Intel Docs Reference an 8-Core Coffee Lake CPU

Ever since before Coffee Lake debuted, there have been rumors of an eight-core variant that would be paired with a new Z390 chipset and launch at some point after the six-core variant hit shelves. Since that point in time, there’s been additional data suggesting that the Z390 chipset is real, and now, reason to think there are indeed eight-core Coffee Lake CPUs on the way.

Reddit turned up the mentions to an eight-core Coffee Lake CPU; the images in question are below. All three can be clicked to enlarge them. Hat-tip to redditor Dayman56 for finding them.

Intel, needless to say, isn’t allowing anyone to actually download the documents and peek inside, but the names are descriptive. Coffee Lake S is the desktop variant of CFL, which makes sense — Intel may have just tweaked its mobile parts to launch a six-core variant at the very top of the stack. But the company will want to carefully consider whether it makes sense to push out an eight-core chip in a mobile form factor.

It’s kind of tricky to guess what kind of chip this might be. Intel’s decision to recycle the 14nm process through multiple nodes (14nm, 14nm+, 14nm++) and its decision to define 8th Generation CPUs as an incredibly broad family that encompasses 10nm, 14nm, and a wide range of CPU designs makes it less clear what this eight-core CPU will look like. The simplest prediction is a Core i7-9700K, but the Z390 motherboard designation might then confuse people who think the Z370 and Z390 share a common compatibility profile when this wouldn’t be the case. It’s also anyone’s guess as to whether current chips like the Core i7-8700K would work in the Z390. On the other hand, a new chipset would at least offer a chance for high-end desktop owners to get in on the new USB 3.1 Gen 2 native ports Intel has baked into all of its eighth-generation platforms except Z370.

The more likely bet is that this might be positioned similar to the way the Core i7-4790K slid in over top of Intel’s Core i7-4770K CPU after the latter had been in market for some time. This would also give Intel the best chance of challenging AMD’s second-generation Ryzen CPUs on an apples-to-apples basis. Intel doesn’t seem to want to cut prices on its HEDT platforms, despite AMD’s overall strength in that market segment, which means slipping an eight-core Coffee Lake CPU into the mainstream product mix may be more attractive than trying to pull HEDT hardware into lower price points.

In a very real sense, this is what market competition is supposed to look like. Readers may have become accustomed to a much more static state of affairs, but the idea that Intel and AMD respond with salvos that put one or the other on top of things is how the market used to look. This trend can’t go on forever — there are clear limits to how many cores are going to be helpful and the more cores you have, the more maximum clock frequency tends to suffer — but by the end of the year, eight-core desktops may be mainstream from both vendors, rather than just from AMD. Given that Intel’s 10nm is supposed to debut for mobile and low-power first, we’re expecting that these chips will still be built on 14nm++.