Intel Kaby Lake – What Do We Know So Far?

/ 7 years ago

Kaby Lake

What is Kaby Lake?

Intel’s latest 7th generation CPU range codenamed Kaby Lake is the successor to Skylake and built on the 14nm+ manufacturing process. Additionally, the new line-up of processors support existing Z170 motherboards providing the appropriate BIOS update has been installed. This backwards compatibility is useful if you own an LGA1151 motherboard and want to try out the new processors. It’s important to note that Kaby Lake isn’t a huge upgrade compared to Skylake because of Intel’s dismissal of the Tick-Tock cycle. In the past, the micro-architecture would receive a die shrink, resulting in lower power consumption. Later on, the Tock phase refined the micro-architecture to offer enhanced performance.

This time, Intel has retained the 14nm production procedure and expanded the process size’s lifespan to three stages. In simple terms, the first release is based on a reduction in the die size before fine-tuning the architecture with “small” optimisations being enacted during the final phase. Subsequently, the IPC improvements are non-existent and it’s unlikely for consumers to enjoy a major performance boost from Skylake chips.

Intel Kaby Lake 4

Does Kaby Lake bring any new features to the table?

Even though Kaby Lake isn’t a revolutionary step forward when it comes to performance, there are some key benefits to speak of. Firstly, the new processors support Intel’s Optane technology which is a premium non-volatile memory. This ingenious solution allows users to equip affordable, high-density memory which is a staggering 1000 times faster than NAND. Not only that, the 3D XPoint design offers 10 times the capacity of DRAM in the same area.

As you might expect, Kaby Lake processors feature increased clock speeds up to 300MHz versus their predecessors and utilise an enhanced graphics engine. Interestingly, the latest CPUs can decode/encode 4K HEVC 10-bit content and even decode VP9. This makes the microarchitecture more suitable for 4K video playback and content creation. Intel decided to implement native HDCP 2.2 support and USB 3.1 without the need for an additional controller embedded into the motherboard. The entire range can accommodate up to 16 PCI-Express 3.0 lanes directly from the CPU and 24 PCI-Express 3.0 lanes from the PCH.

Intel Kaby Lake 3

Kaby Lake Specifications

Of course, Intel hasn’t officially released the specifications for Kaby Lake so the majority of this information relies on credible leaks, collaborated through multiple sources. I’ve decided to focus on the desktop line-up because the mobile versions have already launched. Here we can see Kaby Lake consists of 15 SKUs and targets a wide variety of usage scenarios. Perhaps most importantly for hardware enthusiasts, the flagship Core i7-7700K maintains the 4-core/8-thread configuration and has a 4.2GHz core clock. Unfortunately, it’s unclear what the turbo frequency is, but it’s likely to be around the 4.4-4.5GHz mark. As you can see, the processor has 8MB of level 3 cache and a 95W TDP. To put this into perspective, the Skylake-based Intel Core i7-6700K employs a 4.0GHz base clock, uses 8MB of level 3 cache and a 91W TDP.

The Intel Core i5-7600K is another really important addition and sports a 4-core/4-thread setup, operates at a stock frequency of 3.8GHz and has 6MB of level 3 cache. Furthermore, the chip’s TDP is 91W. Evidently, the differences across the board remain extremely small apart from a few core clock bumps.


Kaby Lake Leaked Performance Data

In terms of performance, the details are relatively slim but there have been enough leaks to forge an accurate picture. Some time ago, the Intel Core i7-7700K was benchmarked in SiSoft Sandra 2015 and reported a Processor Arithmetic score of 151.94 GOPS. The product also managed to attain a Processor Multimedia score of 379.8 Mpix/s. In comparison to this, the i7-6700K reached a Processor Arithmetic of A140.8 GOPS and 353.8 Mpix/s throughout the Processor Multimedia task. It’s important to remember that this could be an early engineering sample and differ from the retail chip’s abilities. Also, it’s likely that the higher scores stem from the faster base frequency.


Next up is a benchmark submitted on September 29th and revolves around the Intel Core i7-7700K. As you can see, the processor reported a single-core score of 6139 and 20271 multi-core result during the Geekbench benchmark. The Intel Core i7-6700K running at 4.0GHz manages a single-core score of 5788 and a multi-core score of 19054. Please note, the Kaby Lake chip has a 200MHz advantage which skews the results slightly. Once this is taken into consideration it seems the performance gain should be in the 3-6% range.


Here we can see a detailed rundown of the i7-7700K’s performance across different tests:



Around three weeks ago, further information emerged regarding the Intel Core i5-7600K’s performance with direct comparisons to the Intel Core i5-6600K. As you can see, the Kaby Lake processor outputs excellent numbers although the performance benefit isn’t anything to get excited about. Overall, the single-threaded performance improved by 6.14% while the multi-threaded gains reached 9.12%.


What about overclocking?

Currently, little is known about the overclocking headroom of Kaby Lake processors but early indications suggest you should be able to go well beyond the default turbo frequency. For example, the Intel Core i5-7600K was successfully overclocked to 5.1GHz on air using 1.504V. I’d ignore the temperature readings because the CPU wasn’t running a stress test at the same time as the application being active. Just before Skylake’s release, there were similar reports of samples achieving huge overclocks but this didn’t really come to fruition.


In addition to the Intel Core i5-7600K being overclocked, a screenshot was released showing the Intel Core i7-7700K hitting the 6.7GHz mark. Of course, this was done with liquid nitrogen and it’s a shame that we cannot see the voltage readout from the obscured CPU-Z picture. Whatever the case, I wouldn’t expect there to be a major difference in overclocking between Skylake and Kaby Lake.


Estimated pricing and release date

According to a leak from GDM.OR.JP, Kaby Lake will launch on January 5th, 2017 and be officially unveiled during CES. Also, the source claims that the Intel Core i7-7700K has a retail price of $349 while the Intel Core i5-7600K costs around $239. This is what I expected and makes sense given the previous launch prices.

As we receive more information, this article will be updated accordingly. As a result, feel free to bookmark this page and keep your eyes peeled for any developments leading up to the launch period. 

Update 1

In a surprising move, it appears Intel is going to launch an i3 model with overclocking capabilities. According to an online listing, this will be in the form of the Intel Core i3-7350K which has the typical 2-cores, 4-thread configuration seen on previous Skylake i3 products. Interestingly, the chip is predicted to opt for 4.0GHz base frequency and 4.2GHz turbo. The listing also gives an insight into the price point which at the time of writing is $177.34. Please note, this could be a placeholder and subject to change. Whatever the case, it’s interesting to see a K variant on the lower-end i3 range which suggests Intel is targeting this processor towards cheaper systems created by enthusiasts. Also, the overclocking functionality might have been added to compete with an upcoming Zen chip.


Update 2

Motherboard vendors have been tirelessly working to prepare new models for the upcoming launch and hoping to attract impressive sales. A recent leak suggests Supermicro is going to unveil four consumer motherboards based on the 200-series chipset. The first model to speak of is the C7Z270-PG which employs the ATX form factor, and a neutral design. Additionally, there’s a BIOS post readout, U.2 connectivity and impressive PCI-E arrangement. Given Supermicro’s previous designs, it’s likely that a PLX chip will be embedded.


Next up is the C7Z270-CG sporting a really vibrant green and black theme. Also, the motherboard incorporates a huge VRM heatsink, audio shielding cover and loads of connectivity options. The colour looks fantastic and I can’t wait to review this particular motherboard.


For those who prefer a more traditional colour scheme, Supermicro has you covered in the form of the C7Z270-CG-L. As you can see, this product opts for the red and black colour combination and seems a more budget-friendly solution given the motherboard’s layout.


Supermicro didn’t just focus on the Z270 chipset and decided to launch an H270 motherboard utilising the mATX form factor. The C7H270-CG-ML has an M.2 slot, dedicated buttons to aid system diagnostics and six SATA3 ports.


Update 3

Another development which needs to be discussed revolves around the new Kaby Lake chipsets and how they compare to Intel’s previous offerings. A new slide indicates that the Z270 and H270 chipsets will support more PCI-E lanes than their Skylake counterparts. More specifically, the chips feature 14 downstream PCI-E lanes compared to 10 on the 100-series chipsets. As a result, motherboard companies can house high bandwidth protocols such as USB 3.1, Thunderbolt, M.2 and PCI-E slots with a bandwidth above x1. Once calculated, this brings the total PCI-E HSIO lanes to 30, which is four more than Z170. Additionally, the H270 chipset’s PCI-E lanes improve by a substantial amount. According to the slides, the H270 chipset will encounter the same limitations such as no overclocking support and lower bandwidth for dual cards.


Update 4

Earlier this month, we reported on the emergence of Intel’s new overclocking-friendly i3 CPU which came as a complete surprise. Additional details have been published about the i3-7350K’s specification and performance. Firstly, the product has the same 91-watt TDP as non-K versions and comes with 4MB of level 3 cache. As expected, the CPU uses two cores and hyperthreading which results in four simultaneous threads. This particular chip was tested in Geekbench 4 and posted a single-core score of 5137. This is a better showing than the i5 models available today, although you have to take the higher 4.2GHz frequency into account. On another note, the processor manages a commendable 10048 multi-core score which competes rather nicely with the current i5 line-up.


Update 5

There’s been a lot of speculation regarding Intel’s pricing strategy and if they’ll enact a more aggressive method due to Zen’s rumoured performance and the January 19th unveil. According to pre-orders by the dutch retailer, this doesn’t appear to be the case. The store lists the Intel Core i7-7700K at 434 Euros and the 7600K has a price of 301 Euros. Other prices include the Intel Core i5-7400 at 253 Euros, the i5-7600 retailing for 277 Euros and the i7-7700 will set you back 386 Euros. This is really expensive and I dread to think what the UK price will be given the current exchange rate.

Update 6

Intel’s flagship product in the Kaby Lake series has finally been benchmarked and compared to the Core i7-6700K. The Intel Core i7-7700K was tested on the MSI Z170A Gaming Pro motherboard and managed a 913 score during the Cinebench R15 multi-threaded benchmark. In comparison, the Intel Core i7-6700K achieved a score of 886. On another note, the Intel Core i7-7700K reported a 17049 result in the Fritz Chess benchmark while the Skylake processor outputted 16050. Next up is the 3DMark 11 Extreme’s test and the Intel Core i7-7700K attained a 10838 physics score which is a good boost compared to the Intel Core i7-6700’s 10124 figure. The CPU’s memory bandwidth was assessed using the default 2133MHz frequency. During the AIDA64 memory test, the Intel Core i7-7700K recorded a 30199MB/s read, 31137MB/s write and 27000MB/s copy speeds.


Update 7

The Intel Core i7-7700K’s overclocking headroom is really important and helps us to observe the chip’s maximum potential. According to the previously leaked benchmarks, the processor can reach 5.0GHz and provide a stellar performance boost over the 4.6GHz turbo. Once overclocked to 5.0GHz, the Cinebench score improved to 1089 and the Fritz Chess result went up to 19891. Also, the 3DMark 11 physics score was 13542.


According to another insider, the Intel Core i7-7700K should be able to reach 4.9GHz with a respectable 1.29V rating. This low voltage is impressive although it doesn’t tell the entire story. As you can see from the stress test run, the 1.29V overclock resulted in an extremely high load temperature at 100C, which caused the CPU to throttle by 5%. Of course, the lack of information about the cooling hardware makes it’s difficult to forge an accurate prediction. However, it appears the end-user requires some pretty beefy cooling to contend with 1.29V and above.


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