Intel Debuts Coffee Lake Mobile CPUs: What You Need to Know

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Intel is dressing up the latest version of its 8th Gen Core processors to the nines.

Coffee Lake Laptop with Core i9

Specifically, the chip maker just unveiled its first ever Core i9 processor for laptops, part of a new lineup of high-performance "H Series" mobile CPUs based on Intel's Coffee Lake platform. In addition to delivering screaming performance to gaming laptops, Intel's latest chips can handle the demands of virtual reality software while also letting content creators edit videos, process images and produce graphics on the go.

The high-performance 8th Gen Core weren't the only processors unveiled by Intel today (April 3). The company also announced additions to its lineup of 8th Gen Core "U Series" mainstream mobile processors, extended its mobile and desktop products to incorporate Intel Optane memory technology to 8th Gen Core CPUS and expanded its high-performance desktop processor offerings.

Here's a full rundown of what Intel has planned and what it means for your future laptop.

What's the big deal about Coffee Lake mobile CPUs?

Marketed as Intel's 8th Generation H-Series CPUs, Coffee Lake will mark the first time that laptop processors have been available with 6 physical cores and 12 threads. That kind of processing power allows for better gaming and stronger overall performance on demanding workloads like 4K video editing or 3D animation.

The new Coffee Lake CPUs are also the first set of laptop chips that have a Core i9 processor to go along with Core i5, Core i7 and new Xeon models. The Core i5 models only have 4 cores and 8 threads while the others all have 6 and 12. The Core i9 chip is the only one that comes unlocked for overclocking.

The Core i9-8950K and the Xeon E-2186M chip both have Intel Thermal Velocity Boost, a feature that can increase clock frequency by up to 200 MHz when the processor's temperature is low enough and there's available turbo power. That translates to a 4.8GHz turbo frequency for the Core i9 processor, which otherwise tops out at 4.6GHz.

What kind of performance can you expect from a Core i9 processor?

"This is the closest to desktop performance you can get in a notebook," said Fredrik Hamberger, Intel's general manager for premium and gaming notebooks. And the numbers certainly bear that out.

Intel says its 8th Gen Core i9 can boost gaming frames per second by up to 41 percent over a machine running a 7th Gen Core i7 CPU. The new processors speed up 4K video editing by 59 percent over the top-of-the line processor from Intel's previous generation, while overall performance increases by up to 29 percent with the Core i9.

When we tested an Aorus X9 with Core i9 inside, it provided the best Geekbench 4 score that we've ever seen on a notebook (25,915). It also took just 8 minutes and 15 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p, the shortest time we've ever recorded.

"It's the best gaming processor Intel has built," Hamberger added.

Performance gains are even more noticeable when you look at them relative to older systems. Intel says its high-performance 8th Gen Core i7 can boost overall performance by 88 percent over a three-year-old laptop. Gaming frame rates see a 2.7x improvement while photo editing is up to 68 percent faster with the latest Core i7, according to Intel.

What other features can we expect from Intel's high-performance processors?

Intel's high-performance Core processors feature an Intel 300 Series chipset with integrated Intel Wireless 802.11ac delivering Gigabit throughput. Intel says that's up to twice as fast as standard 2x2 802.11ac 80MHz wireless connectivity, and that you'll be able to download an HD movie in less than a minute. (According to Intel, 802.11b/g/n wireless takes nearly 11 minutes to pull off the same task.) Faster internet connectivity also comes in handy for running virtual and augmented reality content without any lags.

In addition, Intel's chipset offers high-speed integrated USB 3.1 Gen 2. And Intel says its high-performance processors are optimized for the latest discrete graphics as well as Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.

How many nanometers and watts are Coffee Lake mobile CPUs?

Coffee Lake chips are made with a 14nm process, the same size we've seen since Broadwell, three generations ago. Like prior Intel H-Series processors, these all have a 45-watt TDP (Thermal Design Profile).

How can you tell if a processor is one of the new Coffee Lake models?

If you look at the model number of a Core i5, Core i7 or Core i9 CPU, it will have an 8 at the beginning and an H at the end. There are also two Coffee Lake Xeon processors for workstations, the E-2186M and E-2176M. Here's a complete list of mobile Coffee Lake SKUs and their basic specs.

  Base Clock Speed (GHz) Turbo Boost Speed (GHz)  Cores / Threads Intel Smart Cache
Intel Core i9-8950HK 2.9 4.8 6/12 12MB
Intel Xeon E-2186M 2.9 4.8 6/12 12MB
Intel Xeon E-2176M 2.7 4.4 6/12 12MB
Intel Core i7-8850H 2.6 4.3 6/12 9MB
Intel Core i7-8750H 2.2 4.2 6/12 9MB
Intel Core i5-8400H 2.5 4.2 4/8 8MB
Intel Core i5-8300H 2.3 4.0 4/8 8MB

What about the other additions to Intel's 8th Gen Core lineup?

Intel says it's adding to its lineup of mainstream 8th Gen Core mobile processors. Part of Intel's U-Series and based on the Kaby Lake-R platform, the new Core i7, i5 and i3 CPUs feature up to four cores and 8 threads along with Intel Iris Plus graphics. As with the high-performance CPUs, these mainstream chips feature integrated USB 3.1 Gen 2 and wireless 802.11ac with Gigabit throughput. All of these new chips have 28-watt TDPs, which makes them more power-hungry than the other, 15-watt Intel U series chips.

  Base Clock Speed (GHz) Turbo Burst Speed (GHz) Cores / Threads Intel Smart Cache
Intel Core i7-8559U 2.7 4.5 4/8 8MB
Intel Core i5-8269U 2.6 4.2 4/8 6MB
Intel Core i5-8259U 2.3 3.8 4/8 6MB
Intel Core i3-8109U 3.0 3.7 2/4 4MB

Where can I find these new processors?

Intel's processor announcements just happen to coincide with multiple laptop makers announcing new models that take advantage of these new and improved chips. Among the companies announcing new systems to coincide with Intel's latest 8th Gen Core news are MSI, Asus and Gigabyte.

What's happening with Intel Optane?

All of the new processors in both the U and H series will support Optane memory. Using a combination of software and hardware, Optane acts as a cache that boosts a SATA hard drive's performance and responsiveness. If you have an SSD, you don't need Optane memory. (There are also Optane SSDs.)

You'll only see a benefit from this functionality if you buy a computer that has both a mechanical hard drive and some Optane cache memory on board. However, if you do, Intel says it can make everyday tasks run 2.2x faster on laptops, while games load up to 4.7x faster and media files open 1.7x faster.

What about desktop CPUs?

Intel also announced plans to expand its desktop lineup with new 8th Gen Core processors and Intel 300 Series chipsets. The sales pitch is much the same as for the mobile CPUs: Intel says these new processors will deliver better desktop gaming and content creation experiences while also making you more productive.

Compared to the chip in a five-year-old desktop, Intel says its latest processors can improve system responsiveness by up to 2.1x. Games load levels increase by 4.3x while games launch 2.2x faster. You'll be able to edit media 1.6x faster, too, according to Intel's figures.

Beyond speed bumps, though, the new 8th Gen Core desktop CPUs also introduce new use cases, such as fast-resume for desktops and wake-on-voice capability. Desktops running the new processors can support multiple assistants while offering near-field and far-field support.

What About Spectre and Meltdown?

Intel says all the products announced today include patches for the Spectre and Meltdown security vulnerabilities, with all of the company's performance claims reflecting the patched systems.

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