Shortages Plague Intel's Coffee Lake Launch

If you're having a hard time finding a Coffee Lake processor to buy, you're not alone. There has been limited, and extremely spotty, availability. A lucky few managed to snag Intel's latest, but sales have come to a screeching halt as e-tailers' virtual shelves have already been picked dry. The shortages began with the overclocking-friendly K-Series chips but have begun to cascade down to the more accessible models, such as the i5-8400. That could represent some shoppers purchasing the less desirable models due to the dearth of K-Series chips.

Coffee Lake is compelling for would-be CPU buyers. As we found in our Core i7-8700K review, the bulked up processor nets impressive performance gains, particularly in heavily threaded applications. That addresses AMD's key advantage with its Ryzen lineup. As promising as that may be, though, most of us still can't buy a K-Series i5 or i7 Coffee Lake processor.

We reached out to Intel for comment on the shortages, and the company responded:

The 8th Gen Intel Core desktop processors and systems are on sale globally. We’re actively working with our retailers to fulfill strong interest from customers on the i7-8700k SKU.

We informed Intel of the widespread Core i5-8400 shortages, and the company is looking into the matter and should have a response soon.

It's hard to gauge the number of units Intel shipped for the launch. It's possible that unforeseen levels of demand have hamstrung early sales, but it's also possible that Intel shipped a limited number of SKUs. We did spot the Core i7-8700K riding atop Amazon's Best Seller list for a few hours after launch, indicating initial sales (or preorders) were swift, but it quickly fell as stock ran dry. It's now plummeted to #12 and continues to fall. That's not surprising given that you can't buy them.

Newegg, B&H Photo, and Amazon, among many others, don't have the processors in stock, and some have canceled preorder offers. Adding insult to injury, most of the lucky buyers have to wait 15 to 20 days for their units to ship.

Enthusiasts have been busy sharing their conversations with retailers on forums and Reddit. One post claimed that Newegg will have stock in 15 days, and another purported conversation with Amazon indicates the retailer has ordered 3,000+ Core i7-8700K's to meet demand. Unfortunately, the retailers say those units aren't expected for three to five weeks.

The limited Coffee Lake availability poses several questions, so naturally, theories abound. It's clear that AMD's Ryzen is putting intense pressure on Intel's Kaby Lake lineup, so the company has undoubtedly lost more than a few sales to the newcomer. Intel's last financial disclosure didn't expose any glaring losses in revenue that would indicate lost market share, but many theorize that Intel's pending financial disclosures will reflect the lost sales. If that's the case, having a more competitive architecture in the channel should help Intel soothe the skittish investor crowd. 

Intel is also cognizant of the looming holiday season, so introducing a more competitive lineup, even without widespread availability, could be designed to slow Ryzen sales as we enter the most lucrative part of the year.

You can head over to eBay and get scalped for a $900 i7-8700K, but it appears that widespread availability at normal retail outlets will not come soon. We've got a price watch article up and will update as we learn more.

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  • U6b36ef
    I think there always was going to be a shortage. I think Intel pushed this paper launch early, to stop people thinking about Ryzen.
  • theworkshop40
    AMD is leaped over Intel. Bit like the rabbit and hare story. Well done AMD. My next system will be AMD inside.