Has processor performance finally maxed out?

Benchmarks show no jump from Skylake to Kaby Lake. But Intel says there are still performance gains to be had.

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Gains in processor performance have diminished over the years. In the old days, going from a 25 MHz 486 to a 50 MHz 486 actually doubled performance. But for the last few generations of processors, performance gains have been under 10 percent, at best, for each successive generation.

Now it's starting to look like performance isn't just slowing but coming to a stop. The Chinese hobbyist site Expreview recently published a series of tests comparing Kaby Lake, Intel's newest processor, to Skylake, its prior-generation chip.

At their stock clock speeds, the Kaby Lake processor is up to 7.4 percent faster on average in single-threaded tests and up to 8.88 percent faster on average in multi-threaded performance compared to Skylake. But when the testers clocked both chips at 4.0 GHz and tested through the same 11 CPU benchmarks, the Kaby Lake Core i7-7700K was 0.86 percent slower in single-threaded tests, and 0.02 percent slower in multi-threaded tests. These are numbers that basically require a benchmark to find the difference.

A review from Ars Technica confirmed it. Any performance gains in Kaby Lake are negligible and merely resulted from the clock speed ticking up.

However, Anand Srivatsa, general manager of Intel's desktop platform group, insists that performance has not peaked, and sees other improvements in the new chip.

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