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Intel Corp.'s 2018 Processor Plans Revealed

By Ashraf Eassa - Oct 8, 2017 at 8:31PM

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Chipzilla's 2018 processor lineup will mainly consist of products built using its mature 14-nanometer technology.

On Oct. 5, microprocessor giant Intel (INTC -1.98%) released the first processors based on its new Coffee Lake architecture. These chips, targeted at the desktop personal computer market, feature up to six cores -- a 50% increase from what the prior-generation Kaby Lake processors supported -- and are built on what Intel refers to as its 14nm++, its third-generation 14-nanometer technology.

However, as is typical for Intel product launches, it's not launching Coffee Lake-based products across its product stack at first. The desktop parts arrived first -- likely because this is the segment where Intel faces the most competitive pressure -- with other parts reportedly coming later.

A wafer of Intel Coffee Lake chips.

Image source: Intel.

Indeed, in a recent report, DIGITIMES says that Intel plans to launch the high-performance notebook Coffee Lake parts in the first quarter of 2018, with lower-power models coming in the second quarter of 2018.

Additionally, DIGITIMES said that Intel's Cannon Lake processors for low-power notebooks, which will be built on the company's first-generation 10-nanometer technology, will launch in June or July of 2018.

And, finally, DIGITIMES reports -- perhaps unsurprisingly -- that Intel is planning to launch its Ice Lake processor family, which is expected to be built using Intel's second-generation 10-nanometer technology, called 10nm+, in 2019.

Let's take a closer look at some of the implications of this launch schedule.

Good to go

Intel, at the end of the day, supplies chips to system builders, who then produce and sell complete computers. Intel's job is to make sure that it has new chips ready to go to support its partners' product launches.

In support of notebook computer refreshes, as well as enthusiast gaming desktop refreshes, Intel recently released its Kaby Lake Refresh and Coffee Lake products, respectively. So, mission accomplished.

Then, based on the launch schedule that DIGITIMES published regarding the rest of the Coffee Lake lineup as well as the Cannon Lake chips, it looks as though Intel's partners will have new chips around which to build new systems over the course of 2018.

Ice Lake in 2019

The statement that Ice Lake will arrive in 2019 isn't too surprising; Intel seems to be having a hard enough time ramping its first-generation 10-nanometer technology into production, so it only makes sense that products built on a performance-enhanced version of the technology would come to market sometime later.

What this seems to indirectly confirm, though, is that the eight-core processor that Intel reportedly plans to launch for the desktop market is, indeed, a derivative of Coffee Lake rather than an Ice Lake-based product.

The good news for Intel is that adding an eight-core option can only help the company's desktop business, particularly in the enthusiast desktop market where customers are often willing to pay more to get more performance and features.

The bad news is that big improvements in areas like graphics, multimedia capability, increased feature integration, and significant gains in per-core performance won't really hit Intel's lineup until 2019.

But in the meantime, wringing the most out of its Coffee Lake architecture and mature 14-nanometer technology is the right path for Intel to pursue.

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