Intel’s new Kaby Lake Core CPUs can breeze through 4K graphics in notebooks

by on August 30, 2016

Stephan Jukic – August 30, 2016

As 4K UHD video gains ground in the home entertainment market, it still has a ways to go for decent saturation of the PC and laptop market. Not only do somewhat selective internet surveys of PC gamers bear this out, there are the obvious technical difficulties of 4K PC use to keep in mind as well.

For starters, older versions of Windows often have problems scaling properly on a 4K PC display and even on 4K-capable Windows 10, many third party software programs face the same issues. Beyond this, all those extra pixels (8.29 million of them) will definitely eat into the GPU and CPU processing power of even many of the best PC rigs, while also eating into battery power on laptops.

This is however changing slowly and now Intel’s latest and highly anticipated seventh-generation Core processors have been announced with a set of features and specs designed to make them handle 4K in laptops and notebooks as if it were a complete breeze.

And make no mistake about it, the new “Kaby Lake” CPU technology (as Intel code named it during development) is powerful as hell. Not only is it designed to handle 4K resolution in PC displays of assorted types, it’s also built to manage all the most cutting-edge video essentials that come with 4K. This means support for VP9, H.265 video compression codecs and also support for high dynamic range among other things.

Starting with their basic power, the Kay Lake processors have enough serious kick to only use a measly 10 to 15% of their CPU use rate and only about 0.5 watts of power even while handling 4K video from YouTube in a laptop. These at least are the sort of specs the Core i7-7500U manages while playing 4K video on a notebook. In comparison, older Skylake chips like the Core i7-6500U drew on 70 to 80% of their CPU capacity and over 6 watts of power to handle the same piece of 4K video compressed in Google’s VP9 codec used on YouTube 4K clips.

Intel has also added hardware encoding and decoding capacity to the new Kaby chips. This allows for management of 10-bit HEVC (H.265) 4K ultra HD video sources and 8 to 10-bit Google VP9 codec-compressed video sources such as those found on YouTube in particular. Thnen of course there’s the support for high dynamic range contrast level and HDR wide color gamut which both come packed into the new Core CPUs. The chips also support 1X to 3X real-time for 4K at 30 frames per second, which is something that ultra HD vido media editors should love.

Kaby Lake Processors 1000x563_c

Intel has stated that manufacturers of display devices will be the ones who can decide whether they want to use Dolby Vision’s HDR standard or the more popular HDR10, since the Kaby Lake chips can be made to support both.

The new Kaby Lake CPUs are essentially heavily refined versions of the 2015 Skylake versions and this is possibly why their numbering sequence is also quite similar. Both chipsets have been built with the same 14 nanometer process and use Intel Speed Boost technology for pushing the CPUs to their maximum processing speeds much faster than has previously been the case. The new Kaby Lake chipsets, which come in either the Y-Series or U-Series (more on this below) come with base clock speeds of between 2.4 and 2.7 GHz for the U chips and 1 and 1.3GHz for the more efficient and compact Y chips. Respectively, the U and Y chipsets offer boost clock speeds of 3.1 to 3.5GHz for the U-series and 2.6 to 3.6GHz for the Y-series.

We should also note that the new CPUs are designed for laptops and potentially other smaller devices with 4K display in particular. We don’t yet have any details on the desktop machine versions of these chipsets but we know they’re on the way at some point in late 2016 or early 2017.

Finally, Intel has divided the new chips into two specific groups. First there is the Y-Series, which are designed to be installed in thinner laptops using 4.5 watts or so and then there is the U-Series of Kaby Lake chips, which is built for all other types of laptops on the current market.

Those of you looking for a 4K laptop or even a non-4K display notebook with serious CPU kick would do well to wait until models start emerging with the new Kaby Lake Y-Series or U-Series Core chips. This should start happening at some point in September.

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