Intel Struggles With Whether Comet Lake Is Faster Than Ice Lake


When Intel introduced its 10th Generation CPUs, it made the decision to mix 10nm and 14nm chips together in the same product matrix. Intel’s 14nm Comet Lake CPUs pack 2-6 CPU cores and hit high frequencies; the 10510U (4C/8T) has a top frequency of 4.9GHz; while the 10710U (6C/12T) tops out at 4.7GHz. Ice Lake CPUs have better IPC than Comet Lake (~1.18x) but also have lower CPU frequencies. The fastest 10nm Core i7, the 1065G7, has a maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 3.9GHz.

At CES last week, Intel showed performance data on its fastest mobile platforms as part of an argument for its significant superiority over AMD solutions. There’s genuine truth to this, in that the top-end Surface Laptop from Microsoft is available in both AMD and Intel flavors, and the Intel flavors win that competition. AMD’s recently announced Ryzen Mobile 4000 parts will give Team Red a new chance to tackle Intel’s mobile business when it launches. In addition to this discussion, Intel also showed a pair of slides that inadvertently illustrate how much trouble Intel is having when it comes to positioning the Comet Lake and Ice Lake CPUsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce against each other. Anandtech did a deep dive on the results that were shown for the 10710U and 1065G7.

First, here’s data on Intel’s Comet Lake, as compared with the Ryzen 7 3700U. Yes, all vendor benchmarks should be taken with a lot of salt, but we’re interested in Intel versus Intel more than Intel versus AMD.

Next up, here’s Ice Lake. Keep in mind that these tests solely discuss CPU performance. Ice Lake’s graphics are significantly faster than anything Comet Lake fields and there’s no real competition between them as far as graphics are concerned.

The Overall, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Edge tests are all from PCMark 10, while WebXPRT is developed by a consulting firm Intel works with for benchmark authoring and whitepaper work. Comet Lake wins four of these tests and ties in the 5th, 1.24x versus 1.25x.

Ice Lake ekes out a win in WebXPRT, but it falls well behind in the “Convert to PDF” and PowerPoint export tests. It wins the Windows Mail Merge Error Check and the “PowerPoint Export to 1080p Video” tests as well and ties in the Photoshop Element CC Colorize test. The other two Topaz Labs AI tests both run on the GPU, which is why it’s not surprising to see Ice Lake win those tests by such a wide margin.

Of the 13 results, the Core i7-10710U wins six, loses five, and ties two. Remove the GPU results, and Comet Lake’s record is 6-3-2, not 6-5-2. Now granted, this is something we might reasonably expect in a laptop where one CPU is a six-core and the other is just a quad — but it also means Intel has trouble positioning its top-end Ice Lake 10nm CPU against the performance of its top-end Comet Lake CPU. Intel has been arguing against using synthetic tests and scenarios in favor of additional “real-world” benchmarks, but the test scenarios that Ice Lake does best in are ones that make use of Intel’s AI and GPU acceleration in specific and particular tasks. That’s partly because these capabilities are all pretty new — software always lags hardware when it comes to broad adoption — but it sits in tension with Intel’s broad claim to want to focus on the workloads people practically run most. In the most common Office workloads, we’ve got the 10710U taking an overall leadership position.

One thing I want to note is that other Comet Lake/Ice Lake comparisons won’t look like this. The 10710U is unique in having two more cores than any Ice Lake, and while quad-core Comet CPUs still have much higher boost clocks, the performance split between the parts will be different because of this.

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