Intel Coffee Lake Explained - Time to Wake Up and Smell the Coffee?

We’ve barely had a chance to catch our breath after Kaby Lake and Skylake-X, but Intel is already unleashing the next wave of its consumer CPU architecture: Coffee Lake.

This eighth generation of the Core brand brings more cores, more cache and more speed to the table to try and deliver more pep to your processor’s step.

Overclockers UK is your number one destination for everything Coffee Lake, from the latest processors to brand-new motherboards – and everything else you’ll need to build your new rig. But what’s Coffee Lake really like? We’ve taken a deep-dive to find out.

What Is Coffee Lake?

Coffee Lake is Intel’s eighth generation processor, and it arrives quickly after Kaby Lake – less than a year after those chips debuted, in fact.

The headline change with these new CPUs is an increase in the number of cores. It’s a huge change that sees Intel’s mainstream consumer chips finally break through the quad-core barrier: now the top Core i7 and Core i5 parts have six cores rather than four.

Those Core i7 chips have Hyper-Threading, too, which means that they can address twelve concurrent threads. That sort of multi-tasking power has previously been reserved for ruinously expensive Extreme Edition silicon, so we’re excited to see it making its way down the stack. Even the humble Core i3 range has been given a boost, with four cores instead of two in Coffee Lake components.

It’s no surprise that Intel has chosen to up the core count in its mainstream processors – AMD has spent 2017 doing exactly that thanks to its Zen architecture. AMD’s Ryzen processors are the natural rivals to Coffee Lake, and their core counts range from four to eight, which means support for sixteen threads in the beefiest Ryzen chips. That’s great, but Ryzen’s slightly higher number of cores tends to be offset with marginally poorer performance-per-core than Intel’s silicon.

Intel’s new chips don’t just bring more cores to the table. Their 14nm manufacturing process has been upgraded, and every core can now be individually overclocked.

Memory latency can be adjusted on-the-fly, which gives the chip more control in scenarios where memory speeds are vital, and the integrated graphics core has received a minor 50MHz speed boost. Because there are more cores, there’s more cache too – up to 12MB on the top Coffee Lake chips.

The extra cores and raft of architectural improvements mean Intel is making some big claims about Coffee Lake’s performance gains. Intel says that you’ll see a 25% boost in some games, and up to 45% more grunt in certain multi-threaded tasks when compared to Kaby Lake chips. And, if you’re upgrading from an older system, expect even bigger performance leaps.

A further examination of the hardware reveals the compromises and changes that Intel has made to create Coffee Lake. Individual core clock speeds have dropped a little – the i7-8700K runs at 3.7GHz, which is 300MHz lower than the i7-7700K – but Turbo Boost peaks are higher than Kaby Lake parts, with the i7-8700K having a Turbo peak that’s 200MHz higher than its predecessor, even with its initially lower base clock.

And, finally, there’s the power consumption. Coffee Lake is an efficient architecture, but the increase in the number of cores means more more electricity is required. Kaby Lake chips had a 91W TDP, but Coffee Lake chips require four Watts more, and that figure will rise more dramatically as all of those cores are overclocked.

That increased energy requirement is one of the main reasons why Coffee Lake also requires a new chipset – something we’ll explore later.

The Coffee Lake Chips Specification & Pricing:

Intel’s first wave of Coffee Lake silicon contains six chips split between the Core i3, i5 and i7 ranges, as follows:

  • Intel Core™ i7-8700K (6 Cores / 12 Threads) 3.7GHz, 4.7 Turbo Unlocked
  • Intel Core™ i7-8700 (6 Cores / 12 Threads) 3.2GHz, 4.3 Turbo
  • Intel Core™ i5-8600K (6 Cores / 6 Threads) 3.6GHz, 4.3 Turbo Unlocked
  • Intel Core™ i5-8400 (6 Cores / 12 Threads) 2.8GHz 4.0 Turbo
  • Intel Core™ i3-8350K (4 Cores / 4 Threads) 4GHz Unlocked
  • Intel Core™ i3-8100 (4 Cores / 4Threads) 3.6GHz

 

At the top of the stack is the Core i7-8700K, which has six Hyper-Threaded cores that run at 3.7GHz and a Turbo peak of 4.7GHz. It’s a beast, but it’ll cost you – at launch it’s available for £359.99.

The other Core i7 chip is the i7-8700, which has six cores and a lower price of £329.99. It’s got a lower base clock of 3.2GHz, but its Turbo peak on a single core is 4.6GHz. That’s one of the highest Turbo leaps we’ve ever seen from an Intel CPU.

The Core i5-8600K has six cores, but no Hyper-Threading – the typical blueprint for a mid-range Intel chip. It’s clocked to 3.6GHz with a Turbo peak of 4.3GHz, and it costs £269.99. That’s £90 more than the i5-8400, which runs at 2.8GHz and peaks at 4GHz.

Intel’s Core i3 chips are the most affordable Coffee Lake parts. They’ve got four cores without Hyper-Threading, but they also don’t have Turbo Boost – another feature removed to justify their lower prices. To make up for that shortfall, Intel has ensured that the i3-8350K and i3-8100 run at solid speeds of 4GHz and 3.6GHz. They’ve got tasty prices, too: £169.99 and £109.99 respectively.

As ever, Intel’s chips are divided by their suffixes. K-branded parts are more expensive because they have unlocked multipliers for overclocking alongside higher stock speeds, but they also have higher power requirements. Processors without the K designation can’t be overclocked, but they are cheaper.

Morning Coffee?

The increased power requirement of Coffee Lake is one of the key attributes that means the new chips need a new chipset.

This fresh bit of hardware is called Z370, and it’s paired with a new version of the LGA 1151 that re-arranges the pins that are used to connect the processor. Those two key changes mean that Coffee Lake hardware isn’t backwards-compatible with older chips, and it also means that Z270 products won’t work with Coffee Lake processors.

In other areas, though, Z370 is a more conventional refresh of Z270, which means you get plenty of PCI lanes, SATA connections and USB ports – more than enough for most rigs. More chipsets are on the way, but the more affordable B360 and H370 won’t be arriving until next year.

The new chipset and revised socket mean you’ll need a new motherboard to upgrade to Coffee Lake. All of the major manufacturers are on board, which means there’s going to be a huge range of boards available – from fully-featured ATX products to tiny mini-ITX parts. And, of course, they’ll all be stocked by Overclockers UK.

Overclockers UK Coffee Lake Systems

We have prepare three Coffee Lake Gaming PCs for launch day today, aimed at the entry-level, mid-range, and high-end audiences and have laid out their base specification for you below, two of which are water cooled!

OcUK Gaming Germanium - High-end

  • Intel Core™ i7-8700K Processor
  • Asus Strix Z370-F Gaming Motherboard
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080Ti 11GB Graphics
  • Team Group Night Hawk RGB 16GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM
  • Samsung 960 EVO Polaris 500GB M.2 SSD
  • Seagate BarraCuda 3TB HDD
  • OCUK Tech Labs 240mm AIO Cooler
  • Microsoft Windows 10 64-bit

 

OcUK Gaming Gallium - Mid-range

  • Intel Core™ i5-8600K Processor
  • Gigabyte Z370 AORUS Ultra Gaming Motherboard
  • AMD Radeon RX 570 8GB Graphics
  • Team Group Vulcan T-Force 16GB DDR4 2400MHz RAM
  • Samsung 250GB 850 EVO SSD
  • Seagate BarraCuda 2TB HDD
  • OCUK Tech Labs 120mm AIO Cooler
  • Microsoft Windows 10 64-bit

 

OcUK Gaming Cobalt - Entry-Level

  • Intel Core™ i3-8350K Processor
  • Asus TUF Z370-Plus Gaming Motherboard
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti 4GB Graphics
  • Team Group Vulcan T-Force 8GB DDR4 2400MHz RAM
  • Samsung 250GB 850 EVO SSD
  • Seagate BarraCuda 1TB HDD
  • Alpenfohn Brocken ECO CPU Cooler
  • Microsoft Windows 10 64-bit

 

>>> All things Coffee Lake in the Overclockers UK Shop! <<<

 
 
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