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TekSpek CPUs
Intel 8th Gen Coffee Lake Processors

Intel 8th Gen Coffee Lake Processors

Date issued:

2017 has seen a huge shake-up in the mainstream enthusiast desktop CPU market. AMD came back into the frame when it launched a succession of Ryzen chips based on the all-new Zen architecture. Ryzen processors typically offered more overall performance than Intel at the same price points.

Intel understood that AMD would certainly gain back some market share from its dominating Core series of CPUs. However, it has now hit back with new technology that offers a greater mainstream bang for buck than ever before. Say hi to the Intel 8th Generation Core processors, codenamed Coffee Lake.

The simplest way to understand what has changed between 7th Gen (codenamed Kaby Lake) and 8th Gen (Coffee Lake) is to look at the vital statistics of various Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 chips from each generation in a specification table.

Mainstream Intel Core Series
Model Cores /
Smart Cache

Coffee Lake 8th Gen processors

Core i7-8700K 6 / 12 12 3.7 4.7 4.3 16 UHD 630 1,200 Dual DDR4-2666 95 1151 $359
Core i7-8700 6 / 12 12 3.2 4.6 4.3 16 UHD 630 1,200 Dual DDR4-2666 65 1151 $303
Core i5-8600K 6 / 6 9 3.6 4.3 3.9 16 UHD 630 1,150 Dual DDR4-2666 95 1151 $257
Core i5-8400 6 / 6 9 2.8 4.0 3.8 16 UHD 630 1,050 Dual DDR4-2666 65 1151 $182
Core i3-8350K 4 / 4 6 4.0 - - 16 UHD 630 1,150 Dual DDR4-2400 91 1151 $168
Core i3-8100 4 / 4 6 3.6 - - 16 UHD 630 1,100 Dual DDR4-2400 65 1151 $117
Select Kaby Lake 7th Gen processors
Core i7-7700K 4 / 8 8 4.2 4.5 4.4 16 HD
1,150 Dual DDR4-2400 91 1151 $339
Core i5-7600K 4 / 4 6 3.8 4.2 4.0 16 HD
1,150 Dual DDR4-2400 65 1151 $243
Core i3-7350K 2 / 4 4 4.2 - - 16 HD
1,150 Dual DDR4-2400 60 1151 $179

More Cores, More Speed

Given the relatively short time frame Intel has had to work with in getting the 8th Gen CPUs to market, engineers have used the same architecture and fabrication building blocks as seen on 7th Gen Kaby Lake. This translates to the use of a 14nm production process and no manifest change in what is known as the instruction-set architecture.

The key difference between the Core processors of each generation is that Intel has increased the amount of performance by adding more cores and/or more threads to each processor in the family. Having more cores, or execution units, speeds up performance in intensive applications by virtue of more parallel processing.

This is why the Core i7-8700K is up to 50 per cent faster than the popular Core i7-7700K in applications that can fully use cores and threads. That said, some simple applications only use a single thread, so there's no obvious advantage to having more cores. Ensuring that the new generation of processors offer no-compromise performance, Intel keeps their frequencies competitive when evaluated directly with the previous generation.

From a pure core/thread point of view, the six new 8th Gen Core processors compare favourably with previous offerings in the mainstream enthusiast market. The Core i7 duo represents the first time that Intel has infused CPUs in this category with six cores and 12 threads, ostensibly to fight off the very real threat from AMD's Ryzen.

The Core i5 pair, meanwhile, also increases nominal performance by 50 per cent as Intel moves on to six cores (without hyperthreading) from four cores on the 7th Gen. Likewise, Intel shifts Core i3 to four full execution cores, instead of two, and therefore offers more oomph at each price point.

The Supporting Act

Intel also makes a couple of other, minor changes in the transition between generations. Each 8th Gen mainstream chip continues to integrate basic graphics capability, meaning that you can run a PC without having to invest in a separate, add-in graphics card. These graphics are now known as UHD 630, instead of HD 630, though their functionality remains the same. What's changed, mildly so, is the speed at which they operate.

Processors need juicy memory bandwidth for them to function at the greatest economy. Intel keeps the dual-channel architecture that has proven to be sufficient for many years but, as a sign of the times, increases the officially supported memory speed to DDR4-2666, up from DDR4-2400. The positive benefit is likely to be minimal, yet every little helps.

You already know that the chip giant has squeezed in significantly more processing ability than ever before. As a testament to the maturation of the manufacturing process and behind-the-scenes tweaks that are rarely divulged, Intel has managed to keep the thermal design power - the peak operating wattage of the chip - at similar levels to before.

8th Gen Needs New Chipset - Enter Z370

Up to 50 per cent more performance at similar pricing and power budgets is a big deal. However, there is a sting in the tail insofar as Intel requires a new supporting chipset for these new processors, even though they use the same LGA 1151 form-factor package as 6th and 7th Generation processors based on the Skylake and Coffee Lake architectures, respectively.

The official word from Intel is that the also-new Z370 chipset has been designed with the correct 8th Gen Core CPU certification with respect to power and memory frequency capabilities. This means that the Z270 chipset, able to house the older processors, will not work with 8th Gen chips. Similarly, the older-generation processors will not work with the Z370 chipset, despite, as we have mentioned, them looking identical from a packaging point of view.

This is an important consideration because any reader contemplating purchasing an 8th Gen Core processor also needs to purchase a motherboard based on the Z370 chipset. Digging deeper into the technical details reveals that Intel has made electrical changes to the pins on the Z370 chipset-based boards that preclude interoperability with older processors.

Performance Potential

Understanding that the 8th Gen Core CPUs/Z370 chipset constitutes a clean break from previous CPU/motherboard combinations in the mainstream enthusiast market, just how much more performance can you expect if moving on over to the new platform?

Leading review websites have benchmarked the 8th Gen Core processors and found that they really do offer lots more performance than Intel has previously made available in this segment of the PC market.

Intel 8th gen cpu benchmark

HandBrake, the popular, open-source video-encoding program, shows the Core i7-8700K's performance goes up by over 40 per cent when compared to the Core i7-7700K that it effectively replaces as the head honcho of the mainstream pack. The Core i5-8400, priced at roughly the same levels as the previous-generation Core i3-7350K, is able to more than double its performance.

As you can see, the new Intel chips neatly sandwich a raft of competing AMD Ryzen processors that are also hot on performance.

The arrival of the 8th Gen Core processors from Intel is a watershed moment for mainstream PC computing. Along with AMD, it is the first time that six-core, 12-thread processors have battled it out in what we would call the upper end of the mass PC market.

Offering a win-win scenario for the would-be purchaser, there is more bang for your buck than ever before. As always, Scan Computers is selling the entire range of Intel Core 8th Gen processors and a comprehensive number of supporting Z370 chipset-based Intel motherboards.