Monday morning, in the shadow of the Great American Eclipse, Intel revealed its 8th-gen Core processors. Well, some of them anyway. The initial announcement is limited to low-power laptop CPUs driven by a refreshed version of Intel’s 7th-gen “Kaby Lake” architecture, and the company declined to offer more specifics about 8th-gen desktop processors. But Intel’s updated imagery on its Core i5 and Core i7 pages shined a light on the juiciest 8th-gen rumors anyway.
Zooming in the 8th-gen Core CPU retail packaging at the top of those pages confirm two big questions about the desktop parts, as Nathan Kirsch at Legit Reviews first noticed.
The most spectacular? Intel’s 8th-gen Core i7 desktop processors are raising their core count to battle the threat from AMD’s disruptive Ryzen processors. While all recent Core i7 processors had 4 cores and 8 threads, the next-gen chips will pack 6 cores and 12 threads, just like the most potent Ryzen 5 CPUs. (AMD’s Ryzen 7 chips have 8 cores and 16 threads.)
You can see the 8th-gen Core i7 retail packaging at right. Core i5 processors are also jumping to 6 cores, though as before, 8th-gen Core i5 chips will lack hyperthreading capabilities.
The core counts of the Core i5 and Core i7 chips suggest that rumors of entry-level Core i3 chips moving from today’s hyper-threaded dual-core chips to true quad-core CPUs, similar to AMD’s Ryzen 3 processors, may be correct.
The packaging also confirms what PCWorld and other outlets have already reported: Intel’s 8th-gen CPUs need a new 300-series motherboard to run. You won’t be able to reuse a Z170- or Z270-series board from a Skylake or Kaby Lake system. It’s not unusual for Intel to require new motherboards every other generation, and the older ones likely aren’t tuned for 6 core parts, but enthusiasts were still hoping to recycle their existing hardware with 14nm chips still hanging around. In contrast, AMD will support Ryzen’s AM4 motherboards until at least 2020.
Another interesting tidbit: The 8th-gen desktop Core processors use the same “Intel Graphics 630” graphics cores as Kaby Lake processors, though the 8th-gen version is prefixed with “UHD” rather than “HD.” Fun fact: Intel’s Core processor generations have always signified upgrades to the graphics core, not the CPU architecture. The 8th-gen appears to break with that tradition. On the CPU side of things, Intel’s newest generation will fold in not one but three different architectures: These 14nm “Kaby Lake refresh” parts, “Coffee Lake” processors built on a further refined 14nm process, and “Cannon Lake” chips designed with next-gen 10nm technology. Phew.
While Intel hasn’t revealed which CPU technologies are going into which chips—beyond today’s 8th-gen Kaby Lake-R announcements—the desktop versions are expected to use Coffee Lake cores. We’ll know sooner than later, as Intel says consumer desktops using 8th-gen Core processors will appear later this year.