As is the standard these days, the firestorm begins with a single tweet. ASRock tweeted from its official account, in response to a user’s query, that Intel’s forthcoming Coffee Lake processors will not work with existing 200-series motherboards. We encountered similar claims in the run-up to the Kaby Lake launch, but they later turned out to be inaccurate.
We confirmed Coffee Lake’s incompatibility with 200-series motherboards directly with ASRock representatives, though, so it appears that you’ll have to buy a new motherboard to support Intel’s latest.
Intel’s tick-tock cadence has come to a screeching halt, instead replaced with the new Process-Architecture-Optimize (PAO) scheme. That means we’ll see multiple new designs based on each step on the lithography ladder. That continues with Intel’s forthcoming Coffee Lake processors built on the 14nm++ process. This third revision of Intel’s 14nm process technology also purportedly brings more cores to bear; we’re looking at six-core mainstream models. That’s a necessary upgrade to fend off AMD’s Ryzen competition.
Intel displayed its eighth-generation Coffee Lake chips in a laptop earlier this year at Computex. The company also treated us to claims of 30% more performance over the seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors. Intel derived its performance metrics from pre-silicon benchmarks, which means the margin of error is substantial. The company also compared Coffee Lake to a previous-generation processor with fewer threads, so most of the improvement likely doesn’t stem from significant IPC/architectural enhancements.
We’ve filtered through a slew of recent Coffee Lake “leaks,” with some specifications being outright fabrications, others unlikely, and still others somewhat questionable. A few, though, have seemed plausible, such as the recent SiSoftware Official Live Ranker submissions. There’s also been word recently that Coffee Lake features AMD’s iGPU technology, but that’s just a basic misunderstanding of what “amd64” means.
Filtering through the sludge at the bottom of the coffee pot is a challenge, but in either case, it appears that Intel’s Coffee Lake processors will not work with Z170 and Z270 motherboards. What does that mean to you? Well, if you plan to step up to a six-core processor, you’ll have to purchase a new motherboard, and possibly a new cooler, as well.
More cores and performance is nice, but we would like a reason to upgrade to a newer motherboard. As we’ve seen with X299, that isn’t always the case. We expect new features to spur a new refresh cycle, such as PCIe 4.0, but radical changes have been few and far between. We haven’t seen any indications that Coffee Lake processors support the tardy PCIe 4.0 specification or any other new whiz-bang tech.
The tactic throws Intel’s strategy into a harsh light, especially considering AMD’s commitment to support Socket AM4 for all processors until 2020. That equates to easier and cheaper upgrades in the future, which might be top of mind for those in the upgrade market when Coffee Lake rolls out later this year.