Intel 10th Generation Processors Explained

Intel’s 10th Generation Lineup is confusing.

It’s not just the naming scheme that is difficult to comprehend but also the fact that Intel is using multiple architectures with different fabrication nodes (14nm & 10nm) in the same generation.

Before we get into the details, let me just clear the basics:

The 10th Gen Intel Processors use two different microarchitectures, one is the refresh of Skylake (14nm) and the other is based on Intel’s latest Sunny Cove microarchitecture (10nm).

Comet Lake (Laptop & Desktop) and Cascade Lake-X (High-End Desktops) are based on 14nm and they are just another refresh of Skylake like the 7th, 8th, and 9th Generation. While the Ice Lake (Laptop) lineup is based on the new Sunny Cove microarchitecture and is manufactured using Intel’s 10nm node.

Intel 10th Gen Architectures

Ice Lake is only limited to Laptops for this generation due to lower yields and the inability to hit higher clock speeds. Hence, all the IPC and Power Efficiency benefits of Sunny Cove and 10nm are limited to Laptops. Also, Intel’s Gen 11 Integrated GPU which is significantly faster than previous-gen can only be found on Ice Lake as of now.

Lastly, only the Low-Power (15W & 9W) Ice Lake chips are available as of now and these are limited to 4 Cores/8 Threads.

Moving on to Comet Lake, the Comet Lake U-Series (15W) have already been launched with up to 6 Cores/12 Threads. The High-End H-Series will be available very soon in Q1 2020. For Desktops, we have Comet Lake-S which requires the new LGA 1200 socket and will have up to 10 Cores/20 Threads. Intel is yet to launch the 10th Gen Desktop chips but according to rumors, these should arrive sometime in the first half of 2020.

Let’s check out Intel’s lineup in each product category.

    Laptop CPUs

In Laptop space, we have Ice Lake (10nm) and Comet Lake (14nm). Let’s first talk about Ice Lake.

Ice Lake

Intel’s Ice Lake lineup consists of Low-Power (U & Y Series) CPUs with a nominal TDP of 15W that OEMs can configure up to 25W. The flagship CPU of Ice Lake lineup is Core i7-1068G7 with a TDP of 28W. However, this chip is yet to make its way to the OEMs.

One of the most disappointing things about this lineup is that it is limited to only 4 Cores. While AMD’s Zen 2 based Renoir lineup has 8 Cores even in the Low-Power 15W parts. This would lead to a significantly lower Multi-Threaded performance when compared against AMD.

Intel Ice Lake Details

Intel has significantly improved the Graphics Performance with the new Gen 11 and low-end Games can run with ease without needing a discrete Graphics Card.

Intel has also improved the Memory Controller and now it supports LPDDR4x Memory up to 3733 MT/s and DDR4 Memory up to 3200 MT/s. Thunderbolt 3 & Wi-Fi 6 is also integrated with the Ice Lake chipset.

Here is the complete Ice Lake lineup.

Ice Lake SKUs

Integrated GPUs with 64 & 48 execution units come under the family name of Intel Iris Graphics while the ones with 32 units come under Intel UHD Graphics.

The naming scheme used in Ice Lake is pretty absurd and quite different from the previous generations. Let me explain how to decode the product names.

Ice Lake Naming

First up, we have the Family name and that can be i3/i5/i7 which we already know about. The next two numbers, i.e. ’10’ represents that it is a 10th Generation Part. Comet Lake CPUs will also begin with the number 10.

The next digit, i.e. 35 represent the relative performance within a family (i5/i7) and the 5 here also represents the TDP. 9W chips have a Power Level value of 0, 15W chips have a Power value of 5 and 28W chips have a power level value 8.

Finally, the last two digits represent the Graphics Performance. G7 shows that the GPU has 64 Execution Units, while G4 & G1 stand for 48 & 32 execution units respectively.

Intel’s Gen11 Graphics are significantly better than the previous one. Now, the Integrated Graphics are good enough to compete against AMD’s Vega iGPUs in Ryzen 3000 lineup. However, it is weaker than AMD’s Renoir APUs.

Ice Lake Graphics Performance

Many E-Sports titles like Rainbox 6 Siege. CS: GO, and Fortnite has shown a massive improvement in the performance. These games are now playable at 720p High/1080p Low.

We are currently in the process to rank Ice Lake chips in our CPU List, but the initial performance results aren’t as impressive as we expected.

Comet Lake

Next up, we have the Comet Lake, which is another refresh of Skylake on 14nm after Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, and Coffee Lake-R. But the mature 14nm+++ process allows higher clock speeds and better yields.

At the time of writing this article, Intel has only unveiled the low-power U-Series (15W) and Y-Series (7W). The High-performance H-Series (45W) will be launched sometime in Q1 2020.

With Comet Lake, you can expect a slight boost in performance when compared to the 9th Gen due to the higher clock speeds.

Comet Lake Laptop

The naming scheme used here is similar to what we have seen in the previous-gen Intel CPUs. The Integrated GPU of Comet Lake also belongs to the previous architecture. The Core i7-10710U, i7-10510U, i5-10210U, and i3-10110U use the Intel UHD Graphics 620 that we have already reviewed a few years back.

At CES 2020, Intel gave a sneak peek of the High-Performance H-Series Laptop CPUs. These should be announced very soon.

Intel Comet-Lake-H CPUs

    Mainstream Desktop

Intel’s 10th Gen Desktop Processors will be based on 14nm Comet Lake and they are expected to come in the first half of 2020. There are also some rumors pointing out that the high-power consumption of the Core i9-10900K is the reason behind the delay of Desktop CPUs.

Comet Lake

The Desktop lineup of Comet Lake will offer up to 10 Cores/20 Threads for the Core i9 and rumors are indicating that Intel will enable Hyper-Threading across the whole lineup in order to compete with 3rd Gen Ryzen.

When it comes to Gaming Performance, I’m expecting Intel to extend its lead even further. But in Productivity and Multi-Threaded workloads, the 12-Core Ryzen 9 3900X and the 16-Core 3950X will crush the 10900K.

The Core i7-10700K and Core i5-10600K can outperform Ryzen 7 3700X and Ryzen 5 3600 respectively if Intel enables Hyper-Threading. But in terms of value for money, AMD would still be ahead due to the lower price, included cooler, and not requiring an expensive Z Series Motherboard for overclocking.

AMD’s upcoming Zen 3 chips should take back the lead from Core i7-10700K and Core i5-10600K in productivity.

Rumoured Specification:

Name Cores/Threads Base Clock Single Core Turbo All Core Turbo TDP
Core-i9 10900K 10/20 3.7 GHz 5.1 GHz 4.8 GHz 125W
Core-i7 10700K 8/16 3.8 GHz 5.0 GHz 4.7 GHz 125W
Core-i5 10600K 6/12 4.1 GHz 4.8 GHz 4.5 GHz 125W

Intel will also announce the new Z490 Chipset and unfortunately, the existing Intel Motherboards WILL NOT support 10th Gen CPUs as it will require the new LGA 1200 Socket. Comet Lake will still be on PCIe 3.0 and thus, it won’t be able to take advantage of the faster PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs.

    High-End Desktop (HEDT)

Just like the Mainstream Desktops, Intel’s 10th Gen HEDT lineup is a refresh of the 14nm Skylake-X Architecture.

Cascade Lake-X

The CPUs in Cascade Lake-X lineup are identical to the 9th Gen HEDT parts and in our Benchmarks, they performed nearly the same. However, they cost nearly half as 9th Gen.

As they are limited to  18 Cores, they offer no competition to 3rd Gen Threadripper which starts at 24 Cores and goes all the way up to 64. In some of the productivity tests, even the AMD’s mainstream Ryzen 9 3950X manages to outperform Intel’s flagship Core i9-10980XE.

Cascade Lake-X

Cascade Lake-X was the most disappointing lineup among 10th Generation CPUs. The only CPU in this lineup that might interest some users is the 10980XE which is priced at $979 and it is between the Ryzen 9 3950X ($750) and Threadripper 3960X ($1400).

You can consider the 10980XE if the applications you’re going to use favor Intel chips and the Threadripper 3960X it too expensive your budget. But for the majority of the users, Ryzen 9 and 3rd Gen Threadripper will make more sense.

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