The Intel Coffee Lake processor range has expanded, with new six-core mobile CPUs, Desktop CPUs, and mobo chipsets expanding the eighth generation. There are even rumours of an eight-core, potential Core i9 in the works for sometime later in the year. So, what are these 8th Gen chips offering the previous 7th Gen ones couldn’t?
Intel's Coffee Lake chips have topped our guide to the best CPUs for gaming.
Intel Coffee Lake CPU reviews
- Intel Core i7 8700K review: Coffee Lake beats Ryzen, but proves games don't care for cores
- Intel Core i5 8600K review: it only really exists to beat the Ryzen 5 1600X's benchmarks
- Intel Core i5 8400 review: THE gaming Coffee Lake, ignore those K-series' 5GHz+ OC numbers
Intel Coffee Lake laptop reviews
Intel Coffee Lake motherboard reviews
- Best gaming motherboard for Coffee Lake
- Gigabyte H370 Aorus Gaming 3 review: a good H370 board, but not a great Coffee Lake option
- Asus ROG Strix H370-F Gaming review: a high-end H370 motherboard is an oxymoron
- MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC review: too honest to deliver top Coffee Lake performance
- Asus TUF Z370-Pro Gaming review: shows you don't have to spend big on an Intel Coffee Lake board
Intel Coffee Lake PC reviews
- Scan 3XS Gamer: maybe your best chance of getting Coffee Lake on your desktop this year
- Cyberpower Infinity X88 GTX Elite: a six-core rig which commits the cardinal sin of system building
- Intel Coffee Lake release date
Intel's latest desktop gaming CPUs launched October 5, 2017, with the mobile gaming chips arriving in April 2018. There's also a potential 8-core desktop chip - a Core i9 maybe - possibly arriving at the end of the year.
- Intel Coffee Lake pricing and availability
The top Core i7 starts at around $339 (£318), with the two Core i5s from back in October costing $250 (£222) and $179 (£160) respectively. The two i5 chips that launched in April cost $213 and $192.
- Intel Coffee Lake specifications
There are six six-core chips: two K-series and four 65W. The Core i7 8700K will top out at 4.3GHz, and the i5 8600K at 4.1GHz, all-core Turbo clockspeeds. There's also three four-core i3 chips finishing the lineup.
- Intel Coffee Lake performance
The single-core performance of Intel's new Coffee Lake chips makes them great gaming CPUs. And when you bring in the prospect of 5GHz+ overclocking that's going to make things tough for AMD's Ryzen.
After less than a year of 7th Gen Kaby Lake processors, we've moved on to the 8th Gen, featuring Coffee Lake and Cannon Lake designs... as well as some lively refreshes.
There's even an 8th Gen chip sporting Radeon graphics silicon made by AMD. We're pretty confident that was one of Nostradamus' doom-laden prophecies foretelling the end of the world.
And we have finally received mainstream motherboard chipsets that will give the non K-series processors a proper home. Up to now we've just had the high-end Z370 motherboards, which are mostly unnecessary for something like a cheapo Core i3 processor. Although a Z390 may still be your best option for the time being.
Intel unveiled the first 8th Gen Core CPUs back in August last year - these 15W chips are a set of ultra low-power Core i7 and Core i5 processors for super thin laptops, not the beefy desktop Coffee Lake CPUs some might have hoped for. They are still interesting little chips, if you want a quad-core 2-in-1 or ultrabook-style laptop. Intel have doubled the core count, and left HyperThreading turned on for both i7 and i5 variants, giving them both eight threads.
But now we’ve potentially completed the Coffee Lake desktop chip lineup, which are definitely more exciting than mobile processors, right?
It might seem rather unusual for Intel to be retiring Kaby Lake so quickly, but there are a number of factors at play which are making this generation different from previous ones. For a start there is now increased competition in the CPU market from AMD’s Ryzen processors, but Intel are also struggling against the continual demand for CPU die shrinks and the increasing difficulty of making ever smaller transistors.
So now we’re looking at another stop-gap processor generation based on the same basic architecture as Skylake and Kaby Lake, as well as the same lithography Intel have been using since the 2015 Broadwell designs. Indeed there are set to be Kaby Lake refreshes mixed in with the Coffee Lake and Cannon Lake chips too.
Intel’s old-school tick-tock release cadence - where they launched a new architecture on an old process before re-engineering it again for a smaller lithography - was retired because successive CPU generations were having to stick on a particular production process for longer periods of time. It was then replaced by a new release cadence they called Process>Architecture>Optimisation... which didn’t even make it through one cycle. Now it’s just Process>Architecture>Optimise>Obey>Submit.
So if it’s all essentially the same why should we care about Coffee Lake? Well, this time it’s all about the AMD-inspired increased thread-count and a six-core i5...
Thankfully stock is far more readily available for the vanguard of Intel's Coffee Lake CPUs than they were pre-Christmas - especially since the refreshed chips made it onto the shelves. It's almost the complete inverse of what's happening in the graphics card market. Though if AMD have their way then people are going to start jumping on the CPU crypto-mining bandwagon and start eating up processor stock too...
The Core i7 8700K starts at around $339 (£318), delivering the full six-core, 12-thread monty for a more reasonable price than it was hitting at the paper launch. There are also now four Core i5s, with the 8600K costing $250 (£222), the 8600 priced at $213, the 8500 priced at $192, and the mighty 8400 priced at $179 (£160).
A brand new i3 chip also accompanied the i5 chips in April - the i3 8300 priced at $138. We can also finally get our hands on the more cost-effective budget motherboard chipsets.
The mainstream Coffee Lake motherboard chipsets launched on April 3, 2018. The H370, B360, and H310 chipsets are now available, with the Z370 still sitting in the top spot. Did anyone say Z390?
Due to the long period of time between the initial October launch for Intel's Coffee Lake and the refresh in April, motherboard manufacturers have been creating some pretty budget-friendly Z370 boards. This has left the premium H370 boards in a bad spot, at least until prices for the mainstream and budget chipsets start to drop in the coming months.
Coffee Lake is the next 14nm CPU design after Kaby Lake, which Intel is calling 14nm++ in an attempt to make it seem different. What’s making the new generation relevant, however, is the fact they’re bringing six-core / 12-thread processors into high-end laptops and standard desktops for the first time.
This is the big news for Coffee Lake: both the Core i7 and Core i5 ranges have a six-core CPU at the top. The Core i7 comes with six cores and 12 threads while the Core i5 version dodges HyperThreading and so is stuck with a straight six-core design.
That's rather exciting for us gamers because it means there’s a robust 14nm six-core part combining Intel's high-end single-threaded gaming performance with an extra two cores to give it decent multi-threaded chops too. Intel's resolutely quad-core K-series i5 from the Kaby Lake generation were able to either keep pace with, or beat AMD's six-core, twelve-thread Ryzen 5 1600X, so adding another couple of Intel cores to the mainstream mix gives Intel one hell of a gaming chip.
There were four six-core Coffee Lake CPUs at launch: a pair of Core i7 chips, one a K-series and another non-overclockable variant, and another two six-core i5 CPUs. These were joined by two new six-core CPUs in April: the i5 8600 and i5 8500. The specs show a disappointingly low base clockspeed for all the chips, most especially the Core i5 8600K. Thankfully they have more acceptable all-core Turbo clockspeeds, especially when matched with a belligerent Asus Z370. The Core i7 8700K has a rated Turbo of 4.7GHz, which is rather stellar if we're able to hit that as a matter of course. Some motherboards, such as the MSI Z370 we used in our testing, will stick to Intel’s guidelines and only offer 4.3GHz and 4.1GHz all-core Turbo speeds for the i7 8700K and i5 8600K respectively.
There’s also two quad-core processors making their way into the budget-oriented Core i3 range too, the Core i3 8350K and Core i3 8300. The i3 8350K is essentially a Core i5 7600K with an almost budget price tag.
Somewhat frustratingly Intel have nixxed backwards compatibility for the Coffee Lake chips, meaning you can’t just drop an 8th Gen chip into your existing 200-series motherboard. Given the Z270 and Z370 platforms look almost identical quite why the 200-series won't support Coffee Lake remains unclear, though there are suggestions it's down to the Intel Management Engine providing remote support in the corporate environment. It doesn't look like the 300-series will be backwards compatible either.
Pentium and Celeron processors have also not been forgotten, with a pre-new-year release for the four- and two-core Gemini Lake chips and further budget Coffee Lake Pentium Gold and Celeron chips in April.
Last, but definitely not least, Enterprise recieved some fresh-faced vPro-capable Coffee Lake desktop processors in April - the power efficient 35W 'T' chips - with coinciding chipset, the Q370.
There will also be Cannon Lake chips coming later on, and potentially eight-core Coffee Lake CPUs, and that might hint at why the new chipset needs to be separated out from the last-gen 200-series. But, at the moment it's still all speculation on that front until we hear a definite yes or no from Intel. But hopefully that won't be long coming.
April also saw the launch of a handful of powerful high-end mobile CPUs. The top of the stack is the the six-core twelve thread Core i9 8950HK - marking the first i9 chip on mobile.
Following the i9 there's the two six-core Core i7 chips and two four-core Core i5s: the i7 8850H, i7 8750H, i5 8400H, and i5 8300H. All come with a 45W TDP.
Benchmark databases offer a wealth of pre-release notifications about upcoming hardware, and with the latest leak detailing what looks like an early engineering sample of an eight-core Coffee Lake chip. It looks like an engineering sample because it's running in what is reported to be an Intel test platform and the 3DMark results screen has no idea what lithography it's using or its TDP.
It does show a 2.2GHz clockspeed, which is also indicative of early silicon. That means it's likely not coming until around the end of the year... coincidentally that's when we're expecting to see the high-end Z390 chipset appear. Funny that.
Coffee Lake Core i9 anyone?
The real headline grabber from the first Coffee Lake performance tests is the fact that you can easily get 5GHz+ frequencies out of both the K-series Core i7 and Core i5 parts. You don’t have to go crazy with liquid nitrogen or set the CPU voltage to dangerous levels to get there either, and the temperatures at those speeds shouldn’t frighten you either.
With that overclocked performance the Core i7 8700K is capable of outperforming the top AMD Ryzen CPU, the 1800X, despite the fact that it has two fewer cores than its main rival. The superior gaming performance was almost a given, but the fact it can match it for general multi-threaded performance too is seriously impressive.
It’s the same situation with the Core i5 8600K too. That’s able to match the multi-threaded performance of the similarly priced Ryzen 5 1600X, despite having half the thread count of the AMD processor.
The problem for the two Coffee Lake K-series chips, however, is the fact that such CPU-intensive performance doesn’t matter one jot to us gamers. Even when they’re running at over 5GHz that doesn’t deliver them any extra gaming frame rates compared with the brilliant Core i5 8400.
That’s a straight six-core Coffee Lake chip, with no HyperThreading, no access to multiplier overclocking and gaming performance to rival anything on the market right now. Only the super CPU-heavy Civilization VI gives it any cause for concern. Even then, it matches the Kaby Lake Core i7 7700K benchmarks in everything from Cinebench to GTA V.
This page is regularly updated with all the latest news, rumours and information about Intel's Coffee Lake platform. Bookmark away and let us know what you think about the blue team's mainstream platform in the comments.
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