Intel Announces 10th Gen Core Desktop Processor Lineup
Intel’s Response to Ryzen on Desktop: More Cores, Faster Clocks
Intel has announced their full 10th Gen Core “Comet Lake” desktop processor lineup, with a large list of models ranging up to the new flagship 10-core, 20-thread Core i9-10900K CPU at (up to) 5.3 GHz.
And Intel is being aggressive with both Turbo Boost frequency and pricing with the 10th Gen, as the lineup features the fastest single-core clocks of any Intel processor to date, and with lower pricing compared to the previous generation (particularly when looking at per-core pricing) at the high end.
New technologies include clock speeds of up to 5.3 GHz using Intel’s Thermal Velocity Boost technology (the approach taken to hit these top frequencies with the recently-launched Comet Lake-H mobile parts), the addition of Hyper-Threading to all processors in the lineup, faster DDR4-2933 support now standard, and enhanced overclocking features (more on that later).
Intel’s 10th Gen Core Desktop Lineup
Here’s a look at the new lineup, spread across four slides:
The new desktop flagship Core i9-10900K is a 10c/20t part that offers up to 5.2 GHz clocks, moving up to 5.3 GHz single-core (4.9 GHz all-core) via Intel’s Thermal Velocity Boost as mentioned above – meaning cooling will be a key component in maximizing performance potential from these CPUs.
Pricing for this i9-10900K is listed at $488, which is the 1000-unit price in the US. It is safe to assume that retail pricing will be slightly higher, but this should be a drop-in replacement for the i9-9900K in the current desktop product stack…as least with regard to product segmentation.
“At the top of the stack is the unlocked 10th Gen Intel Core i9-10900K, the world’s fastest gaming processor, featuring up to 10 cores, 20 threads and DDR4-2933 memory speeds. The i9-10900K processor powers the ultimate gaming experience, allowing more tuning control, faster multitasking and smoother gameplay. The new Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 provides automatic performance boosts on lightly threaded applications, while per-core hyperthreading control allows experienced overclockers to decide which threads to turn on or off on a per-core basis.”
Intel’s footnotes include an explanation of the “world’s fastest gaming processor” claim for their new Core i9-10900K, with their internal performance testing conducted at 1080p with an RTX 2080 Ti graphics card, and the Core i9-10900K up against a Core i9-9900KS and AMD Ryzen 9 3950X. This is not the place to debate the merits of benchmarking a $1200 GPU at 1080p just to show CPU scaling, so I will not do that here.
We won’t cover every one of the 32 CPUs on the above slides, but it is worth noting that the Core i7-10700K, which replaces the 9th Gen Core i7-9700K, is now a Hyper-Threaded part (8c/16t). This means that it should offer performance very close to that of the Core i9-9900K, and at a far lower cost ($374 USD 1K RCP).
Thermals and Overclocking
Beyond the obvious increase in core and thread counts, it’s worth covering some of the less ostentatious elements of these new processors, which should not be dismissed out of hand by enthusiasts as a simple product refresh based on the same architecture and process technology as their 9th Gen predecessors.
In comparison to existing 9th Gen Core processors one notable improvement (beyond the obvious increase in core and thread counts) that should increase both performance (in part via TVB) and overclocking headroom, is a change to the interaction between the CPU die and integrated heat spreader (IHS).
Intel is now using Thin Die STIM (solder thermal interface material) and a thicker IHS, which the company states will improve thermal performance – a limiting factor with the thermally-challenged 9th Gen Core i9 CPUs, in particular.
Overclocking enhancements arrive via Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) including per-core HT toggle, PEG/DMI overclocking, and enhanced voltage and frequency curve controls.
New Processors, New Platform
Along with these new processors we have a new socket (LGA 1200) and new chipsets from Intel, and this means a new motherboard will be a requirement if you want to run one of these 10th Gen CPUs. Z490, H470, and B460 motherboards are on the way, with vendors already cranking out the new product announcements.
Intel’s Z490 Chipset block diagram
Features of the Z490 chipset include improved networking support with Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 and Intel I225 2.5G Ethernet integrated, though rumors of PCI Express 4.0 were just that, as all CPU and PCH PCIe lanes are still 3.0.
10th Gen Intel Desktop Processors Coming in May
“10th Gen Intel Core S-series processors are expected to be available globally through normal retail channels and in desktops sold worldwide by OEMs and channel system integrators, starting in May.”
Questions remain, as always, as we wait for hardware to be released. Will it be worth an upgrade to a new LGA 1200 motherboard and one of these 10th Gen Intel Core processors? Can Intel successfully compete with AMD on enthusiast desktop? Does CPU performance mean as much to gaming as Intel seems to think it does?
We will have to wait for the results when we can go hands-on with the new processors and chipset, but – regardless of any claims about 1080p gaming superiority – improvements to CPU compute power at the same price (or lower) as 9th Gen is something to get excited about.