Intel has launched a new suite of 10th Generation mobile CPUs in the Comet Lake family. Like other recent product launches, these chips are also based on 14nm (Ice Lake notwithstanding), but Intel has pulled out the frequency stops for this lineup of parts.
The previous 9th Gen Core i7 CPUs top out at 6 cores and 4.6GHz Turbo, while the 9th Gen Mobile Core i9 family ran up to eight cores and 5GHz. With 10th Gen, Intel is pushing the envelope further, with several chips landing at 5GHz or above in both the Core i7 and Core i9 families:
So, how much is CPU performance changing? The top-end 10980HK picks up +300MHz in terms of Turbo frequency and the Core i7-10875H introduces an eight-core part into the i7 family. There’s no direct comparison here, but the Core i9-9980H was an 8C/16T 2.3GHz / 4.8GHz CPU, while the i7-10875H is an 8C/16 chip at 2.3GHz / 5.1GHz.
The Core i7-10750H holds the same 2.6GHz base frequency as its 9th Gen counterpart, but adds 500MHz of Turbo frequency, with burst speeds up to 5GHz now and the same 6C/12T configuration as its predecessor. According to Intel, the Core i9-10980HK has a tau of 56 seconds, while all of the other chips in the 10th Gen family have a tau of 28 seconds. Tau is the length of time the CPU can remain in its PL2 state, which is the higher power-draw configuration. The i9-10980HK has a PL2 of 65W but PL2 is OEM-configurable and can be turned up to as much as 135W. The all-core turbo on the Core i9-10980HK is 4.4GHz, which is pretty solid for an 8-core CPU in a 45W TDP, but holding maximum frequency does depend on power consumption.
It’s not clear what to expect from Comet Lake, as far as sustained performance advantage over 9th Gen. Intel has mostly increased its boost clocks rather than base, and since base clocks are used to derive TDP, this explains how the company can advertise higher boosts without needing to raise its TDP figures. That doesn’t mean 10th Gen chips can’t outperform 9th Gen CPUs, though: Aggressive binning to reduce the power consumption of these chips at high-frequency operation and process node tuning to maximum high-frequency efficiency could both yield dividends, even when 10th and 9th Gen chips are both built on the same process node.
The 10th Gen family continues to support features like Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB), which attempts to push CPU clocks higher if temperatures are low enough and the power budget is available. Features like Turbo Boost Max 3.0 are being deployed in the Core i9 family, with support for standards like DDR4-2933, though Intel CPUs aren’t terribly dependent on memory frequency.
During these sorts of briefings, Intel and AMD make a number of claims about how much they’ve improved performance between their current flagship hardware and a typical system from 3-5 years back. Of course, these are always intended to showcase how much CPU performance has improved in the relevant period of time, but I happened to have run some tests recently comparing the 7700HQ (2016 45W CPU) to the Surface Laptop 3’s Core i7-1065G7 (Ice Lake, 10nm). It was downright interesting to see the areas where the 15W CPU could tie or even exceed the 45W chip — as well as the spots where the four-year-old Kaby Lake could stretch its legs and take the crown back from Ice Lake.
Of course, the challenge for Intel this year isn’t competing with its own 3-4-year-old hardware, but tackling AMD’s Ryzen Mobile 4000 family. We hope to have data on that match-up for you soon — our own review of the 4900HS was delayed by technical difficulties compounded by Covid-19, but we’re working on it.
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