Intel launches 6th gen Core (Skylake) CPUs

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Intel has officially launched Skylake, its 6th generation Core CPU and successor to Broadwell. The chip giant kicked things off today with two ‘enthusiast’ desktop CPUs – the Core i5 6600K and Core i7 6700K – targeted at gamers, but also good for CAD. We expect more Skylake chips later this year.

Skylake is a ‘tock’ in Intel’s well-tuned ‘tick tock’ CPU delivery model where a ‘tock’ denotes a new microarchitecture and a ‘tick’ a manufacturing advance – i.e. a die shrink.

On paper, this means Skylake should be big news, although with chip advancements slowing down in recent years, new microarchitectures don’t tend to deliver as much of a boost as they used to do.
Anecdotally, we are hearing of performance increases over equivalent Intel Core i7 Haswell chips to be in the region of 5-13%. Next week we should have some CAD-centric performance figures of our own to share.

The Intel Core i5 6600K and Intel Core i7 6700K are both quad core chips but the Core i7 also supports 8 threads thanks Intel Hyperthreading technology.

The Intel Core i5 6600K is clocked 3.5GHz with a turbo of 3.9GHz while the Intel Core i7 6700K starts much higher – 4.0GHz with a turbo of 4.2GHz.

Both chips are unlocked, which means they can be overclocked. In gaming PCs we are hearing the Core i7 6700K is being set as high as 4.7GHz, even as much as 5.0GHz. For workstations, where the emphasis is on reliability rather than outright performance, clock speeds seem to be around a more conservative 4.4GHz.

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The big news for Skylake in general is that it supports DDR4 memory, which is faster than its predecessor DDR3 and should make a difference in memory intensive applications, particularly simulation (FEA / CFD). DDR3L DIMMs are also supported, depending on the motherboard.

DDR4 memory has been available in the Haswell-based Xeon E5 v3 since last year and on Intel’s X99 platform and Extreme processors, but this is the first time it has appeared in a mainstream Intel CPU. However, both of the new Skylake chips only have a ‘dual channel’ memory architecture so don’t offer as much bandwidth as the ‘quad channel’ Xeon E5 v3 series and Extreme edition Core i7s of last year.

As far as integrated graphics is concerned, there’s no sign yet of the CAD-focused Intel Iris Pro P6300, which we reported on last month. We imagine this will appear later, possibly with Skylake-based Xeons. Instead, both the Core i5 6600K and Core i7 6700K come with Intel HD Graphics 530, which is more focused on games.

We’ll be getting our hands on a Core i7 6700K workstation any day now, from UK manufacturer Scan, and testing with our full suite of CAD benchmarks, so check back next week to get our first impressions of Skylake.


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