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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  • asmian - Thursday, February 18, 2016 - link

    Plus Haswell-E (and Broadwell) are the last platforms WITHOUT SGX extensions. So if you value your privacy/security versus NSA and anyone else sneaking malware/spyware onto your machine that cannot be debugged, snooped on or otherwise monitored once loaded, X99 is probably the last safe platform to get. For the same price, added security, more processor PCIe lines AND for 6 cores versus 4, THAT's the no-brainer option over a vanishing fraction more single-thread performance in Skylake.

    I just wish the more adventurous mobo-makers (like ASRock) would revisit and update X99 with some of the latest bells and whistles as standard onboard, like more than one PCIe M2 NVME and replacing extinct SATA Express with USB 3.1 without messy patch solutions.
  • hapkiman - Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - link

    I upgraded from a i7 3770 rig and am very pleased with the i7 6700k. Had no problems at all, and it's fast as a rocket. It was worth it for me. Plus I just happen to have caught it in stock at Newegg for $375. But man was that price fluctuating wildly. I was checking New Egg/Amazon/Tiger D and even Micro Center all day and got lucky.
  • faizoff - Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - link

    2500K @4.3 Ghz, Crucial 480 GB M500 SSD, 8GB RAM and Radeon HD 6870. I doubt I'll be upgrading anytime soon. I did have 16 GB of RAM before but transferred 8 GB from that to my home server/NAS build. Which was a good project and I guess an experiment into later CPUs. Got a Haswell Pentium G3258, coupled it with a Crucial 128 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM and the H97 pro from ASRock and it's smoking with Win Server 2012. I'm too lazy to upgrade it as it does fine for my needs.
  • darckhart - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    X58, xeon 5650. 6-cores at 4 GHz. 980 Ti. def no reason to upgrade yet...
  • TomWomack - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    i5/750, four cores at 2.66GHz, integrated in one of those beautiful Apple 2560x1440 monitors; why would I ever upgrade?
  • KateH - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Still on Core 2 over here- Q6600 G0 @ 3.6Ghz on an X38 board with 8GB of DDR2, a couple of 250GB SSDs for system/apps/photos + 2TB spinning RAID-10 for backups, and a GTX670 (4GB version)- runs the older games I play (STALKER, Metro 2033 and the like) at 3840x2160 pretty ok and handles Adobe suite (Premiere, Photoshop, Lightroom) fine! Main reason I'd consider upgrading this winter/spring is to get SATA3 and onboard USB3- but likely I'm going to hold out till end of the year and see if AMD Zen is worth it; if not I'll wait till i5 7600K comes out and drives 6600K prices down a bit. Or hell, I may as well get a used 3570K 'cause Skylake still doesn't improve *that* much on IB/SB.

    Now that Intel shut down BCLK overclocking on Skylake, it would be nice to see a <150$ i3 6400K for budget gamers. Would be a better option than the Pentium G3258, and would in all likelihood offer the same gaming performance as the >200$ i5's.
  • svan1971 - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Sure they are only they aren't and availability still sucks.
  • jeffbui - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    BHPhoto had an amazing deal on a 6500k w/ Gigabyte mobo for $280.00 last week. I'm on an i5-750, almost pulled the trigger.
  • HollyDOL - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    I have 2500K myself. Judging from the benchmarks I thought there is still no need to upgrade since the performance difference ain't that big to justify the expenses (after all 2500K still handles everything I throw on it).
    Then I built a computer for a relative with 6100T. Funny enough, it feels and reacts significantly faster than my 2500K. It was quite suprising discovery tbh. Ofc not that significantly to drop everything and run to buy new machine.
  • Arnulf - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Fresh OS install will do that ...

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