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Intel bets on a big speed boost for 8th-gen Core chips

Claiming 40 percent better performance than even last-gen CPUs, Intel is pushing 4K, VR and more.

Intel

Intel is very concerned that you may be using a five-year-old computer. The company claims there are at least 450 million computers still in service that are five or more years old.

So, one of the big selling points for the just-announced 8th generation of Core i-series CPUs is that these new chips are twice as fast as those found in five-year-old laptops. That's not too much of a stretch, as we've seen massive performance improvements over the last five years in laptops, desktops, hybrids and tablets.

More potentially interesting is Intel's claim of up to a 40-percent improvement over the current 7th-gen Core i-series CPUs, which many PC makers have only recently rolled out across their product lines. Intel called it a "once in a decade" performance jump in a briefing for reporters.  

Kaby Lake, refreshed 

Each new generation of Intel CPUs generally goes by a code name, but the 8th-gen chips will likely be split across (at least) two. These first 8th-gen chips, which Intel says are "designed specifically for thin and light premium notebooks and 2-in-1s," keep the Kaby Lake code name from the 7th gen, although these are referred to as Kaby Lake R, for "refresh."

8th-gen-intel-core-i7-badge

Intel

This includes 15-watt U-series Core i5 and Core i7 processors. The biggest on-paper change for the low-voltage CPUs is a jump to a quad-core design from a dual-core one, which should make for better multitasking.

The initial 8th-gen CPUs are:

  • 1.9GHz Core i7-8650U
  • 1.8GHz Core i7-8550U
  • 1.7GHz Core i5-8350U
  • 1.6GHz Core i5-8250U

Future 8th-gen chips may be part of the already revealed code name series called Coffee Lake. These will use the same 14nm (nanometer) process as the previous generation, which is a measure of the transistors used in fabricating semiconductors. An expected jump to smaller 10nm parts isn't expected until 2018, although Intel has dropped a number of hints about future plans, and they may be part of this 8th generation as well.

Intel expects desktop-class CPUs by the end of 2017, and further new chips for laptops in early 2018, so you'll have to wait for then for more information on both the very low-power side, like Core M and Core i3 CPUs, and the very high-end side, like the upcoming Core i9 CPUs.

The future is 4K

With the same code name and same 14nm process, you may be asking, what's new and exciting here? Intel points to the following as reasons you should want an 8th-gen CPU in your next laptop:

  • Up to 10 hours of 4K UHD local video playback
  • Editing photos or creating a slideshow is up to 48 percent faster on 8th Gen than 7th gen
  • Editing video footage is now up to 14.7x faster
  • New Windows Mixed Reality headsets will support some content even with only the standard built-in integrated graphics
  • "Intel Precise Touch Technology" will make Windows Ink app response better when using a stylus
  • The integrated graphics can support up to three 4K external displays at once
  • Intel Online Connect, also coming to older-gen chips, will enable two-factor security, using your laptop itself as one of the factors
8th-gen-intel-core-u-series-front

Intel/John Schulz

Intel is pushing the 8th-gen chips as well suited for the growth of viewing, shooting and editing of 4K and 360-degree video. Support for the upcoming wave of mixed-reality headsets in especially interesting, as Acer, LenovoHP and others all have similar headsets coming soon. But, the supported content without a dedicated Nvidia or AMD graphics card will probably be limited to simple things like 360 video.

Not getting an upgrade in this wave are the built-in graphics, although Intel is renaming the HD 620 graphics to UHD 620 (UHD often refers to 4K content). Also generally unchanged are battery life estimates. Rather than a boost to battery life, Intel says all this new 8th-gen power won't come with battery life "compromises."

acer-nitro-5-spin-display-mode-left-facing-win10

Acer's new 8th-gen gaming hybrid, the Nitro Spin 5. 

Acer

Intel says at least 145 PCs with 8th gen CPUs are in the works, with about 80 expected by this holiday season. Many of those early 8th-gen laptops may be announced at the annual IFA show happening in Germany later this month, but at least one is being announced immediately. 

Acer says it is introducing a new convertible gaming laptop, the Nitro Spin 5. It will combine an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 and Nvidia GeForce 1050 graphics card with a 15.6-inch display and 360-degree hinge. The Nitro Spin 5 will be available in October.