo frequencies remain reasonably high.

The 8th Generation: Three Waves of Products

In the past, Intel has divided up a new generation of products by their codename. For instance, we received Haswell and a Haswell Refresh, but they were both a part of the fourth generation of Intel Core processors. Kaby Lake marks the first time that Intel is designating multiple generations to the same architecture. Kaby Lake-S, -X, -H, -U and -Y all belong to the seventh generation, while Kaby Lake-R stands alone as a part of the eighth generation.

With that said, Kaby Lake-R is only the beginning of the eighth generation of Intel Core products. Still to follow up, are mobile Cannon Lake and desktop Coffee Lake, which will provide up to six cores and twelve threads (with integrated graphics) for their respective platforms.

Footnotes

  1. Intel’s suggested retail price per 1,000 SKUs.
  2. Thermal design power.
  3. Configurable thermal design power; the power target can be chosen by OEMs.

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