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The Intel Comet Lake Core i9-10900K, i7-10700K, i5-10600K CPU Review: Skylake We Go A
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The first thing that comes to mind with Intel’s newest line of 10[sup]th[/sup] Generation desktop processors is one of ‘14nm Skylake, again?’. It is hard not to ignore the elephant in the room – these new processors are minor iterative updates on Intel’s 2015 processor line, moving up from four cores to ten cores and some extra frequency, some extra security measures, a modestly updated iGPU, but by and large it is still the same architecture. At a time when Intel has some strong competition, Comet Lake is the holding pattern until Intel can bring its newer architectures to the desktop market, but can it be competitive?

Three weeks ago, Intel announced the Comet Lake 10[sup]th[/sup] Generation Core processor family line for desktops. From Celeron and Pentium all the way up to Core i9 there were 32 new processor models, representing a sizeable offering to the market. The key elements to this range of processors was the introduction of 10 cores for the Core i9 parts at the high-end – an increase of two cores over the last generation – and the introduction of Intel’s Thermal Velocity Boost for Core i9 that enables +100 MHz in the cooler thermal environments.

The best processor from the range, the Core i9-10900K, promises 5.3 GHz peak turbo in optimal conditions for two preferred cores, or 4.9 GHz for all-core situations. Everything from Core i9, Core i7, Core i5, Core i3, and the Pentium Gold processors have hyperthreading, making the processor stack easier to understand for this generation. Compared to the previous generation, there are a lot of similar processor matchups, and except for the top 10-core parts, the offerings should move down one price bracket this time around.

Intel has changed the socket for this generation, moving to an LGA1200 platform. This also means there are new motherboards, the Intel 400 series family, including the Z490 chipset which has 44+ entrants ranging from $150 all the way up to $1200. We have a very thorough analysis of every motherboard in our Z490 motherboard overview.
The Processor Stack

As mentioned, there are 32 processors for the new Comet Lake 10[sup]th[/sup] Generation Core family. The Core i9/i7/i5/i3 parts will broadly fall into four categories:
  • K = Overclockable with Integrated Graphics, 125 W TDP
  • KF = Overclockable but no Integrated Graphics, 125 W TDP
  • F = No Integrated Graphics, 65 W
  • T = Low Power with Integrated Graphics, 35 W
  • No Suffix = Regular CPU with Integrated Graphics, 65 W
Intel uses these divisions based on both customer demand but also its ability to separate the best quality silicon from its manufacturing. Silicon that can enable low-power operation becomes T processors, while silicon that can push the highest frequencies at reasonable voltages becomes the K silicon. Some silicon might not be up to par with the integrated graphics, and so these become F processors, and are generally cheaper than the non-F versions to the tune of $11-$25.

Here is how these new processors stack-up.The Core i9 and Core i7 processors will support DDR4-2933, while everything else supports DDR4-2666. These processors are all PCIe 3.0, with sixteen lanes from the CPU available for add-in cards and direct connected storage. Intel likes to point out that they offer another 24 PCIe 3.0 lanes on the chipset, however the uplink to the processor is still a DMI/PCIe 3.0 x4 link.

As far as we understand, Intel will be coming to market first with the K processors, and the other processors should be a quick follow-on. That being said, a large number of Intel’s Core 9[sup]th[/sup] Gen processor line have been difficult to obtain at retail as the company sees record demand for its server processors. As those command a higher operating margin, Intel would rather spend its manufacturing resources making those server processors instead, leading to shortages of the consumer mainline CPUs. Even as a primary reviewing technology media organization focusing on companies like Intel, Intel has not proactively sampled the media with many of the 9[sup]th[/sup] Generation parts - perhaps the lack of availability is one of those reasons. It will be interesting to see how many of the Intel 10[sup]th[/sup] Gen processors are made available to both reviewers and the public alike.

For this review, we were able to obtain the 10-core Core i9-10900K, the 8-core Core i7-10700K, and the 6-core Core i5-10600K.
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