Intel's Ice Lake could be an eight-core answer to the Z390 question

Intel Kaby Lake CPU wafer

Update September 18, 2017: Intel are expected to launch eight-core/16-thread mainstream Ice Lake chips in the second half of 2018, giving us a potential reason for all this Z390 chipset weirdness.

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Little has been officially released so far regarding Ice Lake - the 10nm+ processors set to form part of Intel’s 9th generation range. Our first look at the potential specs of the 9th gen comes from a representative of Eurocom, a high-end customisable laptop manufacturer, on the NoteBookReview forums.

“We are planning to update Tornado F5 to Z390 chipset supporting 8C/16T CPUs coming in H2/18,” Eurocom support says. “We will skip Z370 chipset.”

Intel’s strange new CPU release cadence continues then, with their process-architecture-optimisation model well and truly in the bin. They’re continuing to up the core count with Ice Lake, supposedly bringing eight-core and 16-thread processors into the mainstream market. Previously, customers in need of eight-cores were looking at a price tag of up to $600 with Intel’s current 7820X processor, or AMD’s Ryzen 7, starting at $329 for the lowest spec eight-core model.

intel 300-series chipset roadmap

Intel may be hoping the inclusion of the Z390 chipset will allow them to release eight-core processors earlier in the year than an entire 400-series chipset and 9th gen processor launch would usually allow. An earlier launch could be necessary in competing with AMD’s Zen+ refresh, or even early Zen 2, chips in late 2018.

Ice Lake will be Intel’s first to feature the 10nm+ process, after the Cannonlake 10nm vanguard, although both these chips will most likely utilise the same architecture as recent generations, hence the ‘Lake’ suffix. We should also see a continuation of the LGA 1151 v2 socket with Z390 and Ice Lake processors, although whether this will mean backwards compatibility with other 300-series chipsets is in no way guaranteed.

Intel Core i3 8300 rumour

Eurocom are well-known for offering the latest flashy desktop chips within their laptops, such as their workstation F5, or gaming X7. Strangely, Eurocom are claiming they’re skipping the Z370 chipset, despite Coffee Lake including two more cores over previous Kaby Lake iterations. Eurocom could be releasing high-end X299 laptops in the near-future, hence the lack of Coffee Lake support in the meantime, though that seems unlikely. Unless Eurocom know something we don’t, this would be a strange move for the company, with comparable Skylake-X chips costing far more in comparison with their upcoming Coffee Lake brethren.

Or maybe they’re starting to make chunky laptops with the desktop Ryzen range inside to get a jump on Ryzen Mobile...

Original story August 15, 2017: The upcoming Intel Ice Lake platform has just been given its very own landing page in Intel’s processors and chipset section on their website. Intel taped in Ice Lake back in June, so the second-gen 10nm silicon is totally, definitely on track and not getting delayed. Definitely.

Intel love a lake. Even more than they used to love wells. We’ve had Skylake and Kaby Lake, we’re about to get Coffee Lake and Cannonlake, and once those have all had their time in the sunshine we’ll get ourselves a nice new Ice Lake. 

There’s not a whole lot of information out about Ice Lake just yet, but if Intel are following their own Process>Architecture>Optimisation production model then it won’t just be a slight tweak to the Cannonlake design, but a new CPU architecture. 

The ultra-basic holding page is touting "amazing performance and responsiveness" which seems like a stock tag line Intel attach to all its future CPU releases. The only other information on the page is a pretty vague, “the Ice Lake processor family is a successor to the 8th generation Intel Core processor family. These processors utilize Intel’s industry-leading 10nm+ process technology.”

Intel Z370 motherboard chipset

We’ll know a little more about the 8th Gen Core goodies later on this month, with some official information set to be unveiled on August 21. The 8th Gen family is likely to be a heady mixture of Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, and Cannonlake architectures, with both 14nm and 10nm chips across the range.

It’s likely the 10nm chips will be limited to low-power mobile processors, with the desktop parts being based on the same 14nm+ production process they introduced in January. Though they’re now calling it 14nm++ to make it seem all fresh and new.

And what’s going to follow the Ice Lake processors? Well, that’s set to be Tiger Lake. And, unless Intel changes their production model again, Tiger Lake is going to be a mildly updated version of Ice Lake, sitting in the ol' optimisation stage.

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