Due to unprecedented demand, Intel’s latest Skylake processors with unlocked multiplier were significantly overpriced late last year. However, it would seem that more units are coming into retail as the popular Core i7-6700K and Core i5-6600K CPUs are becoming more readily available from multiple stores. As a result, actual retail prices of the chips have dropped in the U.S. retail in the recent weeks. Nonetheless, the most powerful Skylake-S is still listed above its suggested retail price.

Supply of Skylake-S Seems To Getting Better

Intel’s top-of-the-range processor for mainstream enthusiasts (before they make the step up to HEDT platforms), the Core i7-6700K (four cores with Hyper-Threading, 4.0 GHz/4.20 GHz, 8 MB cache, Intel HD Graphics 530 core, unlocked multiplier), has an MSRP of $350 according to Intel’s ARK. About six weeks ago, this processor in the US cost more than $420 at some stores, and was frequently in and out of stock of the biggest retailers.

However, this seems to be changing. Amazon currently (2/14) lists the Core i7-6700K for $365 but the chip is not in stock. According to CamelCamelCamel, a price-tracker that monitors Amazon and its partners, the Core i7-6700K was available from Amazon for $365 earlier this week, marking a significant shift in price. PriceZombie, which monitors Newegg, reports that the CPU is in stock and can be purchased for $412. According to NowInStock, the Core i7-6700K is available from multiple retailers but its price remains rather high (e.g., $395 – $412).

The Intel Core i5-6600K (four cores, 3.50 GHz/3.90 GHz, 6 MB cache, Intel HD Graphics 530, unlocked multiplier) is another chip in high demand by enthusiasts. The official price of the boxed version of the CPU is $243, but it was up to $290 in December. At present, both Amazon (CamelCamelCamel) and Newegg (PriceZombie) sell the part for $249 (2/14). Moreover, the Core i5-6600K CPU is readily available from a number of major retailers in the U.S., according to NowInStock.

As it appears, the availability of Intel’s Skylake-S microprocessors has improved since December and it is possible to get all the latest chips from Intel. The Core i7-6700K remains overpriced, it is still more expensive than the Core i7-5820K high-end desktop processor (six cores with Hyper-Threading, 3.30GHz/3.60 GHz, 15 MB cache, unlocked multiplier), which can be purchased for $379$385 in the U.S. Since the difference between the i7-6700K and the i7-5820K is now miniscule, for many people it makes no sense to invest in a HEDT platform, which involves purchase of an expensive Intel X99 motherboard and at least four memory modules.

Intel Boosts Shipments of 14nm Chips

According to Intel, starting from November, half of its client chips were made using 14 nm fabrication technology, which was a big breakthrough since the latest manufacturing process was a tough nut to crack for the chip giant. Intel had to delay mass production of its 14 nm CPUs from late 2013 to the second half of 2014 due to defect densities. The ramp up of mass production may mean that the defect densities are getting lower.

“As of November, 14nm products made up more than 50% of the client computing volume,” said Brian Krzanich, chief executive of Intel, during the Q4 2015 Earnings Conference Call with investors and financial analysts.

Image from Intel

Starting from the third quarter of fiscal 2015, Intel has been using its Fab 24 manufacturing facility in Leixlip, Ireland, to produce its chips using 14 nm fabrication process. Earlier Intel produced its chips using this technology only in its D1D, D1C and D1X fabs in Hillsboro, Oregon. As Intel ramps up production at Fab 24, shipments of its latest microprocessors are growing. The chip giant does not readily disclose what exactly it produces and where, so it is impossible to say for sure that supply of higher-end Skylake-S models is gradually improving because of the Fab 24 ramp, although given what we do know it seems more than likely.

Nonetheless, it is evident that supply of Intel’s unlocked processors has gotten better, just like the share of Broadwell and Skylake CPUs has gotten higher in Intel’s shipments. At present Intel offers various 14 nm chips, including processors for desktops and laptops featuring Broadwell and Skylake micro-architectures, SoCs for tablets and notebooks based on Skylake and Airmont micro-architectures and so on. The company also plans to start shipments of its new Xeon processors featuring Broadwell-EP cores (as well as new Broadwell-E HEDT offerings) in the first half of the year.

Intel: Demand for Core i7 Sets Records

It is interesting to note that demand for higher-end Core i7 and unlocked processors set a record in fiscal year 2015, according to Intel. Strong demand for CPUs for gamers and overclockers partly explains deficit of Intel’s unlocked Skylake-S chips late last year.

“For the year, high-end Core i7 microprocessors and our K SKUs for gaming, both set all-time volume records, leading to our rich product mix,” Mr. Krzanich told investors and analysts.

If demand for high-end SKUs is so high, it is not surprising that Intel is allegedly trying to limit overclocking to its Core i7 Extreme (HEDT) as well as Core i7/i5-K product lineups. There is simply no need for the company to enable overclocking for lower-end models if users are eager to buy higher-end parts. Unfortunately, it is also evident that demand for the high-end Core i7-6700K is still high enough to drive the price up at the retailer.

Relevant Reading

Skylake-K Review: Core i7-6700K and Core i5-6600K - CPU Review
Comparison between the i7-6700K and i7-2600K in Bench - CPU Comparison
Overclocking Performance Mini-Test to 4.8 GHz - Overclocking
Skylake Architecture Analysis - Architecture
Non-K BCLK Overclocking is Being Removed - Overclocking Update

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  • coolhardware - Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - link

    Amen brother. Only a 2500K with GTX 960 here, but it's doing what I need. :-)
  • Vatharian - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    2600K @ 5.2 GHz + 2x GTX 970 + Intel 510+520, can't see here one too.
  • Margalus - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    i7-930 @ 3.6ghz, 12GB ram, gtx 980ti with intel 520 ssds and samsung 850 evo ssd's.

    Waiting on the Broadwell 8-10 core cpu's to hit before upgrading. Another quad core just wouldn't be enough of an upgrade to justify itself for me.
  • blahsaysblah - Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - link

    i7-4790k -> i7-5xxxk -> i7-6700k. Not only skipped a year, but also a delayed release.

    For what its worth: I only upgraded from my Q6600@3.0GHz a few months back because i needed SLAT opcodes for Hyper-V. Otherwise, i sorta regret the upgrade, its just not that much better.

    Personally was waiting for SATA to be removed from motherboards and only M.2 slots.
  • ikjadoon - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Case designers need to catch the fuck up, too. Why do we still have 5.25" bays and 3.5" bays all over? I get it; some people need it. But, what about the rest of us? :(
  • svan1971 - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Well Blu Ray drives are still 5.25 last I checked and if you can't find a mid tower or smaller without 5.25 bays you aren't looking to hard enough.
  • Vatharian - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    I'm really sad that 8cm disks didn't fly off. We would have 3.5" optical drives now. And on 8cm bluray holds 7.5 GB of data on single layer.
  • Vatharian - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    I need as much as possible 5.25" bays. I'm using two adapters 1x5.25" to 6x 2.5" to house SSDs, fan controller, LC controller (Aquaero), double bay liquid reservoir, four hot-swappable trayless hdd bays, and general purpose panel with usb 3.0, card reader, and dip switches to control PSU settings. That's 11, I'm full (to be honest my case has 10 slots, but I'm creative), and I have a couple of other devices that I'd like to stick it there.
  • Vatharian - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    m.2 is fine as boot/main work drive, but for general-purpose storage SATA is fine. I have ~13 TB of data, that would cost me an arm and a leg to store on m.2 devices. I need faster than GbE transfer on that data, so NAS is out of the question, but I don't need 300-400 MB. So I'm mixing up mechanical and flash storage, slowly replacing hdds with SSDs, but I'm running out of SATA. I have one 4 port controller, but I'm out of PCIe- slots. If I made a switch it would be to a HEDT platform (think about ASRock X99-Extreme 11 with ~20 SATA connectors). But the race to limit options of desktop users is on :(
  • SpookyRonnie - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    No they did not, remember Broadwell? Yeah I don't believe you did, it was the i7-5775c, its still an unlocked variant just did not focus on IPS performance rather power performance. That's why it never hit the mainstream, it was only a 2% performance increase off the i7-4790k

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