Intel has revealed its first 8th-generation processors and we've got all the details including release date and specs. The first chips coming to market aren't Coffee Lake, though. They'll be CPUs for laptops and will be based on Kaby Lake. But thanks to an accidental leak by Intel itself, we also have some juicy details about the forthcoming Coffee Lake-based Core i7 and Core i5 chips.

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Intel 8th-gen processors release date

Intel officially announced its 8th-generation processors on 21 August.

The firm says these chips - which are low-power 'U' versions for mobile devices such as laptops and 2-in-1s - will arrive in September with 145 planned devices coming from manufacturing partners, 80 of which will hit shelves in time for Christmas. You can expect plenty of new devices with the chips to be announced at IFA 2017.

There are four processors to start with and none of them are Coffee Lake. Instead they are based on the previous Kaby Lake architecture. That means a longer wait for Coffee Lake processor – see below for the rumours and details.

Intel 8th-gen processor specs

The first round of 8th-gen chips will be a Kaby Lake refresh rather than a jump straight to the newer Coffee Lake architecture.

That might be a disappointment for some but Intel promises a 40 percent performance gain compared to 7th-gen processors. A difference the firm claims you can "see and feel" and "eclipses anything in the industry".

Of that 40 percent, 25 has come from adding two more cores and the rest is either design tweaks (resulting in a higher frequency) or improved manufacturing.

For those on machines five years old, upgrading to one of these new processors will mean double the performance. This is based on a comparison of Core i5s.

You can see the full specs for the first 8th-gen chips below. They are all U-series mobile processors that are 15W, either Core i5 or Core i7 and based on a 14nm+ manufacturing process.

It's worth noting that there's no change in the graphics department and Intel claims efficiency stays the same, so you can expect battery life of up to 10 hours on 'sleek designs' like ultrathin laptops.

  i5-8250U i5-8350U i7-8550U i7-8650U
Max Frequency 3.4GHz 3.6GHz 4.0GHz 4.2GHz
Base Frequency 1.6GHz 1.7GHz 1.8GHz 1.9GHz
Cores/Threads 4/8
Cache 6MB 6MB 8MB 8MB
Memory channels 2
Memory type DDR4-2400 LPDDR3-2133
Intel UHD Graphics 620
Graphics Dynamic Frequency Up to 1100

When is the Intel Coffee Lake release date?

Intel Coffee Lake release date: Fall 2017 (TBC)

Intel is keeping quiet about the 8th-gen desktop chips, saying only they will arrive "in fall" (autumn, that is, for our UK readers).

We assume that these chips will be based on Coffee Lake. Intel confirmed that although the first four 8th-gen chips are effectively refreshed Kaby Lake parts, there will be new processors coming using a 10nm manufacturing process (Cannon Lake).

This means that "8th-generation" processors will include three different architectures, something we've not seen before.

But having refused to offer any more details about the chips themselves, Intel then posted some images of the new 8th gen retail boxes for the Core i7 and i5 processors.

Brilliantly, these have enough resolution to reveal that both ranges will be boosting the core count from four to six. This confirms the leaked spec table from WCCFTech below.

So 8th-gen Core i7 processors will have six cores and 12 threads (like AMD's top-end Ryzen 5s) and the Core i5 parts will follow the current trend of eschewing Hyper-threading and having six cores and six threads.

Intel Coffee Lake release date rumours

The box also tells us that the new CPUs will need a motherboard with a 300-series chipset. This means your Z170 or even Z270 board isn't going to cut it: the new-generation processor is based around a new chipset.

Somewhat strangely, the box also mentions the Intel Graphics 630, which is the on-board GPU that's used in Kaby Lake processors. Potentially there's a small difference as it's prefixed with UHD rather than HD, but since one of the highlighted features of Kaby Lake was the ability to handle 4K video, this could be more of a marketing thing.

So when will Cannon Lake CPUs come out?

Cannon Lake, which could be the 8th or 9th gen Core i range (it might even straddle both), will use this smaller 10nm process, but these chips won't go on sale for your home PC until the first half of 2018. The first Cannon Lake CPUs will be for servers, most likely in data centres. 

Intel recently tweeted that it's almost finished designing the second-generation of Cannon Lake, which is codenamed Ice Lake:

No-one expected Intel to use the 14nm process a fourth time, especially as Intel has already waved a 10nm Cannon Lake chip around at CES in January 2017.

However, as the slide shows, it will have a similar performance improvement that Kaby Lake did over Skylake. 

Intel Ice Lake architecture which is possibly the most likely for 9th-gen chips and will use a 10nm+ process.

Intel Coffee Lake specifications

So we know – roughly – when the 8th-gen Core processors are launching but how is Intel going to extract yet more performance without a process change?

Before the retail box images were posted by Intel (above) WCCFTech got wind of a spec sheet that showed increased core counts. So this could be how the line up will look:

 

Generation

# of Cores

# of Threads

Base Clock

Boost Clock

L2 Cache

L3 Cache

Overclockable

Socket

TDP

Intel Core i5-7600K

Kaby Lake-S

4

4

3.8 GHz

4.2 GHz

1 MB (256 KB per Core)

6 MB

Yes

LGA 1151

91W

Intel Core i5-8400

Coffee Lake-S

6

6

2.8 GHz

TBA

1.5 MB (256 KB per Core)

9 MB

No

LGA 1151

65W

Intel Core i5-8600K

Coffee Lake-S

6

6

3.50 GHz

TBA

1.5 MB (256 KB per Core)

9 MB

Yes

LGA 1151

95W

Intel Core i7-7700K

Kaby Lake-S

4

8

4.2 GHz

4.5 GHz

1 MB (256 KB per Core)

8 MB

Yes

LGA 1151

91W

Intel Core i7-8700

Coffee Lake-S

6

12

3.2 GHz

TBA

1.5 MB (256 KB per Core)

12 MB

No

LGA 1151

TBA

Intel Core i7-8700K

Coffee Lake-S

6

12

3.7 GHz

4.3 GHz

1.5 MB (256 KB per Core)

12 MB

Yes

LGA 1151

95W

You can take these four new processors with a pinch of salt for now: there are conflicting reports that the Core i5 models will be the first ever to support Hyper-threading, but the specs above show six-core chips with six threads, i.e. no Hyper-threading.

What's interesting is that the Core i7-8700K - aside from being an octacore chip - is that the all-core boost speed is 4.0GHz, not a whole lot slower than the 4.3GHz single-core boost speed. 

The other spec that will attract Intel fans is that the chips will use Socket 1151. They could - in theory - work in your existing 100- or 200-series motherboard, so long as manufacturers are able to issue a BIOS update so they can boot with the new chips installed.

Of course, it's too early for any pricing info, but this will be a key factor since AMD has already launched its Ryzen 5 and 7 processors.

The range-topping Ryzen 7 1800X costs £499 and is also a six-core, 12-thread CPU. It has a base clock of 3.6GHz and a boost clock of 4.0GHz. And, like the rumoured i7-8700K, it's unlocked so you can extract more performance from it with the right supporting components.

Why is Intel still using 14nm for Coffee Lake?

Typically, or at least in the past, the company would come up with a new architecture (the chip’s design) and then follow up with a ‘process shrink’ the following year to boost performance.

Recently, Moore’s Law, which says that the number of transistors that will fit in a given area will double every 12-18 months, has slowed down. Or so it seems.

Look beyond the headline 14nm figure, and Intel has actually improved the process without changing the figure. According to some sources, Intel refers to Skylake as 14nm, Kaby Lake as 14nm+ and Coffee Lake at 14nm++.

These aren’t simply names to delineate the different generations: there are actual performance improvements behind them. One is the move to FinFET – effectively a 3D transistor, as used by the latest graphics card GPUs – and along with other tweaks, it’s probably unfair to call Coffee Lake a 14nm CPU, or at least lump it in with Skylake and call it the same thing.

In any case, Intel reckons Coffee Lake will offer a 15 percent boost in performance over Kaby Lake, which itself is 15 percent quicker than Skylake.

So a Coffee Lake-powered PC should be noticeably quicker than a three-year old machine.

Intel is also likely to continue to improve the on-board GPU performance, which may well account for a decent chunk of that overall 15 percent bump. We’ll have to wait until we see the benchmark results to know for sure, of course.

The WCCFTech report claims the 8th-gen chips will feature Intel’s GT2-level graphics core with a minimum clock speed of 350 MHz.

Should you wait for Coffee Lake or Cannon Lake?

This is the perennial question with tech: should you buy now, or wait a few months for the next-gen chip.

Without prices and benchmark results, it's an unanswerable question right now. Plus, unless you already have a recent Intel PC that's likely to be compatible with Coffee Lake, you've also got to consider an AMD Ryzen system.

With Kaby Lake, we saw it first in low-power laptops and 2-in-1s, then on the desktop in early 2017. However, if the rumours are true and Intel's going to reveal the new chips at Gamescom, then we could well see desktop chips first.

There will probably come a point where you have a choice of a Cannon Lake or Coffee Lake processor, but it’s far too early to say which will be the one to buy.