Intel is targeting the first of its 14-nanometer “Skylake” processors at gamers and PC enthusiasts.
At the Gamescon 2015 show in Germany Aug. 5, Intel officials unveiled the company’s Core i7-6700K and i5-6600K desktop processors—and the supporting Z170 chipset—saying the unclocked chips offer a high-end gaming experience.
The chips come with up to four cores, a base frequency of 4.0GHz and a 10 percent performance boost over current high-end PC chips. They’re also more power efficient than the current “Broadwell” processors, and are the first Intel chips to natively support DDR4 memory (up to 64GB). They are being supported by a wide range of system and motherboard OEMs, including Hewlett-Packard, Asus, Acer, SuperMicro, Gigabyte, Asrock, EVGA and Dell’s gaming PC business, Alienware, according to Intel officials.
“The PC remains the number one platform for gaming from a volume, revenue, and growth perspective and Intel takes the segment seriously,” Dan Snyder, public relations manager at Intel, said in a post on the company blog.
The new Skylake chips are the first of what Intel is calling the 6th generation Core processor family. Intel officials introduced Skylake at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in September 2014, and more information is expected when this year’s IDF kicks off Aug. 18 in San Francisco. Chips for mainstream systems are expected to be released soon, with PCs powered by Skylake processors hitting the market before the end of the year.
“These [gamer] products start laying the foundation for our 6th generation Intel Core processor family and Intel 100 Series chipset coming later this year,” Snyder wrote.
The Core i7-6700K (with pricing starting at $350) and i5-6600K ($243) processors are available now.
Skylake represents Intel’s latest process shrink, bringing it down from the 22nm Broadwell processors (although Intel last year did roll out a 14nm Broadwell chip aimed at thin-and-light notebooks and other devices). However, engineers with Intel and other chip makers are seeing growing manufacturing challenges as they continue to shrink the circuitry on the processor and chase Moore’s Law. That has forced Intel to amend its famous tick-tock processor schedule.
Moore’s Law stems from Intel founder Gordon Moore’s prediction that the number of transistors in a semiconductor would double every year, leading to more powerful and less costly processors. The prediction—which has been slightly amended over the years—helped usher in the PC era and later the development of such systems as smartphones, tablets, wearables, and the billions of devices and sensors that make up the growing Internet of things (IoT).
To help keep pace with Moore’s Law, Intel since 2007 has used its tick-tock schedule, unveiling a microarchitecture change in a “tick” year and enhancements in the following “tock” year. However, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich last month said that given the technological and manufacturing challenges presented by the continuing shrinkage, the time between the microarchitecture changes is being pushed to 2.5 years, and that Intel will add a third 14nm processor—called “Kaby Lake”—to its roadmap and push back the timetable for a 10nm chip to the second half of 2017.
Intel had to delay the launch of its 14nm Broadwell processor due to issues it encountered transitioning from 22nm.
“On all of these technologies, each one has its own recipe of complexity and difficulty,” Krzanich said during a conference call with analysts and journalists. “[The move from] 14-nanometer to 10-nanometer [is the] same thing that happened from 22-nanometer to 14-nanometer. The lithography is continuing to get more difficult as you try to scale and the number of multi-pattern steps you have to do is increasing.”
However, officials with Intel and other chip makers have said there is still life in Moore’s Law as they plan steps to go from 14nm to 10nm to 7nm. IBM engineers in July announced the company extending was Moore’s Law with the introduction of a 7nm test node.