Intel’s 10th Generation Core processors will not all be 10-nanometer (10nm) “Ice Lake” chips. On Wednesday, the chipmaker launched a second batch of 10th Generation Core processors that will be fabricated under a further-refined version of its venerable 14nm manufacturing process.
The processors, code-named “Comet Lake,” will be used in a wide variety of new laptops and 2-in-1 convertibles, alongside the 10nm Ice Lake chips. Expect them to arrive, collectively, in more than 90 designs ahead of the holiday shopping season.
So what’s the difference between the two? The Comet Lake family is focused more on traditional computing performance, whereas Ice Lake can offer big gains in AI-powered applications and graphics, Intel says. (As we found in our preview testing of Ice Lake, under the right circumstances the Iris Plus integrated graphics can deliver far better performance than earlier generations’ HD and UHD Graphics integrated silicon.)
Meet the Comet Lake Lineup
The newly announced Comet Lake will arrive in eight different processors that support up to six cores, 12 threads, and single-core clock speeds of up to 4.9GHz (the turbo frequency), which is higher than the family of Ice Lake chips…
It explains why Intel is marketing Comet Lake as a “productivity powerhouse” for people who use office software such as Microsoft Office 365. You’ll note that the speed ceiling for supported memory is significantly lower than with the initial Ice Lake CPUs; the emphasis here is less on graphics performance. (With integrated graphics, high memory speeds tend to boost graphics performance.)
The performance gains will be noticeable for anyone upgrading from an old PC. The company claims Comet Lake chips will be more than two times faster than an Intel-powered laptop from five years ago, though they’ll offer only a moderate 16 percent overall performance boost versus last year’s equivalent 8th Generation Core chips, which also use a form of the 14nm manufacturing process. Still, when it comes to office-productivity software, Intel claims Comet Lake can offer up to a 41 percent speed increase over 8th Generation chips.
Expect these new Comet Lake CPUs to arrive in laptops featuring thin, light designs, with the Ice Lake variants reserved for the more premium machines. As for the chips’ effect on battery life, that’s harder to project. Intel refrained from offering a direct answer, but it claims the Comet Lake chips are equal to the 8th Generation chips on power efficiency. So, depending on the PC hardware, you can expect battery life from 15 to 21 hours when watching only video on airplane mode.
Like Ice Lake, Comet Lake will also support Wi-Fi 6, which can offer maximum download speeds of around 10Gbps with supported routers and hardware. The chips can also enable PC vendors to add up to four Thunderbolt 3 ports to a product.
Decoding the 10th Gen Core Naming Scheme
The initial Comet Lake chips are all mobile processors meant for use in laptops, 2-in-1s, compact desktops, and the trimmest all-in-ones. They have been split into two distinct classes, as with previous generations and with Ice Lake: the more powerful U-Series, and the fanless Y-Series.
Expect to see the U-Series, as before, in more mainstream machines. The Y-Series, in contrast, feature lower clock speeds but run on less energy. You’ll find both U and Y chips in Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 variants. Like with Ice Lake, the U-Series CPUs can be deployed by OEMs in 15-watt or 25-watt TDP modes, depending on the design and its thermal limits.
So, how to decipher the new chip names, given that they all contain the number “10”? Intel provides a handy guide…
The tricky part, for consumers, will be figuring out what kind of CPU you actually have—a Comet Lake chip versus an Ice Lake one—seeing as both will use the Intel 10th Generation Core branding. To determine this, you’ll have to pay attention to the nuances of the processor number on the laptop.
The Ice Lake chips will use four numbers, followed by the letter G. (A number after the G—1, 4, or 7—signifies the relative potency of the integrated graphics.) The Comet Lake chips, on the other hand, will use five numbers followed by the letter U or Y to signify the series.