Four Cores for Ultrabooks: Core i7-8550U Review

This has been a giant yr for Intel low-power cell chips. For generations we’ve put up with sub-10% year-on-year efficiency enhancements, having Intel specializing in higher effectivity and longer battery life. Nonetheless, with AMD sizzling on Intel’s heels and set to launch their very own ultraportable processors within the close to future, Intel has determined that the time for incremental enhancements is over.

With that, Intel’s low-power cell chips have lastly transitioned from a dual-core to quad-core design for the primary time. This has been achieved whereas protecting throughout the identical 15-watt TDP as earlier low-power U-series chips, basically permitting for a giant soar in efficiency with out a corresponding hit to battery life.

Earlier than we talk about the particular adjustments to Intel’s new processors, let’s speak a bit in regards to the fundamentals, specifically Intel’s complicated product line for 2017.

These new quad-core cell processors fall into Intel’s eightth technology lineup, which consists of merchandise from three separate architectures: Espresso Lake, Cannon Lake, and Kaby Lake Refresh. That is in stark distinction to 7th gen merchandise, which all used the Kaby Lake architectures.

There are a mess of explanation why Intel has gone with a 3 structure cut up for their eightth gen CPUs, but it surely principally comes right down to Intel’s course of nodes struggles, notably within the transition to 10nm. It’s complicated for fans who prefer to dive into the structure of Intel’s merchandise, although most shoppers will solely must see “eightth technology” branding to know they’re getting the newest CPUs of their respective classes.

In the meanwhile, the three architectures that type Intel’s eightth gen line are as follows:

  • Espresso Lake. These are Intel’s eightth technology CPUs for desktops, and doubtlessly high-performance laptops sooner or later, constructed on a second refinement of Intel’s 14nm course of (often known as 14nm++).
  • Cannon Lake. These eightth gen processors are due for launch in 2018, and encompass a 10nm die shrink of the Espresso Lake structure. It’s not clear what elements will probably be included within the Cannon Lake line, although it’s anticipated to be low-power cell elements.
  • Kaby Lake Refresh. These are Intel’s eightth technology CPUs for low-power laptops, constructed utilizing the identical 14nm+ course of node and largely the identical structure as Kaby Lake.

For those who’re fascinated by Espresso Lake chips for the desktop, you possibly can learn our evaluation right here, however for now we’ll be discussing Kaby Lake Refresh, or Kaby Lake-R, for ultraportable laptops.

As we talked about earlier, the principle enchancment to Intel’s U-series 15W elements this yr is the soar from two core, 4 thread processors with Kaby Lake, to 4 core, eight thread processors with Kaby Lake Refresh. The doubling of cores and threads is the one main change right here, as Kaby Lake-R processors use the identical microarchitecture (except for minor tweaks) and the identical 14nm+ manufacturing node as final yr’s 7th gen cell elements.

Intel’s low-power cell chips have lastly transitioned from a dual-core to quad-core design for the primary time

The trade-off for extra cores and threads in the identical 15W TDP is base frequency, which is universally decrease. Then again, Turbo frequencies are larger, even four-core Turbo speeds, whereas there’s additionally a useful improve to L3 cache: 8MB for Core i7 elements, and 6MB for Core i5 elements. All Kaby Lake-R elements help LPDDR3 and DDR4 reminiscence, with DDR4 help growing from DDR4-2133 to DDR4-2400.

Spec Core i7-8550U Core i7-7500U Core i7-6500U Core i7-5500U
Cores/Threads four/eight 2/four
Base Clock 1.eight GHz 2.7 GHz 2.5 GHz 2.four GHz
1C Turbo Clock GHz three.5 GHz three.1 GHz GHz
2CTurbo Clock GHz three.5 GHz GHz 2.9 GHz
4C Turbo Clock three.7 GHz N/A
GPU UHD 620 HD 620 HD 520 HD 5500
Max. GPU Clock 1150 MHz 1050 MHz 1000 MHz
L3 Cache 8MB 4MB
Unit Worth $409 $393

On the graphics entrance, the 4 Kaby Lake-R processors on this preliminary eightth gen launch use Intel’s UHD 620 CPU, which is similar to the HD 620 used earlier than. In different phrases, we’re nonetheless seeing 24 execution models with clock speeds of 1100 and 1150 MHz for Core i7 and i5 CPUs, respectively.

All issues thought of, the Core ix-8x50U line is a direct improve on the Core ix-7x00U sequence from final yr. We’ll have to attend a bit longer for Intel to launch their typical array of 15W and 28W U-series CPUs with extra highly effective Iris graphics, in addition to ultra-low-power Y-series elements.

Of specific curiosity on this evaluation is the Core i7-8550U, which is the direct successor to final yr’s Core i7-7500U. The i7-8550U is the second-from-top Kaby Lake-R processor, with the flagship (for now) i7-8650U taking the efficiency crown with barely larger clocks.

As with all Kaby Lake-R processors, the principle acquire right here is the soar from a 2C/4T design to 4C/8T. Base clock speeds have diminished from 2.7 to 1.eight GHz, permitting the addition of an additional two cores into the identical 15W TDP. Nonetheless, increase frequencies have elevated from three.5 to GHz for single and dual-core utilization, and three.7 GHz for all-core utilization, offered there’s sufficient energy and thermal headroom. L3 cache can be up from 4MB to 8MB.

On the GPU aspect, underneath the brand new identify of UHD 620, the i7-8550U’s GPU is nearly the identical as earlier than however clocked as much as 1150 MHz, which is a 100 MHz clock velocity acquire, throughout the identical 24 execution models.

When you can’t exit and by a U-series chip off the shelf, it’s attention-grabbing to notice that costs have elevated barely over final yr’s lineup. The i7-8550U is now $409, up $16 from $393. This should not have any materials impact on laptop computer pricing, but it surely’s no actual shock bigger CPU with extra cores prices barely extra.

This efficiency evaluation of the Core i7-8550U was performed on a Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1, which offers an honest baseline platform for testing with its 16GB of DDR4-2400 RAM, high-performance 512GB M.2 SSD, and 1080p show. The outcomes you’ll see within the coming pages ought to offer you a good suggestion of how the i7-8550U will carry out in a variety of gadgets, not simply the laptop computer we examined with.

Wanting during the last 12 months of laptop computer testing we did with Kaby Lake, laptops that use the identical CPU can differ by as much as 5 p.c in efficiency benchmarks…

Though, it’s necessary to notice that actual efficiency figures will differ by small quantities from system to system, as completely different laptops use completely different thermal options and have completely different energy targets. Wanting during the last 12 months of laptop computer testing we did with Kaby Lake, laptops that use the identical CPU can differ by as much as 5 p.c in efficiency benchmarks, so preserve that in thoughts as we dive into how the Core i7-8550U performs.

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