April 3, 2018 // 8:01 a.m.
In a major update to its 8th Gen Core processors and ecosystem, Intel has announced its first six-cores laptop chips including – for the first time – a flagship Core i9 SKU, as well as new U-Series CPUs with Iris Plus graphics, updates to Intel Optane, and new desktop Core processors.
Rolled out in stages since August last year, the 8th Gen parts have thus far includes low-power mobile U-Series offerings for ultrathin devices, classic desktop chips including unlocked overclockable parts, and additional mobile chips with AMD Radeon RX Vega M graphics. Today, the main announcement is an update to the mainstream and high-end 45W mobile parts, which in most instances will be paired with discrete GPUs to satisfy performance demands in the gaming, VR/AR, and content creation markets. Included in the lineup are quad-core Core i5 SKUs as well as six-core Core i7 parts and the top-of-the-line Core i9-8950HK part, which is also fully unlocked for overclocking.
Base clocks range from 2.2GHz to 2.9GHz, while Turbo Boost 2.0 technology allows the chips to reach between 4GHz and 4.6GHz – previously, the highest boost speed at 45W was 4.1GHz, so this is a decent step up. That said, a new feature called Thermal Velocity Boost permits the Core i9-8950HK exclusively to boost all the way to 4.8GHz provided certain cooling requirements are met. Despite a request for comment, Intel has been unable to clarify how many cores Thermal Velocity Boost works for, how these cores are chosen, and why the feature is not present further down the stack. For the latter point, at least, we suspect it is an artificial limitation. Intel Smart Cache sits at 8MB for the Core i5 parts, 9MB for the Core i7 chips, and 12MB at the top of the stack. All new processors support dual-channel DDR4 at speeds up to 2,666MHz.
Other new but less notable processors include mainstream mobile U-Series parts with a 28W power envelope and up to four cores and eight threads. The headline here is an upgrade to Iris Plus integrated graphics. Meanwhile, Intel is filling out the desktop stack with three new ‘Standard Power’ parts with up to six cores, no Hyper-Threading, and no unlocked multiplier, as well as six ‘Low Power’ parts to fill a 35W TDP.
All the newly announced processors are supported by new Intel 300 Series chipsets, which also form part of today’s reveal. There will be variants of the chipsets for both mobile and desktop, meaning desktop users (and system integrators) will finally start to see H370 and B360 motherboards that are a better fit for locked-multiplier CPUs. The mobile chipsets will have integrated Intel Wireless-AC 2x2 160MHz Wi-Fi connectivity, now with 1,733Mbps of theoretical throughput, which is double the previous gen – routers will need to support 160MHz channels to take advantage, though. The new chipsets also have enhanced audio capabilities and fully integrated USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) connectivity, with this latter point being perhaps the most exciting thing for desktop customers.
The final big announcement today is to do with Intel Optane. Previously limited to standalone SSDs and cache modules for the Z370 chipset, Optane products will now be supported across the range of 300 Series chipset, including the mobile platforms for the first time. A new feature is also being rolled out, which is data drive acceleration. Until now, users could only accelerate their OS boot drive with an Optane module, but now you can choose instead to boost the speed of loading data from secondary storage volumes – useful if you have your OS already on an SSD and then lots of games or content stored on a mechanical drive, as many of us do. Any 8th Gen Core CPU-based laptop or desktop system sold with Optane memory included (either as a cache or with an actual Optane-based SSD) will now include ‘Plus’ branding, e.g. ‘Core i7+’.