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Intel 7th Gen Kaby Lake CPUs
It's hard to believe that almost 17 months have passed since Intel unleashed the Intel Core i7-6700K to champion the company's 14nm Skylake architecture. The sixth-generation Core processor has held the fort ever since, and with little in the way of competition from AMD, Intel hasn't been in a hurry to introduce a seventh-generation successor.
The wait, however, is now over as Skylake's replacement, dubbed Kaby Lake, is making its way to the desktop in a range of new parts spearheaded by the Core i7-7700K.
The Kaby Lake codename may sound familiar, and there's good reason for that as Intel's seventh-gen parts have already featured in notebooks and mobile PCs launched toward the tail end of 2016. The desktop no longer appears to be the priority with the chip giant renewing its focus on the mobile space, yet a new architecture continues to hold intrigue for enthusiasts and gamers alike.
So what does Kaby Lake bring to the table? We can expect a range of processor models at launch, with the Core i7-7700K and Core i5-7600K leading the way in their respective segments. Here's how the duo stack-up against previous generations:
|Intel Desktop Processor Comparison|
|Process||Cache||IGP||DDR Support (MHz)||TDP||Launch Price
|Kaby Lake Core Processor Family (7th Generation, LGA1151)|
|Core i7-7700K||4 / 8||4.2||4.5||14nm||8MB||HD 630||Dual 2,400 (DDR4)||91W||$349|
|Core i5-7600K||4 / 4||3.8||4.0||14nm||6MB||HD 630||Dual 2,400 (DDR4)||91W||$239|
|Skylake Core Processor Family (6th Generation, LGA1151)|
|Core i7-6700K||4 / 8||4.0||4.2||14nm||8MB||HD 530||Dual 2,133 (DDR4)||91W||$350|
|Core i5-6600K||4 / 4||3.5||3.9||14nm||6MB||HD 530||Dual 2,133 (DDR4)||91W||$243|
|Broadwell Core Processor Family (5th Generation, LGA1150)|
|Core i7-5775C||4 / 8||3.3||3.7||14nm||6MB||Iris Pro 6200||Dual 1,600||65W||$366|
|Core i5-5675C||4 / 4||3.3||3.8||14nm||4MB||Iris Pro 6200||Dual 1,600||65W||$276|
|Haswell Core Processor Family (4th Generation, LGA1150)|
|Core i7-4790K||4 / 8||4.0||4.4||22nm||8MB||HD 4600||Dual 1,600||84W||$339|
|Core i7-4770K||4 / 8||3.5||3.9||22nm||8MB||HD 4600||Dual 1,600||84W||$339|
|Core i5-4690K||4 / 4||3.5||3.9||22nm||6MB||HD 4600||Dual 1,600||84W||$242|
|Core i5-4670K||4 / 4||3.4||3.8||22nm||6MB||HD 4600||Dual 1,600||84W||$242|
|Ivy Bridge Core Processor Family (3rd Generation, LGA1155)|
|Core i7-3770K||4 / 8||3.5||3.9||22nm||8MB||HD 4000||Dual 1,600||77W||$313|
|Core i5-3570K||4 / 4||3.4||3.8||22nm||6MB||HD 4000||Dual 1,600||77W||$212|
|Sandy Bridge Core Processor Family (2nd Generation, LGA1155)|
|Core i7-2700K||4 / 8||3.5||3.9||32nm||8MB||HD 3000||Dual 1,333||95W||$332|
|Core i7-2600K||4 / 8||3.4||3.8||32nm||8MB||HD 3000||Dual 1,333||95W||$317|
|Core i5-2500K||4 / 4||3.3||3.7||32nm||6MB||HD 3000||Dual 1,333||95W||$216|
Notice how Kaby Lake and Skylake share plenty in common? In an unusual turn of events, Intel has stepped away from a tick-tock strategy that, until now, has resulted in a process node shrink every two generations. As a result, Kaby Lake, like Skylake and Broadwell before it, continues to employ a 14nm process that has been fine-tuned over the years.
Intel chooses to refer to the Kaby Lake process as 14nm+, with the plus denoting transistor-level enhancements such as taller fins and an improved gate pitch. For the consumer this means higher frequencies at the same voltage, hence a peak speed of 4.5GHz on the Core i7-7700K, up from 4.2GHz on the Core i7-6700K.
End users shouldn't expect a ground-breaking leap in performance, however the heightened frequencies do make the Kaby Lake generation slightly quicker than their outgoing Skylake counterparts.
Benchmarks from leading review sites reveal a performance increase in both single- (PiFast) and multi-threaded (Cinebench) workloads, while other onboard improvements focus on multimedia. A refreshed media engine caters for 4K and newer codecs by being able to decode Google VP9 content as well as the ability to encode and decode 4K 10-bit H.265.
Last but not least, Kaby Lake processors are packaged as LGA 1151 and will consequently be compatible with existing Intel Z170 motherboards following a BIOS update. Good news for enthusiasts seeking a slot-in upgrade, but for users planning an entirely new build Intel is also introducing a 270-series chipset to give Kaby Lake rigs the latest in motherboard technology.
Intel's seventh-generation Kaby Lake architecture is very much a case of evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Built on a tried-and-trusted 14nm process, the new range of Core processors are underpinned by Skylake foundations and add a sprinkling of new incentives that include higher operating frequencies and modern multimedia capabilities.
The end result is a modest uplift in performance and, potentially, greater overclocking headroom made available through refinements to what was already an efficient and finely tuned architecture. For these reasons alone, consumers in the market for a new PC in 2017 should have a Kaby Lake processor near the top of their checklist.