Intel's Skylake Chips Will Drive Three 4K Monitors at 60Hz
Intel has shared new details about its faster, more power-efficient Skylake processors at IDF 2015 in San Francisco. PCWorld reports that Intel engineers have suggested the sixth-generation Core processors could launch in around "two weeks," setting the stage for a possible announcement of new chips appropriate for Macs at the IFA Berlin trade show on September 4-9.
Skylake processors will feature improved Iris Pro integrated graphics capable of driving up to three 4K monitors at 60Hz, whereas Haswell architecture could drive a single 4K monitor at 30Hz and Broadwell architecture could handle a single 4K monitor at 60Hz. Skylake will also have fixed-function support for 4K video processing in hardware and support for the latest APIs: DirectX 12, OpenCL 2 and OpenGL 4.4.
That means Intel has dedicated transistors directly to the job of decoding and encoding 4K. In one demonstration showing playback of a 4K RAW video stream from a Canon video camera, playback was smooth using the Skylake graphics chip, while using just the CPU, it would constantly drop frames.
Skylake architecture is also more power efficient thanks to a new power-saving feature called Speed Shift, which allows the CPU to intelligently adjust its power state for extended battery life. Skylake CPUs are also more efficient overall and feature eDRAM+, which can cache information, for increased performance.
In June, Intel introduced Thunderbolt 3 with a USB Type-C connector and support for USB 3.1, DisplayPort 1.2 and PCI Express 3.0. The new spec, rumored to launch alongside Intel's next-generation Skylake chips, is capable of driving up to two 4K external displays at 60Hz or a single 5K display at 60Hz running off a single cable.
Last month, a leaked Intel slide deck revealed that Skylake processors will provide a 10%-20% CPU performance boost in single and multi-threaded applications, with lower power consumption, and 30% faster Intel HD integrated graphics performance on average compared to current-generation Broadwell processors. The improved energy efficiency will also result in up to 30% longer battery life.
Intel's Skylake processors appropriate for the MacBook Air were also leaked last week.
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Sadly, all of these Thunderbolt 3 boxes—and the laptop—are just Inventec reference designs, not commercial products yet. Plus, Intel won’t say what they might cost or when they might arrive, though the first real Thunderbolt 3 products will allegedly start hitting the market by the end of the year.
Will manufacturers actually build external graphics solutions with Thunderbolt 3? “Watch this space,” says Navin Shenoy, an Intel executive.