6600K

It’s August 5th, 2015, and Intel has just launched, Skylake, its most important product line since 2013’s Haswell. But like Broadwell before it, the launch has gone every way but straight. Only two products are officially released, the top-of-the-line Core i7-6700K and mid-range Core i5-6600K, and strangely, neither is available in the United States, where Intel is based the last time we checked. Apparently Europe has some supply (at least of the 6600K), but the U.S. won’t see Skylake until August 14th, apparently, and that’s only in a bundle with a motherboard, and it’s only the 6600K so far. But that’s not all…

One would think that after the aborted June launch of Broadwell on the desktop, which never became available to consumers, Intel would get this right. Could it be that having absolutely no competition in the CPU arena (AMD, we’re looking at you) has made Intel weak at the knees? Another odd factor: Intel allowed reviewers to benchmark the CPUs, but didn’t provide processor schematics or really any details at all.

Our take on all these shenanigans? Intel has fallen too far behind its launch schedule, causing a stir among its launch partners, i.e., the motherboard manufacturers, which put a lot of money into testing and marketing new chipsets, specifically the Z170 required for the 6600K/6700K. And unlike with Broadwell, Intel couldn’t just decide not to ship its “released” product, because in that case, board partners didn’t need to release new boards (they’d actually been released the year before using the Z97 chipset).

And, and how about the performance of the new CPUs? Well, the consensus among reviewers is that the 6700K beats its Haswell predecessor by about 10%, overclocks to about the same level, actually uses more power, and costs about $10 more. The fact that Intel has also dropped the bundled cooler from the package, worth at least $15, makes this all sting that much more. Then there’s the fact that the DDR4 memory that most boards will require costs about 10-20% more than equivalent DDR3. And of course those new motherboards are also about 10-20% more than the year-old models they replace. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Overall, we just don’t view this as a compelling product launch. But for new PC buyers come September, when the retail channel will hopefully have caught up with Intel’s marketing hoopla, Skylake will be a worthy if more expensive alternative to Haswell. It’s just a shame that consumers now have to go begging and pleading to Intel for 10% boosts to performance every two years. We’re just lucky Intel’s CPUs are all plenty fast for most consumer needs, and have been for quite some time, ever since Intel left AMD in the dust.