OK, at the very beginning, let me declare to anyone who’s only looking to buy an everyday PC for everyday stuff like browsing facebook or watching a movie, this article is not for you. Not many can understand or intuit the difference between a PC that is running different processors that the market deems equally good. That is mainly because there is only a minute difference between a high series i5 and a moderate series i7, for example. Kaby Lake Vs Skylake is an issue only to be pondered upon by people looking to do serious multitasking or complex functioning with their PC. If you want to buy a laptop for a little typing, pick any that fits your fingers.
If however, you want to build a PC and are looking for the best parts to put into it, or if you’re going to be wringing every bit of power out of every component, it can help to begin with a better powered component, or one that gives more bang for your buck. If you’re looking to fulfil either of those motives or perhaps another that genuinely needs high power, you have come to the right place. Pat yourself on the back.
Before I go full throttle into the difference between Skylake vs Kaby Lake, it will probably be easier for the newbies to know a bit more about what the jargon means. If you know this stuff already, scroll to the next headline. But if you don’t I highly recommend reading through this bit. The language I’m going to use will be very ordinary and even dumbed down, so please forgive me if you find it patronising. This is just so I can help the most number of people cover their bases.
Sorting through the Tech Jargon: What common PC terms mean…
- Processor: A Processor is the basis of your computer’s functioning. It might seem like an overstatement, but most of the work a PC does actually boils down to addition and subtraction of things in 2 numbers alone, 0 and 1. You don’t need to worry about that. What’s important is that all the addition and subtraction goes on in the processor. The faster your processor can do this calculation, the quicker your PC will do everything.
- Processor GigaHertz: How fast a processor works is measured in Gigahertz. It is a unit on frequency, as some might know. Think of the processor as a pendulum attached to a clock. It does one addition/subtraction every one cycle. The more cycles it covers, the more functions it can do. And the less time it takes, the faster your computer performs. The Gigahertz of a processor tells you how many functions it can do in one single second! So the more the gigahertz, the better your processor.
- Processor Series: Not everything depends upon your Processor’s pendulum, though. There are other things in your PC, that we’ll just call architecture for now. Companies use different qualities of infrastructure to make sure there are options for people with every budget range. Better Series means better functioning, but the difference can be miniscule for many users, especially ones who just want to browse the internet or download a book. For example, you will hear about terms like “i5 7700k” or “i3 6100”. These are processor names, with the i being a popular line from Intel, the 3,5 or 7 being identifiers to indicate how further in the line it is (basically how advanced it is) and the 6100 or 7700 meaning they’re from the 6th and 7th series respectively. Confused? Don’t be. It won’t be a lot of work once you understand the remaining terms.
- K Series Chips: Your PC has chips in it. Not kind you eat, of course. Why they’re called k series is irrelevant. A thumb rule you can go by is that K Series chips work faster than non-K series. It is mostly due to how they’re designed. They are only a few bucks more expensive than non-k series chips, but they can help your PC run faster most of the time.
- Motherboard: The Motherboard is like a single platform that has the circuitry printed on it. When you build your PC, you plug in the other components into it. The Motherboard’s job is to supply every component with electricity and help them communicate with each other. It is the big green board you see when you open your PC with all the lines and text written on it.
- Tick-Tocking: This is something that PC manufacturers can do. Like the rhythmic ticking of the clock, the manufacturers often come up with a component or product. This is the “tick”. The next step is the adjustments they make into the products so it works better and is more optimised. This is the “tock”. With relationship to Tick-Tock, Skylake has been dubbed the tick and Kaby Lake is labeled the Tock. It’s nothing specific; I thought I should clarify about the term since so many blogs and websites use it so often in regards to Kaby Lake vs Skylake.
- Overclocking: Remember how we talked about the processor having a pendulum clock in it? Well, if you overpower the clock and make it go a little faster, you should be able to get work done a little quicker too, right? That’s what overclocking is. The clock isn’t sped up too much, only in proportion to how much electricity the motherboard is capable of supplying. The PC also heats up because of this, so be sure to check with your fan as well and make sure it can handle that load.
Also, if you purchase a store-bought laptop, you might have a software that automatically overclocks your PC installed. It is usually done to help the PC perform consistently even in high loads. If you do have the software, you should prefer not to overclock, at least not without disabling it.
Fairly simple, right? Let’s get onto the meat and potatoes now. Here’s how Skylake and Kaby Lake compare…
Skylake versus Kaby Lake: How they compare
Source: Paul’s Hardware
If you haven’t got an idea yet, Skylake is a series of processors that Intel has been selling for quite a while. Kaby Lake is the subsequent series which much of the stuff same as Skylake but optimised to be more suited to the customers’ needs. They’re the Tick and the Tock, like we discussed earlier. They’ve both been around for quite some time though, with Kaby Lake having arrived just 9 months or so before. So chances are you might find the rates a little cheaper than what they began with.
The difference between the series is pretty evident. It is marked by the addition on a 1000k in the series title. So if there was an i5 6400k in Skylake, Kaby Lake’s processor will be named i5 7400k. Kaby Lake has a few optimisations done to it which explains the marginally better performance of the processor in various benchmarks overall.
But how do the processors fare individually? Kaby Lake can cost anywhere between 10 to 50 USD more than their Skylake counterparts. Surely, a higher price demanded by the manufacturer must translate to a better performance, right? Well, usually it does, and as we noticed in overall performance, there is a slight betterment, and in some cases things improve considerably. But should you chuck out your Sky Lake chip and install a Kaby Lake instead?
No. Skylake and Kaby Lake in their performance under single core conditions tend to be virtually identical. The two processors when compared with each other end up in a stalemate. This especially holds true for things like gaming for which a lot on people tend to be enthusiastic about new components. Simply put, there is hardly any change in how smooth your game runs or how mesmerising it looks when you switch from Skylake to Kaby Lake, and certainly not nearly enough to justify trading in your existing Skylake processor to get a Kaby Lake instead.
So, is Kaby Lake a dud?
Not at all! Kaby Lake is quite something, and if you’re going to assemble your own PC or buy a new one, looking for a Kaby Lake processor can be good since there is news that Microsoft is working with giants like Netflix to restrict access of 4k to people who have highest capacity processors and Microsoft Edge (maybe because it has learnt that the browser is but dead and needs such ugly tactics to be revived to be considered half a decent competitor to browsing giants like Firefox, Safari and Chrome).
Has Intel outdone itself?
Well, that can be one way to put it. Intel has certainly come a long way with Tick-Tock methodology, having been working it for about a decade now. I think it must have found something of value when it changed its plan of action for a bit in 2014 with Haswell Micro-architecture scheme. As on current information, Intel has abandoned the Tick Tock model and gone to a 3 step program called PAO now. Which stands for Process, Architecture and Optimisation.
What’s next after Skylake vs Kaby Lake?
Incidentally, on 5th October 2018 (so not a long time ago), Intel announced Coffee Lake, Kaby Lake’s successor. The prices are still under process for much of the market as sellers scurry to decide how much the new processor is worth asking for in the current market. This iteration forms part on the Optimisation part of Intel’s scheme, so it is possible that it will not last at the top for as long and Intel is only buying time to come out with its next processor, Cannonlake. Maybe we’ll see Cannonlake in early or mid 2018. And Cannonlake will definitely be something to watch out for since it will be part of the “Process” part of the PAO scheme, which means you can expect things to get faster or better otherwise in that iteration.
Did I miss anything? Perhaps you have something you want to add to what I’ve said? If you do, then be sure to share your thoughts below and I’ll be sure to read them too.