Official Intel 7th-gen Kaby Lake Review

February 26, 2017

Official Intel 7th-gen Kaby Lake Review

Intel released its new family of processors in August 2016. Dubbed Kaby Lake, the 7th-Generation Core processors should be of particular interest if you're making do with an older machine, like to stream a lot of high-resolution video or enjoy gaming on the go — or some combination of all three.

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During the Intel Developer Forum, we got a taste of what the 7th-Gen Core processors could do. During a demo at the forum, a Dell XPS 13 laptop was able to play the graphically demanding game Overwatch, using standard integrated graphics on the new platform. We've since reviewed the Kaby Lake XPS 13 and found its performance to be noticeably better.

Intel built the 7th-Gen Core chips on the same Skylake architecture it introduced last year, so don't look for Intel to reinvent the architecture but rather refine it.
Specifically, Intel said it improved the transistor channel strain on these CPUs. The result is a microarchitecture that's more power-efficient, so that the 7th-Gen Core chips can offer a performance boost over previous generations of Intel processors.
Performance gains over 6th Gen CPUs.

Using SYSmark to measure productivity, Intel found a machine powered by a 7th-Gen Core i7-7500U processor notched a 12 percent gain over a 6th-Gen Core i7-6500U CPU. That 7th-Gen-powered machine also recorded a 19 percent boost in web performance as measured by WebXPRT 2015.


Obviously, the performance increases look more substantial when stacked up against older PCs, and that's where Intel is betting most of the upgrades to 7th-Gen chips are going to come from. A new Core i5-7200U-powered machine recorded a 1.7x improvement over a five-year-old Core i5-2467M in SYSmark. On the 3DMark Cloud Gate Graphics test, Intel said the new CPU tripled that five-year-old machine's score.
Intel representatives told us that 7th-Gen Core CPUs could play Overwatch on medium settings at 720p with integrated graphics or at 4K with a compatible graphics amp. Kaby Lake won't kill gaming laptops, though, as hard-core players will want to play in 1080p at the minimum.
These chips are designed for video.
Intel has taken notice of all of the 4K and 360-degree video we're consuming. In response, the chipmaker introduced a new video engine to its 7th-Gen Core processors that aims to handle whatever content demands you can throw at it.

The new chips add HEVC 10-bit decode capability, which should let you play back 4K ultra-HD video without any hiccups. Intel also added VP9 decode capability to the 7th-Gen Core chips to boost power efficiency when you're watching those 4K and 360-degree videos while also performing other tasks.

The chips will also create video content a lot faster. For example, according to Intel, you'll be able to transcode a 1-hour, 4K video in just 12 minutes.
The chips are more power efficient during playback.
In terms of the battery boost you'll see, Intel said the 7th-Gen Core machine can last for 7 hours when streaming 4K and 4K 360-degree YouTube video, compared with the 6th-Gen Core processor's 4 hours of battery life when handling the same demands. As for 4K streaming video, Intel is promising all-day battery life, or 9 and a half hours with the 7th-Gen Core processors.


Intel looks to boost performance in other ways

The 7th-Gen Core processors offer a few other features aimed at making your laptops perform more efficiently, such as Intel's Turbo Boost 2.0 technology. That's the feature that manages both processor performance and power so that tasks get more processing oomph when they need it. Hyper-Threading Technology helps the CPUs complete tasks faster by delivering two processing threads for each core

The 7th-Gen Core chips also include Speed Shift technology, which should make for speedier apps. The technology allows a processor to more quickly settle on its best operating frequency, thus optimizing performance and efficiency. This pays off particularly when you're performing short bursts of activity, such as browsing the web.

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