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7th-gen Intel Core boosts clock speeds, includes overclock-ready Core i3

Intel’s 7th-generation Intel Core processor line, code-named Kaby Lake, technically launched at IFA 2016. But it was a limited launch focused on mobile, dual-core processors. Most of the Intel product line remained on 6th-generation technology.

Until now. On January 3, Intel announced its full line of 7th-generation Intel Core processors, as well as a couple related Xeon mobile processors. Notably, the lineup includes everything from 4.5-watt to 91-watt processors, ranging from two to four cores, targeting systems from 2-in-1s to desktop workstations. There’s a little something for everyone.

You can read the full details of each line-up in the pages below, but here’s the basics.

What’s new in the 7th generation?

Intel’s new product line looks a lot like its old one. The most notable change is one that already happened during the IFA 2016 launch – Intel has mostly abandoned “Core M” branding. Instead, its most efficient dual-core chips will be known as the “Y-Series.” They still have a thermal design power of 4.5 watts, which means they sip juice conservatively. And they still pair a very low base frequency with an extremely high Turbo Boost maximum.

Laptop buyers might also want to take note of the new Intel Core i5-7440HQ and Core i5-7300HQ. Intel first introduced Core i5 mobile chips in the last generation, but we suspect most users aren’t aware of them. Keep an eye out for these if you want a powerful, yet relatively affordable laptop.

Finally, the rumored overclockable Core i3 processor is confirmed to be true. The Intel Core i3-7350K is a dual-core chip with Hyper-Threading. It has a base clock of 4.2 GHz, and lacks the Turbo Boost feature. Intel’s list price for it is $168 – expect it to be a few bucks more at retail.

The desktop processors, primarily found in the S-Series, debut alongside companion chipsets, though the physical chip size and pin count hasn’t changed (the standard is still LGA 1511). Older LGA1511 compatible motherboards will be able to handle the 7th-gen Intel Core chips if the motherboard manufacturer issues a BIOS update.

For the most part, the chipsets aren’t shockers. The main new feature is one that can’t be used yet — compatibility with Intel’s upcoming Optane memory, expected later this year. Optane, which will reportedly boost drive speed beyond even NVMe drives, is exciting — but not available yet.

Otherwise, the chipsets add a few more I/O lanes, so they can technically handle more ports or add-on cards. But this benefit won’t be of much consequence for home users.

Intel’s 7th-generation Intel Core lineup isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off. These chips are built on the same 14-nanometer processor as the 6th generation, with some improvements (Intel calls it “14-nanometer+”), and the architecture is similar. Don’t expect stunning improvements to performance. Still, some users were waiting to pounce on the latest upgrade, and it’s nice to see it arrive.

Intel Y-Series

The Y-Series is Intel’s super-low-power line. These chips have a thermal design power of 4.5 watts, the lowest of any Intel Core processor.

There are no surprises here, because this entire line was already launched at IFA 2016. The story is simple. Low base clock speeds, paired with high Turbo Boost speeds. In theory, this gives the chip a great deal of room to operate at whatever speed makes the most sense. The chip can conserve battery by running at a low clock speed, or hit Turbo and reach performance near that of a “standard” U-Series dual-core chip.

In past reviews, these chips have performed noticeably worse than Intel dual-core chips designed to draw more power. That’s physics – more juice in means more performance. With that said, the Y-Series is adequate for most everyday tasks, and most designs based on it are fanless.

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