It's that time of year when Intel, the largest maker of laptop and desktop processors in the world, announces the guts of your future PC. These CPUs are always a little faster and a little more battery efficient. This year Intel is launching it's latest processor on the same day as the first major solar eclipse in North America in four decades. Coffee Lake, besides being the place I dream of waking up in each morning, is the 8th generation Core processor from Intel. It's fast, efficient, and it's going to be coming to a lot of very thin laptops later this year.
Coffee Lake processor dye. (All images: Intel)
This is the third iteration of the Skylake microarchitecture Intel introduced back in 2015. It is still 14 nanometres, and as with its predecessors, Skylake and Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake is still focused on speed and battery life improvements. Yet, while Intel's claiming big gains in both those areas, Coffee Lake isn't a major headline grabbing processor family like Skylake or AMD's new Ryzen were. It's just... faster.
How much faster?
While we haven't had the opportunity to benchmark Coffee Lake processors against their Kaby Lake predecessors or the sweet Ryzen chips from AMD, we do have a lot of bold speed claims from Intel itself. These claims revolve around the 15 watt Coffee Lake processors — those are the ones you're likely to find in super thin and light laptops: Think the Dell XPS 13 or Razer Stealth (though no companies have announced support for these processors yet).
According to Intel, Coffee Lake is an average of 40 per cent faster than Kaby Lake when it comes to crunching numbers in Excel. Intel also claims it can process photographs in Adobe Lightroom up to 28 per cent faster and organise and edit images in a slideshow up to 48 per cent faster.
The chip at the heart of the Coffee Lake CPU.
The biggest speed claims come when Intel compared Coffee Lake to processors from five years ago. According to the CPU maker, a 4K video can be rendered in just three minutes when it would have taken 45 minutes five years ago. This kind of speed comparison is Intel's way of enticing old computer owners into an upgrade.
What about battery life?
In the case of the first processors from the new Coffee Lake family, Intel is claiming up to 10 hours of battery life when viewing 4K content. In the same tests on Kaby Lake last year Intel averaged around seven hours of battery life. That's a whole lot more Defenders you can watch on your laptop in one sitting.
Is there anything else special about it?
There is one very cool thing about Intel's latest processors. The company is packing more cores onto the processor itself. So the 15-watt processors that were the focus of yesterday's announcement have four cores on them. In previous generations there were just two. More cores means the processor has the ability to process more data more efficiently. People who perform processor intensive tasks, such as rendering video or images, will see the best performance upgrade from the additional cores.
When can I buy these things?
If you're hoping you can just go out and snag a Coffee Lake processor today and jam it in your PC you are out of luck. Intel has only announced it's 15-watt "U-Series" processors yesterday. Those are the ones appearing in laptops and two-in-ones. Which means acquiring them depends on which companies, such as Dell and Asus, actually release products with this brand of Intel inside.
Other Coffee Lake processors, such as desktop processors and those intended for ultra lower power computing devices like the Apple Macbook, will be announced over the coming months.
For now there are just four processors available:
If you're hoping to buy a laptop with Coffee Lake inside keep a close watch on what's announced at Gamescon this week in Cologne and IFA in Berlin next week.