Intel unveils its 7th-gen CPUs for desktops and performance laptops

Intel hasn’t forgotten about desktop aficionados. Only a few months after debuting its seventh-generation CPUs for ultraportables, the chip giant is rounding things out with new processors for more powerful machines. There’s the “H-series,” targeted at “performance laptops and mobile workstations,” and the “S-series,” which are meant for more traditional desktops. They’ll complement the two other lines of seventh-generation CPUs, which cover ultra-thin designs (the “Y-series”) and faster ultraportables (the “U-series”).


Naturally, you can expect the new desktop chips to perform better than their predecessors. Intel claims the S-series i7-7700K CPU is 25 percent faster than the i7-4770K (which, it’s worth noting, is three generations older). There’s likely a much smaller performance gap when comparing it to Intel’s fifth and sixth-generation CPUs. The company also claims the i7-7700K can “create, share and stitch” 4K 360-degree videos 35 percent faster than the 4770K. That’s a particularly niche use case to call out right now, but it might become more important as 360-degree video takes off.

When it comes to the H-series chips, Intel says they’ll perform about 20 percent faster than a comparable fourth-gen chip (the i7-4700HQ) and handle 4K 360-degree videos 65 percent faster. You’ll see the H-series in bulkier gaming and desktop-replacement laptops, and it sounds like they’ll pair pretty well with modern mobile GPUs like NVIDIA’s 10-series and AMD’s Polaris lineup (which recently made an appearance in Dell’s latest Alienware laptops).

The highest-end S-series CPU, the $339 i7-7700K, will feature a base clock speed of 4.2GHz with boost speeds up to 4.5GHz. In comparison, the 6700K was clocked between 4GHz and 4.2GHz. The new chip still packs in four cores and eight threads (thanks to Hyperthreading) and it includes Intel HD 630 graphics.

For the first time, Intel is also offering an unlocked Core i3 model, the $168 7350K, a dual-core CPU with four threads running at 4.2GHz. It’s something overclockers will appreciate, since they can tweak its speed settings to their heart’s content. And beyond that model, Intel claims all of its new seventh-gen chips will overclock better than previous models, thanks to several features that will stabilize the chips when pushing them beyond their listed speeds. The CPUs will also run on the company’s new 200-series chipset, which will support up to 24 PCI Express 3.0 chipset lanes and 10 USB 3.0 ports (along with a wealth of other technical upgrades).

Together with the new CPUs, Intel is also debuting an intriguing new technology called Optane Memory, which plugs into M.2 connections on motherboards to speed up systems. It’s not clear, exactly, how it all comes together, but Intel claims it’ll deliver SSD-like system speeds when used with a traditional hard drive. We’ll have to wait and see if it’s actually a better option than using an M.2 SSD with a hard drive, though — especially as SSD prices have fallen considerably over the years.

Just like with the earlier seventh-gen CPUs, you can expect Intel’s new desktop chips to handle 4K video pretty efficiently. That won’t mean as much for battery life savings, but it could make them much more useful for playing 4K on home theater PCs.

Basically, there’s a lot to look forward to if you’re buying a new desktop this year. But the new chips are more compelling if you’re upgrading from a system that’s a few years old, rather than something from last year. That’s a tad disappointing, but at the very least it’ll lead to some good deals on last year’s high-end CPUs.

iPhone 7 is the walled-off computer Apple has always wanted

So Apple killed the headphone jack with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. But what does that really mean? Think back to Apple’s origin story and the tale of the two young Steves, Jobs and Wozniak, building their first computer in a garage. From the start, Jobs pushed for simpler technology, with fewer ports and expandable options than other PCs had at the time. And then there was the original Mac, which was criticized for requiring special tools to open up.


That philosophy has only evolved throughout Apple’s lifetime. Look at the iMac, the iPod and, of course, the iPhone, all of which were vastly simpler and more “user-friendly” (but less “tinker-friendly”) than their competition.

Now we have portable computers whose only I/O port is Apple’s very own Lightning standard. No matter what you think of the headphone jack, there’s no doubt that losing it gives Apple even more control over what you can actually do with its latest phone. There won’t be any room for surprising innovations like Square’s credit card reader, or the shutter mechanism used by most selfie sticks. (Yes, there’s a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter included with the new iPhones, but that still gives Apple more control over how that port is used.)

To create devices for the Lightning port, accessory makers have to sign up for Apple’s MFi (Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad) program. As we say goodbye to the 3.5mm jack, we’re also saying goodbye to a port whose history goes back over 100 years, and whose development was open to just about anyone. That not only gives Apple control over what you can do with the iPhone you own, it’s also another way for it to charge developers licensing fees. (It’s possible to make counterfeit Lightning devices, but Apple doesn’t exactly encourage that.)

That Apple is pushing users toward wireless audio, which still can’t reach the quality levels of wired headphones, isn’t too surprising. Even though it revolutionized the portable music world with the iPod and iTunes, Apple historically hasn’t been concerned about how things actually sound. Early iTunes songs were highly compressed 128kbps files, and Apple pushed its awful white earbuds on consumers for years. The EarPod was a step up in quality, but it still paled in comparison with similarly inexpensive alternatives. (They’re also a terrible fit in my ears; a slight head shake is all it takes to make the EarPods fall out, which doesn’t bode well for the new wireless AirPods.)

Sure, buying Beats was a sign that Apple might finally be looking closely at audio quality, but that was also as much about brand recognition and software. At least the company was wise enough to debut a new wireless Beats lineup this week.

On the one hand, it makes sense for Apple to tighten its control over the iPhone’s hardware — it’s simply what the company has always done. The new MacBook was criticized for only having a single USB-C port, but at least that’s an industry standard. For anyone who’s used Apple products and felt trepidation over how it manages its ecosystem, the iPhone 7 is a red flag. It probably won’t be long before we see the company remove headphone jacks from the iPad, and perhaps even the MacBook. Those are also devices where internal space is scarce, after all.

In what will likely be the beginning of a tech industry meme, Apple’s marketing head, Phil Schiller, said the reason the company dumped the 3.5mm port was “courage.” But as we’ve argued endlessly, that’s not really the case. A better word for Apple’s reasoning? “Opportunistic.”


Judging from the responses on the web, the Apple faithful (unsurprisingly) is fully on board with the company’s decision to drop the 3.5mm jack. But as someone who’s invested in several pairs of great headphones, doesn’t want to have an annoying dongle sticking out of my phone all day, and enjoys the miraculous ability to listen to music and charge my phone at the same time, it’s a big problem. Most troubling to me: It limits what I can actually do with a device I own.

I won’t be upgrading to the iPhone 7, and I might even hold off on next year’s even more enticing redesign. For now, I’m planning to run my 6S into the ground. But I’m ready to give Android phones (with headphone jacks) an even harder look in the future.