Generally reliable website BenchLife.info recently leaked details about Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) next generation high-end desktop platform, codenamed Basin Falls. The Basin Falls platform will support two kinds of Intel processors.
The first will be a souped-up version of the company's upcoming quad-core Kaby Lake chip, known as Kaby Lake-X. The second will be a family of chips known as Skylake-X, the true successors to the company's recently released Broadwell-E family of processors aimed at high end desktop buyers.
Let's take a closer look at Skylake-X to see what it brings to the table relative to Broadwell-E and what this might mean for the company's enthusiast/gaming desktop processor business.
Inside the Skylake-X processor
According to the leak, Skylake-X will come in six, eight, and ten core variants -- just as the current Broadwell-E chips do today. The cores themselves should be improved over Broadwell-E's, with improved performance-per-clock and potentially higher clock speeds.
Beyond that, the high-end versions of these chips will come with 44 PCI Express lanes (an increase of four lanes from Broadwell-E), while the lower-end six core model will come with just 28 PCI Express lanes (flat relative to the corresponding Broadwell-E part).
The additional lanes allow for users to use multiple high-end graphics cards as well as several high-end PCI Express-based solid state drives.
The platform sees a major improvement
In addition to the processors seeing improvements generation-over-generation, Intel is introducing a new platform controller hub, or PCH, chip known as the Kaby Lake PCH-X. The PCH is much improved over the prior generation high end desktop platform in a number of key ways, and BenchLife's leaks have the details.
Boards using the new PCH can support up to 10 USB3 ports, an increase from six in the prior generation high end desktop PCH known as X99. It will also include 24 PCI Express Gen. 3 lanes, up from just 8 PCI Express Gen. 2 lanes in X99. This means that users that end up using up all of the PCI Express Gen. 3 lanes direct from the CPU will have access to additional PCI Express Gen. 3 lanes via the PCH.
Although buyers of the eight and ten core CPUs for the platform will likely have more lanes than they know what to do with, users who buy the lower end six core part (which has 28 lanes) or the quad core Kaby Lake-X part (which has 16 lanes) may find the additional lanes from the PCH to be quite useful.
In terms of Serial ATA 3.0 connectivity support, the new PCH will only support eight devices, which is actually down from the ten that the prior generation X99 platform supported.
This reduction is due to the fact that the prior generation X99 chip was a rebadged server-grade PCH, while the new Kaby Lake PCH-X is actually based on a consumer grade PCH. Had Intel used the server version of this PCH for the high-end desktop platform, it would likely have had support for additional Serial ATA 3.0 devices.
The good news, though, is that Intel probably figures -- and in my opinion, rightly -- that buyers of expensive high end desktop motherboards and processors are likely to use faster PCI Express-based solid state drives rather than slower Serial ATA 3.0 based hard disk and solid state drives. In this case, I'd say support for eight Serial ATA 3.0 devices is plenty for this platform.
Sounds great! When does it arrive?
Previous leaks showed that this new platform would arrive in the second quarter of 2017, but this latest leak shows that it will actually launch sometime in either the third or fourth quarters of 2017. This means that in terms of the high-end desktop platform, the recently released Broadwell-E family of chips, paired with the aging X99 PCH, will be the company's top offerings for more than a year.
That's not necessarily a bad thing as Broadwell-E is a good product family that should serve those interested in buying something today. However, I think that the company's high end desktop platform will become a lot more compelling in just over a year.