Intel's 8th generation Coffee Lake CPUs just hit the market a few months ago, with the i7 8700K being a much-desired upgrade for gamers. It's been a hot commodity, with stocks being sold out since release at many major retailers. However, rumors coming out of Taiwan motherboard manufacturers suggest that the i7 9700K is going to be an even more significant leap.
According to these stories, the Intel 9700K is set to release alongside other Cannonlake processors in 2018, which means adopters of the i7 8700K are going to feel more than a little slighted.
What's the Deal With Coffee Lake?
The 8th generation Coffee Lake series is the first time Intel has increased the core and thread counts on their flagship CPUs in over a decade. Coffee Lake offers a significant increase in performance over Skylake and Kaby Lake processors that have debuted over the last two years. Also, Coffee Lake completely screwed over everyone who bought Kaby Lake.
Kaby Lake desktop processors debuted in January 2017. The chips were a moderate upgrade over Skylake, but plenty of people upgraded from that platform, and older platforms, since all you needed, for the most part, was the new processor. Many of the Z170 chipset motherboards that Skylake ran on received BIOs updates to allow installation of Kaby Lake CPUs, which prevented the usual rigamarole that comes with updating to a new CPU.
However, barely ten months after Kaby Lake, Intel released Coffee Lake. With the added cores and threads, and improved processing speed, Coffee Lake rendered Kaby Lake obsolete. I have to admit I'm a little raw about the whole thing myself since I bought an i7 7700K when it came out.
If you want to upgrade to an i7 8700K from Kaby Lake, you get to buy a whole new motherboard, since it runs on the Z370 chipset which is electrically incompatible with Z270, and a new CPU. Intel's poor planning (or scammy marketing) caused thousands of PC gamers to upgrade to a chipset and CPU that can't be used with future Intel platforms.
Why Cannonlake is Bad News for Kaby Lake (7000-series) and Coffee Lake (8000-series) Owners
Well, if the whole situation with Coffee Lake made you mad, prepare to deal with the same thing with Cannonlake. Rumors say that Intel will achieve core and thread parity with Ryzen with the 9000-series chips. Compared to the 4-cores/8-threads of the 7700K, and 6-cores/12-threads of the 8700K, the 9700K will have 8-cores/16-threads. Additionally, rumor says the 9700K will use a new Z390 chipset, with no word whether Z370 will be compatible with it or not.
If these rumors are true, Coffee Lake processors may have an even shorter timespan than Kaby Lake before they're replaced as Intel's flagship performance CPUs. I'm all for innovation, but Intel needs to be more transparent about their release schedules, so people don't have to deal with the disappointment of seeing their expensive new hardware become obsolete before it's even a year old.