Purported Skylake desktop lineup, specs leak

The biggest changes are actually outside of the CPU.

Intel will launch its new generation of processors, codenamed Skylake, in the third quarter of this year. Up to now the company has kept the speeds and feeds and other specs close to the vest, but two leaks have given a hint of what's to come. If true, these rumors are nothing terribly surprising, just more of the incremental improvements.

What is surprising is the rumored launch date. According to Benchlife.info, a Chinese tech site, Intel will formally introduce Skylake at the Intel Developer Forum in August. Intel normally doesn't use IDF as a launch platform for products. Product launches are almost always separate events.

Both Benchlife.info and PCFRM.com, a Turkish site, had the same info on the Core i5 and i7 processors. Interestingly, there is no Core i3, which has traditionally been the low-end of the line.

Here's what I've been able to dig up thus far on Skylake: It will be about 10-15% faster than the previous new architecture, Haswell. This is pretty typical of improvements for Intel in recent years. It will feature an integrated Platform Controller Hub, effectively giving Skylake a SoC type of design.

Most of the changes, though, are not CPU-related. The platform will support PCI Express 4.0, which has double the transfer rate of PCIe 3.0, Thunderbolt 3.0, SATA Express, Iris Pro graphics with Direct3D 12 and support for up to five monitors connected via HDMI, DisplayPort or Embedded DisplayPort (eDP) interfaces. The old VGA interface is gone.

The amount of internal I/O really got cranked up here. Currently, Intel motherboards support PCIe 2.0 and six USB 3 peripherals. Skylake will boost that to 20 PCIe 3.0 lanes and 10 USB 3 devices. The PCIe 3.0 support means support for the PCIe M.2 style of SSD drive, which are about the size of a stick of gum but faster than SATA III.

The Core i5 and i7 models come in one socket design, called Socket 1151, which means no backwards compatibility with older motherboards. But that makes sense since there is a new chipset to support all of the above features. The chips will come in three power settings, 35 watts, 65 watts and 95 watts. They will support both DDR3 and DDR4 memory so motherboard makers have the option to choose one or the other.

There are four 35 watt parts for low-power mainstream users, ranging in speed from 2.2Ghz to 2.8Ghz, capable of going higher with TurboBoost, with four cores and no HyperThreading. There are also four 65 watt parts, again for mainstream users, running from 2.7GHz to 3.4Ghz, also with TurboBoost and no HyperThreading.

There are two (for now) 95 watt parts for enthusiasts and power users, the Core i5-6600K and Core i7-6700K (meaning the clocks are unlocked for power users to experiment with overclocking), running at 3.5Ghz and 4.0Ghz, respectively. Only the Core i7 has HyperThreading. All 10 chips will support DDR3 1600Mhz and DDR4 2133Mhz.

The CPU has been plenty fast for a long time. It's the other internal changes that make Skylake so appealing. As always, we'll see if this bears out.

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