Intel Announces Underwhelming 10th Gen Processors

At Computex 2019 today, in Taipei City, Taiwan, Intel announced their 10th generation CPUs, dubbed “Ice Lake”.  While the process used to design Ice Lake chips is innovative (for Intel), as they have had difficulties in bringing a chip designed with a 10nm process to market, the actual difference in reported performance leaves something to be desired.

For one, Intel has released benchmark statistics that show that Ice Lake’s 10th generation CPU cores have approximately 18% more instructions per cycle when compared to Skylake cores.  You read that right, Skylake.  Intel’s now releasing benchmarks against CPUs from 2015, instead of anything recent.  We find this suspicious, to say the least.

As well, they also released the above graph, purporting to show that single core performance has increased substantially as well — but strangely enough, the graph compares single core performance against 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th generation processors — where is the comparison against the most recent 9th generation?  If Intel’s graph shows anything, it’s that these new 10th generation cores are barely faster than two generations ago, a strange brag in our mind.

That said, Ice Lake isn’t a total dud; the first Ice Lake CPUs are designed for notebooks, and have impressively low power levels, boasting between 9~25W TDP.  Using Intel’s playbook, Ice Lake is a lot less power-hungry than Skylake was — Skylake released with the 6700K at 95W TDP, and eventually had an array of chips, running from between 35W for the most power-efficient, to 165W for the Extreme Edition chips.  Even if we were to compare Ice Lake to more recent CPUs, 9~25W TDP is pretty impressive.

Apart from shrinking the die down to 10nm and reducing the power draw, Intel managed to greatly increase the performance of Ice Lake’s integrated graphics when compared to previous generations — the performance has almost doubled.  Obviously, this doesn’t mean that integrated graphics are going to be the next big thing in gaming (indeed, Intel’s own benchmarks show that Ice Lake CPUs with their confusingly-named Gen11 integrated graphics still struggle to deliver playable framerates at 1080p with reduced settings), but this will certainly be a huge boon to the lower-end laptop market. Lower-end laptops powered by 10th generation Intel CPUs will be able to do more than browse the web and edit spreadsheets; their gaming performance will still be sub-par, to say the least, but at very least they should be able to run some titles at 1080p at low settings.

Finally, Intel has also included a few “nice-to-haves”, including integrated WiFi 6 support, and support for Thunderbolt 3, which uses a standard USB-C connector. Thunderbolt 3 doubles the bandwidth of Thunderbolt 2, offering a staggering theoretical cap of 40 Gbps, enough to run dual displays running at 4k without any compression.  At that speed, a regular USB-C cable doesn’t keep up – to take advantage of Thunderbolt 3, you need to purchase a special cable.

All in all, Intel’s 10th generation announcement has been rather lackluster, but there is a real sense that Intel is feeling the immense pressure of an AMD that is actually improving by leaps and bounds – hopefully this competition will result in innovation, and lower prices for consumers.

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