With its 14nm fab up and running, Intel did not hesitate to push out a new Atom chip built from these transistors. This CPU die was essentially a shrink of Silvermont, and Intel named it "Airmont." It did not improve IPC, but thanks to the die shrink it still managed to somewhat outperform its predecessor. After all, the move to 14nm transistors reduced heat dissipation, allowing the CPU to maintain its Turbo Boost frequency for longer periods of time.
Airmont's iGPU was significantly improved over Silvermont. The die itself contains 24 EUs, but products based on Airmont use between 12 to 16. None of the models based on Airmont currently all 24 EUs, and we are unlikely to see one in the future. These extra eight EUs exist to improve yields of Airmont, as a larger portion of the chip can be defective and still be salvageable. The graphics architecture was also updated to Intel's eight-gen Broadwell, improving the EUs' performance.
Airmont products were sold under the "Cherry Trail" and "Braswell" code names. The fastest Airmont-based Atom CPU is the N3700, which contains four CPU cores clocked at 1.6 GHz with a Turbo Boost frequency of 2.4 GHz. It also has a dual-channel DDR3L memory controller and 16 EUs clocked at up to 700 MHz.
In 2015, not long after Broadwell first showed up on desktop systems, Intel replaced Broadwell with its Skylake architecture. Although Skylake-based CPUs were Intel's fastest to date, the platform changes accompanying Skylake were arguably more important.
Skylake was the first consumer-oriented CPU to use DDR4 memory, which is more energy-efficient than DDR3 and capable of enabling greater throughput. The Skylake platform also contained a number of improvements, such as a new DMI interface, an upgraded PCIe controller, and support for a much wider array of connectivity devices.
Naturally, Skylake included a better on-die GPU as well. The highest-end model was known as Iris Pro Graphics 580, and it was deployed to certain Skylake-R CPUs. The Iris Pro Graphics 580 engine featured 72 EUs and came paired with 128MB of L4 eDRAM. Most other Skylake-based chips included HD Graphics with 24 EUs, based on a design similar to Broadwell's.
Starting with Skylake and Kaby Lake, Intel ended its tick-tock development cadence in favor of a tick-tock-tock schedule. It was also referred to as the process-architecture-optimize cadence. This extended the amount of time Intel spent on a single fabrication process before it developed a new one. It also extended the amount of time between major architectural changes.
Kaby Lake, therefore, was essentially an optimized variation of Intel’s Skylake architecture. Although still 14nm, Intel utilized a process it called 14nm+ that had various tweaks to improve energy efficiency and performance. The architecture itself hardly changed at all, but it did facilitate DDR4-2400 memory support.
Kaby Lake also employed an HD Graphics 630 engine featuring improved codecs for encoding and decoding, extending support for 4K video playback.
With Coffee Lake, Intel increased the number of cores in its Core i3, i5, and i7 processors by two. This marked the largest increase in core count for Intel since the introduction of the Core 2 Quad in 2006.
Core i5s now have six cores without Hyper-Threading. Coffee Lake-based Core i7s also have six cores, but with Hyper-Threading. The underlying architecture does not change from Kaby Lake. However, with more cores to share the work, performance increases markedly in threaded applications.
Coffee Lake-based Core i3 processors lack Hyper-Threading, but thanks to the increase from two to four CPU cores, the Core i3 processor family has never wielded more power. In essence, Coffee Lake Core i3 CPUs are every bit as powerful as Kaby Lake Core i5s, and potentially faster than Skylake Core i5s.
Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake
Intel's delayed 10nm process has slowed progress on the smaller Cannon Lake processors, so the company developed the 14nm++ Whiskey Lake and 14nm+ Amber Lake processors for laptops, to fill the gap between generations.
The new 15-watt U-Series Whiskey Lake models slot into the same Eighth Generation Core “Kaby Lake-R” product stack as previous-generation mobile chips, and have the same numbers of cores and threads as the chips they’ll be replacing. And the 5-watt Amber Lake models replace the seventh-gen Y-series chips found primarily in fanless laptops and convertibles. One of the primary new features for Whiskey Lake is the addition of the first hardware-based fixes for Meltdown and L1TF to appear on consumer-focused CPUs.
The Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake processors all feature the same underlying Kaby Lake microarchitecture as previous-generation CPUs, with a few optimizations. Primarily, single-core boost frequencies get a big bump over previous parts (up to 4.6GHz with the Core i7-8565U). But of course, exactly how long your CPU will stay at that top speed depends largely on the device’s cooling abilities.
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