PC Market Lifeline: Intel Launches Skylake Desktop Processor Family

Intel Tuesday launched the S-Series desktop processor family of its newest 14nm sixth-generation Skylake microarchitecture, aiming to drive a new era of computing with thinner, faster and more secure systems.

Intel partners said they hope the security features and various form factors that Skylake supports will drive upgrades from the more than 1 billion installed base of PCs three years and older.

Randy Copeland, president and CEO of Velocity Micro, a system builder and Intel partner based in Richmond, Va., said he is seeing a significant uptick in sales due to Skylake, particularly around Velocity Micro's Raptor Z55.

[Related: Intel Developer Forum: Windows 10, Skylake Form A 'Unique' Union To Bolster PC Sales]

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"If your computer is more than three years old, it really is time to upgrade. Our customers have been blown away with the latest performance advances," said Copeland. "Our customers are in the high-performance or luxury space, and they are remarkably up on the Skylake launch. They are especially looking forward to the increased performance with lower power usage and thermal requirements, as well as the DDR4 support that is supplied with the Z170 chipset."

The S-Series Skylake architecture includes eight SKUs targeted at desktop performance and value, such as gaming and traditional towers, all-in-ones and mini PCs. Earlier in August, Intel launched two of these processors, the Intel Core i7-6700K and Core i5-6600K, aimed at the enthusiast segment.

New PCs running on Skylake will see two and a half times faster performance, three times longer battery life, and four times faster wake-up times over desktops that are five years or older, according to Intel, Santa Clara, Calif.

"I think the degree of success for Intel’s Skylake will set the direction of the PC industry going forward, so I think this is a big deal for the industry," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, a leading tech analyst firm based in Austin, Texas. "I believe the features and capabilities are exactly what users are looking for, particularly the 600 million users with a PC four years or older. … Skylake could initiate an improvement in the PC market."

Skylake processors will drive lighter, faster and more energy-efficient desktops through improvements to the microarchitecture. In terms of performance, Skylake contains increased chipset input/output integration.

The S-Series processors in the base configuration contain a thermal design power of 91 watts, 65 watts or 35 watts and use packaging compatible with a Socket 1151 motherboard.

The architecture also substantially improves graphics with camera image signal processor integration and adds supports for the latest APIs, such as DirectX 12, OpenCL 2.0 and OpenGL 4.4, as well as enhanced overclocking with Base Clock and DDR4.

The microarchitecture also adds security enhancements for desktops by including Intel Software Guard Extensions and Intel Memory Protection Extensions, along with an improved wireless experience on desktops through Intel's wireless display technology.

"Skylake … helps solve some of the most nagging issues consumers have with PCs, securely eliminating older-style passwords and reducing wires with power, USB and Thunderbolt over one tiny USB-C cable," Moor Insights & Strategy's Moorhead said. "New Skylake PCs also enable playing the latest content most efficiently, content like 4K video, HEVC [high efficiency video coding], the latest e-sports games and, of course, the new Xbox game streaming."

Intel's Skylake families also include the Y-Series, targeted at 2-in-1 detachables, tablets and the Compute Stick; the U-Series, targeted at thin, light notebooks; and the H-Series, targeted at mobile performance and mobile workstations.

Intel did not reveal pricing for the new Skylake processors at launch.