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Intel unveils its 6th Gen Core “Skylake” processors

Sep 2, 2015 — by Rick Lehrbaum — 2,429 views

Intel debuted its 6th Gen Core (Skylake) processors, ranging from 4.5W TDP SoCs with internal platform controller hubs, to 45+ Watt CPUs with external PCHs.

Intel bills the 6th Gen Intel Core as its “most scalable processor family ever.” After more than four years of development, Intel’s “Skylake” architecture is now breathing life into 48 processors organized in four sets — Y-series, U-series, H-series, and S-series — and with TDPs ranging from 4.5 to 91 Watts.

Introducing Intel’s “Skylake-based” 6th Gen Core family
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Intel says its goal in developing the Skylake architecture was “to deliver high processor and graphics performance, high-resolution video playback, and seamless responsiveness for fanless systems with low power usage while retaining the capability to scale up to the most powerful mobile workstations and enthusiast desktop systems.”

Intel’s 6th Gen Core family spans 48 processors, with TDPs ranging from 4.5 to 91 Watts
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The company claims the resulting processors deliver “up to 40 percent better graphics performance (versus the previous generation graphics) and a power-sipping 4K video playback capability.” Additionally, Skylake is said to have “made it possible to realize a stunning improvement in energy efficiency — up to 60 percent for some SKUs — while enabling higher levels of performance.”

Comparison among Intel’s Y-series, U-series, and H-series Skylake “chipsets”
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Intel’s 6th Gen Core Skylake family is a “tock” release, compared to the “tick” release earlier this year of the similarly 14nm fabricated Broadwell processors. Skylake generally offers higher performance and lower power consumption than Broadwell, although the exact mix depends on which of the over 48 models you choose.

Intel’s “tick-tock” processor evolution, from Westmere to Skylake
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Specifically, Intel announced 48 Skylake processors this week, including:
  • Core Y-series — five 4.5W TDP parts, targeting “small-screen 2-in-1 detachables and 2-in-1 convertibles
  • Core U-series — ten 15W TDP and four 28W TDP parts, targeting “2-in-1 convertibles and ultra-thin clamshells”
  • Core H-series — seven 45W TDP parts with six aimed at thin clamshells and large-screen notebooks, and one “unlocked” SKU for overclockers and gaming enthusiasts
  • Core S-series — ten 65W TDP parts and eight 35W TDP parts, targeting “gaming towers, stationary all-in-ones, and mini PCs, along with two 91W SKUs for overclockers and gaming enthusiasts

Of these, the Y-series and U-series parts are likely to be of the most interesting to companies developing mobile devices and embedded systems that run various Linux-based operating systems. Key specifications of the Y-series and U-series SoCs are summarized in the images below.

Specs summary for 6th Gen Intel Core Y-series (left) and U-series processors
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In addition to offering lower processor clock rates and power dissipation, the Y- and U-series 6th Gen Core processors differ from the higher-end parts in their integration of platform controller hub (PCH) functionally directly within the processor package. In contrast, the Y- and U-series parts need to be teamed up with the 100 x 100mm “Intel 100 series” PCH for platform-level interfacing. On the other hand, the H- and S-series processors support both DDR4 and DDR3 RAM, while the Y- and U-series SoCs are limited to DDR3.

Due to their differing clock rates, TDPs, internal die counts, and I/O signal complements, each 6th Gen Intel Core series is integrated into a different chip package, as follows:

  • Y-series (aka “Core m”) — 20 x 16.5mm, BGA 1515
  • U-series — 42 x 24mm, BGA 1356
  • H-series — 42 x 28mm, BGA 1340
  • S-series — 37.5 x 37.5mm, LGA 1151

Skylake vs. Braswell shootout

The new, low-power Y-series processors naturally beg comparison with the similarly 14nm, 4 to 6 Watt “Braswell” Celerons and Pentiums that Intel introduced earlier this year. To see how the two sets of 14nm low-power SoCs compare, we generated a comparison using Intel’s “ARK” site, using two representative SoCs from each architecture. You can see the results in the image below, or generate the table yourself directly on Intel’s ARK site by means of this convenient url.

Specs comparison between two Skylake and two Braswell SoCs
(click image to enlarge)

In the two pairs we selected for our comparison, the Braswell SoCs have base clock rates of 1.04GHz and 1.06GHz, maximum “burst” frequencies of 2.08 and 2.16GHz, and TDPs of 4W and 6W, while the Skylake SoCs have base clock rates of 900MHz and 1.1GHz, maximum “turbo” frequencies of 2.2GHz and 2.7GHz, and TDPs of 4.5W each. On the memory side, the Braswell SoCs support external DDR3-1600 RAM up to 8GB maximum, and integrate 2MB of L2 cache, whereas the new Skylake SoCs support external DDR3-1866 RAM up to 16GB maximum, and integrate 4MB of L3 cache.

Additionally, the 6th Gen Core chips integrate later generation Intel CPU cores and HD Graphics. In particular, the Intel HD Graphics 515 graphics engine embedded within the 6th Gen Core SoCs supports video resolutions as high as 4096×[email protected] and 3840×[email protected], and adds a DVI graphics output capability. Another benefit of the Skylake 6th Gen Core SoCs is an increase in the number of PCIe lanes provided by the internal IOH, from 4 on the Braswell parts to 10 on the Skylake SoCs.

We don’t have access to benchmarks of relative processor and graphics engine performance, other than Intel’s (possibly exaggerated) qualitative claims. But assuming the next-generation CPU and graphics engine designs in these Skylake SoCs have meaningful enhancements relative to their earlier generation counterparts in the Braswell parts, we have reason to anticipate substantial increases in speed, graphics quality, power efficiency, and more — beyond the numbers we’ve seen in the charts.

Further information

Many more details regarding Intel’s 6th Generation Core processors may be found in Intel’s 6th Generation Intel Core data sheet.

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