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Is INTEL Stalling Out?

Posted November 3, 2016 by Josh Jackson in CPU & Motherboards

A while back, I posted an article talking about what looked to be impressive performance gains coming from Kaby Lake. Performance leaks had been good to me up till that point, but now you can see my shame here. Today, a Chinese review of the i5-7600K has released ahead of NDA and the results aren’t looking good. Even though Kaby Lake has some minor improvements, the IPC performance is running the same as Skylake. Granted, this review is ahead of NDA which also means any tweaks INTEL planned before released aren’t being considered yet, but it’s really feeling like INTEL is stalling out when it comes to pushing the limits of performance.

Honestly, releasing a new chip series that essentially has no performance improvement is probably worse than holding back performance for the sake of sales. Technically, Kaby Lake has almost a 10% performance increase, but that number is so minuscule that the average user will never notice it. If this was coming to the professional market, it would make a bit more sense since 10% increases can actually translate to added dollars. As it is, IPC improvements are the things that really make a computer feel faster, as proven by comparing the current FX series to anything INTEL has had in the past couple of years. The FX chip can get it done, but the INTEL one makes it feel a lot smoother while doing it, while pulling better actual performance numbers. IPC for the 7600K is showing the same performance as Skylake and even if some optimization improves that, it’s bound to be a minor bump at best. Add that to the fact that we have another chipset, the 200-series, being shoved into the market and it feels like INTEL is having trouble finding a new direction to explore. I get it, the new memory and Optane support might require the chipset overhaul, but I can’t help but think the Z170 could’ve have been retrofitted with the new tech, considering how far the 990FX has come since it’s release.

Kaby Lake may not indicate that INTEL is running out of steam, but that it will take the official release of Zen to really push INTEL to new innovation. There are more indications that AMD’s new design is going to be very competitive, but it’s only until the reviews prove it that we can begin to see how the market adapts. I can say that if you’ve been holding out for an upgrade for several years, next year might be the perfect time. The new competition and options will help keep prices low and I doubt we’ll see a worthwhile performance upgrade for a few years down the road from there. On the bright side, at least Skylake and Kaby Lake will be interchangeable with the 100-series and 200-series boards, so that’s a step in the right direction at the very least.


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