What is Kaby Lake Processor? (Explained)

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What is Kaby Lake Processor?

Kaby Lake is the codename used by Intel to indicate their 7th generation microprocessor family. Succeeding Skylake, this particular microarchitecture is built on the 14 nm manufacturing process technology and represents the new Process Architecture Optimization or PAO model instead of tick-tock.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Kaby Lake processors offer native integrated support for USB-C Gen 2 port and does not need any external third-party hardware for using it.
  • These processors are available in different variants such as Kaby Lake Y, U, R, H, S, G, X, and Kaby Lake DT.
  • There are six major brand families of the Kaby lake processors such as Intel Celeron, Pentium, Pentium Gold, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Intel Xeon E3.
  • Windows 10 and Windows 11 operating systems are supported by these processors.
  • The clock domains of these processors are divided into Bus/Base Clock, Core Clock, Ring Clock, IGP Clock, eDRAM Clock, and Memory Clock.

Understanding Kaby Lake Processor

What is Kaby Lake Processor

Kaby Lake is the code name given by Intel to the 7th generation core microprocessor family.

In keeping with their continual effort to shrink the manufacturing process, every year Intel comes with newer types of processors and the 7th and 8th generation Kaby Lake processors are one such effort of theirs.

After its release on August 30, 2016, the Intel Kaby Lake processors took the world by storm due to the fact that it worked quite well in some of the best desktop and laptop computers.

There are quite a few good reasons behind this.

One of the most significant reasons is the ‘native’ integrated support of the Intel Kaby Lake processors for USB-C Gen 2 port.

Though the Skylake CPUs also offer such support, it is not native and needs external third-party hardware to use it.

Something native is quite necessary for higher bandwidth, but it is certainly not a thing to go gaga over.

The improved graphics performance is also another reason for the popularity of the Intel Kaby Lake processors.

The HDCP 2.2 support, the innovative media engine built on Gen 9 graphics architecture, and HEVC 10-bit decode feature allows better 4K video consumption streaming on a single charge and editing in real time.

To push the graphics performance even to a higher HD limit, the Intel Kaby Lake G series processors feature integrated AMD Vega graphics and the 8th generation CPUs come with integrated UHD Graphics which supports playing back 4K video.

This is good news for the ultrabook users.

These 8th generation processors can support as many as three 4K monitors at the same time and even allow using a Windows Mixed Reality headset.

These processors are expected to offer an increase of 40% in the speed as compared with their 7th generation counterparts.

Here are some other aspects of the Intel Kaby Lake processors categorized for your better understanding.

Codename Variants

Here are the different variants of the Intel Kaby Lake processors along with their abbreviation and description:

  • Kaby Lake Y, commonly known as KBL-Y, and are considered to be extremely low power processors
  • Kaby Lake U, commonly known as KBL-U, and are considered to be ultra-low power processors
  • Kaby Lake R, commonly known as KBL-R, and are considered to be ultra-low power processors as well
  • Kaby Lake H, commonly known as KBL-H, and is considered to offer high graphics performance
  • Kaby Lake S, commonly known as KBL-S, and are considered to be performance-optimized lifestyle processors
  • Kaby Lake G, commonly known as KBL-G, and are considered to be good gaming chips
  • Kaby Lake X, commonly known as KBL-X, and are considered to be offer extremely high performance processors and
  • Kaby Lake DT, commonly known as KBL-DT, and is considered to be a good workstation processor.

Brand Families

Intel has released the Kaby Lake processors in 6 major brand families as follows:

  • Intel Celeron processors that come with two cores and are considered to be entry level, budget CPUs
  • Intel Pentium processors that also come with two cores and are considered to be budget CPUs for both desktop and laptop computers
  • Intel Pentium Gold processors that come with two cores as well and are considered to be budget CPUs for both desktop and laptop computers
  • Intel Core i3 processors that come with two cores and are considered to be low-end performance CPUs
  • Intel Core i5 processors that come with two cores in general and four cores in the KBL-R and are considered to be mid-range performance CPUs
  • Intel Core i7 processors that come with two cores and fours cores as well and are considered to be high-end performance CPUs and
  • Intel Xeon E3 processors that come with four cores and are considered to be workstation high-performance and dense server CPUs.

All these processors come with a more improved transistor channel strain and active power characteristics. All these changes made in the different models of the Intel Kaby Lake processors boosts up the maximum frequencies in all of them by about 100 to 300 Megahertz.

In addition to that, it also increases the performance level of the single-thread applications in many and as much as 12% increase in drive current.

Operating System Support

The Intel Kaby Lake processors will not support Windows 7 or Windows 8 operating systems.

Therefore, if your system runs on any of these, you will be deprived of the benefits provided by this CPU.

Typically the Intel Kaby Lake processors support Windows 10 and 11 operating systems and also initial support may be provided to Linux Kernel 4.5, Google Chromium, and Wind River VxWorks 7 operating systems.

Architecture

There are no significant changes made in the architecture of the Intel Kaby Lake processors in terms of pure IPC or Instructions per Clock as compared with its predecessor, Skylake.

The actual microarchitecture is more or less the same but there are a few notable improvements in the process and in binning as well.

These changes are usually made in the ultra-power Intel Kaby Lake mobile processors that offer the most substantial gain in performance but high-end models may have very little of these enhancements.

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The improved manufacturing process allows the Kaby Lake CPUs to be highly overclockable for specific models such as the Core i7 7700K.

This helps it to reach a maximum speed of up to 5 GHz easily with a reasonably good cooling setup.

The notable features of the architecture of the Intel Kaby Lake processors include:

  • Improved 14 nm+ process that offers about 15% higher frequency
  • Increase in performance per watt ratio
  • Speed Shift implementation to cut responsiveness by up to 66%
  • Mainstream chipset
  • Additional support for Optane Technology
  • Faster DDR4 2400 memory support and
  • Embedded DisplayPort interface with eDP Standard 1.4 support.

Moreover, a few Core i3 processor models do not support ECC or Error Correction Memory anymore.

On the other hand, the Pentium desktop processors now come with additional hyperthreading support and the Pentium desktop and mobile CPUs now come with OS Guard and MPX or Memory Protection support.

Graphics Units

The Intel Kaby Lake processors use Gen 9.5 GPUs of different types that are higher than the GPUs of Skylake but with no change in the execution units. These are:

  • Iris Plus with HDMI 1.4a support
  • HD Graphics 610 with the same 12 execution units
  • HD Graphics 615 with the same 24 execution units
  • HD Graphics 620 with the same 24 execution units
  • HD Graphics 630 with the same 24 execution units
  • HD Graphics P630 with the same 24 execution units
  • Iris Plus Graphics 640 and with the same 48 execution units
  • Iris Plus Graphics 650 with the same 48 execution units.

In addition to that, the Gen 9.5 GPUs also come with specific Hardware Accelerated Video Capabilities with varied codec and decoding resolution support such as:

  • MPEG-2 or H.262 with 1080p or FHD decoding support
  • MPEG-4 AVC or H.264 with 2160p or 4K decoding support
  • JPEG/MJPEG with 16k x 16k decoding support
  • HEVC or H.265 with 2160p or 4K decoding support
  • VC-1 with 3840×3840 decoding support
  • VP8 with 1080p decoding support and
  • VP9 with 2160p or 4K decoding support.

Memory

The memory structure of the Intel Kaby Lake processors is overall the same as that of the Skylake processors.

For example the cache memory of the processor consists of different parts with different capacities and setup such as:

The processors also come with TLBs or Translation Lookaside Buffers.

There is one dedicated L1 ITLB for instruction cache and one DTLB for data cache. There is also an additional L2 STLB or shared TLB.

Sockets and Platform

Different models of the Intel Kaby Lake processors use different types of sockets and platforms.

For example, the Y and U processors can be single-chip solutions but the Y chips use a 2-die MCP or Multi Chip Package.

On the other hand, the Kaby Lake U chips can also have either 2 or 3-die MCP configurations where the latter is meant for the Iris IGPs and comes with an OPC or On Package Cache apart from the hub.

A lightweight OPI or On-Package Interconnect interface is used to communicate between the CPU and the hub on these chips.

As for the Kaby Lake S and H CPUs, a 2-chip solution is connected through the standard DMI 3.0 bus interface of Intel.

This usually uses 4 of the 20 PCI or Peripheral Component Interconnect Express lanes of the chip. This offers a transfer speed of 8 GT/s per lane.

However, it is only the Kaby Lake S variants that are typically used on the mainstream desktop computers and are not soldered onto the motherboard.

Therefore, these can be replaced or interchanged.

As for the different sockets used, here is their breakup with the platforms:

  • The Kaby Lake Y processors use a permanent BGA 1515 socket on a single chip platform
  • The Kaby Lake U processors use a permanent BGA 1356 socket on a single chip platform
  • The Kaby Lake R processors use a permanent BGA 1356 socket on a single chip platform
  • The Kaby Lake H processors use a permanent BGA 1440 socket on a dual chip platform
  • The Kaby Lake S processors use a non-permanent LGA 1151 socket on a dual chip platform
  • The Kaby Lake DT processors use a non-permanent LGA 1151 socket on a dual chip platform and
  • The Kaby Lake X processors use a non-permanent LGA 2066 socket on a dual chip platform.

Clock Domains

There are a number of clock domains in which the Kaby Lake processors are divided into.

Each of these clock domains controls the frequency of the clock of the respective units in the CPUs.

However, all of these clock domains are some multiples of the virtual Bus Clock or BCLK.

These are:

  • BCLK or Bus/Base Clock, which indicates the bus interface frequency of the system
  • Core Clock, which indicates the frequency at which the L1/L2 caches and the cores operate at
  • Ring Clock, which indicates the frequency at which the LLC and the ring interconnect operate at
  • IGP Clock, which indicates the frequency at which the Gen 9 GPUs operate at
  • eDRAM Clock, which indicates the frequency at which the embedded Dynamic Random Access Memory operates at and
  • MemClk or Memory Clock, which indicates the operating frequency of the system DRAM.

Die

The Intel Kaby Lake desktop and mobile processors ideally come with either 2 or 4 cores and each of these variants has their own die.

The major parts of the die are:

  • System Agent
  • Ring bus interconnect
  • CPU Core and
  • Memory Controller.

The most significant change in the die of the Intel Kaby Lake processors is the amount of space allocated in them for the GPU.

I/O

Typically, the Intel Kaby Lake processors offer these following input/output support:

  • A 200 series Union Point chipset for 1151 socket and 100 series chipset with BIOS update
  • As many as 16 PCI Express 3.0 lanes from the CPU
  • Up to 24 PCI Express 3.0 lanes from the Platform Controller Hub or PCH
  • PTWRITE instruction support to write data to an IPT or Intel Processor Trace packet stream and
  • Hardware Accelerated GPU Scheduling or HAGS support provided by the built-in GPU cores in the Windows 10 version of 2004 or later.

Thermal Design Power Categorization

The Thermal Design Power or TDP of the Intel Kaby Lake desktop and mobile processors are also different.

For the desktop processors it is as follows:

  • For dual core, high power K and X series it is 60 watts
  • For quad core, high power K and X series it is 91 watts for those that come with an LGA 1151 socket and 112 watts for those that come with an LGA 2066 socket
  • For dual core, medium power desktop processors the TDP range is between 51 watts and 54 watts
  • For quad core, medium power ones it is 65 watts and
  • For low power desktop processors it is 35 watts.
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As for the mobile processors, the TDP differs as follows:

  • For high power H series processors it is up to 45 watts with configurable TDP-down to 35 watts
  • For medium power U series variants it ranges between 15 watts and 28 watts with configurable TDP-down to 7.5 watts and
  • For low power y series processors the TDP ranges between 5 watts and 7 watts with configurable TDP-down to 3.5 watts.

List of 7th and 8th Generation Intel Kaby Lake Processors

Ideally, it is the 7th generation Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 Kaby Lake processors that are branded as desktop and mobile processors.

For the workstation class CPUs, Intel has designated the Xeon E3 v6 series.

However, there are only a few server microprocessors based on Kaby Lake.

Here is the complete breakdown of the Kaby Lake processors from the 7th and 8th generations that are used for different purposes:

List of 7th generation desktop processors with 4 cores and 8 threads:

  • Intel Core i7 7740X
  • Intel Core i7 7700K
  • Intel Core i7 7700 and
  • Intel Core i7 7700T.

List of 7th generation desktop processors with 4 cores and 4 threads:

  • Intel Core i5 7640X
  • Intel Core i5 7600K
  • Intel Core i5 7600
  • Intel Core i5 7600T
  • Intel Core i5 7500
  • Intel Core i5 7500T
  • Intel Core i5 7400 and
  • Intel Core i5 7400T .

List of 7th generation desktop processors with 2 cores and 4 threads:

  • Intel Core i3 7350K
  • Intel Core i3 7320
  • Intel Core i3 7300
  • Intel Core i3 7300T
  • Intel Core i3 7100
  • Intel Core i3 7100T
  • Intel Core i3 7101E
  • Intel Core i3 7101TE
  • Intel Pentium G4620
  • Intel Pentium G4600
  • Intel Pentium G4600T
  • Intel Pentium G4560 and
  • Intel Pentium G4560T.

List of 7th generation desktop processors with 2 cores and 2 threads:

  • Intel Celeron G3950
  • Intel Celeron G3930 and
  • Intel Celeron G3930T.

List of 7th generation high power mobile processors with 4 cores and 8 threads:

  • Intel Core i7 7920HQ
  • Intel Core i7 7820HQ
  • Intel Core i7 7820HK and
  • Intel Core i7 7700HQ.

List of 7th generation high power mobile processors with 4 cores and 4 threads:

  • Intel Core i5 7440HQ
  • Intel Core i5 7300HQ and
  • Intel Core i3 7100H with 2 cores and 4 threads.

List of 7th generation low and medium power mobile processors with 2 cores and 4 threads:

  • Intel Core i7 7Y75
  • Intel Core i7 7500U
  • Intel Core i7 7560U
  • Intel Core i7 7660U
  • Intel Core i7 7567U
  • Intel Core i7 7600U
  • Intel Core i5 7200U
  • Intel Core i5 7Y54
  • Intel Core i5 7Y57
  • Intel Core i5 7260U
  • Intel Core i5 7267U
  • Intel Core i5 7287U
  • Intel Core i5 7300U
  • Intel Core i5 7360U
  • Intel Core i3 7100U
  • Intel Core i3 7167U
  • Intel Core i3 7130U
  • Intel Core i3 7020U
  • Intel Core m3 7Y32
  • Intel Core m3 7Y30
  • Intel Pentium Gold 4410Y
  • Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y and
  • Intel Pentium Gold 4415U.

List of 7th generation low and medium power mobile processors with 2 cores and 2 threads:

  • Intel Celeron 3965U
  • Intel Celeron 3865U and
  • Intel Celeron 3965Y.

List of 7th generation server or workstation Xeon processors with 4 cores and 8 threads:

  • Intel Xeon E3-1285 v6
  • Intel Xeon E3-1280 v6
  • Intel Xeon E3-1275 v6
  • Intel Xeon E3-1270 v6
  • Intel Xeon E3-1245 v6
  • Intel Xeon E3-1240 v6
  • Intel Xeon E3-1230 v6
  • Intel Xeon Mobile E3-1535M v6
  • Intel Xeon Mobile E3-1505M v6 and
  • Intel Xeon Embedded E3-1505L v6.

List of 7th generation Server or workstation Xeon processors with 4 cores and 4 threads:

  • Intel Xeon E3-1225 v6 and
  • Intel Xeon E3-1220 v6.

List of 8th generation low and medium power Intel Kaby Lake R mobile processors with 4 cores and 8 threads:

  • Intel Core i7 8650U
  • Intel Core i7 8550U
  • Intel Core i5 8350U and
  • Intel Core i5 8250U.

List of 8th generation low and medium power Intel Kaby Lake R mobile processors with 2 cores and 4 threads:

  • Intel Core i3 8130U and
  • Intel Pentium Gold 4417U.

List of 8th generation high power Intel Kaby Lake G mobile processors with 4 cores and 8 threads:

  • Intel Core i7 8809G
  • Intel Core i78709G
  • Intel Core i78706G
  • Intel Core i78705G and
  • Intel Core i5 8305G.

In spite of knowing all these varied aspects of the Intel Kaby Lake processors, you may have a few more specific queries.

Well, here are some of the most common ones that you may have along with their detailed answers.

Are Kaby Lake Processors Good?

Now that you have a fair bit of knowledge about the Intel Kaby Lake processors, you may be tempted to upgrade your system with it.

However, the question is whether or not all these changes and features of the Kaby Lake are worthy enough to upgrade.

Well, the answer is: it depends.

Ideally, there is nothing huge in the features of the Intel Kaby Lake processors that may differentiate them as ‘outstanding’ when compared with the Intel Skylake processors, its predecessor.

The manufacturing process as well as the microarchitecture of both is the same and, most importantly, it limits your choice of Windows operating system version, at least as of now.

However, there are surely a few welcome pluses in using an Intel Kaby Lake processor which include:

  • The enhanced graphics performance
  • The capability to handle 4K video more efficiently
  • The native support for a faster USB 3.1 and
  • The support for Intel Optane Solid State Drives or SSDs.

The Kaby Lake processors also come with a few brand new features and therefore should not be considered to be simply an incremental development on the existing design.

For example, consider the support for High-Bandwidth Digital Copy Protection or HDCP 2.2.

This is a Direct Rendering Manager or DRM package which makes sure that the digital content is not interrupted when it is streamed from the source to the display.

Add to that, the native support provided for High Efficiency Video Coding and decoding video content by the Kaby Lake processors along with its Thunderbolt 3 support allows using up to as many as three 4K displays at the same time on specific models or devices.

This will be very useful at a later time when Ultra HD 4K video becomes mainstream.

The Intel Kaby Lake processors are also good to use by those users who are looking for something that is smaller and faster, thanks to the 14 nm transistors on them.

It increases the power efficiency as well.

So, you can see that the Intel Kaby Lake architecture is much similar to that of the Skylake family.

In fact, its desktop variant uses the similar LGA or Land Grid Array 1151 socket, also known as Socket H4.

Therefore, all these may not be compelling enough to upgrade your system with an Intel Kaby Lake processor blindly.

In spite of slight performance enhancements, it is quite unnecessary for the Skylake CPU users to upgrade their systems with an Intel Kaby Lake processor which is literally of the same level.

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Instead, they should go for its successor Cannon Lake or something higher that are available at this time around, such as the Kaby Lake-X CPUs which offer quite an impressive performance enhancement.

Are There Any i7 Kaby Lake Processors?

Yes, there are several Core i7 Kaby Lake processors available, or were available.

You will get different types of Core i7 processors belonging to the 7th and 8th generation of this particular type such as:

  • Desktop processors
  • High power mobile processors
  • Low power mobile processors and
  • Server and workstation Xeon processors.

However, you are requested to check out the list of different Intel Kaby Lake processors mentioned above to know more of the Core i7 processors.

Out of all of them, the Intel Core i7 7700K processor is supposed to be the most powerful desktop processor of the Intel Kaby Lake generation.

This is the direct descendant of the Intel Skylake 6700K and comes with higher clock speeds, more efficient architecture and more enhanced graphics performance.

Is Kaby Lake Outdated?

A few Kaby Lake desktop variants have been taken off by Intel and that is why you should visit the official website of Intel to check the latest news in their Product Change Notification.

Typically, the production of the 7th generation Kaby lake desktop processors is stopped by Intel, according to their notification published on October 8, 2019 and the 8th generation updates were available since.

However, these processors may still be available for purchase for some time.

According to reports, the last order for such processors was taken on April 24, 2020, which was non-cancelable and non-returnable, and the final shipment was made on October 9, 2020.

Therefore, it is quite likely that you will not find any more new Kaby Lake processors out there.

Here is a brief list of some of the affected processors with their marketing names and respective product codes based on the official announcements of Intel:

  • Intel Core i5 7600K processor – CM8067702868219
  • Intel Core i5 6500 processor – CM8066201920404
  • Intel Core i7 6700 processor – CM8066201920103
  • Intel Core i5 7500 processor – CM8067702868012
  • Intel Core i5 7500T processor – CM806770286811
  • Intel Core i7 7700 processor – CM8067702868314 and
  • Intel Core i7 7700T processor – CM8067702868416.

In addition to the above, most of the Intel Core i3 processors of the 7th generation along with Intel Pentium and Intel Celeron desktop processors are also discontinued.

Therefore, do not simply follow the list of Intel Kaby Lake processors mentioned above blindly.

Instead, do your own research before finalizing on any particular product.

Why is It Called Kaby Lake?

Typically, when it comes to giving code names to the processors, Intel has this habit of sticking to names of parks, places, towns, lands, rivers, lakes, mountains and other geographical aspects.

Moreover, they stick to the names associated with places and regions found in Canada, especially in the Ontario and Oregon regions.

Kaby Lake, in fact, is the name of a lake found in Ontario, Canada.

The main idea behind Intel using the names of places, rivers and lakes is that these are geographical names and cannot be trademarked.

Therefore, they will not have any legal issues while marketing and advertising their products.

For example, when they code named Windows 95 as Chicago, they ran into legal issues.

There is also another interesting fact regarding the code naming of the Intel processors.

When Intel initially named the Sandy Bridge processors as ‘Gesher,’ they actually referred to the meaning of ‘Gesher’ in Hebrew, which is ‘bridge.’

However, they changed it later on because there is an Israeli political party called Gesher and they did not want to have any legal issues.

Does Kaby Lake Work with Windows 11?

Just like most of the 7th generation Intel processors, the Kaby Lake series processors will only support Windows 10 and Windows 11 operating systems.

However, as mentioned above, initial support is offered by other operating systems as well.

What Chipset Does Kaby Lake Use?

Typically, the Intel Kaby Lake processors support the 200-series chipsets.

In fact, Intel has announced a few new desktop chipsets that will support the new generation of the Kaby Lake CPUs.

This includes:

  • Two consumer oriented chipsets namely Z 270 and H 270 and
  • Three business oriented SKUs namely Q 270, Q 250, and B 250.

The consumer oriented chipsets are the most feature-rich SKUs with the H 270 chipset following the Z 270 chipset in that matter.

These chipsets have an increased number of High Speed I/O or HSIO lanes and Peripheral Component Interconnect Express or PCIe lanes.

On the other hand, the business oriented chipsets come with more improvements as compared to the consumer oriented chipsets.

However, all those 100-series chipsets that were introduced with Intel Skylake CPUs will also support the Intel Kaby Lake CPUs but with an update made in the BIOS setup, as mentioned earlier.

What Came After Kaby Lake?

As you may know, Intel has this habit of bringing in new CPU variants after every 18 months or so.

Therefore, quite naturally, in keeping with their habit the dominance of the Intel Kaby Lake processors were short lived.

These processors that were doing great in the desktop and laptop computers were succeeded by Intel Cannon Lake processors.

However, the Intel Cannon Lake processors are considered to be the mobile-only successor of the Kaby Lake variants.

These processors were released in May 2018 and it used the 10 nm manufacturing process of Intel.

This processor was the first and only one to use a microarchitecture that implemented the Palm Cove core and also was the first mainstream processor to consist of the AVX 512 instruction set.

Conclusion

So, to sum up, it can be said that the Intel Kaby Lake processors are better and faster and also come with higher overclocking potential.

However, as you can see from this article, it is still a bit of a yawn for most of the DIY rig builders. Therefore, think twice before upgrading your system with it.