Intel brings quad-core processors to Ultrabook for the first time

We’ve been expecting Intel to unveil its Coffee Lake processors for the longest time, but the chipmaker has just announced that its 8th-generation CPUs will actually be a major Kaby Lake overhaul, and named Kaby Lake Refresh.

Before you get too disappointed though, this tick-tock-tock update is bringing some big developments, including some of the first quad-core U-series processors. Intel's latest batch of Core i5 and i7 CPUs destined for Ultrabooks will see a doubling of core and thread counts.

Additionally, 8th-generation Intel Core processors introduce Intel UHD Graphics, allowing laptops to better handle 4K content purely on Integrated graphics. This new form of on-board graphics will also allow users to connect their Ultrabooks to up to three Ultra HD displays at the same time and power Windows Mixed Reality experiences – though Ultra-level experiences will still require dedicated graphics.

Intel claims users should see up to a 40% performance boost over its last generation of processors. According to the company, the Kaby Lake Refresh brings a two-times increase in both productivity performance and web performance.

Users can supposedly expect to render a 4K video in just three minutes and edit photos in Lightroom up to 28% faster than with 7th-generation Kaby Lake chips – we’ll have to see if those figures are borne out in real-world use.

On the backs of giants

The Kaby Lake Refresh is built on Intel's 14nm Plus architecture, and while it doesn’t come with a decrease in die size, the company has made plenty of power management tweaks to improve both performance and battery life. In fact, Intel sees up to 10 hours of battery life on devices with sleek designs.

Intel’s 8th-generation architecture will also bring Optane memory support to laptops, which should be a big boon to budget notebooks equipped with only a hard drive for storage. Meanwhile, Intel Online Connect extends fingerprint authentication to a touch-to-pay system – similar to Touch ID on MacBook Pros – and two-factor authentication.

Thus far, Intel has only officially announced four Intel Core i7 chips, but the chipmaker promises it's working with hardware manufacturers to bring 145 laptop designs by September.

Later this year and moving into next year we’re likely – given the history of Kaby Lake's rollout – to see a whole new line of Y-Series chips for fanless and ultrathin systems or K-series for gaming laptops and workstations. Of course, a new slew of desktop chips is surely on the way and could bring their own increase in cores.

  • The best laptops are only going to get better with Kaby Lake Refresh