Intel’s Coffee Lake may have launched last fall, but the company hasn’t introduced many SKUs to-date. The high-end is reasonably well-covered between the Core i7-8700K, i7-8700, Core i5-8600K, and Core i5-8400 (See on Amazon). Below the Core i5-8400, there’s a rather substantial performance gulf. The Core i3-8350K is an overpriced quad-core at $180, while the Core i5-8400 is a six-core chip for just $10 more. Higher clocks will give the Core i3-8350K an edge in lightly threaded code, but anything capable of scaling up to six cores is going to favor the Core i5. Below the Core i3-8350K there’s a $62 gap in Intel’s pricing and no Coffee Lake CPUs in the Celeron or Pentium product families. If a recent leak is true, however, Intel has big plans to change that fact.
Tech Report has compiled a list of information from multiple PC vendors (visit Tech Report to check which ones). At the bottom end, you’ve got Pentium and Celeron processors with 2C/4T and 2C/2T configurations, respectively. There are no Core-branded parts below the $100 price point. Stepping up to a quad-core CPU, however, will still cost you $117.
To be honest, the sub-$100 introductions are underwhelming. Intel already bumped Pentium core counts from 2C/2T to 2C/4T early last year. Top-end clock speeds in the Celeron family are bumped very slightly (up to 3.2GHz as opposed to 3GHz). The Pentium parts see an even smaller uplift (approximately 5 percent for Pentium vs. 6 percent for Celeron).
Intel’s other additions are a bit more promising. The Core i3-8300 offers only a small performance boost over the Core i3-8100, but it helps plug that $62 gap in Intel’s product family. The Core i5-8500 is a particularly good deal if it actually comes in at $190 — it’s 7 percent faster than the Core i5-8400, but priced the same. We can’t really judge the Core i5-8600 until we see its boost speed, but the base clock is underwhelming.
With that said, there’s another way to look at Intel’s pricing. Above the Celeron line, someone building a new Pentium is going to get a much faster chip thanks to the addition of Hyper-Threading. CPUs like the Core i3-8350K are of dubious value — it really needs a $25 price cut to be a decent deal — but the same rule still applies. Intel users who are upgrading from previous generations are going to see a much higher level of performance. The Core i3 is now a full quad-core, the i5 family added two CPU cores, and the upper-end chips like the Core i7-8700(K) are the cheapest, fastest six-core chips Intel has ever released. When you consider the impact of the changes to the Core i3/i5/i7 line compared to previous generations, Intel is actually offering substantial performance upgrades for roughly the same price you paid before.
On the whole, it looks like this new stack will compete quite effectively with AMD’s 2017 Ryzen CPUs. The APU situation is more complex thanks to AMD’s dramatically faster gaming performance compared with Intel and the ongoing overheated state of the GPU market. But Intel has positioned its chips rather smartly to compete with AMD and to offer upgrades to its own longtime buyers. On the other hand, AMD has Ryzen 2 coming in the first half of this year, which means we may see some dramatic shifts in performance from that side of the equation as well.
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