Trending Now

Intel Launches 7th-Gen 'Kaby Lake' processor

Intel’s Skylake processors are getting a mid-generation refresh in the shape of the new Kaby Lake CPUs, launching today under the "7th generation Core" branding. In short, Kaby Lake is a revamp of the 14nm Skylake with a few efficiency and power improvements thrown in. It’s the chip that bridges the gap until the 10nm Cannonlake, which Intel has penciled in for 2017.

Intel will now emphasise the "7th Generation" branding in its marketing materials, especially the stickers that manufacturers place on their products. The Core m5 and Core m7 names for ultra-low-power CPUs have also been deprecated after being introduced only last year - Intel will continue to use Core m3, but products corresponding to the previous higher tiers will be sold as Core i7 and Core i5 regardless of whether they are regular or low-power processors.

Kaby Lake was a surprise addition to Intel's product roadmap when it was announced last year, to fill the gap left by the delay of the previously planned Cannonlake product line. Cannonlake was planned for this year and would have been the first series of CPUs to be fabricated on a new 10nm lithography process. However, the shrink from the current 14nm process to 10nm has proven to be more difficult than expected, and Intel has had to break its longstanding two-year "tick-tock" cadence of alternating product refreshes and process shrinks. Kaby Lake will extend the life of the 14nm process into a third year, and has therefore been seen as a filler product.

Intel’s new processor announcements are always a good chance to look ahead to unannounced products, and one of the promises the chipmaker offers is of clamshells (aka laptops) "thinner than 10mm." That’s even less than the scarcely believable HP Spectre 13. With more than 100 new designs from all the various PC manufacturers already in the pipeline for this year, Intel’s Kaby Lake will find itself in many, if not most, of the computers sold this holiday season. It starts off with dual-core mobile chips in the Core M3, Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processor families. Intel says OEMs should start shipping Kaby Lake-powered systems from the start of September and quickly ramp up from there.

Laptops and 2-in-1s featuring these new processors should go on sale beginning in early September; well in time for the US thanksgiving and Christmas shopping season. Intel has indicated that many of these will be thinner than previous models and will also feature its RealSense cameras to support Windows Hello authentication, and the high-speed Thunderbolt 3 peripheral interface.

Intel has had a tough year so far in 2016, having announced 12,000 layoffs in April and then killing its unprofitable smartphone and tablet CPU product lines shortly thereafter. The company seemed to have been struggling to find its identity in a world rapidly shifting away from traditional PCs, though a coherent vision did begin to take shape at this year's IDF.