Desktop Comet Lake Launches: i9-10900K with More Cores, MHz

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The Intel 10th generation desktop comet lake family, showing celeron, i3, i5, i7 and i9 boxes. The i9-10900K box is more sensible this time than the football the 9900K came in.

Intel have finally detailed the desktop 10th gen “Comet Lake” lineup, and it’s mainly as expected with a few surprise features. The new chips provide performance improvements across the entire stack, and work with new 400 series chipsets. Enthusiasts have been anticipating this lineup for a long time – the i9-9900K launched back in 2018 and is well due a successor. We’ve also had laptop Comet Lake chips for nearly a month.

The New i9-10900K – Still “World’s Fastest” For Gaming

The i9-10900K headline numbers - 5.3GHz, 10 cores and 20 threads

On the top end of the desktop Comet Lake lineup we see an increase in core counts to 10 cores (20 threads) on the i9-10900K, which comes in at the same price as the previous i9-9900K. There are also clock speed bumps and a more aggressive boost setup that’s starting to echo AMD, with Intel saying it’s best in “bursty” workloads. In a single-threaded workload, with temperatures under 70C, the i9-10900K can boost all the way up to 5.3GHz.

These chips come with a familiar claim – “World’s Fastest gaming Processor”. Intel’s basis for this is that they have tested the top-end i9-10900K against last generation’s i9-9900KS and AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X. The result is apparently that the 10900K “scored better on the majority of the 25+ game titles tested”. This suggests it might be a close battle this time around, and independent reviews should be interesting. Cooling for the test setup was specified as “Water Cooling”, so presumably the performance included the effect of TVB.

The games and versions the i9-10900K was tested in are: Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation - Crazy Settings - DX12 - CPU Focused Test - Average Framerate v2.92.73675, Assassin's Creed Odyssey - Benchmark - DX11- 1080p High Avg FPS v1.5.3, Borderlands 3 - Benchmark - DX11- 1080p High Avg FPS v1.0.7_CL_214933, Civ 6: Expansion DX12 - Gathering Storm - AI - Avg Turn Time - 1080p High Settings (secs) 1.0.0.341(443561), Counterstrike Global Offensive - DX11- 1080p High Avg FPS v13746 DOTA2 - DX11 - 1080p High Avg FPS v7.25, F1 2019 Benchmark - DX11- 1080p High Avg FPS v1.22, Far Cry New Dawn DX12 1080p High Avg FPS v1.0.5, Final Fantasy XV - Benchmark - 1080p High Avg FPS v1.0, Grand Theft Auto V - Benchmark - DX11 1080p High Avg FPS v1868 Hitman 2 DX12 1080p High Avg FPS v2.72.0, League of Legends - 1080p High Avg FPS v10.7 Metro Exodus - Benchmark - DX12 1080p High Avg FPS v0.1.0.35, Middle Earth: Shadow of War - Benchmark - DX11- 1080p High Avg FPS v1.21, Red Dead Redemption 2 - Vulkan - 1080p High Avg FPS v1.0.1232.48, Rocket League Benchmark - DX11- 1080p High Avg FPS v1.75, Rise of the Tomb Raider - Benchmark - DX12 - 1080p High Avg FPS v1.0 build 820.0_64, Shadow of the Tomb Raider DX12 1080p High Avg FPS v1.0 build 296.0_64, Strange Brigade Vulkan - 1080p High Avg FPS v1.47.22.14 Vulkan, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege - GPU DX11 1080p High Avg FPS Y5S1.1, Tom Clancy's The Division 2 - Benchmark - DX12- 1080p High Avg FPS v2913517, Total War: Warhammer 2 - Laboratory DX11 1080p High Avg FPS v1.8.3, War Thunder Tank Battle(CPU) - Benchmark - DX11- 1080p High Avg FPS v1.97.1.47, World Of Warcraft BfA BM DX11- 1080p High Avg FPS v. 8.3.0.33941, World War Z Vulkan - 1080p High Avg FPS v1.59
The 25 games Intel have tested to prove the i9-10900K’s performance

For those wondering about the power limit of the i9-10900K: Intel have specced a 250W short duration power limit for their test system, a “tau” of 56 seconds, and a long duration power limit of 125W. That means it can run at 250W for up to 56 seconds, before backing off to 125W to avoid overwhelming the cooling. Other systems may run the 10900K with a different tau value.

The Desktop Comet Lake Lineup: Full Specs

Performance Segment

Max Boost for the i7 and i9 SKUs includes Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and Thermal Velocity Boost. That means max boost speeds can be hit on the two best cores, with a temperature below 70C, when power limits allow. Above Comet Lake’s 70C spec for thermal velocity boost, speeds drop by 100MHz.

Intel haven’t disclosed full cache numbers yet, which is why you won’t find them in the spec tables, but the i9-10900K has 20MB. For comparison, the 9900K had 16MB of L3 cache. This probably means Intel are keeping their L3 cache proportional to core count, with 2MB per core. To be clear though, barring a big undisclosed change Intel’s L3 cache is shared. The count might be 2MB/core, but a single 10900K core could use all 20MB.

Model Cores / Threads Base Clock All-core Boost 1-core Boost Max Boost TDP Graphics Price (USD, 1KU)
Core i9-10900K 10/20 3.7GHz 4.8GHz 5.1GHz 5.3GHz 125W UHD 630 $488
Core i9-10900KF 10/20 3.7GHz 4.8GHz 5.1GHz 5.3GHz 125W none $472
Core i9-10900 10/20 2.8GHz 4.5GHz 5.0GHz 5.2GHz 65W UHD 630 $439
Core i9-10900T 10/20 1.9GHz 3.7GHz 4.5GHz 4.6GHz 35W UHD 630 $439
Core i9-10900F 10/20 2.8GHz 4.5GHz 5.0GHz 5.2GHz 65W none $422
Core i7-10700K 8/16 3.8GHz 4.7GHz 5.0GHz 5.1GHz 125W UHD 630 $374
Core i7-10700KF 8/16 3.8GHz 4.7GHz 5.0GHz 5.1GHz 125W none $349
Core i7-10700 8/16 2.9GHz 4.6GHz 4.7GHz 4.8GHz 65W UHD 630 $323
Core i7-10700T 8/16 2.0GHz 3.7GHz 4.4GHz 4.5GHz 35W UHD 630 $325
Core i7-10700F 8/16 2.9GHz 4.6GHz 4.7GHz 4.8GHz 65W none $298

 

An interesting way to look at these chips is in comparison to previous generation offerings at the same price point. Many desktop Comet Lake chips share the price of their Coffee Lake counterparts, so this isn’t too messy. We’re ignoring the old -F chips because they were priced on paper alongside the iGPU-equipped options.

New Model (Comet Lake) Cores / Threads Max Boost Price (USD, 1KU) Max Boost Cores / Threads Old Model (Coffee Lake)
Core i9-10900K 10/20 5.3GHz $488 5.0GHz 8/16 Core i9-9900K
Core i9-10900KF 10/20 5.3GHz $472
Core i9-10900 10/20 5.2GHz $439
Core i9-10900T 10/20 4.6GHz $439
$423 5.0GHz 8/16 Core i9-9900
$423 4.4GHz 8/16 Core i9-9900T
Core i9-10900F 10/20 5.2GHz $422
Core i7-10700K 8/16 5.1GHz $374 4.9GHz 8/8 Core i7-9700K
Core i7-10700KF 8/16 5.1GHz $349
Core i7-10700 8/16 4.8GHz $323 4.7GHz 8/8 Core i7-9700
Core i7-10700T 8/16 4.5GHz $325 4.3GHz 8/8 Core i7-9700T
Core i7-10700F 8/16 4.8GHz $298

 

At the same price point, Intel give you not only higher clock speeds but more threads. The i7 range, which previously had HT disabled, gets it back for desktop Comet Lake. The i9 range gets two more cores, going from 8c16t to 10c20t.

Midrange Segment

Model Cores / Threads Base Clock All-core Boost 1-core Boost TDP Graphics Price (USD, 1KU)
Core i5-10600K 6/12 4.1GHz 4.5GHz 4.8GHz 125W UHD 630 $262
Core i5-10600KF 6/12 4.1GHz 4.5GHz 4.8GHz 125W none $237
Core i5-10600 6/12 3.3GHz 4.4GHz 4.8GHz 65W UHD 630 $213
Core i5-10600T 6/12 2.4GHz 3.7GHz 4.0GHz 35W UHD 630 $213
Core i5-10500 6/12 3.1GHz 4.2GHz 4.5GHz 65W UHD 630 $192
Core i5-10500T 6/12 2.3GHz 3.5GHz 3.8GHz 35W UHD 630 $192
Core i5-10400 6/12 2.9GHz 4.0GHz 4.3GHz 65W UHD 630 $182
Core i5-10400F 6/12 2.9GHz 4.0GHz 4.3GHz 65W none $157
Core i5-10400T 6/12 2.0GHz 3.2GHz 3.6GHz 35W UHD 630 $182
Core i3-10320 4/8 3.8GHz 4.4GHz 4.6GHz 65W UHD 630 $154
Core i3-10300 4/8 3.7GHz 4.2GHz 4.4GHz 65W UHD 630 $143
Core i3-10300T 4/8 3.0GHz 3.6GHz 3.9GHz 35W UHD 630 $143
Core i3-10100 4/8 3.6GHz 4.1GHz 4.3GHz 65W UHD 630 $122
Core i3-10100T 4/8 3.0GHz 3.5GHz 3.8GHz 35W UHD 630 $122

 

Again, we can easily compare the old to the new;

New Model (Comet Lake) Cores / Threads 1-core Boost Price (USD, 1KU) 1-core Boost Cores / Threads Old Model (Coffee Lake)
Core i5-10600K 6/12 4.8GHz $262 4.6GHz 6/6 Core i5-9600K
Core i5-10600KF 6/12 4.8GHz $237
Core i5-10600 6/12 4.8GHz $213 4.6GHz 6/6 Core i5-9600
Core i5-10600T 6/12 4.0GHz $213 3.9GHz 6/6 Core i5-9600T
Core i5-10500 6/12 4.5GHz $192 4.4GHz 6/6 Core i5-9500
Core i5-10500T 6/12 3.8GHz $192 3.7GHz 6/6 Core i5-9500T
Core i5-10400 6/12 4.3GHz $182 4.1GHz 6/6 Core i5-9400
Core i5-10400F 6/12 4.3GHz $157
Core i5-10400T 6/12 3.6GHz $182 3.4GHz 6/6 Core i5-9400T
$173 4.6GHz 4/4 Core i3-9350K
Core i3-10320 4/8 4.6GHz $154 4.4GHz 4/4 Core i3-9320
Core i3-10300 4/8 4.4GHz $143 4.3GHz 4/4 Core i3-9300
Core i3-10300T 4/8 3.9GHz $143 3.8GHz 4/4 Core i3-9300T
Core i3-10100 4/8 4.3GHz $122 4.2GHz 4/4 Core i3-9100
Core i3-10100T 4/8 3.8GHz $122 3.7GHz 4/4 Core i3-9100T

 

The new lineup gains 100-200MHz, and hyperthreading. Disappointingly though, Intel haven’t announced an unlocked K-series i3 yet. Last time around the unlocked i3 came after the broader launch, and initially only in the -KF variant. So, there’s still hope for an “i3-10350K” in the future.

Budget Segment
Model Cores Threads Clock TDP Graphics Price (USD, 1KU)
Pentium Gold G-6600 2 4 4.2GHz 58W UHD 630 $86
Pentium Gold G-6500 2 4 4.1GHz 58W UHD 630 $75
Pentium Gold G-6500T 2 4 3.5GHz 35W UHD 630 $75
Pentium Gold G-6400 2 4 4.0GHz 58W UHD 610 $64
Pentium Gold G-6400T 2 4 3.4GHz 35W UHD 610 $64
Celeron G-5920 2 2 3.5GHz 58W UHD 610 $52
Celeron G-5900 2 2 3.4GHz 58W UHD 610 $42
Celeron G-5900T 2 2 3.2GHz 35W UHD 610 $42

 

The comparison in this segment is very straightforward. The bottom of the new Comet Lake desktop stack gives you 200MHz more for your money. We should note that while the -T chips were always 35W, regular SKUs have been bumped from 54W to 58W.

New Model (Comet Lake) Clock Price (USD, 1KU) Clock Old Model (Coffee Lake)
Pentium Gold G-6600 4.2GHz $86 4.0GHz Pentium Gold G5620
Pentium Gold G-6500 4.1GHz $75 3.9GHz Pentium Gold G5600
Pentium Gold G-6500T 3.5GHz $75 3.3GHz Pentium Gold G5600T
Pentium Gold G-6400 4.0GHz $64 3.8GHz Pentium Gold G5420
Pentium Gold G-6400T 3.4GHz $64 3.2GHz Pentium Gold G5420T
Celeron G-5920 3.5GHz $52 3.3GHz Celeron G4950
Celeron G-5900 3.4GHz $42 3.2GHz Celeron G4930
Celeron G-5900T 3.2GHz $42 3.0GHz Celeron G4930T

 

Sadly none of Intel’s budget offerings are overclockable. We recently took the AMD Athlon 3000G for a spin, and it saw big gains from a comprehensive overclock. There’s also an ongoing overclocking competition based around the 3000G. Now that product segmentation is achieved by core count, it’d be nice to see unlocked budget chips on the Intel side.

New Features – The Surprises with 10th Gen

The platofmr improvements for desktop comet lake and the 400 series chipsets - speeds up to 5.3GHz, turbo boost max 3.0, HT across core i9 to i3 processors, up to 10 cores and 20MB cache, up to DDR4-2933, 'enhanced core and memory overclocking', intel 400 series chipset, 2.5G Intel ethernet I225 (foxville) support and integrated intel wi-fi 6 ax201 (Gig+) support using CNVi. Also features are Intel performance maximizer and XTU support, up to 40 "platform" (cpu+chipset) PCIe lanes, thunderbolt 3 support and optane support.

Let’s be honest – we all knew a 10-core i9-10900K was coming. There were however some things we didn’t see coming, and some expected but welcome features. This launch is more than a bump in core count and clock speed.

New Overclocking Controls – Per Core HT?!?

The overclocking enhancements for the i9-10900K and desktop comet lake in general. In addition to the following text there's enhanced V/f curve controls, a refreshed XTU, and updated intel performance maximizer.

First, Intel have introduced the ability to enable and disable HyperThreading on a per core basis. For example, you could set up a 10900K with 4 of its cores taking one thread each and the other 6 servicing 2 threads each, creating a 10-core 16-thread setup. We’re not sure exactly why you would do this, but you can’t do it on AMD. Perhaps if nothing else it could help limit the heat output on the hottest individual core.

There’s also the introduction of “PEG/DMI OC”. PEG stands for PCI Express Graphics – the PCIe link from the processor to the graphics card. DMI, or Direct Media Interconnect, is the PCIe-like link from the processor to the 400 series chipset. It’s interesting that Intel specified these, rather than PCIe generally. Possibly it could be a sign that they’re separated from sensitive NVMe drives. There’s no mention of PCIe 4.0, but if you’re limited by PCIe then maybe this could make up some of that difference.

More Boost For Your Boost – Boost 3.0 and TVB on Desktop Comet Lake

Turbo boost max 3.0 for Intel 10th gen desktop comet lake. The image shows how the best cores are different for different processors.

On top of the general increases in clock speed, Intel are adding more opportunistic boost. This one, specific to the i7 and i9 chips, comes from Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and Thermal Velocity Boost. We saw these recently with laptop chips, so they’re not unexpected but very welcome. Turbo Boost Max 3.0 provides higher clock speeds on the two best cores and Thermal Velocity Boost gives extra boost, power permitting, when temperatures are low enough. For desktop comet lake the Thermal Velocity Boost threshold is 70C, and the boost is +100MHz.

Updated Memory Controller – DDR4-2933

Comet Lake brings a new memory controller to Intel’s desktop lineup, with DDR4-2933 support. Interestingly though, like Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and Thermal Velocity Boost, the new memory controller only applies to i7 and i9 parts. The lower-end chips are still rated for DDR4-2666. With Intel still using the well proven Skylake microarchitecture, this could be a sign that the silicon itself is unchanged from past generations of 6-core and below.

A Pre-Lapped Die

The "thin die solder thermal interface material" that intel 10th gen benefits from

This one was a big surprise to us but a very welcome one. Intel have reduced their die thickness on Comet lake, from 0.8mm to 0.5mm. Alongside this is a corresponding 0.3mm increase in IHS thickness, to keep the overall package the same size. Intel are specifically citing cooler compatibility as the reason for not thinning the overall package. The chips are still soldered, but now the heat can get to the IHS much faster. Once it’s there, Intel tell us the copper moves heat 3x faster than the excess silicon did.

Some brave enthusiasts would previously sand down the die on their 9900K to improve temperatures and overclocking headroom. This is Intel providing that same mod for everyone, out of the box and without having to risk your chip. The i9-10900K should be significantly more coolable that it would otherwise have been, thanks to this.

Platform Improvements – Wi-Fi 6 and 2.5Gbps Ethernet (Kind Of)

This final point is an odd one. Intel have announced “support” for both Wi-Fi 6 and 2.5Gbps ethernet on their 400 series platform. But “support” is a flexible word. After all, you can buy a 2.5Gbps ethernet card and put it on just about any platform – in that way, it’s “supported”.

What Intel’s support for these latest networking standards means in practice is that the chipset includes control logic. A network chip can be divided into two parts – MAC or Media Access Control and PHY or PHYsical layer. The MAC does the processing, and the PHY sends and receives the signals along the wire or airwaves. Intel ‘s 400 series chipsets include a MAC for 2.5Gbps (actually 1Gbps – see below) ethernet, and one for Wi-Fi 6. To actually use these you still need a PHY, which Intel sell separately. This does reduce the barrier to entry, but don’t be surprised if budget boards eschew wi-fi and stick with 1Gbps Realtek solutions for their ethernet. Previously when Intel included a 1Gbps MAC we still saw Realtek solutions, and it seems likely that a complete Realtek controller is cheaper than Intel’s PHY.

CORRECTION 2020-05-02: Intel’s 400 series chipsets do not include a MAC for 2.5Gbps ethernet. The “support” listed for 2.5Gbps ethernet is the ability to connect to a 2.5Gbps ethernet controller, such as the Intel I225-V, over a standard PCIe x1 interface.  A MAC is present for ethernet up to 1Gbps, which works with the I219-V PHY. Wi-Fi 6 control logic is still present on the chipset. The AX201 “companion RF module” for H470/Z490 is listed at $1 less than Intel’s complete AX200 Wi-Fi 6 card.

Desktop Comet Lake Availability

Intel are slating the desktop Comet Lake series, including the i9-10900K, for global availability in May.

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