Intel 8th Gen Core CPUs: What You Need to Know

Quad-core laptops are coming to the masses. Today, Intel announced its new 8th-Generation Core Series CPUs, which double the number of CPU cores on mainstream consumer notebooks and promise performance increases as high as 40 percent over the current, 7th-Generation "Kaby Lake" processors. (The additional cores could lead to stronger performance, especially for multitasking,)

Intel is discussing only its U-series Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs for consumer laptops, so we're still waiting on news for the 8th-Gen Core i3, Y-series, and processors for gaming and business notebooks.

The 8th-gen processors launch today (Aug. 21) and will begin shipping in laptops in September. Both the i5 and i7 CPUs are now quad-core chips even in the U-series, and Intel claims that this generation of chips will span three architectures: a refresh of the currently existing Kaby Lake, as well as Coffee Lake and Cannon Lake.

Here's what you need to know:

What's the eighth generation of Intel Core processors?

Intel updates its CPUs on a roughly annual basis. Last year, it introduced its 7th-Generation "Kaby Lake" processors, and the year before that, it released the 6th-Generation "Skylake" CPUs. Unlike prior generations, 8th Gen encompasses multiple architectures, with the first batch of CPUs based on a "Kaby Lake refresh" platform; others will follow.

How much more powerful are the 8th-Gen processors than the 7th-Gen processors?

Intel says these 15-watt, quad-core processors are 40 percent faster than their predecessors. Specifically, going quad-core increased the performance by 25 percent, while design and manufacturing tweaks pushed it even higher.

The company said that when you're editing photos in Adobe's Lightroom, you'll see 28 percent faster performance, and that it's twice as fast as a machine that's 5 years old. It also suggests that you could export a 4K video in 3 minutes, compared with 45 minutes on a 5-year-old machine.

Of course, we haven't been able to test them yet ourselves, but we will when the first laptops show up in our labs.

What are the first CPUs being released?

The first batch of Intel's 8th-Generation processors are from its U-series, which you'll find in most consumer-focused notebooks. The processors are:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Base Clock SpeedMaximum Clock Speed
i7-8650U1.9 GHz4.2 GHz
i7-8550U1.8 GHz4.0 GHz
i5-8350U1.7 GHz3.6 GHz
i5-8250U1.6 GHz3.4 GHz

Are 8th-Gen Core chips 14 nanometers or 10 nanometers?

The initial 8th-Generation chips will be made with a 14-nanometer process and will be based on the "Kaby Lake refresh" platform. Later CPUs under the 8th Gen name will be made with a 10-nanometer process. In this case, smaller is better, as a die shrink means that the chip uses less power and generates less heat to produce the use the same amount of power. There's no word yet on when we'll see these.

When will we know about Core i3, as well as Y-series, H-series and S-series chips?

According to Intel's Gregory Bryant, desktop chips will launch in the fall. We don't know about the other chips, but we expect them to be announced in January at CES; that's what happened with the 7th-Generation Core chips, which started being included in consumer laptops in fall 2016 and expanded to quad-core and business systems in January 2017.

MORE: Intel's 8th Gen Core Branding Will Confuse the Masses

What was that you said about three different architectures?

Right, this is confusing. The first batch of 8th-Generation Core CPUs will run on a refreshed version of Intel's current, 14-nanometer Kaby Lake platform. Later in the cycle (although Intel hasn't announced when) the 8th-Generation CPUs will also include a further refined version, Coffee Lake, as well as a smaller, 10-nanometer chip code-named Cannon Lake.

If you're confused by how all of those are part of one generation, you're not the only one.

Should I Wait to Buy a Laptop with 8th Gen Core?

We don't yet know whether the performance benefits of 8th Gen over 7th Gen will be as significant as Intel claims. However, if you have your eye on a consumer laptop with a 7th Gen Core i5 or Core i7 CPU inside it today, you might want to wait a month or two to find out. If you need a business laptop, a gaming laptop or any laptop with an Intel H Series processor inside, don't bother waiting. See our "Should you wait for 8th Gen Core" article for more.

Anything else of note?

We'll provide you with more information as we get it, but here are a couple of other interesting tidbits:

  • Intel's integrated HD Graphics are now called Intel UHD Graphics.
  • The company claims Optane memory will come to more laptops in the spring of 2018.
  • The company suggests the processor alone, without a discrete GPU, could run Windows Mixed Reality headsets, though we're still waiting for Microsoft to release the final specs for that.

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