Incoming: some excellent new gaming CPUs from Intel

...this isn't one of them

I’m jumping the gun just a little but a few of you have sent emails on precisely this subject and there’s a significant quantity of fairly solid info out there, so let’s talk about the shape of all things CPU and gaming. AMD’s Ryzen chips have very obviously been the big news thus far this year. But completing the picture for the next six months or so is what will shortly amount to the most significant update to Intel’s CPU line up from a gamer’s perspective in about five years. For once, it’s going to be unambiguously good news…

In short, this is what’s happening in about a month’s time to Intel’s mainstream desktop CPUs. Currently, gaming-relevant Intel CPUs come broadly in three flavours. At the bottom you have dual-core, quad-thread chips (that’ll be the Core i3). Next up is quad-core with quad-thread processing (Core i5) and at the top quad-core and support for eight threads (Core i7). Yes, there are one or two odd-ball dual-core / dual-thread chips with an unlocked multiplier that have a certain gaming appeal in some contexts, but that’s about the size of it.

Well, get a load of this. Intel’s next mainstreamers will be quad-core and quad thread at Core i3 level, six-core and six threads at Core i5 level and six cores with 12 threads at Core i7 level.

So that’s two more cores at every level. Now, one might argue that more than four cores or threads doesn’t make much difference in most games. That may be true. But even if more than four cores makes no difference in any games, this remains good news. Because you can now get four cores in the cheapest Core i3 format.

For my money, I reckon a few more cores are already worth a little extra money even with today’s games and that’s only going to become more true over time. So I am very excited by the prospect of an affordable six-core CPU that packs what remains the best per-core gaming performance you can buy, which is an Intel Core, er, core.

Specifically, the leaked roadmaps include a Core i5-8400 which is a six-core CPU and if Intel’s current pricing is any guide should come in under £200 / $200. The unlocked K Series version, the 8600K, will hopefully be under £250 / $250.

For reference, these chips are all part of the upcoming Intel 8th Generation Core update and the new four and six-core desktop chips I’ve been talking about are based on a refreshed 14nm CPU architecture known as Coffee Lake.

If there is a confusion, it’s that for reasons unknown to science Intel has apparently decided the 8th Generation update will also contain some refreshed previous-gen Kaby Lake parts as well as some shiny new 10nm CPUs known internally at Intel as Cannon Lake. So to recap, Intel’s 8th Generation CPU offering will actually contain three quite distinct generations of CPU design, though I think the Kaby Lake and Cannon lake models will mostly be things like low power and mobile CPUs (some of which have indeed already been officially revealed), so won’t actually make the desktop offering more confusing.

If this sounds ridiculous, I like to think that it’s Intel’s world-beating product planners at their finest. The updated quad-core and six-core desktop chips detailed above, and of most interest to we gamers, are uncharacteristically welcome and hard to fault as on-paper propositions. So, the planners had to find a way of making the 8th Generation infuriating, in typical Intel fashion. And they’ve done it again.

It’s also worth noting that as part of all this, quad-core laptop CPUs will also be much more accessible. By that I mean both more affordable and found in smaller form factors, both of which will be welcome for gaming on the go.

Finally, there’s the question of what all this means for the ongoing war between AMD Ryzen and Intel Core. Prior to Coffee Lake, the AMD Ryzen value proposition was so stellar that for my personal usage I would have been happy to overlook some occasional gaming performance patchiness.

An affordable six-core chip from Intel makes the choice a lot tougher for an all-purpose rig and I suspect may well turn out to be an absolute no brainer if gaming performance is a clear priority. I have a feeling a high-clocked six-core / six-thread Intel CPU could be pretty epic for gaming. On the other hand, there may well still be value and platform considerations, such as PCI Express lane count, that could tip the choice in favour of AMD.

However finely balanced it all turns out, or doesn’t for that matter, the net result will almost certainly be significantly better gaming CPUs than just a few months ago for the same or less money. Which is nice.

Oh, and as for availability of all these new Core i3, i5 and i7 mainstream desktop chips with more cores, we’re talking early October.

49 Comments

  1. GurtTractor says:

    Solder it solder it solder it solder it solder it solder it this time pleeeaasse.

    • ravenshrike says:

      Coffee Lake is nothing more than Kaby Lake with 2 more cores slapped on per tier and a higher JEDEC ram profile. Given that I’ve never heard of a KL chip having trouble with 2666 ram speeds, it’s unlikely they changed anything significant about the memory controller itself. Its what Kaby Lake should have been but Intel refused to release because they’re a bunch of greedy bastards.

      It goes without saying that they will be using their normal toothpaste.

  2. DeusExMachina says:

    Did I just read an Ad?

    • Nokturnal says:

      I make £540 a week working from home and here’s how….

    • podbaydoors says:

      RPS: writes something vaguely critical about Intel
      Readers: Wahhhh! Y U h8 PC?!

      RPS: writes something vaguely positive about Intel
      Readers: what is this an ad? effics in vidjagems!!

      • Ghostwise says:

        I suppose that if you put enough effort into ignoring all the negative and cautious parts of the article, then it comes across as quite positive.

        Which is scandalous !

      • Unclepauly says:

        Random guy with random opinion: Readers!
        Another random guy with random opinion: Readers!
        O.O People have opinions dude. Not everyone thinks the same.

        • podbaydoors says:

          Opinions were invented by the KGB in 1947 in order to undermine capitalism and destroy the West. Read a history book.

  3. Tiax says:

    I was *that* close to buying a Ryzen 1700…

    Now I have to wait.

    • Chill_Rasta says:

      Buy a Ryzen like me, better thermals, more cores right now, cheaper MB+CPU combos and you don’t support the company who’s been holding us back for 4-5 years with crappy 10-15% increments each new gen and quad cores without multi threading even. Without Ryzen I would have had to pay at least 150€ more for just getting into the same segment as I bought into 6 years ago(The unlocked i5 K model.

      You don’t have to follow AMD blindly or anything, just give them a chance so we don’t end up in Intel monopoly mode again.

    • AndyR says:

      I did exactly that – went from 4.3ghz 4770k to a 3.9ghz 1700 with absolutely no regrets. The 1700 only set me back £269, so we’re more or less talking i5 territory (so 6 cores vs 8 cores/16 threads).

      I think we’re in the same place we were when the Core 2 Quads came on the scene. Not as good for gaming in current titles but (hopefully!) better longevity.

  4. LearningToSmile says:

    I don’t think I’ll have anything to worry about with a 6700k for quite a while still, but it’s nice to see Intel is starting to actually move.

  5. brucethemoose says:

    The most atrocious thing is that these will STILL require a new motherboard.

    Sandy Bridge/Ivy Bridge: You could use the die shrink as an excuse. Haswell/Devil’s Canyon/Broadwell: the FIVR thing. But here we have 3 “generations” of nearly identical CPUs (Skylake/Kaby Lake/Coffee Lake) on a similar 14nm node, that, for no discernable engineering reason (they haven’t given us one), require a new motherboard for each generation.

    That’s why I would get Ryzen over this. Performance for what I do would be lower, but at least I can upgrade the CPU in a few years without having to buy a whole new motherboard (and, in turn, re-installing Windows).

    • Sakkura says:

      Kaby Lake doesn’t require a new motherboard – you can put a 7700K in a Z170 board for example, as long as the BIOS version supports it.

      I’m not too fussed about them breaking compatibility anyway, as I usually keep CPUs long enough that even AMD would have moved on. Intel’s other onerous business practices does make me lean towards AMD when possible though.

    • KenTWOu says:

      at least I can upgrade the CPU in a few years without having to buy a whole new motherboard (and, in turn, re-installing Windows)

      Google ‘how to change motherboard without reinstalling windows’, but get Ryzen over this anyway.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        With Windows 10, you shouldn’t need to do anything except turn on your new computer, and wait a bit while it finds drivers.
        Unless of course just swapping out a dead motherboard for a new one causes Windows to insist that you’re not licensed, that can happen as well.

        • Premium User Badge

          MajorLag says:

          Wait, people still pay for Windows? When they insist on shoving ads down your throat and collecting all sorts of telemetry anyway?

          • Michael Anson says:

            So, aside from the fact that you can readily turn those “features” off (I’ve never had an issue with ads OR telemetry), you’ve just told the world that you continue to use a stolen Windows OS instead of a readily available Linux OS, and thus are more interested in hurting people than having an OS that’s secure and stable (I’m talking about BOTH Windows and Linux, here).

            Pirating Windows is no way to get a “secure” OS.

          • Premium User Badge

            MajorLag says:

            You make a fair point that I am certainly morally wrong, and I probably should feel bad about being a filthy pirate, but I dunno, I just don’t. When did security come in to the conversation? As far as I can tell it has nothing to do with anything in this context.

            I don’t use Linux on the Desktop because Desktop Linux is pants-on-head retarded. Windows isn’t a lot better, but it’s better enough and, more importantly, has significant advantages in the realm of PC gaming.

            You can disable some of the ads and some of the telemetry, it’s true, but why should you have to? You freaking paid for this thing didn’t you? If google wants to shove ads at you on YouTube, that’s fine, that’s the deal for getting free stuff. Same with Facebook tracking everything about you. But if you pay Microsoft $120 for an OS then you shouldn’t have to opt-out of crap like that. You shouldn’t have to tweak the registry to get it to merely nag you about updating instead of just doing it behind your back whenever it thinks it’s appropriate. That’s user-hostile bullshit.

          • Hypano says:

            The Problem i see is if they would get Data to optimize stuff, we would still stuck back in win 98 or what ever. And the Ads i pretty like, cause i already found some Diamonds there i really Like.
            And just to dont spent 15€ on Amazon for Windows 10 you get a pirated version to risk your data and your security? I hope you know that pirated version are most of the Time changed in the deep of the “code” and if that is done its a really easy step to corrupt and hide some bad code to get even more data of you (like passwords or account- or bankdata).
            But its you opinion i dont really care. I would never take that huge risk to give that much data to a other person. Microsoft wont do that and protects me with all that new security stuff integratet in bought Windows and for 15€ pretty cheap :-/ .

            One last thing, its new to me that you would need to go to the registry to change that –> there is a little gear symbol in that thing called “startmenu” and there is something called “data protection (Datenschutz in der Deutschen Version)” and there you can switch it all of. Realy easy and all explained in there.

  6. TotallyUseless says:

    How about new graphics card to replace the Nvidia’s 10 series?

    I’m torn between getting a 1080 now or waiting for the next Nvidia series.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Graphics card prices are really bad now. You should wait, and let them come back down.

    • Imperialist says:

      I have a 1080 and its great…but knowing Nvidia, the 1100 series (if that is what they will do) will probably be a marginal step up at best. If you see a price drop id probably jump for it, as GPU prices are in the tank atm.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        What do you mean, “knowing Nvidia”? Every new release since Fermi has been a 30% increase per generation, which is huge. There’s a reason why AMD can’t keep up.

        • Premium User Badge

          Herring says:

          I guess they mean that the initial releases from NV are low-end parts that aren’t a big jump from the (recently released) high-end parts from the previous generation.

          The 1070 wasn’t a humungous jump from my 980TI for example.

    • AndyR says:

      Personally I don’t think it’ll be very wallet friendly – they charged a premium for the 1080 for the 1st 6 months because of the lack of competition, which may be the case this time too (depending on when it lands)

  7. Premium User Badge

    Nauallis says:

    Ah hahaha… I just can’t get over coffee lake. I’m sure it’s named after a real-world location (Wisconsin), similar to Kaby (Ontario) and Sky (California, various), but oh man, I just, hah lol no. Sounds like a tongue-in-cheek lab name from the electrical engineers designing the new generation.

    Anyway…

  8. Chorltonwheelie says:

    That 8600K is the nailed on replacement for my venerable 3570K (5GHz on air and still bossing everything thrown at it).
    Waited years for a reason for a new build….here we go.

    • Premium User Badge

      Carra says:

      My 3570K is still easily running every game I throw at it. Might this be the year I have to upgrade my five year old CPU? Exciting!

      • Unclepauly says:

        Sure, go ahead and spend 500 USD for 10% more performance.

        • FriendlyFire says:

          If you only get 10% improvement from 50% more cores, you’ve got a problem or you’re playing really dated games that don’t scale up to more than a few cores.

          • Asurmen says:

            So, like, nearly all games?

          • sosolidshoe says:

            Yup Asurmen has it right. Even modern games on “new” engines still don’t get *that* big a boost from more recent CPUs – 5GHz on air might be uncommon, but my 3570K has been running happily on 4.3(first air, later a Kraken AIO cooler) since I bought it and the only times it’s even come close to being taxed by gaming are really late-game on the world map in strategy titles like Civ or TW:Warhammer.

            Most games will be GPU or RAM limited looooooong before your CPU becomes a problem. If there’s a cheap & cheerful but still good OCíng mobo for this new Intel socket like the old Z77 MPower was for 1155 the unlocked i5 might be worthwhile depending on single & dual core performance, but if it’s going to be another “spend 300+ quid to gain 2fps in the final 3 turns of a TW game” proposition they can jog on tbh.

    • KaiUno says:

      5GHz on air? I can’t even crank mine past 4.6 on liquid. Talk about winning the silicon lottery!

  9. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    Yep, sounds like an advert. The extra cores may be useful if you’re streaming and playing at the same time, but in general that many cores are still not used by most games.

    Coffee Lake’s top speed may or may not be above Kaby Lake – it certainly isn’t much different.

    Colour me unimpressed. For low to medium level gaming, and productivity there are many options. For high level gaming and VR there is precisely one option : Intel’s highest clocked processors, overclocked a reasonable amount. This does not seem to markedly increase the single threaded performance, not that I thought it would do so.

    • Premium User Badge

      BlueTemplar says:

      It’s funny, for VR I’m using an AMD FX-8320E (yeah, that’s a Bulldozer), not even overclocked (yet, it’s summer), along with a Radeon RX 470, and Windows 7 (which means I can’t use Asynchronous SpaceWarp), and despite what the Oculus Compatibility Tool is saying it’s working pretty fine! I’m even hitting what amounts to “Recommended” specs in the Steam VR Performance Test benchmark!
      link to steamcommunity.com

    • Love Albatross says:

      “For high level gaming and VR there is precisely one option : Intel’s highest clocked processors, overclocked a reasonable amount.”

      I have an i5-2500 for VR and 1440p display for old fashioned flat games and it all works just fine. So…no?

    • Premium User Badge

      BlueTemplar says:

      See also this :
      Performance PCs: Picking the Right Laptop or Tower to Run Your Rift
      link to reddit.com

  10. Raoul Duke says:

    Let’s be honest, the only thing that really matters to most gamers is raw per-core performance. I don’t need 37 cores with 13 threads each, I need 2-4 really fast cores spewing instructions out faster than my GPU can handle. Secondary considerations, confined power use and heat are nice. Tertiary consideration, ok sure, it has eleventy million cores.

    No doubt Intel will want $1000+ for some of these new chips, and they’ll require a shitty new motherboard socket even if you already have a current gen Intel CPU.

    On balance, I’m inclined to reward AMD for upping their game for my next upgrade on the basis that a Ryzen chip is highly unlikely to bottleneck my system.

    Also:

    “quad-core laptop CPUs will also be much more accessible. By that I mean both more affordable and found in smaller form factors”

    I currently have an MSI laptop with a quad core i7 in it. It’s 20mm thick. How much smaller can the form factor realistically get?

    • Lukasz says:

      The two cores are now bottlenecking every graphically intensive game. Even if in theory ipc is high enough not be ing able to have four cores will lead to stutter. And forgot about streaming to and from twitch or YouTube.

      So 4 cores are Min. And six or more is nice to have as it allows you do other stuff when gaming.

      And to answer your question: 10mm?

      • Raoul Duke says:

        Two cores might be bottlenecking some very recent, well multithreaded games. But, for example, I’m currently playing the Witcher 3 silky smooth on a high GHz i3, and my graphics card is very much the bottleneck. The only game I’ve actually experienced any subjectively noticeable CPU slowdown with has been Project CARS, which thrashes most CPUs. In comparison, a modest GPU upgrade was like night and day on the same setup.

        So long as consoles still dictate terms to some degree to PC gaming, more than 4 cores is highly unlikely to be useful for actual gaming in the vast majority of cases.

        Your other examples are not gaming, they are things other than gaming. Streaming is not gaming. Doing “other stuff while gaming” is not gaming (and what “other stuff” are you doing while playing any game that would realistically max out a CPU? Anything that is CPU intensive and using your other 200 cores is also going to be smashing your RAM, storage and other system components which will adversely affect gaming).

        Happy to see some benchmarks showing that going from 4 cores to 6 cores is more significant for mainstream gaming than modest clock speed and cache improvements with the same number of cores, in which case I’ll gladly change my view.

        But for now I’m of the view that more than 4 cores is pretty much snake oil for gaming and a reflection of the difficulties Intel and AMD have had continuing to ramp up raw clock speeds due to heat/manufacturing limitations.

        As for thickness, the cooler and heatsink and the metal chassis of the laptop are the issue, moreso than the CPU itself, and I would be very surprised if these new CPUs allowed for a 50% decrease in thickness of a laptop.

        • Awesomeclaw says:

          > So long as consoles still dictate terms to some degree to PC gaming, more than 4 cores is highly unlikely to be useful for actual gaming in the vast majority of cases.

          Just want to point out that both of the major consoles have 8 cores.

          • Awesomeclaw says:

            Also I just looked it up and the Switch does as well.

          • Stromko says:

            No they do not. They have four cores hyperthreaded to 8. Same as a lot of quad-core PC processors.

          • Stromko says:

            Oh nevermind. Last time I googled this somehow I came to the conclusion that each of the major current-gen consoles had 4 cores and 8 threads, but that evidently isn’t so. Granted apparently the Xbox One has ‘two quad core modules’ for a ‘total of eight’, and I’m not precisely sure what that means in comparison to a PC setup.

        • Premium User Badge

          BlueTemplar says:

          VR games seem to use all my 8 cores pretty evenly, much more than I’ve seen “traditional” games do.

  11. aircool says:

    I’ve been waiting to upgrade my i5-3570K for a while, but it’s just not worth it at the moment considering that I’d have to replace the mobo and probably the RAM. Hopefully, the new Intel CPU’s will provide significant gains that will be worth the upgrade.

    However, with a GTX970 that’s just under two years old, I’ll still be holding off the upgrade until next year as no doubt Nvidia and Intel will release another iteration of their CPU’s and GPU’s.

  12. pastry says:

    Nice marketing strategy Intel. ‘Leak’ next gen chip specs to deflect interest from current AMD lineup.

  13. Legion1183 says:

    Finally, it is now time for me to upgrade my i5 3570K. Took you a while Intel, and still this isn’t exactly a huge upgrade but its now enough generations ahead for me to seriously consider it.

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