It’s clearer than ever that the days of tick-tock Intel chip upgrades (new process one generation, new architecture the next) are long gone. Intel has revealed that its 8th-generation Core processors, due in the second half of 2017 will once again be built on a 14-nanometer process — yes, for the fourth time in a row. The company is shy on what these new chips will entail, but it’s claiming that it’ll manage another 15 percent performance improvement (in SysMark tests, anyway) like it did with the 7th-generation Core designs you see now.
AnandTech notes that the upcoming refresh might focus more on the low-voltage U- and Y-series chips you see in very thin and light laptops, just as you saw with the initial 7th-gen processors late last year. That has yet to be confirmed, however.
One thing’s for sure: when Intel’s long-delayed 10nm processors finally do arrive, you won’t see a wholesale switch to the new technology. Intel says that future process uses will be “fluid” depending on the segment they’re targeting, and that data centers will get first crack at these upgrades. Don’t be surprised if the Xeon line gets first dibs on 10nm, then, or if only some mainstream chips make the leap at first.
The decision might be necessary given the challenges of shrinking large CPUs down to a 10nm process, but it’s likely to leave Intel feeling nervous. After all, mobile giants like Qualcomm are releasing 10nm processors this year. While mobile tablets probably won’t outperform most laptops any time soon, this could narrow the gap enough that you might be tempted to skip buying a conventional Intel-based PC in the right circumstances.