It’s been about a year since Intel launched Skylake, its sixth generation of Core processors, and this week the firm revealed details about its seventh generation of processors, code-named Kaby Lake.

Before you groan at your screens and start wondering what you’re going to have to upgrade now, take a breath: at this stage of the game Intel has only made a small portion of the Kaby Lake family available to the public.

These chips are aimed primarily at the portable, low-power market so you will only see them 2-in-1 notebooks and ultrabooks until the full weight, beefed-up desktop processors are released next year.

Yes, you read that correctly; it looks like 2017 is going to feature a battle between Intel’s Kaby Lake and AMD’s Zen CPUs.

What’s been improved?

As gleeful as we are about the prospect of a High Noon showdown between the two biggest manufacturers of desktop CPUs, you’re probably more interested in the kind of improvements Kaby Lake brings to the table – and so you should be.

The CPU uses an improved 14nm process which Intel is calling “14nm+”, an enhanced version of the 14nm manufacturing process used in Skylake chips, but with faster transistors. The new chip boosts clock speeds by about 400MHz and boasts a 12% performance gain at the transistor level.

As we mentioned, only low-power chips – the Y- and U-series – will debut this year. The Y-series is 4.5watt part that will have core clock speeds in the region of 1.0GHz to 1.3GHz, with turbo boost capable of pushing that up to 2.6GHz or 3.6GHz depending on the chip.

The U-series, a more powerful 15watt chip, will have base core clock speeds ranging between 2.4GHz to 2.7GHz and turbo boost speeds up to between 3.1GHz to 3.5GHz.

Speaking of Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, the firm says that the speed at which the chip overclocks a core has been improved since Skylake. The performance improvement represents an almost 19% boost in browsing speed with Edge. For the three people that use it, this is great news.

Streaming UHD with lower bandwidth demands

The biggest improvement to Kaby Lake is how the chip renders Ultra High Definition (UHD) video – a video format that’s four times the resolution and thus pumps out four times the number of pixels seen in regular old 1080p.

Kaby Lake is said to have native hardware support for UHD HEVC encoding/decoding as well as VP9 decoding. These two video codecs would allow a user to stream UHD video while using only half of the bandwidth it currently does.

Intel has said that a new video block in Kaby Lake won’t hamper the chip’s performance. In fact the Y-series will be able to encode UHD video at 30 frames per second. Intel has also said that Kaby Lake systems will be able to decode UHD video at 60 frames per second.

7th Generation Intel Core-U package.
7th Generation Intel Core-U package.

What’s more, Intel has said that streaming UHD video on a Kaby Lake system with a GPU will consume up to 20 times less power than it does with its Skylake processors.

What we’re essentially looking at with Kaby Lake then is not so much a raw performance gain but rather an opportunity to bring new-age visual media such as UHD and 360-degree video to more people, with a far lower impact on their system performance.

At this point very little is known about the Kaby Lake enthusiast chips for desktops and notebooks, including which socket and chipset the CPUs will use. We expect we’ll hear more as we get closer to CES 2017 when Intel is expected to share more details about Kaby Lake for PC builders.

[Source- Intel][Image – Intel]