What is “CometLake”?
It is one of the 10th generation Core arch (CML) from Intel – the latest revision of the venerable (6th gen!) “Skylake” (SKL) arch; it succeeds the “WhiskyLake”/”CofeeLake” 8/9-gen current architectures for mobile (ULV U/Y) devices. The “real” 10th generation Core arch is “IceLake” (ICL) that does bring many changes but has not made its mainstream debut yet.
As a result there ar no major updates vs. previous Skylake designs, save increase in core count top end versions and hardware vulnerability mitigations which can still make a big difference:
- Up to 6C/12T (from 4C/8T WhiskyLake/CoffeeLake or 2C/4T Skylake/KabyLake)
- Increase Turbo ratios
- 2-channel LP-DDR4 support and DDR4-2667 (up from 2400)
- WiFi6 (802.11ax) AX201 integrated (from WiFi5 (802.11ac) 9560)
- Thunderbolt 3 integrated
- Hardware fixes/mitigations for vulnerabilities (“Meltdown”, “MDS”, various “Spectre” types)
The 3x (three times) increase in core count (6C/12T vs. Skylake/KabyLake 2C/8T) in the same 15-28W power envelope is pretty significant considering that Core ULV designs since 1st gen have always had 2C/4T; unfortunately it is limited to top-end thus even i7-10510U still has 4C/8T.
LP-DDR4 support is important as many thin & light laptops (e.g. Dell XPS, Lenovo Carbon X1, etc.) have been “stuck” with slow LP-DDR3 memory instead of high-bandwidth DDR4 memory in order to save power. Note the Y-variants (4.5-6W) will not support this.
WiFi is now integrated in the PCH and has been updated to WiFi6/AX (2×2 streams, up to 2400Mbps with 160MHz-wide channel) from WiFi5/AX (1733Mbps); this also means no simple WiFi-card upgrade in the future as with older laptops (except those with “whitelists” like HP, Lenovo, etc.)
Why review it now?
Until “IceLake” makes its public debut, “CometLake” latest ULV APUs from Intel you can buy today; despite being just a revision of “Skylake” due to increased core counts/Turbo ratios they may still prove worthy competitors not just in cost but also performance.
As they contain hardware fixes/mitigations for vulnerabilities discovered since original “Skylake” has launched (especially “Meltdown” but also various “Spectre” variants), the operating system & applications do not need to deploy slower mitigations that can affect performance (especially I/O) on the older designs. For some algorithms, this may be worth an upgrade alone!
In this article we test CPU core performance; please see our other articles on:
We are comparing the top-of-the-range Intel ULV with competing architectures (gen 8, 7, 6) as well as competiors (AMD) with a view to upgrading to a mid-range but high performance design.
|CPU Specifications||AMD Ryzen2 2500U Bristol Ridge
||Intel i7 7500U (Kabylake ULV)
||Intel i7 8550U (Coffeelake ULV)
||Intel Core i7 10510U (CometLake ULV)
|Cores (CU) / Threads (SP)||4C / 8T||2C / 4T||4C / 8T||4C / 8T||N0 change in cores count on i3/i5/i7.|
|Speed (Min / Max / Turbo)||1.6-2.0-3.6GHz||0.4-2.7-3.5GHz||0.4-1.8-4.0GHz
(1.8 @ 15W, 2GHz @ 25W)
(1.8GHz @ 15W, 2.3GHz @ 25W)
|CML has +22% faster turbo.|
|Power (TDP)||15-35W||15-25W||15-35W||15-35W||Same power envelope.|
|L1D / L1I Caches||4x 32kB 8-way / 4x 64kB 4-way||2x 32kB 8-way / 2x 32kB 8-way||4x 32kB 8-way / 4x 32kB 8-way||4x 32kB 8-way / 4x 32kB 8-way||No L1 changes|
|L2 Caches||4x 512kB 8-way||2x 256kB 16-way||4x 256kB 16-way||4x 256kB 16-way||No L2 changes|
|L3 Caches||4MB 16-way||4MB 16-way||6MB 16-way||6MB 16-way||And no L3 changes|
|Microcode (Firmware)||MU8F1100-0B||MU068E09-8E||MU068E09-AE||MU068E0C-BE||Revisions just keep on coming.|
We are testing native arithmetic, SIMD and cryptography performance using the highest performing instruction sets (AVX2, AVX, etc.). “CometLake” (CML) supports all modern instruction sets including AVX2, FMA3 but not AVX512 (like “IceLake”) or SHA HWA (like Atom, Ryzen).
Results Interpretation: Higher values (GOPS, MB/s, etc.) mean better performance.
Environment: Windows 10 x64, latest AMD and Intel drivers. 2MB “large pages” were enabled and in use. Turbo / Boost was enabled on all configurations.
Without any new instruction sets (AVX512, SHA/HWA, etc.) support, CML-U was never going to be a revolution in performance and has to rely on clock and very minor improvements/fixes (especially for vulnerabilities) only. Versions with more cores (6C/12T) would certainly help if they can stay within the power limits (TDP/turbo).
Intel themselves did not claim a big performance improvement – still CML-U is 10-25% faster than CFL-U across workloads – at same TDP. At the same cost/power, it is a welcome improvement and it does allow it to beat current competition (Ryzen Mobile) which was nipping at its heels; it may also be enough to match future Gen3 Ryzen Mobile designs.
SiSoftware Official Ranker Scores
Final Thoughts / Conclusions
For some it may be disappointing we do not have brand-new improved “IceLake” (ICL-U) now rather than a 3-rd revision “Skylake” – but “CometLake” (CML-U) does seem to improve even over the previous revisions (8/9th gen “WhiskyLake”/”CofeeLake” WHL/CFL-U) while due to 2x core count completly outperforming the original (6/7th gen “Skylake”/”KabyLake”) in the same power envelope. Perhaps it also shows how much Intel has had to improve at short notice due to Ryzen Mobile APUs (e.g. 2500U) that finally brought competition to the mobile space.
While owners of 8/9-th gen won’t be upgrading – it is very rare to recommend changing from one generation to another anyway – owners of older hardware can look forward to over 2x performance increase in most workloads for the same power draw, not to mention the additional features (integrated WiFi6, Thunderbolt, etc.).
On the other hand, the competition (AMD Ryzen Mobile) also good performance and older 8/9th gen also offer competitive performance – thus it will all depend on price. With Gen3 Ryzen Mobile on the horizon (with 256-bit SIMD units) “CometLake” may just manage to match it on performance. It may also be worth waiting for “IceLake” to make its debut to see what performance improvements it brings and at what cost – which may also push “CometLake” prices down.
All in all Intel has managed to “squeeze” all it can from the old Skylake arch that while not revolutionary, still has enough to be competitive with current designs – and with future 50% increase core count (6C/12T from 4C/8T) might even beat them not just in cost but also in performance.
In a word: Qualified Recommendation!
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