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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  • RobATiOyP - Thursday, February 18, 2016 - link

    My god 2% performance gain.. and I missed out on it!!
  • Samus - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    It's still so funny how relevent those older Quad Core 2's are. I have a bunch of Q9300-ish CPU's at a client in some HP DC8000's and they're actually faster than the brand new Core i3's they just bought, same SSD's and all (and the DC8000's don't even have SATA3)
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - link

    PCIe 3.0 doesn't add much. Site tests of games with different link speeds some years ago showed very few games suffered that much even from being restricted to 4x 2.0, with most exceptions simply being badly coded games like FSX.

    Measuraby better is a bit vague. A tiny percentage difference is measurable, but in absolute terms is often not remotely worth the cost. Never mind the 2600K, there are still plenty of people running 2500K systems who are more than happy with their current setup. In reaity, newer cards are still very effective on older systems, a lot more so than many would assume (I've done plenty of tests to check this, eg. 3-way 980 SLI on P55).
  • Vatharian - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Even older platforms, like Nehalem, LGA1366 are very viable. They aren't that much overclockable, sadly, because of insane TDP, but ample connectivity and 6 ddr3 slots draw people in, not to mention it's dirt cheap now.
  • Arnulf - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    C2Duo here. I see no need to upgrade until they finally release a decent unlocked desktop CPU with integrated graphics that can beat my Radeon HD5770.

    AMD might get the sale once they finally come up with DDR4 APU (which should be able to beat HD5770) unless Intel stops going full retard with their choice of gimped integrated graphics for most recent unlocked desktop chips ...
  • RobATiOyP - Thursday, February 18, 2016 - link

    Dennard scaling is dead! You'll only see linear rather than exponential improvement, unless a radically different tech is found.
  • Skraeling - Friday, February 26, 2016 - link

    Im hoping to get the cash together and or have my system FINALLY die as its I think going on 6 years old at this point.

    Im still rocking a Q9450 / Socket 775 so skylake would be a monstrous upgrade for me.
  • JETninja - Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - link

    Microcenter has the I7 for $369.99 and the I5 for $219.99 in store pick-up only sadly....They always seem to have the best CPU prices whenever I look....
  • blahsaysblah - Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - link

    And the standard price was $320 until Black Friday.

    Still a fair price compared to Amazon and Newegg.

    Buying a computer during holiday easily nets you a free GTX970.
  • KateH - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Microcenter FTW. And there's a 20$ discount for buying an Intel CPU together with a motherboard too

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