Taking Advantage Of Kaby Lake

PAT PILCHER gets to first name basis with Intel’s latest hot character (we mean hot 7th gen CPU), Kaby Lake.

 

Wondering what Intel’s marketing team were smoking when they came up with these wacky brand names? The answer is quite straightforward. Intel have long been naming each generation of their CPUs after quirky places in the USA. It makes for confusing yet interesting and colourful nomenclatures.

Kaby Lake may sound like a daytime soap, but it’s already one of Intel’s more successful pieces of silicon. It has made its way into hardware made by HP, Dell, Toshiba and a slew of high-end gaming notebooks and desktops. Adding even more bonkers to the box, Intel also maintain a tradition of numerical naming.

Kaby Lake consists of the 7-series CPUs, whereas Skylake was 6-series, and Broadwell was 5-series. You get the idea.

There’s over 20 variants of Intel’s Kaby Lake to choose from. These range from low end Pentium CPUs through to the Core i7-7700K. As per usual, Intel have the K version which is unlocked for overclockers, and it’s a beast; both quad-cored and hyper-threaded, consensus is that it will overclock to 4.2GHz with little to no issues. There are even reports of the i7-7700K clocked at a whopping 7GHZ. That said, your actual mileage will vary. This depends on your mobo, RAM and cooling plus a host of other arcane factors. Do your homework first before any overclocking.

There’s also the Core i7-7500U, which is under the hood of HP’s rather tasty Spectre x360. Designed for Ultrabooks, the “U” denotes an ultra-low voltage, battery friendly design. It’s a dual two core animal capable of running four threads, and clocks in at 2.7GHz (with a 2.9GHz turbo-boost).

Further rounding things out is the 7th Gen mobile silicon, which come in Core m3, m5 and m7 variants. These get used where space is tight as they don’t need any bulky fans, and makes them ideal for ultra-slim portable gear.

It isn’t only about CPUs, either: Kayby Lake also supports Intel’s new Optane memory tech. Using clever caching, it can make mechanical hard drives perform on par with SSDs.

Intel had long worked to a ‘tick, tock’ release cycle when it came to silicon, but the tick sees silicon die and transistor sizes shrink. This gets followed by a Tock, which sees CPU architecture upgraded or replaced.

Last year, Intel moved to a more incremental approach. They’ve called it ‘Process, Architecture, Optimisation’, which is a subtle distinction, and Kaby Lake is an optimisation more than a process or architecture change.

All told, there are many similarities between Kaby Lake and its previous sibling, Skylake. Both are 14nm CPUs, and the desktop versions of both use the LGA 1151 socket.

If you’re the proud owner of a Skylake CPU, the reasons to upgrade to a Kaby Lake CPU may not be all that obvious, but they’re quite compelling. For a start, Kaby Lake supports USB-C Gen 2 and USB 3.1. This translates into a zippy 10Gbps bandwidth boost. It also has the goods for media boxes as its integrated GPU is UHD friendly. This means it’ll play Ultra HD Blu-ray content and supports 4K Netflix on Windows 10. The GPU’s media engine allows for real-time 4K video editing. Notebook owners can stream VP9 and HVEC-encoded 4K content without nailing battery-life.

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