What's to Like?

So we’ve seen all the performance numbers and how Kaby Lake G stacks up to a range of hardware, and we’ve gotta say, we’re pretty impressed with what Intel has managed to achieve here. It’s not going to blow your socks off with screaming fast levels of performance, but with the Core i7-8705G we’re getting a CPU that’s a bit faster than a Core i7-7700HQ and a GPU in the GTX 1050 to 1050 Ti range on a single chip.

And all of that goodness fits into a TDP that makes the chip suitable for use in slim and light notebooks. It’s basically the fastest single-chip compute solution available with a great balance of CPU and GPU power, and that’s all been made possible through combining Intel’s solid high-end mobile CPU with a powerful GPU from AMD. A strange combination for sure and something we didn’t think we’d ever see, but here we are, it exists and it’s definitely quite compelling.

However, while the Core i7-8705G is an interesting technical achievement, its competitiveness up against other potential hardware combinations for ultrathin laptops is questionable. And we think a lot of that comes down to Intel almost shooting themselves in the foot through the inclusion of a quad-core CPU rather than going all out with a six-core Coffee Lake CPU.

By not including the latest CPU technology in this fascinating APU-type product, and then releasing it alongside new faster CPUs, Intel has basically allowed a CPU + discrete GPU option to better compete with Kaby Lake G than it otherwise could have.

Take the combination of a Core i7-8750H and discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, the very combination you’ll get with the latest Dell XPS 15. With this combo, you’ll get slightly more GPU power than the Core i7-8705G with Vega M GL, but crucially you’ll get two extra cores and 40 to 50 percent more CPU power. And that’s one of Intel’s own products directly competing against and providing a better option than Kaby Lake G.

Of course, competing on performance is only one part of the story, it also comes down to price and power consumption in a lot of cases. Unfortunately, right now it appears Kaby Lake G is more expensive to integrate than the 8750H + GTX 1050 Ti, for a lower level of performance.

While not a direct apples to apples comparison, the XPS 15 2-in-1 with Kaby Lake G is $250 more expensive than an otherwise identically configured XPS 15 with the 8750H and 1050 Ti inside. Even when factoring in a rough $100 price premium for the 2-in-1 design (the exact margin used for Dell’s 13-inch variants), Kaby Lake G is adding to the total system cost, or at best costing as much as the 8705H + 1050 Ti combo option.

There may be some power savings to be had with Kaby Lake G, but right now it seems that a thin and light notebook cooler in a 15-inch system like the Dell XPS 15 line is quite capable of dealing with the power consumption of either this processor, or the 8750H paired with a GTX 1050 Ti.

While we tend to think an 8750H plus GTX 1050 Ti will offer more performance and a better experience for laptop owners, we don’t think Kaby Lake G or the Core i7-8705G is completely useless. The single-chip design of Kaby Lake G provides a clear space advantage over two separate chips and additional VRAM modules.

If properly harnessed, this advantage could lead to more space for other components like batteries and storage drives, or it could bring this level of performance to smaller devices. Either of those things would be a huge win and would allow Kaby Lake G to occupy market segments the 8750H plus GTX 1050 Ti could not service. In products shipping right now, though, like the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1, we don’t think that advantage is being fully utilized.

There’s also a lot of promise to this single chip, large GPU design and we think a second-generation to this product line could be highly competitive. Simply upgrading the CPU to a six-core design, or whatever Intel is using in their top-end H-series chips, along with refining the GPU to squeeze a bit more out of the power envelope would do wonders for this processor. It’s not unusual to see teething issues with a first-gen product like this, especially when it’s competing against a refined product offering.

Shopping Shortcuts

  • Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 (Core i7-8705G) on Dell, Amazon
  • Intel NUC Hades Canyon (Core i7-8809G) on Amazon
  • HP Spectre x360 15 (Core i7-8705G) on Amazon