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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why Intel's new Kaby Lake processors won't make your computer much faster - CNET

"Intel's seventh-gen Core processors, codename Kaby Lake, are now official -- but they aren't as big an upgrade as you'd expect from Intel.

Sure, they're a little bit faster and a little bit more power-efficient. But the best thing about Intel new CPUs might actually be this: the deals you'll find on PCs with last year's chips.

Here's why Kaby Lake isn't such a big deal.

What's a Kaby Lake?

Intel's seventh-generation Core processors, the latest and greatest CPUs the company has to offer. They're the successor to Intel's sixth-gen "Skylake" processors from 2015.

But Kaby Lake isn't a true successor to Skylake. It's more like Skylake+.

Usually, Intel creates a powerful new processor architecture, then the following year shrinks down the circuits for better efficiency. (Intel, much like Ke$ha, is industry-famous for that "Tick-Tock" product cycle.)

Kaby Lake isn't huge. It's about twice the size of California's Lake Tahoe -- a popular vacation spot for Silicon Valley residents.

Google Maps

But Kaby Lake doesn't do either of those things. The circuits are the same 14 nanometer size as Intel's earlier Skylake and Broadwell chips, and it's not a new architecture either. Intel had been trying to shrink down to 10nm with a processor called Cannonlake, but those chips were delayed.

So for now, we're stuck at Tock.

No, really, what's a Kaby Lake? Is "Kaby" a kind of fish?

Oh. No, it appears to be an actual lake in Canada. Maybe the CEO enjoys hunting moose in his spare time?

Is Kaby Lake any better than my existing computer processor?

Intel thinks so! The company says its thin laptop chips are 12 percent faster than Skylake in raw performance, and far more efficient at decoding 4K video.

In fact, Intel claims you could get 3 more hours of battery life while streaming YouTube 4K videos (7 vs. 4 hours) compared to last year's chips.

And for gamers, the company even showed an incredibly thin laptop playing fast-paced shooter Overwatch reasonably well.

That sounds great, no?

Sure -- until you take a hard look at how Intel generated those numbers.

It's not too surprising that Intel's Kaby Lake CPU ran 12 percent faster than the comparable Skylake -- because the new chip is clocked 12 percent faster anyhow! Which could be a problem, because faster clock speeds tend to generate more heat and consume more battery as well.

intel-7th-gen-core-perf-gain.jpgEnlarge Image

Intel shows performance gains of 12 percent. Perhaps it's because the chip is working 12 percent harder?

And while Intel's battery life numbers for 4K video are hard to ignore, Intel tells me that battery life should be "similar" -- not necessarily better than Skylake -- across other kinds of workloads.

We could easily be in a situation like Intel's Broadwell vs. Haswell, where the company claimed better performance with the same battery life, but devices actually consumed a bit more battery in real-world use. I'm optimistic, though, and we'll need to test for sure.

What about the gaming performance?

I wouldn't get too excited just yet. We took a closer look at Overwatch on a Dell XPS 13 with the new Intel chip, and it ran pretty smooth...but with a few caveats. Judge for yourself:

Also note that Intel may still have some more powerful graphics in the near future: we haven't yet seen how far the company's souped-up Intel Iris graphics have come.

Why Intel's new Kaby Lake processors won't make your computer much faster - CNET

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