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Intel Comet Lake: New 10th gen laptop CPUs heading to earth, but won’t make 14nm extinct

Intel has officially unveiled its Comet Lake series of 10th gen U-series and Y-series processors which are coming soon to laptops near you – but unlike the new 10 nanometre (nm) Ice Lake CPUs, these chips follow the older 14nm process. 

They won’t support the new Intel Iris Plus 64 EU (execution units) integrated graphics seen on Ice Lake processors, either, so don’t expect Comet Lake processors to sit inside bleeding edge high-performance gaming laptops. 

Despite this, Comet Lake CPUs still promise high performance, with processors turboing up to 4.9GHz, and support for fast connectivity via Thunderbolt 3 and Wi-Fi 6, with the most powerful Comet Lake chip – the Intel Core i7-10710U – featuring six processor cores and a 12MB cache. 

Intel says that this particular chip offers a 16x performance boost compared to last year’s Core i7-8565, the most powerful Whiskey Lake processor which sits inside laptops like the Razer Blade Stealth, Dell XPS 13, and Asus ZenBook Pro 14 – so expect to see Comet Lake processors in upcoming versions of these laptops and equivalent future models. 

We’ve got specs for the full Comet Lake series listed below and will explain these, as well as talk about the 10nm and 14nm process, and what this means for laptop buyers in 2019 and beyond.

Related: Best Intel processor 

What is Comet Lake?

Comet Lake is the new codename for Intel’s latest line of processors, and follows the ‘Lake’ naming convention. In the past we’ve had Coffee Lake, Kaby Lake, Whiskey Lake, and now we have Comet Lake. 

Intel Comet Lake specifications – all of the Comet Lake specs and CPU names listed

Comet Lake processors are divided into two camps, U-Series and Y-Series. This follows the traditional Intel naming convention, with a U suffix on a processor’s name suggesting that a laptop is running with a larger, and more powerful (and more battery hungry) chip on board, with the Y suffix suggesting the opposite – a smaller and less capable CPU, but one that’ll promise longer battery life. 

Typically, U-Series processors sit inside 15 and 17-inch ultrabooks which may also feature dedicated graphics cards, fans, and thermal vents, too. Y-Series laptops tend to be smaller, thinner, and fanless, and aren’t paired with a dedicated GPU. 

The traditional Core numbering pattern is the same as with previous Intel generations too – Core i3 CPUs are basic, entry-level processors which can handle a few tasks at a time. Core i5s are more powerful, and Core i7s and even more powerful and complex. More powerful components tend to place a greater strain on a laptop’s battery, so if you don’t need the most powerful model out there, a Core i5 laptop might be a better purchase than a Core i7.

Intel Comet Lake – U-Series processor names and specifications

Core i3-10110U Core i5-10210U Core i7-10510U Core i7-10710U
Cores / Threads 2 / 4 4 / 8 4 / 8  6 / 12
Graphics (EUs) 23 24 24 24
Cache 4MB 6MB 8MB 12MB
Nominal TDP / Config UP TDP 15W / 25W 15W / 25W 15W / 25W 15W / 25W
Base clock speed 2.1GHz 1.6GHz 1.8GHz 1.1GHz
Single core turbo 4.1GHz 4.2GHz 4.9GHz 4.7GHz
All core turbo 3.7GHz 3.9GHz 4.3GHz 3.9GHz
Graphics max frequency 1.0GHz 1.1GHz 1.15GHz 1.15GHz
Memory support LPDDR4x 2933 LPDDR3 2133 DDR4 2666 LPDDR4x 2933 LPDDR3 2133 DDR4 2666 LPDDR4x 2933 LPDDR3 2133 DDR4 2666 LPDDR4x 2933  LPDDR3 2133 DDR4 2666

Intel Comet Lake – Y-Series processor names and specifications

Core i3-10110Y Core i5-10210Y Core i5-10310Y Core i7-10510Y
Cores / Threads 2 / 4 4 / 8 4 / 8  4 / 8
Graphics (EUs) 24 24 24 24
Cache 4MB 6MB 8MB 12MB
Config Down TDP / Nominal TDP / Config UP TDP 5.5W / 7W / 9W  4.5W / 7W / 9W 5.5W / 7W / 9W 4.5W / 7W / 9W
Base clock speed 1.0GHz 1.0GHz 1.1GHz 1.2GHz
Single core turbo 4.0GHz 4.0GHz 4.1GHz 4.5GHz
All core turbo 3.7GHz 2.7GHz 2.8GHz 3.2GHz
Graphics max frequency 1.0GHz 1.05GHz 1.05GHz 1.15GHz
Memory support LPDDR3 2133 LPDDR3 2133 LPDDR3 2133 LPDDR3 2133

Ice Lake vs Comet Lake – What’s the difference?

Comet Lake chips are laptop processors, and are arriving in the market at roughly the same time as laptop Ice Lake processors, which may cause some confusion.  

As I mentioned above, Comet Lake and Ice Lake chips follow different manufacturing processes – 14nm and 10nm. The rule of thumb is, a smaller manufacturing process means you can fit more transistors onto a square millimetre of silicon. The more transistors a chip has, the better performance you can expect from it. 

But that’s not the whole story. A quick glance at the basic specs above suggests that Comet Lake laptops might be better than Ice Lake machines in some cases, especially for workloads where more cores and threads are needed. 

Why is this the case? According to vice president and general manager of mobile product marketing for Intel, Ran Senderovitz, it’s out of necessity – Intel has spent a lot of time and money perfecting the 10nm manufacturing process, and it’s not been easy. 

In the meantime, it’s refined the 14nm manufacturing process, to the point where it’s still possible, in 2019, to release a new line of chips following the same process as last year’s and offer a big performance uptick. 

That said, there are two key differences between Ice Lake and Comet Lake CPUs. 

Firstly, Ice Lake CPUs will feature more powerful integrated graphics than their Comet Lake counterparts. This means you’re more likely to see them in high-performance ultrabooks designed for photo editing, although you may also see Core i7 Comet Lake chips alongside dedicated graphics cards in laptops. 

Secondly, Ice Lake processors can support faster memory (3200MHz DDR4 RAM vs 2600MHz DDR4 RAM), so again, they are more likely to sit inside a powerful laptop like a future Apple MacBook Pro, Dell XPS 15 or Asus ZenBook Duo Pro than a Comet Lake chip is. 

Thirdly, the most powerful Comet Lake processor features six cores and can handle up to 12 threads, whereas the biggest Ice Lake CPU has four cores, handling up to eight thread.

Finally, Ice Lake systems will feature on-board machine learning processes, which mean that laptops could keep tabs on what your favourite apps and programs are, when you launch them in the day, and how long you use them fore, while the Comet Lake design does not support this.

In terms of connectivity, both Ice Lake and Comet Lake processors will support Thunderbolt 3 and Wi-Fi 6.

Intel Ice Lake vs Comet Lake

To help with differentiating between the two processor types at a glance, Intel is abandoning its traditional numbering scheme for Ice Lake, adopting a new nomenclature. As you can see in the screengrab below, the ‘Core’ naming prefix remains, and the first digits of the number and letter string indicating the generation of the chip – in this case ‘10’ – also isn’t changing. 

What’s different is that Ice Lake chips are binning off suffixes like U-Series, Y-Series, HQ an HK-Series, instead preferring to draw your attention to the Iris Plus integrated graphics that are along for the ride, in this case Intel Iris Plus Graphics G7, which features 64 EUs. 

Related: Best graphics card

Comet Lake release date – When will the first Comet Lake laptops arrive? 

While no manufacturers have come out of the woodwork to say when the first Comet Lake laptops will hit shelves, Intel’s anticipating in excess of 90 laptops to be on sale before the Christmas period this year – so it’s likely that we’ll see the first devices announced around October time. 

Expect to hear more during, if not very soon after, IFA, where laptop manufacturers including Dell, Acer, Lenovo, and Asus will be exhibiting their wares.