What We Know about Intel’s 10th-Gen Desktop CPUs

Alex

For the past few years, Intel has just barely been able to eke out a competitive edge against AMD’s wildly successful Ryzen chips. For straight gaming, Intel’s i7 and i9 chips have been the leader, albeit by a slim margin over AMD’s multitasking powerhouse lineup of CPUs.

Will Intel’s 10th generation, dubbed Comet Lake-S, change all that? Here’s what we know about Intel’s next generation of desktop CPUs.

What Was Intel’s Tick-Tock Production Model?

Up until 2016, Intel followed a “tick-tock” production model, where every “tick” represented a shrinking of the process technology of the previous microarchitecture. This was typically followed by a “tock,” designating a new microarchitecture. Recent generations of Intel’s chips have been little more than a slight improvement on the 14-nanometer microarchitecture first released with Skylake in 2015. Intel has been working on 10nm microarchitecture for a few years, initially planning to release the 10nm Cannon Lake back in 2016 (as another “tick”), but it looks like 10nm will be limited to laptops featuring the 10nm Ice Lake CPUs and server chips. Remember, AMD is already on 7nm with Zen 2.

This isn’t all Intel’s fault. Chip manufacturers are running into the limits of Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors on a microchip will double every two years, while the cost of those computers will be reduced by half. Companies like Intel are already running into the limits of silicon transistors, and manufacturing smaller, more powerful and more efficient chips isn’t cost-effective. For now, Intel is squeezing every last bit out of the 14nm, tocking away without a tick in sight.

Intel’s 10th-Gen CPUs

In the next generation of Intel CPUs, we’ll see the usual series of Intel SKUs—Core i3, i5, i7, and i9—all of which will feature increased core counts, up to 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes, and Intel Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+) support, among other goodies.

Images published by WCCFTech confirm that the Core i5-10400 will be a six-core chip with 12 threads—breaking with years past, Intel is adding hyperthreading support to all chips, possibly to compete with Ryzen’s multi-threading capabilities. The i5 will have a base clock of 3.0 GHz, with a boost of up to 4.4GHz.

At the high end, the i9-10900K will feature 10 cores and 20 threads, with an all-core boost clock up to 4.9 GHz with Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB), a technology first introduced in the Coffee Lake-R chips (9th-Gen). TVB increases clock speed above Turbo Boost if there’s enough temperature headroom. In most cases, this feature is only possible with premium AIO or closed-loop cooling setups. Without TVB, the i9 chip will max out at 4.8 GHz on all cores. Single-core clocks will also be able to hit 5.3 GHz with TVB (or 5.2 GHz with standard Turbo Boost).

The rest of the product line will feature turbo frequencies above 4.0 GHz, as well as cache increases, which will also boost performance.

Here’s the expected lineup, unofficial and unconfirmed by Intel:

CPU Cores / Threads Base Clock All-Core Boost Clock Single-Core Boost
Cache TDP
Core i9-10900K 10/20 3.7 GHz 4.9 GHz* (4.8 GHz) 5.3 GHz* (5.1 GHz) 20 MB 125W
Core i9-10900 10/20 2.8 GHz 4.6 GHz* (4.5 GHz) 5.2 GHz* (5.0 GHz) 20 MB 65W
Core i7-10700K 8/16 3.8 GHz 4.7 GHz 5.0 GHz 16 MB 125W
Core i7-10700 8/16 2.9 GHz 4.8 GHz 4.7 GHz 16 MB 65W
Core i5-10600K 6/12 4.1 GHz 4.5 GHz 4.8 GHz 12 MB 125W
Core i5-10600 6/12 3.3 GHz 4.4 GHz 4.8 GHz 12 MB 65W
Core i5-10500 6/12 3.1 GHz 4.2 GHz 4.5 GHz 12 MB 65W
Core i5-10400 6/12 2.9 GHz 4.0 GHz 4.3 GHz 12 MB 65W
Core i3-10350K 4/8 TBA TBA TBA 8 MB 125W
Core i3-10320 4/8 3.8 GHz 4.4 GHz 4.6 GHz 8 MB 65 W
Core i3-10300 4/8 3.7 GHz 4.2 GHz 4.4 GHz 8 MB 65 W

*With Thermal Velocity Boost. The clock speed in parentheses is the expected boost clock without TVB.

What About Power?

Recent leaks and rumors are suggesting Intel is pushing the 14nm microarchitecture to its limits. A recent post on German tech site Computerbase (translation via Google Translate) reported that the i9 chip will exceed 300 watts on maximum load, making it the most power-hungry mainstream CPU ever produced on the 14nm microarchitecture.

Intel 10th-Gen Release Date

Intel has not yet revealed a release date, but recent rumors and leaks line up with a spring or early-summer announcement. We might hear more at Computex 2020 in early June.

Intel 10th-Gen Prices

Prices for Intel’s next generation of desktop CPUs haven’t yet been announced, but we expect them to remain competitive with AMD’s latest chips, perhaps even undercutting AMD on price-to-performance. As usual, it looks like Intel is maxing out clock speeds, and improvements in caching could mean Team Blue continues to take the cake for ‘gaming-above-all’ builds, while AMD outperforms on multi-threaded tasks and workstation uses.

Conclusion

After years of improvements on the 14nm microarchitecture first introduced with the Skylake platform, Intel seems to have finally pushed the platform to the limits. Production issues, delays, and a whopping amount of power on its high-end chip indicate that this might be the last we see of 14nm in desktop CPU applications.