Intel's New Kaby Lake R Processors: What You Need to Know

Kaby Lake R processor dye. (All images: Intel)
Kaby Lake R processor dye. (All images: Intel)

It’s that time of year when Intel, the largest maker of laptop and desktop processors in the world, announces the guts of your future PC. These CPUs are always a little faster and a a little more battery efficient. This year Intel is launching it’s latest processor on the same day as the first major solar eclipse in North America in four decades. Kaby Lake R is the 8th generation Core processor from Intel. It’s fast, efficient, and it’s going to be coming to a lot of very thin laptops later this year.


This is the third iteration of the Skylake microarchitecture Intel introduced back in 2015. It is still a 14 nanometers, and as with its predecessors, Skylake and Kaby Lake, Kaby Lake R is still focused on speed and battery life improvements. Yet, while Intel’s claiming big gains in both those areas, Kaby Lake R isn’t a major headline grabbing processor family like Skylake, or AMD’s new Ryzen were. It’s just...faster.

How much faster?

While we haven’t had the opportunity to benchmark Kaby Lake Rprocessors against their Kaby Lake predecessors or the sweet Ryzen chips from AMD, we do have lots and lots of bold speed claims from Intel itself. These claims revolve around the 15 watt Kaby Lake Rprocessors—those are the ones you’re likely to find in super thin and light laptops: Think the Dell XPS 13 or Razer Stealth (though no companies have announced support for these processors yet).

According to Intel, Kaby Lake R is an average of 40-percent faster than Kaby Lake when it comes to crunching numbers in Excel. Intel also claims it can process photographs in Adobe Lightroom up to 28-percent faster and organize and edit images in a slideshow up to 48-percent faster.

The chip at the heart of the Kaby Lake R CPU.
The chip at the heart of the Kaby Lake R CPU.

The biggest speed claims come when Intel compared Kaby Lake R to processors from five years ago. According to the CPU maker, a 4K video can be rendered in just three minutes when it would have taken 45 minutes five years ago. This kind of speed comparison is Intel’s way of enticing old computer owners into an upgrade.

What about battery life?

In the case of the first processors from the new Kaby Lake R family, Intel is claiming up to 10 hours of battery life when viewing 4K content. In the same tests on Kaby Lake last year Intel averaged around 7 hours of battery life. That’s a whole lot more Defenders you can watch on your laptop in one sitting.


Is there anything else special about it?

There is one very cool thing about Intel’s latest processors. The company is packing more cores onto the processor itself. So the 15-watt processors that are the focus of today’s announcement have four cores on them. In previous generations there were just two. More cores means the processor has the ability to process more data more efficiently. People who perform processor intensive tasks, like rendering video or images, will see the best performance upgrade from the additional cores.


When can I buy these things?

If you’re hoping you can just go out and snag a Kaby Lake Rprocessor today and jam it in your PC you are out of luck. Intel has only announced it’s 15-watt “U-Series” processors today. Those are the ones appearing in laptops and 2-in-1s. Which means acquiring them depends on which companies, like Dell and Asus, actually release products with this brand of Intel inside.


Other Kaby Lake R processors, such as desktop processors and those intended for ultra lower power computing devices like the Apple Macbook, will be announced over the coming months.

For now there are just four processors available:

Illustration for article titled Intel's New Kaby Lake R Processors: What You Need to Know

If you’re hoping to buy a laptop with Kaby Lake R inside keep a close watch on what’s announced at Gamescon this week in Cologne and IFA in Berlin next week.

Update 8/31: This post originally referred to Kaby Lake R as Coffee Lake. That is inaccurate and the two microarchitectures are different. We regret the error. 


Senior Consumer Tech Editor. Trained her dog to do fist bumps. Once wrote for Lifetime. Tips encouraged via Secure Drop, Proton Mail, or DM for Signal.



Intel’s New Coffee Lake Processors: What You Need to Know

What you need to know is that Coffee Lake isn’t being launched yet. Intel is categorizing those four chips you show in that slide as the Kaby Lake refresh. That “average of 40-percent faster than Kaby Lake”? That’s the refresh. Most of that bump comes from the increased number of cores (which have a lower base clock).

Come on, Alex. You can do better than this.