Microprocessor giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) has been quite upbeat about the market for high-performance processors that go into gaming-oriented personal computers. For example, in the company's restructuring announcement, it specifically highlighted gaming as an area into which it would increase its investments -- even as it planned to reduce its total investment in personal-computer-related products .
A fresh leak from website BenchLife.info suggests that the chipmaker is making good on its promise to pay more attention to the gaming and PC-enthusiast community.
In order to understand what I'm about to go over, a little background is needed. Every desktop PC includes a motherboard, otherwise known as a logic board to some. These motherboards include what is called a socket -- an area into which a processor can be placed, connecting it to the rest of the system.
For desktop PCs, Intel has two types of sockets. One is known as the "mainstream" socket and the other is known as the "high-end desktop" socket. The chips that plug into Intel's mainstream socket typically have between two and four processor cores and some level of integrated graphics. These chips are largely the same as those that go into high-performance laptops.
The chips that go into the company's more complex, and more expensive, high-end desktop sockets are derived from Intel's server processors. These typically have a lot of cores (between six and 10 in the current generation) and don't have any form of on-board graphics.
For PC enthusiasts and gamers, the trade-off between these platforms is simple. Do you want the fastest processor cores possible, but only between two and four of them? Or do you want to have more cores, but with the caveat that these cores are generally a generation behind in terms of design and run at slower speeds out of the box?
I'd wager that most PC enthusiasts, particularly gamers, will take a super-fast quad-core chip over a slower six-, eight-, or even 10-core chip any day.
What this does, then, is it makes the company's high-end desktop platforms unattractive to many potential customers.
The big change that comes in 2017
With its 2017 high-end desktop platform, Intel is apparently planning to make a pretty significant change, one that should make the high-end desktop platform much more appealing to desktop-PC enthusiasts and gamers.
As usual, this new platform will support the typical six- to 10-core ultra-high-end processors, known as Skylake-X. However, the aforementioned BenchLife leak shows that Intel is planning an additional product for this platform, named Kaby Lake-X.
Kaby Lake-X, from the specifications shown in the leak, appears to be based on the same silicon that the mainstream Kaby Lake-S product will be based on. However, the chip will be housed in a package that allows it to be used in motherboards designed for the high-end desktop market.
Additionally, Kaby Lake-X appears to be rated at a higher thermal design power than its mainstream Kaby Lake-S counterpart. While the top Kaby Lake-S part will be rated at a 95-watt thermal design power, the leaks show that Kaby Lake-X will be rated at a whopping 112-watt thermal design power.
The increased power headroom for Kaby Lake-X should allow Intel to run this product at much higher speeds out of the box, which is something that gamers are likely to appreciate.
An excellent advancement for the high-end desktop platform
I applaud this move from Intel to make its high-end desktop platform more appealing. By giving customers the choice to either use really fast quad-core chips or step up to products with higher core counts (and sacrifice per-core performance), the company is finally putting an end to easily one of the most frustrating aspects of its desktop product offerings for enthusiasts.
This move should also allow Intel to continue to improve its blended average selling prices on desktop. Kaby Lake-X, should it come rated at higher speeds than its Kaby Lake-S counterpart, could very well successfully command a non-trivial premium.