Intel’s Comet Lake 10th-gen Core chips reveal what Intel was alluding to a few weeks ago: It’s shipping a replacement for the 8th-gen Whiskey Lake mobile processors currently powering most notebook PCs, with a new memory controller and substantially faster clock speeds. 

Comet Lake is actually more like than unlike Whiskey Lake. Both chips use Whiskey Lake’s 14nm CPU architecture. Comet Lake is clocked faster, yet it still remains within roughly the same thermal constraints. Both families primarily use four cores and eight threads, though Comet Lake adds a single six-core option. Nevertheless, Intel is positioning Comet Lake as a 10th-gen chip, in the same family as its recently-introduced Ice Lake

Intel characterizes its eight new Comet Lake chips as upclocked powerhouses, soaring to 4.9GHz turbo frequency, with a mix of U-series (notebooks) and Y-series (tablet) processors. Intel is relying on its turbo speed and a new memory controller, which adds LPDDR4x support and pushes DDR4 support up a notch to 2,666MHz speeds for additional performance.

Overall, Comet Lake will outperform Whiskey Lake by about 16 percent, Intel says. But the impact of the clock and memory combination will be felt more strongly in Office apps, propelling Comet Lake’s Office 365 performance 41 percent faster than Whiskey Lake’s.

Dell Inspiron Intel Whiskey Lake Mark Hachman / IDG

It might not be exactly precise to call Comet Lake an upclocked, improved version of the 8th-gen Whiskey Lake, but it’s probably close enough that it won’t matter.

The challenge, though, will be differentiating Comet Lake from the Ice Lake chips it launched just weeks ago. Comet Lake chips will be immediately available, confirming what leaked roadmaps suggested: This fall will see Intel versus Intel, with the legacy 14nm 10th-gen Comet Lake architecture taking on 10nm, 10th-gen Ice Lake chips already shipping inside notebook PCs. Intel’s positioning Ice Lake notebooks as well-rounded platforms that emphasize connectivity and graphics, with Comet Lake relegated to business platforms and other PCs that demand more straightforward performance. But Whiskey Lake-based  notebooks aren’t going away either, Intel says, and AMD’s third-gen mobile Ryzen notebooks hope to shoulder in. 

“One [Ice Lake] is for entertainment and for intelligent performance. The other one [Comet Lake] is for productivity,” said Ron Senderovitz, the vice president of mobile platform marketing for Intel’s Client Computing Group, in a recent briefing. “And both of them are coming with the connectivity that we’ve talked to you [about], and with a baseline performance that is really fantastic.” 

More Comet Lake chips are due in the first half of 2020. What Intel is announcing today are merely the consumer versions; next year, Intel will add Comet Lake chips optimized for business, with vPro technology attached. 

Intel’s Comet Lake model numbers have changed, again

Challenging users to differentiate between Comet Lake, Ice Lake, and Whiskey Lake notebooks will be problematic enough. But Intel has tweaked its model numbering scheme yet again, after we thought we’d explained it once and for all with Ice Lake.



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