Intel taking its six-core processors mainstream in 2018 with Coffee Lake family

Recently leaked slides not only show six-core desktop CPUs for the masses, but also forthcoming high-end Skylake-X processors featuring up to 10 cores for 2017 release.
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor

Intel may be counting on the Internet of Things for future growth -- acknowledging so in its most recent lackluster earnings statement -- but it still won't stop working on faster chips for its old bread-and-butter: desktop PCs. Some recently leaked slides suggest that quad-core processors could become passé as the company rolls out more CPUs with six cores -- or higher.

Intel has always reserved its "hexacore" -- or greater -- chips for its "Extreme Edition" line that catered to gamers and other performance diehards willing to spend $1,000 or more on this single component. (AMD has long had six or more core processors, at a lower price point, though these are a minority in the overall marketplace.) For the next year, that apparently will continue to be the case, as leaked slides show Skylake-X processors that will retain the brawn of their predecessors while updating to the latest Intel chip architecture.

Due in the third quarter of 2017, Skylake-X will supposedly ship in 6-, 8-, and 10-core varieties, just as the Broadwell-E chips did. The power draw (140 watts) will be the same, but you can expect faster performance from the updated platform (including TurboBoost 3.0), as well as many lanes of PCIe Gen3 (44 for the 8-core and 10-core editions and 28 for the six-core version).

Notably, Skylake-X will ditch the LGA 2011 socket in favor of the new LGA 2066 socket and Basin Falls-X platform. Also coming at the same time next year is a quad-core Kaby Lake-X CPU that will make use of Basin Falls-X as well. In addition to sporting fewer cores, the Kaby Lake processor only comes with TurboBoost 2.0 support and 16 lanes of PCIe Gen3, though at 112 watts, it will consume less power.

But 2018 is the year that Intel plans to take its six-core processors into the mainstream, according to another slide leak. Not content with its collection of "lakes," the chip giant will apparently introduce Coffee Lake, another 14nm-based processor family (following Broadwell, Skylake, and Kaby Lake, with Cannonlake slated as a 10nm chip) that will include a half-dozen cores but run more efficiently at 35 watts. While there will be dual-core and quad-core Coffee Lake CPUs, the six-core one will no doubt be the most anticipated version,

Of course, we have scant other information given its leaked nature, though you can expect the Skylake-X processors to carry the usual premium price ($1,000+) you'd come to expect from Intel's "extreme" series. But if Coffee Lake is truly a chip platform for the masses, its six-core CPUs should be far, far cheaper. Again, AMD has had chips with six or eight processing cores at mainstream prices for years, but when and if Intel decides to offer its own hexacore processors, expect a lot more attention to be paid to those offerings.

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