Intel® Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake processors

Intel Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake are the company's code names for the 7th and 8th generation of its Core processor technology. Processors with the Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake microarchitectures were first released in 2016 and 2017, having been preceded by Broadwell and Skylake (5th and 6th generation) in 2014 and 2015.

Successor microarchitectures (either planned or already released) include Whiskey Lake and Cascade Lake and Cannon Lake and Ice Lake. However, while each new design offers significant technical advances, Intel now puts less emphasis on the "generation" label, with each new microarchitecture no longer always equating to a new generation.

What is a processor microarchitecture?

A microarchitecture is the high-level physical design of a processor and the millions of transistors within it -- in other words, a map of where and how tightly to position the control unit, computation units, memory registers and everything else on the chip. The more efficient the design, the faster the flow of instructions and other data through the processor, resulting in speedier calculations. Advances in microarchitecture also mean less heat generation, as each electrical impulse travels shorter distances.

A processor microarchitecture name is different than a processor brand name, such as Intel Core or Pentium. Each new microarchitecture is typically used across multiple different processor brands and individual processor versions, such as Core i5 and i7, each of them configured slightly differently to operate desktop or laptop systems, run at particular cycle times, use specific cache types or amounts, and so on. As a result, at any given time, PC manufacturers typically offer systems with processors representing several recent microarchitectures.

What's different about Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake?

Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake broke Intel's tick-tock pattern for releasing new processor technology. Traditionally, the company first introduced manufacturing enhancements to improve performance by fitting more transistors on a processor die (the tick). Then it updated the microarchitecture a second time to achieve still faster cycle times, etc., from the new, smaller die (the tock).

The "tick' that preceded these particular microarchitectures was really Broadwell in 2014, which was when Intel first introduced its new 14 nm construction. Since then, Skylake and now Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake have been released as, essentially, a series of follow-up "tocks" to the same 14 nm process.

Benefits of Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake processors

Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake each brought significant new features to the PC market.

Kaby Lake advantages

When they were introduced, Kaby Lake-based processors offered up to 4 cores and 8 threads, like previous models. But they added a 4K-compatible graphics chip that won raves for significantly reducing battery consumption when viewing such high-resolution video. Cycle times also slightly improved over the preceding Skylake models, and Kaby Lake added native support for Thunderbolt 3.0 and the updated USB-Type C connections.

Coffee Lake advantages

Coffee Lake-based processors use the same 14 nm manufacturing process but came to market with up to 6 cores and 12 threads for improved overall performance. They also increased maximum boost frequencies (the faster cycle times that can be achieved when the chip is running cool enough) and featured modestly higher memory and graphics speeds compared to Kaby Lake.

How can you tell which processor a Lenovo product has?

Each new microarchitecture is typically used with multiple Intel processor brands and versions, each offering different cycle times, cache allotments, and related capabilities. So at any given time, Lenovo will be actively selling systems with processors from different microarchitecture generations.

To help you find the what you're looking for, Lenovo's laptop and desktop series pages contain basic technical specifications for each brand and model type, with filters you can use to view systems with specific processors. If you are buying a pre-configured system, each model's Specifications and Tech Specs sections show precise processor details, sometimes including the microarchitecture generation to which the processor belongs. If you are custom-building a new system, the process allows you to choose from a list of every processor available for the brand or model type you are considering.

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