It has been less than one year since Intel released it’s Kaby Lake line of processors and their successors could be arriving sooner than you think. Coffee Lake is Intel’s codename for the CPU line produced from its 2nd refinement of the 14nm process. According to a leaked Geekbench result, Intel is planning on releasing a 6-core CPU that will use the 1151 socket, previously used for the Skylake and Kaby Lake platforms. While any unofficial information must be taken with a grain of salt, previous Intel leaks have proved true in the recent past. Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs from those product lines have been very popular with PC gamers for the past 24 months. The top-level CPUs from those product lines, the Core i7 6700K and Core i7 7700K, were quad core CPUs that featured hyper-threading.
Hyper-threading allows games and applications to run additional threads on the CPU. In the case of the Skylake and Kaby Lake Core i7s, hyper-threading allowed games to use up to 8 threads for processing. These additional threads allow games that take advantage of the feature to run much faster than what is capable on a conventional quad-core CPU. This is especially important for achieving higher minimum frame rates and for pushing for refresh rates in excess of 120Hz. Many PC gamers swear by the fast speeds offered by high-refresh displays. A few of the most popular PC gaming monitors can even run at refresh rates of up to 165Hz. When trying to hit performance levels required for gaming that fast, every thread matters.
Most PC gamers have come to expect a new Intel CPU line every year or two, but Coffee Lake looks to bring something different. A 6-core CPU with hyper-threading will allow up to 12 threads. Intel CPUs with 6 or more cores have typically been available only to the ultra-enthusiast markets prior to Coffee Lake. Gamers on a budget are typically unable to spend the extra money needed to purchase the CPUs and motherboards that have traditionally offered this kind of performance. The Coffee Lake CPU spotted on Geekbench could be the first time mainstream PC gamers will be able to get 6-core Intel chips at mainstream prices that work with mainstream motherboards.
With AMD launching it’s new Ryzen platform earlier this year, Intel finally saw some real competition for their mainstream gaming CPUs. The Ryzen R5 and R7 series CPUs offered more cores and threads than comparable Intel offerings at several price points. In games that are able to efficiently use those extra threads, Ryzen is offering an incredible value that potential buyers have not seen from a competitor since Intel released the legendary Sandy Bridge platform.
Motherboard manufacturers have confirmed that new boards featuring the new Intel Z370 chipset will be available in the fourth quarter of 2017. These boards will support the new Coffee Lake offerings from Intel. Because they use the 1151 socket seen on the Z170 and Z270 motherboards, there is some hope that these new Coffee Lake CPUs might be able to run on older boards by way of a BIOS update. A majority of Skylake Z170 motherboards received BIOS updates that allowed for compatibility with the Kaby Lake CPUs. While inter-generational compatibility is unconfirmed at this time, the possibility of an upgrade to Intel’s newest CPU without having to spend on an whole new platform has many PC gamers waiting with bated breath.