Close to the Metal Ep. 10: Another year, another Intel generation

When you’re planning CPU releases, you have to plan pretty far out. So when Intel releases a new processor generation, it’s not that much of a surprise, because they announced it at least a year prior. Still, Intel’s Seventh Generation Kaby Lake chips provide some notable benefits over their Skylake counterparts, even if they’re a step in a different direction for the company.

While there are a few under-the-hood changes, improved 4K video playback and editing capabilities are definitely the flashiest new feature debuting in Kaby Lake. With the introduction of the New Media Engine, a new section of execution units built from the company’s integrated graphics hardware. They’re specifically built for decoding video, like HEVC and VP9, at the hardware level, improving both performance and power efficiency.

There’s a small boost in speed as well, with Intel quoting a 12 percent performance boost in general productivity from the Core i7-6500U to the Core i7-7500U, with the number reaching as high as 19 percent in web browsing benchmarks.

Kaby Lake also brings with it a change in nomenclature to the lower-power chips. What were formerly Core m5 and Core m7 chips are now full Core i5 and Core i7 models, but with the same low 4.5 watt TDP, as long as “they perform like an i7.”

But a change in Intel’s process is looming over this generation, and it’s going to put a lot of pressure on it. Starting in 2007, Intel employed the Tick-Tock model, where the company would produce an architecture, then shrink it down, then produce a new architecture at that size, repeating the process every year or two. But last year, things had to shift as Intel was unable to keep up with the mounting pressures of ever-shrinking hardware. Kaby Lake is the first generation to break the mold, as the last phase a of a three-part cycle.

These chips will start showing up first in high-end laptops by the end of the year, before they start trickling down to the more basic mobile computers. We’ve been seeing a lot more laptops as of late with screens over 1,920 x 1,080, so improved battery life doing what most people do on a laptop – play on the web and watch movies – is a decent quality of life improvement.

Product Review

Controversy has dogged the MacBook Pro lately. Is it still a good purchase?

The MacBook Pro is a controversial laptop these days -- and that's unfortunate. Due to some divisive changes Apple made to the functionality of the MacBook Pro, fans are more split. Does the 8th-gen refresh change that?
Computing

Fix those internet dead zones by turning an old router into a Wi-Fi repeater

Is there a Wi-Fi dead zone in your home or office? A Wi-Fi repeater can help. Don't buy a new one, though. Here is how to extend Wi-Fi range with another router you have lying around.
Product Review

LG Gram 14 proves 2-in-1 laptops don’t need to sacrifice battery for light weight

The LG Gram 14 2-in-1 aims to be very light for a laptop that converts to a tablet. And it is. But it doesn’t skimp on the battery, and so it lasts a very long time on a charge.
Deals

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for January 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.
Product Review

Origin's Chronos PC is no looker, but it plays games with eye-popping detail

The Chronos is Origin’s smallest PC, but while it occupies less space than most A/V receivers, it delivers the power of a much larger desktop. Its dull exterior design does the system a disservice. Once you turn it on, you won’t be…
Computing

How good are you at spotting phishing scams? Take this quiz to find out

Are you able to discern between a legitimate email and one that's a scam designed to phish for your personal information? Google created an online quiz with tips to help you better understand phishing so you don't become a victim.
Gaming

Can't stand keyboard gaming on PC? Here's how to use a PS3 controller instead

Properly connecting a PlayStation 3 Controller to a PC is no easy task, especially when you opt for third-party peripherals. Thankfully, our guide will help you through the process.
Computing

Zipping files on a Chromebook? Follow these four easy steps

Chromebooks support file compression, though they work a little differently than on Windows or Mac. Here's the step-by-step process to zipping files on a Chromebook, and then unzipping them again for extraction.
Computing

Yes, you can use Android apps on your Chromebook. Here's how

You can now get Android apps on your Chromebook! Google has enabled the Google Play Store app support on its Chrome OS and Chromebook hardware, so to get you started, here's our guide on how to get Android apps on a Chromebook.
Computing

Patent application reveals what’s to come after AMD’s Graphics Core Next

A published patent application from AMD has revealed a new type of graphics processor core which could make a big difference to the capabilities of its GPUs if it finds its way into them in the future.
Computing

Microsoft targets Chrome OS with $189 Windows 10 laptops for education

Microsoft announced seven new low-cost Windows 10 laptops, all priced under $300 to take on Chromebooks and iPads in the education market, along with a new Microsoft Allora stylus for students using the Surface Go tablet.
Computing

Lenovo patent hints at a future tablet with a folding screen

Folding devices are a new trend, and according to a recent patent, Lenovo is considering a foldable 2-in-1 with a hinge mechanism that would allow consumers to bend back the screen on the device. 
Computing

Wifi Porter is a high-tech block of wood that lets you share your broadband

Tired of manually connecting your guests to your home Wi-Fi network? The latest invention from the folks at Ten One Design, the WifiPorter, allow individuals to connect to your Wi-Fi with the tap of their phone, or by scanning an available…