It's been about a year since Intel launched its sixth generation of Core CPUs for desktop and laptop PCs; you might have already heard of them as the Skylake family. Today, Skylake is being succeeded by Kaby Lake — the seventh iteration of Core, with a bunch of optimisations to future-proof PCs of today for the 4K video and computing of tomorrow. First off the blocks are new energy-efficient mobile chips, with desktop and performance CPUs due in January of next year.
Kaby Lake builds on the same 14-nanometre production process as the previous Skylake chips, and that process is now 12 to 19 per cent more efficient — which, in theory, means more performance for the same wattage and therefore better battery life for consumer laptopss. In theory. At the same level of performance per Watt, Intel says its new 4.5-Watt ultra low voltage mobile chips handle the same workload as an 18-Watt first-gen Core.
But it's not general productivity that Intel is using to sell its new chips — it's 4K. A whole range of optimisations like 10-bit HEVC decoding — things that hadn't even been thought about five years ago — means that the new Core i5-7200U low-voltage processor is nearly nine times faster than a first-gen Core i5-2467M for building a 4K, 360-degree video (in Intel's own in-house tests, at least). Converting a 4K video to 1080p — the kind of thing you might do if you wanted to put your GoPro video on YouTube without waiting for painfully long upload times — is nearly seven times faster.
Because the new 7th-gen processors have hardware support for HEVC and VP9, Intel promises 1.75 times the battery life under the most demanding (4K, 360-degree, YouTube) video streaming conditions. The low thermal design profile of the chips, the company says, makes laptops thinner than 10mm possible, convertibles as thin as 10mm, and fanless low-power devices as thin as 7mm.
You'll start to see these chips — the Core i5-7200U, the Core i7-7500U and an even lower voltage Y variant — appearing in notebooks from Intel's manufacturing partners very soon. Desktop chips and more powerful 7th-gen CPUs are on the way in January 2017, apparently, likely with the same iterative performance increases. The 7th-gen Intel Core refresh comes as IFA 2016 kicks off in Berlin — we're on the ground, so stay tuned for more news from the biggest names in tech. [Intel]