Only if they are seriously discounted.

At the time of writing (11/1/2017), Intel has not released the 8th-generation counterparts that succeed and replace the 6th/7th-gen H-series Skylake/Kaby Lake processors, e.g. i7-6700HQ/7700HQ. Why is this a big deal for your holiday shopping this season? Because those 8th-gen processors that have been released all brought significant improvements over their respective predecessors.

Instead of mere small tweaks and refinements, Intel added two more cores into its 8th-generation CPUs including everything from i3 to i7. As a result, the old i5/i7 looks more like an i3 in the new generation of products.

What this means is two-fold.

  • The i7-8700HQ/8700H/8700HH, whatever the name is, is going to be MUCH faster than i7-6700HQ/7700HQ.

While it is impossible for me to know what i7-8700HQ will look like at this point, if the rest of the 8th-gen lineup is any indication, it is going to be a 6-core 12-thread part just like its desktop counterpart. Besides 50% more cores/threads, higher boost clocks is also in order. A small price increase is expected, but will be easily justified based on a performance-per-dollar metric, just like on the desktop (in particular, non-K SKUs such as i5-8500 and i7-8700).

Even if you can’t wait for i7-8700HQ (or whatever it’s going to be called), consider this:

  • An ultrabook with i7-8550U/8650U or i5-8250U/8350U isn’t much slower than your bulky 15/17-inch with i7-6700HQ/7700HQ when it comes to CPU performance.

What really puts the i7-6700HQ/7700HQ in an awkward position is the 8th-generation U-series, e.g. i7-8550U/8650U, i5-8250U/8350U. These are now 4-core/8-thread processors just like the i7-6700HQ/7700HQ. The i7-8550U/8650U even has larger cache than the i7-6700HQ/7700HQ. Yes, an 8th-gen 15-Watt CPU aimed for “thin and light laptops” is now equally or better equipped than a 6th/7th-gen 45-Watt CPU aimed for “performance laptops”. It used to be that you could trade off portability for more performance. That is still true today – but the additional CPU performance you get in return for the larger size and extra weight is much less than before.

What To Do

  • If laptops with i7-6700HQ/7700HQ are on sale, and I mean with DEEP discount, go for it. There are no bad products; only bad prices.
  • If gaming performance is your top priority and you absolutely need a new laptop before Intel releases the i7-8700HQ (or whatever it’s going to be called), go for it. (Gaming laptops are still shipping with i7-6700HQ/7700HQ).
  • Ultrabooks are in a similar situation, and in some sense even worse. You should absolutely avoid i5-7200U/7300U and i7-7500U/7600U because i7-8550U/8650U and i5-8250U/8350U are available TODAY. We are talking dual-core vs. quad-core, and in my experience you don’t need to be a power user to feel the difference.

Final Thoughts

The year 2017 is special. Put this way: you haven’t missed out on much even if you didn’t upgrade your computer in the last five years. That is why so many tech media are doing comparative benchmarks of the i7-2600K vs. i7-8700K. After incremental changes year after year for the last 5 years, Intel in 2017 finally upgraded its processors in a major way. I do not expect a similar dilemma in 2018 or for a while, but that is also precisely why you need to make smart decisions this coming holiday shopping season.

Isn’t competition a beautiful thing?

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