Intel’s Kaby Lake CPUs Launch, Adding to Logical Increments

Kaby Lake is the first CPU series under Intel’s new Tick-Tock-Tack strategy (a.k.a Process, Architecture, Optimization). Previously, Intel would shrink it’s last generation’s CPU (a Tick), and then introduce a new microarchitecture at that size in the next generation (a Tock). Now Intel shrinks a CPU (Tick), makes a new microarchitecture (Tock), then “optimizes” it. What does “optimize” mean? That is left up to the reader to decide, as “optimize” is not defined by Intel.

Broadwell, Intel’s 5th generation, was a Tick, meaning a new die shrink. Skylake, the 6th generation, was a Tock, introducing a new architecture. Kaby Lake, the new 7th generation, is an optimized version of Skylake.

So what does Kaby Lake bring? It brings Skylake performance, but it is clocked higher out of the box, and can overclock higher as well. Other than that, Kaby Lake’s media capabilities are a bit better than Skylake, with improved hardware support for encoding/decoding some codecs.

Kaby Lake will be on the same socket (1151) as Skylake, and Skylake’s 100-series motherboard chipset should support Kaby Lake CPUs after a BIOS update.

So, there’s not much new here, is there?

Since 2009, Intel’s CPU launches have been quite consistent, featuring two choices:

  1. A quadcore i5 without hyperthreading for $200-$250 (i5-750, i5-2500K, i5-3470K, i5-4670K, i5-6600K)
  2. A quadcore i7 with hyperthreading for $300-$350 (i7-950, i7-2600K, i7-3770K, i7-4770K, i7-6700K)

Kaby Lake does not deviate from this formula with the i5-7600K and i7-7700K, and as such is one of the most ho-hum launches we have seen from Intel yet. The only new and different item we have from Intel is the i3-7350K, an overclockable i3. The i3 series has been very popular with gamers on a moderate budget, and this new i3 might be a very good CPU if the price is right.

Unfortunately, Kaby Lake’s launch brings very little to the table. If you have Skylake, Haswell, or even if you are still on Ivy Bridge… there is not much here for you to upgrade. If Skylake was not worth upgrading to, then Kaby Lake is not, either. For a new system buyer, Kaby is definitely recommended, if the price is on par (or lower than) Skylake.

There is a dead horse that needs a fourth beating

OK, let us do what all internet warriors enjoy doing the most: Whine. But if there is anything more satisfying that internet-whining, it is copying last year’s whine about Sylake and finding it even more relevant this year:

“Why does Intel continue to give the same configuration? Lack of competition. In the discrete CPU world, it is not a ‘two horse race’ between Intel and AMD, but more of a ‘one horse, one duck’ race. When it comes to high-end CPUs, Intel does not need to improve because it is already winning by a mile.”

AMD’s Zen, now renamed to Ryzen, is expected to launch in Q1 2017. We do not have confirmed dates from AMD yet, but that might change soon. We really, truly hope that Ryzen is competitive, because right now Intel can put a new sticker on an old CPU and still be the best.


As long as their prices are similar, we will replace Skylake CPUs with Kaby Lake CPUs, and 100-series with 200-series motherboards, as these items becomes available for sale in 2 days time. If the prices are not logical, we will hold on replacing them until the prices come down. There is no worry though, as Kaby Lake is nearly identical to Skylake, so getting either means getting the best performance.

And AMD? We are waiting.


(credit to /g/ for rounding up these sources)