Intel Comet Lake vs. Ice Lake

The two-horse CPU race between AMD and Intel is more exciting than ever, with AMD’s high-powered Ryzen 3000 processors lighting a fire under Intel like we haven’t seen in years. To combat AMD’s new hotness, Intel has two brand new CPU lines that will flesh out its portfolio until the end of 2020: Ice Lake and Comet Lake.

In a nutshell, Comet Lake now covers desktops and laptops with high-level, mid-range, and entry-level CPUs. Ice Lake, for now, is strictly available on laptops, targeting great performance and great battery life. This family is built on Intel’s second-generation 10nm process (10nm+), following the brief Cannon Lake in 2018. Comet Lake, however, remains on Intel’s refined 14nm process node.

Given that both now appear in very different types of laptops, it’s important to know the difference between the two outside all the jargon. So, how do they measure up to one another? Read on to find out.

Availability and pricing

Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation

Laptops with 10nm Ice Lake CPUs launched in the summer of 2019. These include Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3, the Razer Blade Stealth, the HP Spectre x360 13, Dell’s XPS 13, and many more. The “U” in the processor label translates to “ultra-low power,” meaning it targets a good balance of performance and battery. The “Y” chips do the same but typically have lower base speeds.

Laptops with 14nm Comet Lake “U” and “Y” arrived in the same time frame, packing more core and threads at the higher end. Intel didn’t release its “H” series chips for laptops until early April 2020, followed by desktop processors later that month. These latter chips now replace the entire ninth-gen Coffee Lake range of desktop CPUs.

Intel isn’t slated to release a 10nm desktop processor until 2021 or even 2022, so we don’t expect to see Ice Lake on desktops anytime in the next year or so.

Comet Lake desktop processors range from $42 for low-end Celeron chips up to the ten-core i9-10900K for a heftier $488. Meanwhile, the high-end Core i9-10980HK for laptops can set you back $583 before you even configure the portable PC. Intel’s Celeron 5205U laptop chip has a suggested price of $107.

Ice Lake’s smaller portfolio is a bit less dramatic in pricing, with chips reaching just above $400. Some of the chip pricing isn’t currently available to the public; it’s reserved for manufacturers.

Architecture

In many cases, laptops with Comet Lake and Ice Lake compete directly with one another for user interest and dollars. But they have distinctly different technologies powering them, most notably when it comes to their underlying architecture.

Ice Lake is Intel’s first commercial, 10nm line of processors — the previous Cannon Lake never went mainstream. That’s the first die-shrink that Intel has successfully completed in almost five years and it’s a big one.

The Sunny Cove architecture that powers Ice Lake CPUs opens up a number of new instructions that can significantly accelerate legacy code by encouraging parallel operation. It also lowered effective access latencies and enhanced the cache over older core designs. That, combined with the shrink to the enhanced version of Intel’s 10nm process node results in a big increase in single-threaded and multi-threaded performance for Ice lake mobile CPUs over eighth-generation Whiskey Lake chips.

Ice Lake also introduced Intel’s 11th-gen Iris Plus graphics, which offer a significant uptick in 3D performance over 9th-gen predecessors like the UHD 620 graphics core. It also supports faster memory than previous architectures up to 3,733MHz without overclocking.

Comet Lake is a little different. It’s built on the latest enhanced version of Intel’s 14nm process that’s been refreshed each year since Skylake’s 2015 debut. It’s still faster than what we’ve seen in Intel’s eighth and ninth-gen CPUs, but it doesn’t have the same, underlying hardware revolutions that Ice lake has. It’s more of an evolution of what’s already available.

It does, however, benefit from the new 400-series chipset, which introduces features like support for Thunderbolt 3, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5, and USB 3.2.

Laptop CPUs

Dell 2019 XPS 13 2 in 1 (2019) review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

On the laptop front, both Ice Lake and Comet Lake are much more fleshed out and realized with official announcements and specifications right from Intel itself. Indeed, while desktop Comet Lake and Ice Lake desktop chips could be a year or two apart, Intel’s partners are now selling Ice Lake laptops right alongside Comet Lake laptops.

That might make the market for Intel laptops rather confusing, but it does mean there are plenty of options for potential buyers. But how can you, the consumer, know which processor you’re getting when purchasing a new laptop? Does it have Intel’s Ice Lake or Comet Lake?

Just look at the processor’s name. Both have “10” as the first two digits after Core i5 or Core i7. That number depicts the generation: 10th-gen, in this case. However, you want to pay close attention to the suffix, which reveals the underlying architecture.

For instance, if the processor has a “G7” or “G5” at the end, it’s a 10nm Ice Lake chip. If you see an “H,” “U,” or “Y” at the end, it’s a 14nm Comet Lake chip.

On a deeper level, the “G5” specifically refers to Ice Lake’s “graphics” whereas the Comet Lake suffixes range from high-performance to ultra-low-power. Comet Lake may have more than one suffix too, like HK, meaning the chip is high-performance and unlocked.

With that brief CPU lesson out of the way, here are all of the 14nm Comet Lake mobile CPUs now available:

Comet Lake H-series

Cores
/threads
Graphics
(EUs)
Cache Base
clock
Boost
clock

(single)
Boost
clock

(all)
Graphics
boost
clock
TDP
Core i9-10980HK 8/16 UHD 630
(24)
16MB 2.4GHz 5.3GHz 4.4GHz 1.25GHz 45w
Core i9-10885H 8/16 UHD 630
(24)
16MB 2.4GHz 5.3GHz 4.4GHz 1.25GHz 45w
Core i7-10875H 8/16 UHD 630
(24)
16MB 2.3GHz 5.1GHz 4.3GHz 1.2GHz 45w
Core i7-10850H 6/12 UHD 630
(24)
12MB 2.7GHz 5.1GHz 4.4GHz 1.15GHz 45w
Core i7-10750H 6/12 UHD 630
(24)
12MB 2.6GHz 5.0GHz 4.3GHz 1.15GHz 45w
Core i5-10400H 4/8 UHD 630
(24)
8MB 2.6GHz 4.6GHz 4.4GHz 1.1GHz 45w
Core i5-10300H 4/8 UHD 630
(24)
8MB 2.5GHz 4.5GHz 4.2GHz 1.05GHz 45w

Comet Lake U-series

Cores
/threads
Graphics
(EUs)
Cache Base
clock
Boost
clock
(single)
Boost
clock
(all)
Graphics
boost
clock
TDP
Core i7-10810U 6/12 UHD 620
(24)
12MB 1.1GHz 4.9GHz n/a 1.15GHz 15w/25w
Core i7-10710U 6/12 UHD 620
(24)
12MB 1.1GHz 4.7GHz 3.2GHz 1.15GHz 15w/25w
Core i7-10610U 4/8 UHD 620
(24)
8MB 1.8GHz 4.9GHz n/a 1.15GHz 15w/25w
Core i7-10510U 4/8 UHD 620
(24)
8MB 1.8GHz 4.9GHz 3.7GHz 1.15GHz 15w/25w
Core i5-10310U 4/8 UHD 620
(24)
6MB 1.6GHz 4.4GHz n/a 1.15GHz 15w/25w
Core i5-10210U 4/8 UHD 620
(24)
6MB 1.6GHz 4.2GHz 3.8GHz 1.1GHz 15w/25w
Core i3-10110U 2/4 UHD 620
(24)
4MB 2.1GHz 4.1GHz 3.2GHz 1.0GHz 15w/25w
Pentium 6405U 2/4 UHD 610
(12)
2MB 2.4GHz n/a n/a 0.95GHz 12.5w
Celeron 5205U 2/2 UHD 610
(12)
2MB 1.9GHz n/a n/a 0.9GHz 12.5w

Comet Lake Y-series

  Cores
/threads
Graphics
(EUs)
Cache Base clock Boost
clock
(single)
Boost
clock
(all)
Graphics
boost
clock
TDP
Core i7-10510Y 4/8 UHD 620
(24)
8MB 1.2GHz 4.5GHz 3.2GHz 1.15GHz 4.5w/7w/9w
Core i5-10310Y 4/8 UHD 620
(24)
6MB 1.1GHz 4.1GHz 2.8GHz 1.05GHz 5.5w/7w/9w
Core i5-10210Y 4/8 UHD 620
(24)
6MB 1.0GHz 4.0GHz 2.7GHz 1.05GHz 4.5w/7w/9w
Core i3-10110Y 2/4 UHD 620
(24)
4MB 1.0GHz 4.0GHz 3.7GHz 1.0GHz 5.5w/7w/9w

A noticeable change over previous generations of Intel mobile chips are the increased core counts and clock speeds. But there is a greater difference between both of Comet Lake’s ranges of mobile chips when compared directly with Ice lake.

Here are all the Ice Lake 10nm mobile CPUs announced so far.

Ice Lake U-series

Cores
/threads
Graphics
(EUs)
Cache Base clock Boost
clock
(single)
Boost
clock
(all)
Graphics
boost
clock
TDP
Core i7-1068NG7 4/8 Iris Plus
(64)
8MB 2.3GHz 4.1GHz 3.6GHz 1.1GHz 28w
Core i7-1065G7 4/8 Iris Plus
(64)
8MB 1.3GHz 3.9GHz 3.5GHz 1.1GHz 15w/25w
Core i5-1038NG7 4/8 Iris Plus
(64)
6MB 2.0GHz 3.8GHz 3.2GHz 1.05GHz 28w
Core i5-1035G7 4/8 Iris Plus
(64)
6MB 1.2GHz 3.7GHz 3.3GHz 1.05GHz 15w/25w
Core i5-1035G4 4/8 Iris Plus
(48)
6MB 1.1GHz 3.7GHz 3.3GHz 1.05GHz 15w/25w
Core i5-1035G1 4/8 UHD
(32)
6MB 1.0GHz 3.6GHz 3.3GHz 1.05GHz 15w/25w
Core i3-1005G1 2/4 UHD
(32)
4MB 1.2GHz 3.4GHz 3.4GHz 0.9GHz 15w/25w

Ice Lake Y-Series

Cores
/threads
Graphics
(EUs)
Cache Base
clock
Boost
clock
(single)
Boost
clock
(all)
Graphics
boost clock
TDP
Core i7-1060G7 4/8 Iris Plus
(64)
8MB 1.0GHz 3.8GHz 3.4GHz 1.1GHz 9w/12w
Core i5-1030G7 4/8 Iris Plus
(64)
6MB 0.8GHz 3.5GHz 3.2GHz 1.05GHz 9w/12w
Core i5-1030G4 4/8 Iris Plus
(48)
6MB 0.7GHz 3.5GHz 3.2GHz 1.05GHz 9w/12w
Core i3-1000G4 2/4 Iris Plus
(48)
4MB 1.1GHz 3.2GHz 3.2GHz 0.9GHz 9w/12w
Core i3-1000G1 2/4 UHD
(32)
4MB 1.1GHz 3.2GHz 3.2GHz 0.9GHz 9w/12w

Outside of the die shrink and architectural changes, there are some obvious specification differences between these two CPU lines which hint at how they might compete head to head in certain scenarios. The Ice Lake CPUs all have far more capable, 11th-gen graphics with a much greater number of execution units. That should make Ice Lake chips far more powerful gaming CPUs without dedicated graphics.

Clock speeds are much higher on Comet Lake, however, highlighting the problems Intel (and AMD) have faced in getting high frequencies out of 10nm and sub-10nm components. That may mean Comet Lake performs better in some scenarios where clock speed can make a big difference — certain games and software applications may be standouts there. Still, Ice Lake’s IPC improvements will make up for that in others making the potential difference in performance between these two concurrent-generations of processors an intriguing match-up.

Desktop CPUs

Intel finally launched its Comet Lake-S desktop CPU family at the end of April 2020. So far, there’s no mention of 10nm Ice Lake desktop chips in the near future, though 10nm Alder Lake-S is likely what’s on the horizon for desktops in 2021, falling under the 12th-gen Intel Core banner.

Here in the present, we now have a huge lineup of Comet Lake-S chips at our disposal. Because there are so many, we broke the new CPU family into groups:

Comet Lake-S Core i9 / Core i7

Cores
/threads
Graphics
(EUs)
Cache Base
clock
Boost
clock
(single)
Boost
clock
(all)
Graphics
boost
clock
TDP
i9-10900K 10/20 UHD 630
(24)
20MB 3.7GHz 5.3GHz 4.8GHz 1.2GHz 125w
i9-10900KF 10/20 UHD 630
(24)
20MB 3.7GHz 5.3GHz 4.8GHz n/a 125w
i9-10900 10/20 UHD 630
(24)
20MB 2.8GHz 5.2GHz 4.5GHz 1.2GHz 65w
i9-10900F 10/20 UHD 630
(24)
20MB 2.8GHz 5.2GHz 4.5GHz n/a 65w
i9-10900T 10/20 UHD 630
(24)
20MB 1.9GHz 4.6GHz 3.7GHz 1.2GHz 35w
i7-10700K 8/16 UHD 630
(24)
16MB 3.8GHz 5.1GHz 4.7GHz 1.2GHz 125w
i7-10700KF 8/16 UHD 630
(24)
16MB 3.8GHz 5.1GHz 4.7GHz n/a 125w
i7-10700 8/16 UHD 630
(24)
16MB 2.9GHz 4.8GHz 4.6GHz 1.2GHz 65w
i7-10700F 8/16 UHD 630
(24)
16MB 2.9GHz 4.8GHz 4.6GHz n/a 65w
i7-10700T 8/16 UHD 630
(24)
16MB 2.0GHz 4.5GHz 3.7GHz 1.2GHz 35w

Comet Lake-S Core i5 / Core i3

Cores
/threads
Graphics
(EUs)
Cache Base
clock
Boost
clock
(single)
Boost
clock
(all)
Graphics
boost
clock
TDP
i5-10600K 6/12 UHD 630
(24)
12MB 4.1GHz 4.8GHz 4.5GHz 1.2GHz 125w
i5-10600KF 6/12 UHD 630
(24)
12MB 4.1GHz 4.8GHz 4.5GHz n/a 125w
i5-10600 6/12 UHD 630
(24)
12MB 3.3GHz 4.8GHz 4.4GHz 1.2GHz 65w
i5-10600T 6/12 UHD 630
(24)
12MB 2.4GHz 4.0GHz 3.7GHz 1.2GHz 35w
i5-10500 6/12 UHD 630
(24)
12MB 3.1GHz 4.5GHz 4.2GHz 1.5GHz 65w
i5-10500T 6/12 UHD 630
(24)
12MB 2.3GHz 3.8GHz 3.5GHz 1.5GHz 35w
i5-10400 6/12 UHD 630
(24)
12MB 2.9GHz 4.3GHz 4.0GHz 1.1GHz 65w
i5-10400F 6/12 UHD 630
(24)
12MB 2.9GHz 4.3GHz 4.0GHz n/a 65w
i5-10400T 6/12 UHD 630
(24)
12MB 2.0GHz 3.6GHz 3.2GHz 1.1GHz 35w
i3-10320 4/8 UHD 630
(24)
8MB 3.8GHz 4.6GHz 4.4GHz 1.5 GHz 65w
i3-10300 4/8 UHD 630
(24)
8MB 3.7GHz 4.4GHz 4.2GHz 1.5 GHz 65w
i3-10300T 4/8 UHD 630
(24)
8MB 3.0GHz 3.9GHz 3.6GHz 1.1 GHz 35w
i3-10100 4/8 UHD 630
(24)
6MB 3.6GHz 4.3GHz 4.1GHz 1.1GHz 65w
i3-10100T 4/8 UHD 630
(24)
6MB 3.0GHz 3.8GHz 3.6GHz 1.1GHz 35w

Comet Lake-S Pentium Gold / Celeron

Cores
/threads
Graphics
(EUs)
Cache Base
clock
Boost
clock
(single)
Boost
clock
(all)
Graphics
boost
clock
TDP
Pentium Gold G6600 2/4 UHD 630
(24)
4MB 4.2GHz n/a n/a 1.1GHz 58w
Pentium Gold G6500 2/4 UHD 630
(24)
4MB 4.1GHz n/a n/a 1.1GHz 58w
Pentium Gold G6500T 2/4 UHD 630
(24)
4MB 3.5GHz n/a n/a 1.05GHz 35w
Pentium Gold G6400 2/4 UHD 610
(12)
4MB 4.0GHz n/a n/a 1.05GHz 58w
Pentium Gold G6400T 2/4 UHD 610
(12)
4MB 3.4GHz n/a n/a 1.05GHz 35w
Celeron G5920 2/2 UHD 610
(12)
2MB 3.5GHz n/a n/a 1.05GHz 58w
Celeron G5900 2/2 UHD 610
(12)
2MB 3.4GHz n/a n/a 1.05GHz 58w
Celeron G5900T 2/2 UHD 610
(12)
2MB 3.2GHz n/a n/a 1.0GHz 35w

The new chips include the ability to toggle hyperthreading on and off on a core-by-core basis. The idea is to disable hyperthreading on inactive cores, which translates to lower heat and lower power draws. Toggling also allows all cores currently using hyperthreading to remain in turbo mode for more extended periods. Hyperthreading controls are provided through the BIOS, not in the operating system.

Recent benchmarks show Intel’s flagship ten-core chip, the i9-10900K, going head to head with AMD’s Ryzen 9 3900X 12-core CPU in the 3DMark Fire Strike Physics test. It pulled just a few points ahead of AMD’s chip when overclocked at 5.1GHz. What’s notable is that it outperforms Intel’s previous champion, the Core i9-9900K, while selling at a similar suggested price.

As for Ice lake, if it does ever arrive on desktop, we’d expect its 10nm+ die shrink and Sunny Cove core improvements to bring significant increases to instructions per clock (IPC) over Comet Lake, as well as boosting core counts. However, as we’ve seen with Ice Lake mobile CPUs and Intel’s Ryzen 3000, higher clock speeds may be hard to find, as 10nm and below chips tend to be harder to push to such frequencies.

Overall they should be far faster than Comet Lake chips, but since they may never see the light of day, we’ll reserve judgment for now.

The bottom line on Comet Lake versus Ice Lake is that each is ideal for various scenarios. Despite a vast lineup of chip options, availability may be the most significant factor in your buying decision. Though we can expect Ice Lake on desktops sometime beyond 2021, exclusive deals for manufacturers may inhibit the average consumer from purchasing. For now, selecting a laptop with the best chip specs for your needs is your only option.

If you manage to find options that offer a choice between these two chips, the takeaway is that there is no clear winner between the two. Each version has its advantages. Rank your priorities based on how important it is for your machine to multitask (i.e., gaming or video editing), perform simple tasks like photo editing, or conserve power (i.e., extended battery life.) It doesn’t matter how long the battery life is on one chip if you won’t regularly use the battery.

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