Intel claims its Core i9-10900K Comet Lake chip is the world’s fastest gaming processor

Intel’s latest 10th-gen “Comet Lake S” desktop processors solve the hyperthreading issues that plagued Intel’s 9th-gen chips, with a unique wrinkle: the ability to dial hyperthreading on and off on a per-core basis. The fastest of the thirty-two new chips pushes clock speeds up to 5.3GHz, though that’s specific to a single core. Intel boasts the 10-core/20-thread Core i9-10900K will be the world’s fastest gaming processor, a claim that we’re eager to test. 

Also in the mix are two derivatives Intel’s offered previously: specific F-series parts that lack integrated GPU cores, as well as ten T-series 35W chips optimized for small-form-factor designs.

Though overall base clock speeds appear to be higher than those offered in the Coffee Lake-R chips we saw a year ago, however, don’t be fooled by the 10th-gen nomenclature. These are still 14nm parts, with the same UHD 630 integrated GPU as the prior generation. Comet Lake S will also require new LGA 1200 socket motherboards to accommodate TDP power that has climbed to 125W in places.

Intel’s promising double-digit performance increases when Comet Lake is compared to the 9th-gen Coffee Lake, and substantially more versus an older PC.  The real question, of course, is whether Intel’s new Comet Lake chips will be able to up-end AMD’s world-beating 16-core Ryzen 3950X desktop chip and its Threadripper counterparts, the 32-core 3970X and 64-core 3990X. Not surprisingly, Intel’s emphasis is on the need for single-core performance, its traditional area of strength. 

intel comet lake s feature summary Intel

A list of some of the new features within the Intel Comet Lake desktop platform

Comet Lake S: The chips themselves

Brandt Guttridge, Intel’s senior director for desktop and workstation product marketing, explained that Intel is seeking to improve clock speed, tunability, and real-world performance. Intel didn’t say as much, but some of what Intel is offering appears to try and minimize its power disadvantage relative to Ryzen, while maximizing Comet Lake’s time in turbo mode to push performance higher.

The Core i9-10900K lists for the same price as the Core i9-9900K did, initially: $488, though the $262 Intel is charging for the Core i5-10600K 6-core/12-thread part may attract more buyers. You’ll notice, though, that the power consumption of many of these new chips now touch 125W, versus the 95W consumed by many 9th-gen chips. (AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X consumes 105W, though it’s priced at over $700 on Amazon; the 105W Ryzen 9 3900X costs $409.)

Intel will also continue to sell F-series versions of the Comet Lake processors. The F-series chips ship with the integrated graphics disabled, requiring customers to use a discrete GPU instead. They’re cheaper, but they also allow Intel to sell a CPU whose integrated graphics fails testing, producing more revenue for the company.

The screen below lists Intel’s 17 new Core i9, Core i7, Core i5, and Core i3 Comet Lake parts. Several come unlocked (with K suffixes), allowing overclockers to push clock speeds even higher. Guttridge said that Intel sells from four million to five million unlocked processors per year, “a fairly significant chunk of our overall market.”

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