Intel (Sort Of) Launches 8th Generation Core Processors

Posted on August 21, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 23 Comments

Intel today is launching what it calls the first of its 8th generation Core microprocessors. But this initial release is really just core-doubled “Kaby Lake” (7th generation) processors. True 8th generation chips—“Coffee Lake”—won’t arrive until next year. And the oft-delayed move to a more efficient 10nm manufacturing process—“Cannonlake”—is further off still.

Confused? Welcome to the club. But the reasons behind this marketing disaster were triggered by two clearly-understood factors: Intel’s slowing pace and the rise of more efficient and mobile ARM chipsets.

As you may recall, Intel finally acknowledged that it was no longer able to maintain its “tick-tock” development schedule—in which major chipset releases (“ticks”) were interspersed with minor updates (“tocks”)—in early 2016. It’s new and slower-moving methodology is called “Process-Architecture-Optimization,” and it can be thought of as “tick-tock-tock” or even “tick-tock-tock-tock.”

Skylake, the disastrously buggy 6th generation Core chipset that Intel first released in 2015, was a “tock” release, and it utilized the firm’s 14nm manufacturing process. It was to be followed up by Cannonlake, Intel’s first 10nm Core chipset.

Unable to deliver on its 10nm vision, Intel instead has been forced to iterate its 14nm chips while still maintaining the annual release cadence its PC maker partners expect. So the firm launched Kaby Lake, its 7th generation Core chips, in summer 2016, offering modest performance and battery life improvements but much better reliability than its predecessor. I referred to Kaby Lake as Intel’s apology for Skylake, as Skylake bugginess was partially responsible for the reliability issues that users of Microsoft’s Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 experienced. (As we now know, Microsoft was partially to blame as well.)

Intel has further muddied the waters, however, but spreading out the release of its newer chipsets over wider periods of time. So while some Kaby Lake chips did ship in 2016, the more powerful versions, with quad-core designs aimed at desktop PCs, workstations, and high-end laptops, didn’t ship until the first half of 2017. And by mid-year, Intel was expanding the range yet again with new Xeon-like Core-X series chips that would offer up to 18 processor cores and “extreme” performance (and pricing).

And now they’re muddying the waters even further: This week’s launch of so-called 8th generation Core processors does not include true Cannonlake designs. Instead, the first 8th generation Core chips are just tweaked Kaby Lake designs or, as Intel calls them, a “Kaby Lake refresh.” (Kind of a demi-tock, I guess.) Because Intel.

On the good news front, this marketing silliness shouldn’t obscure the fact that these chips are still interesting. They are the first Core U-series processors—which are aimed at Ultrabooks and other ultra-portable PCs—to feature quad-core designs (with 8 threads), so they deliver a performance boost of up to 40 percent over the previous designs. Intel says they are shipping now, and that about 80 new PCs featuring these chips will be available over the holidays.

And since I complained about the naming, I’ll also point out that Intel, for some reason, will refer to upcoming Coffee Lake and Cannon Lake chips as 8th generation Core processors. Frankly, I expect that to change. By the time Intel does make the switch to 10nm, I suspect it will want to trumpet the newness a bit more.


Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (23)

23 responses to “Intel (Sort Of) Launches 8th Generation Core Processors”

  1. Stooks

    " this marketing silliness"

    More like fear of Ryzen. AMD has finally risen to the challenge and Intel has been riding past success......the perfect storm.

    If I was building a new desktop PC for gaming or creative work like Adobe CC use, I would get a Ryzen 1700.

  2. John Scott

    Just more marketing BS from Intel. Rinse, recycle, repeat. Want a performing mobile chip, buy a gaming laptop or a good business notebook. Not some super thin, 10 hours of battery life ultra light. Personally, I've seen more progress from AMD lately then Intel.

  3. skane2600

    I don't think "efficiency" is the primary goal of Intel's Core processors. How do ARM chips compare with respect to performance?

  4. will

    I guess this will be the processors we will see in the next Surface Book, due in October. Timing makes since.

  5. glenn8878

    Should be called 7.5 generation.

  6. mjw149

    tick, tock, tock, toe?

  7. dougkinzinger

    I suppose that's what happens when Marketing shows up to the product planning meetings. And though I think you meant to say perhaps "semi-tock" the word "demi-tock" is my new favorite word of the day. Be sure to say it on WW too. Because Intel! :D

  8. red.radar


    From a previous article I thought this narrative:

    Skylake, the disastrously buggy 6th generation Core chipset that Intel first released in 2015, was a “tock” release, and it utilized the firm’s 14nm manufacturing process

    was fabricated by Microsoft to cover for a poor Surface 4 launch. And that no other manufacturers were seeing this buggy experience. Can you clarify?

    • fishnet37222

      In reply to red.radar:

      I have a Skylake processor in the PC I built, and I have had no issues with the processor at all.

    • beatnixxx

      In reply to red.radar:

      Paul recently wrote some follow up to these which you should be able to find, last week I think. The short of it was, other manufacturers knew better than to rush support for 1st gen features from Intel, so shipped with these features turned off. Microsoft showed its relative inexperience as a hardware manufacturer and relied on these features heavily. Additionally, the drivers they wrote either were hobbled by these issues, or caused issues of their own (I'm still not quite clear on this point).

      That's the gist, but search the site for the articles with the details.

      • Dan

        In reply to beatnixxx:

        I wasn't aware that every other PC manufacturer disabled connected standby on Skylake chips except for Microsoft. According to Paul, this is what happened and is the BS Microsoft has fed him with.

        This just isn't true at all.

  9. MachineGunJohn

    The big question now is will intel be able to convince Microsoft to bring Windows along for the ride and enable all versions to utilize 4 cores and 8 threads now and 6 cores and 12 threads when those arrive or will they leave home users stuck with unutilized cores.

  10. Darmok N Jalad

    I don't think this is a response to ARM, as that was Atom's responsibility, and Intel canned that initiative at the smartphone/tablet level. Intel is responding to pressure from AMD. They weren't prepared for AMD to respond as well as they did with their Ryzen product lineup and the way they handled marketing (AMD got a lot of free advertising through reviewers by staggered NDA-lifting).

    These are a response to Raven Ridge, a four core Zen with SMT and a Vega GPU. Intel is simply preparing to counter AMD on cores and threads to keep spec parity and maintain performance advantages where they can.

    • John Scott

      In reply to Darmok N Jalad: Hard to compare ARM vs Intel chips. ARM strictly mobile and not really great beyond running a light mobile OS. Then again for me I never bought anything less then a core i3 or better. Celeron's and Atom's always were junk and still are.

  11. ibmthink

    Does this video above possibly show a new version of the Surface Book, or is is the current one?

    A new Surface Book is overdue and I think these new CPUs are the perfect fit for it.

    Also, this means the Surface Laptop and Surface Pro are already outdated...

    • TheJoeFin

      In reply to ibmthink:

      It did look like a Surface Book... but marketing material is always disconnected from reality. It is crazy that the Surface Pro was refreshed separate from the Surface Book with only improvement being a faster digitizer. I'm hoping for a refreshed Surface Book and a new small ARM based Surface... but I don't expect it.

  12. Hallmanac

    I would say that these chips are a little more than just interesting. The fact that I could get a quad-core HP Spectre that is roughly equivalent to the XPS15 quad-core I'm currently running, along with what I assume to be the same kind of battery life, is very interesting. At least to me.

    As to the 10nm issue, I really don't hold anything against them for that. That's a very difficult engineering problem to solve. That said, I do agree about the messaging they are putting out there. I'm also glad to see AMD giving them a run for their money because, in my opinion, intel has always been a bit too proud of their chips when it comes to the money.