For a while there Intel had a plan and was sticking to it. The tick-tock model gave us a predictable new architecture followed by a die shrink for a few years at least. Then things started going off the rails and now we have a system where three generations of Intel CPUs will all be made with the same manufacturing process. It seems that will is still coming fast for silicon-based semiconductors.
Nonetheless, there is still high levels of innovation in the CPU space thanks to the sudden return of AMD to competitiveness. Based on the 2018 Intel roadmaps we’ve seen it’s clear that Intel is not taking AMD’s new lease on life lightly. So let’s look at the headlining developments revealed in Intel’s plan for the next year or so.
Hello Cascade Lake-X, Bye-Bye Kaby Lake-X The all new Cascade Lake-X chips are what has Intel excited right now. Nothing on their roadmaps explicitly suggests that the existing Kaby Lake-X will get any more love once the new golden child is released to the world. Kaby lake didn’t play well with X299 chipsets anyway so plenty of existing Kaby Lake-X owners will want to upgrade and new buyers will want to skip it entirely. For that matter, Kaby Lake-X is also essentially a successor to Skylake-X too, so this is also a unification of the line.
Cascade Lake-X is not going to be on a 12nm process, unlike the new Ryzen APUs and Zen+ CPUs which will beat Intel to the punch. Instead these processors will use the so called “14nm++” process, which is a more refined process that promises to yield slight improvements in power usage and clock speeds. It might however turn out that Intel has gone straight to 10nm, since a recent leak suggests some mainstream CPUs such as Cannon Lake-Y based products.
These CPUs will be arriving in the last quarter of 2018, it seems.
So what are the specs we know so far when it comes to these new high-end CPUs? Well we don’t know. The leaked slides didn’t have more than a name and a timeframe, so we’ll have to wait for more.
The Juicy Workstation Gossip What most of you really care about is what’s going to happen with the new Xeons. We’re getting new Xeon chips based on the Coffee Lake-E architecture. Those will be for socket 1151, but there has been a revision to the pin configuration which means, in typical Intel style, You’re going to need a new motherboard anyway. The slides on offer indicate that these CPUs will have six or fewer cores, 16 PCIe lanes and use DDR4-2666.
For 2018 the midrange Xeons are sticking with Broadwell DE with up to 16 cores. High-end Xeon XPs will get have 8-20 core Skylake-SP chips and then 8-20 core Cascade Lake-SP chips in the last quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019.
The Coffee Lake mainstream CPUs will include the dual core “S” variant and it seems they will all be based on 14nm technology. We’ll only see 10nm chips with the release of Ice Lake.Coffee Lake chips will top out at six cores for mainstream users. With the multi-core Ryzens breathing down its neck the days of the quad core are surely numbered.
Mainstream Madness There are so many variants of the Coffee Lake architecture that we’re still not entirely sure what the final lineup will look like. Apart from the the “E” and “S” there’s also the “H”.
The “H” processors are especially interesting for enthusiast users on mobile platforms. There’s a quad-core i3 in the mix, but also a hex-core i5, hex-core i7s with hyperthreading and a hex-core i9 with the same.
Coffee Lake-S CPUs are the main line desktop architecture. It starts with a dinky dual-core Celeron. There’s also a range of “Pentium Gold” CPUs that are all dual-core, but sport a smidge more cache memory.
The i3 models are all quad-core, the i5s are all hex-core. The same goes for the i7s, but then there’s hyperthreading which yields 12 threads. All in all, this is a distinct shift up the line and we have AMD Ryzen to thank for that at least in part.
Wait and See Well, there you have it. That’s the gossip we could distill from the current atmosphere of anticipation that comes with every Intel launch. Obviously some of these details could be wrong or change, but that’s half the fun while we wait for the chance to actually buy the goods.