Shortages Plague Intel's Coffee Lake Launch

If you're having a hard time finding a Coffee Lake processor to buy, you're not alone. There has been limited, and extremely spotty, availability. A lucky few managed to snag Intel's latest, but sales have come to a screeching halt as e-tailers' virtual shelves have already been picked dry. The shortages began with the overclocking-friendly K-Series chips but have begun to cascade down to the more accessible models, such as the i5-8400. That could represent some shoppers purchasing the less desirable models due to the dearth of K-Series chips.

Coffee Lake is compelling for would-be CPU buyers. As we found in our Core i7-8700K review, the bulked up processor nets impressive performance gains, particularly in heavily threaded applications. That addresses AMD's key advantage with its Ryzen lineup. As promising as that may be, though, most of us still can't buy a K-Series i5 or i7 Coffee Lake processor.

We reached out to Intel for comment on the shortages, and the company responded:

The 8th Gen Intel Core desktop processors and systems are on sale globally. We’re actively working with our retailers to fulfill strong interest from customers on the i7-8700k SKU.

We informed Intel of the widespread Core i5-8400 shortages, and the company is looking into the matter and should have a response soon.

It's hard to gauge the number of units Intel shipped for the launch. It's possible that unforeseen levels of demand have hamstrung early sales, but it's also possible that Intel shipped a limited number of SKUs. We did spot the Core i7-8700K riding atop Amazon's Best Seller list for a few hours after launch, indicating initial sales (or preorders) were swift, but it quickly fell as stock ran dry. It's now plummeted to #12 and continues to fall. That's not surprising given that you can't buy them.

Newegg, B&H Photo, and Amazon, among many others, don't have the processors in stock, and some have canceled preorder offers. Adding insult to injury, most of the lucky buyers have to wait 15 to 20 days for their units to ship.

Enthusiasts have been busy sharing their conversations with retailers on forums and Reddit. One post claimed that Newegg will have stock in 15 days, and another purported conversation with Amazon indicates the retailer has ordered 3,000+ Core i7-8700K's to meet demand. Unfortunately, the retailers say those units aren't expected for three to five weeks.

The limited Coffee Lake availability poses several questions, so naturally, theories abound. It's clear that AMD's Ryzen is putting intense pressure on Intel's Kaby Lake lineup, so the company has undoubtedly lost more than a few sales to the newcomer. Intel's last financial disclosure didn't expose any glaring losses in revenue that would indicate lost market share, but many theorize that Intel's pending financial disclosures will reflect the lost sales. If that's the case, having a more competitive architecture in the channel should help Intel soothe the skittish investor crowd. 

Intel is also cognizant of the looming holiday season, so introducing a more competitive lineup, even without widespread availability, could be designed to slow Ryzen sales as we enter the most lucrative part of the year.

You can head over to eBay and get scalped for a $900 i7-8700K, but it appears that widespread availability at normal retail outlets will not come soon. We've got a price watch article up and will update as we learn more.

Paul Alcorn
Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech

Paul Alcorn is the Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech for Tom's Hardware US. He also writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage, and enterprise hardware.

  • InvalidError
    Massively delay products then launch them several months earlier than originally planned... not too hard to imagine how that could mess up stock to feed the initial demand spike before enough fab lines have been converted to the new chips to support sales.

    Intel had to launch something to put the brakes on AMD's momentum. Let's see how long it'll take for availability and prices to settle, that'll tell us whether the launch was a sham.
  • lonewoofe
    Amazon never had any available for sale. What they did was put them up as "Backordered". You know, pay me now and you will get it later, MUCH later. It is comical and brilliant really. Intel saw AMD did with Vega, and did the exact same thing. It didn't hurt AMD and some individuals put the Vega cards on auction for hundreds more to make a killing while the rest just salivate and wish for one.
    Remember!!! INTEL nor AMD are our friends. they just want our dollars and will stoop to new lows to snatch them from our sweaty hands. In a few weeks when the dust clears and the vaseline drys up, people will forget as they often do and some other cooporate giant will step on you again. People will moan and groan and fork over the dollar bills.
  • ibjeepr
    I wanted an I5-8600K; didn't want to wait another 3 weeks on Newegg; bought a used i7-7700K for $200. Intel lost a sale and I'm probably out of the market for a couple years at least.
  • Vorador2
    A "by the books" paper launch. Releasing a product with very limited availability but great fanfare in order to one up your rival.
  • shadowfur
    I have a 8700k on backorder from CDW witha ship date of October 20th
  • Realist9
    I agree with Vorador2, where I'm from, we call this a paper launch. The websites I see are listing December as earliest availability.

    This is flowing just like the nVidia 1080 launch. A few units available at launch, then nothing for several months.
  • DookieDraws
    Hard to find or not, a shortage of funds in my wallet will delay the purchase of Intel's Coffee Lake CPUs. :P
  • Joe Black
    From what I can see from looking at combined scores the 7700 is still an extremely compelling CPU purchase even now. the 8700 is a little bit more powerful, a little bit more expensive.

    I dunno.. Maybe I looked at the wrong benchmarks, but we miss you Moore's Law. It was fun while it lasted.
  • John Nemesh
    They launched with JUST enough to get them in the hands of tech sites like this a few awesome benchmarks...and get customers who were considering AMD to rethink.

    <Mod Edit: Watch the language.>
  • Tanyac
    I can't help but wonder if this "scarcity" is deliberate. Let's see, we've had flash shortages, graphics card shortages, RAM shortages and now CPU shortages, all within the last 12 months.

    The main result from the shortages - driving up prices, in some case by as much as 60%.

    As IBJEEPR said, I too am looking to buy a I5-8600K, or maybe I7-8700 and a new motherboard, so that I can support 4K UHD on my HTPC (The Blu-ray drive requires ata least 7th Gen CPU), but the Kaby Lake is such a pitiful upgrade and the prices are still high it would be just dumb for me to go for 7700.. So we wait...

    If while researching AMD over the next couple of weeks I find that Ryzen will do the job, Intel will lose yet another sale from me.