Intel's New Skylake Chips: 8 Things Partners Need To Know

Skylake Begins To Take Center Stage

Wireless charging, blazing-fast transfer speeds, DDR4 memory support and longer battery life are some of the capabilities that Intel's sixth-generation Core chips promise to bring to laptops later this summer. Skylake's official release is expected to take place at the Intel Developer Forum on Aug. 15.

The release of Skylake, Intel solution providers say, could significantly boost PC sales for the last two quarters of the year. Research firm IDC forecasts that PC shipments will fall 6.2 percent in 2015, despite Skylake's August debut and the Windows 10 release on July 29. Part of the blame, IDC said, falls on Microsoft for making Windows 10 a free upgrade, which IDC analysts believe will dampen demand for new PCs. Here are eight things partners need to know about Skylake.

Skylake Availability

While Intel's Skylake was designed to work hand in glove with Windows 10, OEMs will not be shipping Windows 10 PCs running on Skylake the day Windows 10 becomes available, Intel said. They will likely still be running Broadwell. The release of Skylake-powered PCs is expected to follow Skylake's official release at IDF mid-August.

Skylake Basics

Skylake will be a mainstream chip with requisite Core i3, i5 and i7 PC processors as well as Xeon server chips and Core M chips. Skylake will power not just Windows PCs, but also Chromebooks and Android devices.

The rollout of Skylake CPUs will be staggered. The first to make it to market will be the mobile Core M chips, followed very quickly by a slew of laptop and desktop CPUs, according to Intel executives speaking at the Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan, earlier this month.

Skylake Focuses On Wire-Free Computing

A major effort centered on wire-free computing is core to Skylake. That includes wire-free charging based on magnetic resonance technology that allows you to charge your mobile gear simply by placing devices on a surface that supports wireless charging.

Intel says it already has the support of firms Emirates airline, Haier, Hilton hotels, Jaguar Land Rover, San Francisco International Airport and Starbucks.

Skylake And WiGig

Intel's wireless-computing push extends to PC ports in an effort to cut down on the number of wires hanging off the sides of your laptop. Intel is pushing what's called the WiGig standard. The goal behind WiGig technology, which can transfer data at 7 Gbps, is to let a PC wirelessly connect to portable hard drives, monitors and other external peripherals -- sans a wired connection.

WiGig adoption has some challenges, however. For starters, not only do PCs and gadgets need to support it but so do the peripherals that connect to the devices.

Skylake Thunderbolt

Despite Intel's wireless push, Skylake will herald the introduction of the latest Thunderbolt data transfer standard. It's called Thunderbolt 3 and can transfer data at 40 Gbps, compared with 20 Gbps with the previous generation and 4X faster than USB 3.1.

Thunderbolt 3 will utilize the USB Type-C cables. Those are not the standard Type-A USB plugs common on today's PCs. While not an Apple standard, the USB Type-C cables are more commonly found on Apple laptops such as the MacBook Air.

Thunderbolt 3 PCs will not only have blazing-fast transfer speeds, but will allow you to do I/O bandwidth-intensive tasks such as connecting multiple 4K displays to a PC simultaneously.

Skylake Speeds And Feeds Still An Official Mystery

There is no official word from Intel on specific Skylake speed boosts over previous Broadwell generation processors. But several have pointed to "leaked" benchmarks that suggest the biggest performance gains will be found with the power-sipping Core M Skylake chips and 35-watt Skylake desktop processors.

Purported Skylake benchmarks show nearly 50 percent less power consumption, compared with current Core M processors, along with nearly 50 percent faster Iris Pro graphics performance, according to an image of the Intel Skylake benchmarks published by AnandTech's website.

Intel declined to comment.

Skylake Memory Boost

While specifics regarding Skylake's performance per watt are still unknown, we can say that Skylake's microelectronics architecture can be credited with giving users big jumps in speed-related memory.

Skylake will support DDR4-type RAM. For those systems running DDR4, that means faster memory and also memory that sips -- not gulps -- power. DDR4 operates at a lower voltage than DDR3. Speeds start at 2,133 MT/s (millions of transfers per second) for DDR4, compared with those of DDR3, which top out at that speed.

What's Next?

Skylake will use the same 14-nanometer manufacturing process as Broadwell. Skylake is considered "tock" in Intel's tick-tock release cycle for chips. It won't be until 2017 that Intel moves from the 14-nanometer platform to the 10-nanometer. The code name for the 10-nanometer die shrink is called "Cannonlake," with a release date speculated to be 2017.