Intel 10th-gen Ice Lake CPUs: Everything we know so far

10th-gen Intel laptops have arrived, but desktop processors are still far off

intel 10th gen ice lake project athena

10nm architecture processors has been a goal for Intel for many years. The delays were numerous, but 2019 will be the year Intel finally jumps the hurdle that is 10nm and we see the launch of the first Ice Lake laptops in the middle of the year. With mobile Ice Lake CPUs now shipping, we can look forward to as many as 35 Ice Lake laptop designs by the end of the year.

But desktop 10nm chips still seem quite distant, with Intel admitting that it has fallen years behind AMD in the race to ever smaller process technology.

Pricing and availability

Ice Lake was officially announced at CES 2019 and though it was initially given a rough release date of Holiday Season 2019, it was only a few months later that Intel began announcing mobile Ice Lake CPUs for laptops and 2-in-1s. The focus is on Y and U-series chips first. Intel says we’ll see as many as 35 laptop designs from different manufacturers by the end of the year and started shipping out the first of its Ice Lake mobile chips at the start of August.

The desktop chips, however, won’t arrive until later. PC Builders Club initially claimed that we won’t see Ice Lake hit desktops until 2021. A leaked Intel roadmap also suggested we might not see 10nm on desktop until 2022, but it might be that Intel doesn’t bother with 10nm on desktop at all. The latest news from Intel CEO Bob Swann, was that Intel would begin production on 7nm chips in 2021, potentially for a 2022 release.

Speculation on pricing for such fabled chips would be nothing but that, and with little of anything concrete to go on about core counts, clock speeds, or release dates for desktop parts, we can’t really suggest what any future Ice Lake desktop chips might cost. If they ever appear at all.

Performance and architecture

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Ice Lake is built upon Intel’s Sunny Cove architecture which utilizes a 10nm process. When combined with software tweaks that allow for on-the-fly adjustments to memory frequency and screen refresh rate, Ice Lake-equipped laptops should be very energy efficient. Intel told Digital Trends that Sunny Cove should push laptop battery life to more than a day. It’s already managed as much as 25 hours in some early prototypes

Most will be more interested in performance, though. While we’re still waiting on third-party benchmarks to confirm how these chips do in the real world, we do have an official specification list from Intel and some leaked benchmarks which hint at impressive performance.

U-series

Cores/Threads Graphics (execution units) Cache Base clock Boost clock (all-core) 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

Y-Series

Cores/Threads Graphics (execution units) Cache Base clock 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

There’s a lot to digest here, with Intel changing both its naming conventions for chips, as well as the typical configurations of hardware it offers. That, combined with broad-range TDP number,s suggest we might have varied performance from individual chips depending on the laptops they end up in.

At the top end, Core i7 CPUs still rule the roost with four cores and full support for hyperthreading. They also enjoy the greatest amount of cache, the highest boost clocks on both single and all cores (though not always the highest base clock), as well as the most powerful graphics. The Core i5 chips aren’t too different, typically sporting the same cores and threads, but slightly weaker CPU and graphics boost clocks.

Core i3 CPUs now represent even more of an entry-level chip, with a maximum of two cores in both the U and Y-series, with much weaker, last-generation UHD graphics. Boost clock speeds remain reasonable though, which brings us to our discussion of TDP.

TDP is a figure that combines power requirements and thermal dissipation requirements. But in this case there are two figures, which suggests that if manufacturers put these chips into laptops or tablets with stronger cooling, then performance can increase or sustain for longer, in turn. All TDPs are higher than we might have expected from a new, die-shrunk architecture, but it could be that instead of leveraging that shrink to improve efficiency and reduce power requirements, Intel has instead doubled down on performance. Intel told us, for example, that the high-end 28-watt part uses a higher TDP to support the more powerful graphics.

But specifications only tell us so much. Earlier this year NoteBookCheck did discover some leaked benchmark results for the Core i7-1065G7. It’s found in a new HP Spectre x360, and it was allegedly capable of delivering single core performance of 5,691 in Geekbench, which is roughly comparable to a desktop Intel Core i7-8700K. That’s very impressive considering it’s a notebook CPU with a much lower TDP of just 15-25w, a lower clock speed, two fewer cores, and four fewer threads.

While a similar benchmark saw it score slightly lower, at 5,234, these are still impressive benchmarks that suggest Ice Lake has made some impressive instructions per clock (IPC) gains thanks to the generational leap and die shrink.

AnandTech performed some preliminary testing of the 1065G7 CPU and found it performed well against older Whisky Lake CPUs, even beating out much more power hungry alternatives. It was on an Intel system, so we still want to see true third-party testing before judging the capabilities of these chips, but so far they seem promising.

Some of these enhancements could come from Sunny Cove’s doubling the amount of L1 and L2 data cache from the respective 32kb and 256kb amounts, as well as a new memory controller that uses AI to handle workloads more efficiently.

“We integrated a 4×32 LPDDDR4 3733 dual-rank system that supports up to 32GB,” Intel Fellow and Chief Client Architect Becky Loop said earlier this year. “That gives us 50GB to 60GB of bandwidth that actually feeds your display, graphics, media, multi-threaded performance for your cores. On top of just providing the LPDDDR4, we also have gearing mode to handle autonomously in hardware the ability to dynamically change the frequency of memory on the system. So based on the workload, we can optimize the power and performance on the system to give you better performance and responsiveness.”

Intel calls this gearing “DL Boost,” and all the new chips support it.

intel icelake architecture ces 2019 ice lake 1

Ice Lake will support a new instruction set: AVX 512. Although that is unlikely to have much application for the average worker or gamer, when it comes to high-powered A.I. tasks, cryptography, or video editing, this new instruction set could have a dramatic impact on performance once it becomes more widely adopted. When combined with Ice Lake’s new support for Vector Neural Network Instructions, anything incorporating A.I. — like visual image searches or smart assistants — could see dramatic improvements in response times.

Iris Plus graphics

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Beyond the central processing capabilities of Ice Lake chips, they will also incorporate an 11th-generation Intel graphics core. That’s just one generation away from Intel’s 12th-gen architecture planned for its dedicated graphics card technology. Branded as “Iris Plus,” this new integrated graphics option should give Ice Lake laptops a significant boost over Intel UHD graphics.

In actual games, that could mean up to 1.8 times faster than Intel’s previous integrated graphics, making 1080p gaming a bit more achievable. Examples given by Intel include over 40 FPS (frames per second) in Fortnite at medium settings and 80 FPS in CS:Go on medium settings. That still doesn’t compare all that well to discrete graphics, but it’s a nice jump up from basic Intel UHD graphics and should compete favorably with AMD’s onboard Vega graphics cores in some of its mobile chips.

Iris Plus graphics will be excluded from Core i3 and one Core i5 CPU, but will otherwise be available throughout the range of Core i5 and Core i7 Ice Lake CPUs.

Improved connectivity

hp spectre folio
Jeremy Kaplan/Digital Trends

Keeping up with the trends in wireless networking, Ice Lake will have native support for Wi-Fi 6 (802.11.ax) to give devices access to the highest speed of wireless internet and local data transfers. As more Wi-Fi 6 router options become available, we’ll begin to see the real results of the significant increase in speed that comes with the new standard, which could provide up to a 70% reduction in latency.

Intel’s own version is called Wi-Fi 6 Gig+, which doubles Wi-Fi 6’s support of 80MHz channels up to 160MHz.

The other high-speed connectivity that Ice Lake will champion is Thunderbolt 3. The architecture for Thunderbolt support on Ice Lake has also been redesigned to allow manufacturers to easily accommodate ports on both sides of the system, similar to Apple’s MacBook Pro implementation. In addition, simplifying the Thunderbolt design will also reduce power consumption by 300 milliwatt per port when the port is fully utilized.

Spectre and Meltdown

Ice Lake’s architecture, Sunny Cove, will have hardware fixes for the Spectre and Meltdown architectural flaws that caused so much consternation among hardware manufacturers and software developers over the past year. So far we’ve seen microcode fixes for many of the most affected, recent-generation chips, and some of Intel’s ninth-generation chips implemented hardware fixes for specific instances of these exploits.

Intel has confirmed, however, that Ice Lake will go well beyond that, potentially representing the first CPU generation from Intel to mitigate major Spectre variants at the silicon level. That may also mean some of the performance-impacting stop-gap solutions protecting users against these exploits will not be present, although most think it unlikely that Ice Lake will be able to halt all the potential exploit paths.

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