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Following in the wake of the impressive Skylake generation, Kaby Lake – aka the 7th-gen Core – is Intel’s freshest crop of processors.
Kaby Lake will be available in desktops, laptops and notebooks from Dell, holding what’s essentially a souped-up Skylake chip but around 10 per cent faster.
Nearly all options available from the previous generation are still present, that’s going from the Pentium G3930 to the Core i7-7700K, the latter of these two flying the flag for the current offering with overclocking-enabled.
The ‘7’ indicating Kaby Lake’s generational number after Skylake’s 6, the i7-7700k is a quad-core hyper-threaded CPU, boasting a juicy 4.2GH/4.5GHz core/boost clock, which is fractionally up on last year’s performance predictions. Real-world performances may vary slightly, but that’s to be expected.
Price-wise, expect to be paying similar levels to last year’s Skylake – around £340. As such, users may not deem it worth their while to upgrade from the i7-6700k when only a modest performance enhancement is at stake.
The Core i7-7500U is designed with top-end Ultrabooks, such as the Dell XPS 13, offering high performance at ultra-low voltage. With two cores and four threads, the Core i7-7500u clocks 2.7GHz with a 2.9GHz turbo.
Kaby Lake is similar to Skylake, but holds developmental changes. Since 2007, upgrades have brought down process size, while architecture was made more powerful. This ‘Tick-Tock’ format of development was replaced in 2016, with Intel favouring a ‘Process, Architecture, Optimisation’ approach. Kaby Lake is the processor manifestation of the final step in this pathway.
While upgrades from Skylake in terms of performance and efficiency will not be monumental, Kaby Lake does offer fully integrated support for USB-C Gen 2 where the predecessor required third-party hardware. Not a life-changing adjustment, but certainly to be noted as Gen 2 USB 3.1 enables bandwidth of 10Gbps instead of 5.
Thunderbolt 3 is also supported, as is the newer digital copy protection HDCP 2.2 designed for some 4K video standards, such as 4K on Windows 10 which will need Kaby Lake to work. Users will also be able to edit 4K video in real time using integrated graphics, while the VP9 and HVEC 10-bit decode are new additions that mean just one charge is enough for 24hr 4k video streaming.
The Kaby Lake spectrum of motherboards and processors come into their own for those considering buying a new PC, and only those with systems that are older than five years will recognise real benefits.
The video engine is probably the most conspicuous improvement brought with the 7th-gen chip, allowing you to play video encoded using 10-bit colour where a Skylake or Broadwell would be out on their knees while dropping frame and sending the battery into freefall.
Looking to the future, Kaby Lake models shouldn’t run into many complications, and will be replaced by Cannonlake CPUs in late 2017 which looks set to bring in a larger variety of more interesting adjustments.