Intel Launches 14nm 6th Gen Core Processors

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  September 2, 2015

Intel introduced the 6th generation of its Core processor family which the company described as its best microprocessors ever. According to Intel, the launch marks a turning point in people’s relationship with computers.

The new processors enable a broad range of designs to fit virtually every customer need. For example, the Intel Core M line can offer twice the performance of leading premium tablets, and include brand levels (Intel Core m3, m5 and m7) to provide more clarity and choice in finding the device that best meets users’ specific needs.

The new processors also include several firsts for mobile designs:

  • a mobile “K” SKU that is unlocked to enable overclocking with even more user control;
  • a new quad-core Intel Core i5 processor that offers up to 60 percent improved mobile multitasking;
  • the Intel Xeon E3 processor family now powering mobile workstations;
  • new Intel Speed Shift technology improves the responsiveness of mobile systems so people can, for example, apply a photo filter up to 45 percent faster;
  • support for Intel Thunderbolt 3 for USB Type-C connectivity;
  • depth-sensing Intel RealSense cameras will be available on a range of new 2-in-1s, notebooks and All-in-One (AIO) desktop systems; and
  • optimization for Windows 10 features, such as Cortana and Windows Hello support seamless and natural interaction with Microsoft technology.

In the coming months, Intel plans to deliver more than 48 processors in the 6th Gen Intel Core processor family, featuring Intel Iris and Iris Pro graphics, as well as the Intel Xeon E3-1500M processor family for mobile workstations and 6th Gen Intel vPro processors for business and enterprises. In addition, Intel is offering more than 25 products based on the new processors for Internet of Things (IoT) applications with up to 7-year long-life supply and error correcting code (ECC) at multiple TDP levels.

The pitch

Intel’s 6th gen Core microprocessors mark a dividing line between old and new style personal computing.

Final analysis

Intel’s 6th generation Core microprocessors (codename: Skylake) arrive at an interesting time for the company and personal computing. Challenges certainly exist, with growth in key traditional desktop/laptop PC markets continuing to lag, especially in comparison to dynamic wireless mobile markets. But PC sales in Q2 2015 still exceeded 65M units, a number IDC and others believe was artificially depressed due to the impending launch of Windows 10.

Moreover, Intel sells the vast majority of CPUs running on Windows PCs and all of the CPUs in Apple laptops and towers. Plus, the company continues to be a leading force in data center solutions, including servers and storage, and largely dominates high value specialty sectors, including high performance and supercomputing.

Toss in the Golden Anniversary of Moore’s Law – what most consider one of the IT industry’s most singularly significant metrics – and 2015 looks like a promising time for the company to introduce its newest generation Core silicon.

So how does Skylake look coming out of the box? Pretty darned good, actually. Like past generation Core processors, the 6th gen offerings deliver significantly better performance in key areas, including lower power usage (up to 60% better) and enhanced graphics (up to 40% faster) compared to 5th gen Core. Those are both critical issues in computer gaming, mobile workstations and other graphics-intensive markets that systems based on the new chips will initially target.

But Intel noted that Skylake is also the most power-scalable processor it has ever created, with SKUs ranging from a remarkable 4.5W to 65W. That means consumers will find Intel’s newest Core chips supporting solutions ranging from stick PCs to mini PCs to tablets to convertibles to laptops to desktop PCs to AIOs. Plus, the Core architecture is being leveraged to power the first ever Xeon E3-based mobile workstations.

Short take: This is likely the widest variety of products initially supported by a new generation processor from Intel (or any other vendor).

So this is all impressive stuff, but consider the broader context of Skylake. As I noted earlier, in July Intel celebrated the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law with what might be called “cautionary pride.” Yes, the company’s achievements during the past half century have been remarkable by any measure. But Gordon Moore himself has cautioned that the “law” he postulated has atomic-scale limits and that continuing to achieve benefits similar to those past generation processors will require entirely new thinking and manufacturing innovations.

Intel certainly hasn’t arrived at that point yet. The new 6th gen Core chips prove the continuing vitality of the company’s most recent TriGate process at 14nm, and company executives have stated that 10nm chips are realistically (i.e. affordably) achievable, though they haven’t committed to a specific production timetable.

With that in mind, 6th gen Core certainly qualifies as the latest manifestation of Intel’s continuing commitment to Gordon Moore’s original vision. But new technologies and developments associated with Skylake processors demonstrate that Intel is also keeping a close watch on the road ahead and doing its utmost to prepare for and meet those challenges.

At the same time, the sheer breadth and depth of the 6th gen Core solutions reflects the essential changes that have occurred and are still underway in personal computing. Intel understands that point, in spades, and the wide variety of Core processor offerings suggests that wherever users are and whatever they are doing, a 6th gen Core solution will be ready and available.

As noted in the announcement, this launch marks a turning point in people’s relationship with computers. In some cases, Intel is following wherever PC trends are going. In others, it is waiting for users and the market to catch up.

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