Intel Comet Lake vs. Ice Lake

Comet Lake or Ice Lake? Which will be your next Intel CPU upgrade?

intel ice lake wont rid spectre insecure chip
Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation

The two-horse CPU race between AMD and Intel is more exciting than ever in 2019, with AMD’s high-powered Ryzen 3000 processors lighting a fire under Intel the likes we haven’t seen in years. To combat AMD’s new hotness, Intel has two brand new CPU lines that it will flesh out over the next year: Ice Lake and Comet Lake.

These are both exclusively laptop processors for now, which means you won’t be buying these chips on their own. However, given that they will be showing up in very different types of laptops, it’s an important to know the difference between the two. So, how they measure up to one another?

Availability and pricing

Laptops with Ice Lake CPUs have just begun to ship out at the end of the summer, with plans to release as many as 35 different models powered by Ice Lake by the end of the year. With a focus on U and Y-series processors, Ice Lake chips will be predominantly low-cost, but we have seen a few higher-end processors which could command a higher price for systems they’re bundled into.

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 should be more ubiquitous before the end of the year, with Intel promising as many as 85 different laptop designs using the alternate 10th-generation chips. Like Ice Lake, these will be U and Y-series chips, rather than the higher-powered H-Series. That means chips should be generally quite affordable, though there are some more impressive chips which could demand a premium.

Desktop Comet Lake chips aren’t coming until 2020 at the earliest, with a probable launch in the first half of the year. Comet Lake is expected to replace the entire ninth-generation, Coffee Lake range of Intel CPUs, so we’d expect to see processor pricing range from $100 all the way up to $500.

Architecture

intel 10th gen ice lake project athena

Both Ice Lake and Comet Lake will find their way into products within months of each other and in many cases, may 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. 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 which 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-generation Iris Plus graphics, which offer a significant uptick in 3D performance over 9th-generation 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-generation 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 will, however, benefit from a 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 may be a year or two apart, Intel plans to sell Ice Lake laptops right alongside Comet Lake laptops, with tens of devices with either CPU line in them hitting store shelves before the end of 2019.

That might make the market for Intel laptops rather confusing, but it does mean there are plenty of options for potential buyers out there. Here are all of the 14nm Comet Lake mobile CPUs we know about so far:

Comet Lake U-series

  Cores/Threads Graphics (execution units) Cache Base clock Boost clock (single-core) Boost clock (all-core) TDP
Intel Core i7-10710U 6/12 24 12MB 1.1GHz 4.7GHz 1.15GHz 15w/25w
Intel Core i7-10510U 4/8 24 8MB 1.8GHz 4.9GHz 1.15GHz 15w/25w
Intel Core i5-10210U 4/8 24 6MB 1.6GHz 4.2GHz 1.10GHz 15w/25w
Intel Core i3-10110U 2/4 23 4MB 2.1GHz 4.1GHz 1.00GHz 15w/25w

Comet Lake Y-series

  Cores/Threads Graphics (execution units) Cache Base clock Boost clock (single-core) Boost clock (all-core) TDP
Intel Core i7-10510Y 4/8 24 8MB 1.2GHz 4.5GHz 3.2GHz 4.5w/7w/9w
Intel Core i5-10310Y 4/8 24 6MB 1.1GHz 4.1GHz 2.8GHz 5.5w/7w/9w
Intel Core i5-10210Y 4/8 24 6MB 1.0GHz 4.0GHz 2.7GHz 4.5w/7w/9w
Intel Core i3-10110Y 2/4 24 4MB 1.0GHz 4.0GHz 3.7GHz 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 (execution units) Cache Base clock Boost clock (single-core) Boost clock (all-c0re) Graphics boost clock TDP
Intel Core i7-1068G7 4/8 Iris Plus (64) 8MB 2.3GHz 4.1GHz 3.6GHz 1.1GHz 28w
Intel Core i7-1065G7 4/8 Iris Plus (64) 8MB 1.3GHz 3.9GHz 3.5GHz 1.1GHz 15w/25w
Intel Core i5-1035G7 4/8 Iris Plus (64) 6MB 1.2GHz 3.7GHz 3.3GHz 1.05GHz 15w/25w
Intel Core i5-1035G4 4/8 Iris Plus (48) 6MB 1.1GHz 3.7GHz 3.3GHz 1.05GHz 15w/25w
Intel Core i5-1035G1 4/8 UHD (32) 6MB 1.0GHz 3.6GHz 3.3GHz 1.05GHz 15w/25w
Intel 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 (execution units) Cache Base clock Boost clock (single-core) Boost clock (all-core) Graphics boost clock TDP
Intel Core i7-1060G7 4/8 Iris Plus (64) 8MB 1.0GHz 3.8GHz () 3.4GHz 1.1GHz 9w/12w
Intel Core i5-1030G7 4/8 Iris Plus (64) 6MB 0.8Ghz 3.5GHz () 3.2GHz 1.05GHz 9w/12w
Intel Core i5-1030G4 4/8 Iris Plus (48) 6MB 0.7Ghz 3.5Ghz 3.2GHz 1.05GHz 9w/12w
Intel Core i3-1000G4 2/4 Iris Plus (48) 4MB 1.1GHz 3.2GHz 3.2GHz 0.9GHz 9w/12w
Intel 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-generation 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 though, highlighting the problems Intel (and AMD) have faced in getting high frequencies out of 10nm and sub-10nm components. That may mean that Comet Lake performs better in some scenarios where clock speed can make a big difference — certain games and software applications may be stand outs 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 that we’re interested to put through its paces when we get more hands on time with the hardware later this year.

Desktop CPUs

Intel hasn’t officially announced any desktop CPUs for either the Ice Lake or Comet Lake range as of yet. With a potential release of Ice Lake on desktop at a year or two away, we don’t expect to hear much about them for a while either. Comet Lake on the other hand, does have an allegedly leaked product stack that we can draw from to get some idea of what the new chips will be capable of.

Possible Comet Lake CPU lineup on Desktop

The lineup includes everything from four core chips with slightly improved UHD graphics and clock speeds in the low 4GHz range, all the way up to graphics-free, 10-core chips which can boost as high as 5.2GHz. Other reports we’ve heard suggest that the top chips will have a TDP as high as 125w, which would require some serious cooling to keep in check and allow them to reach their rated boost frequencies for more than a few seconds.

Also of note is that Comet Lake may re-introduce hyperthreading for Core i7 CPUs and even extend it to Core i5 models. That would make Intel’s entire Comet Lake product stack much more capable in multithreaded tasks and therefore more competitive with AMD’s third-generation Ryzen processors.

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 judgement on them for now.

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