ASUS ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming review

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Comet Lake processors

10th Generation Core series processors (CML)

Intel has been expanding with an up-to 10-core and thus 20-threads processor in the desktop segment (not HEDT). Intel markets these series as the Core series whereas HEDT is Core-X. More recently it has been adding the denominator the Core i9 series into that desktop lineup. The processors are paired with the 400 series chipset that a new processor socket,  LGA1200. The review sample submitted for this review is the Core i9-10900K, the top-of-the-line processor in the desktop range of products with 10 cores and 20 processing threads. It's Base / Turbo frequency is 3.70 / 5.10 GHz (TB2)  / 5.2 (TB3) GHz and 5.3 GHz with what is called a velocity boost. It has 20 MB of L3 cache, 16 PCI-Express 3.0 lines on the CPU, DDR4 @ 2933 MHz Dual-Channel memory configuration support, and a 125W TDP. 

  • TB2 - Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0: Dynamically increases the processor frequency up to 4.6 GHz when applications demand more performance. Speed when you need it, energy efficiency when you don’t.
  • TB3 - Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0: Identifies the four best-performing cores to provide increased single- and dual-core performance up to 5.2 GHz, quad-core performance up to 5.1 GHz. 

Velocity Boost

Intel has a fairly new classification for it's highest boosting frequency, this is called 'Thermal Velocity Boost'. This is an extra boost of 100 MHz, on both the single and all-core turbo, however, it is only activated under certain conditions. That conditions, as you can tell by its name, are the temperature of the processor, which needs to remain below 70 degrees Celsius. Once the processor gets warmer than value, the processors that support Velocity Boost (currently the four models in the 10900 SKU range). This means that once the Core i9 10900K passes that heat signature, the single-core boost is limited to 5.2 GHz or even 5.1 GHz without Turbo Boost Max 3.0. This technology was introduced with Cascade Lake-X and is available towards mainstream desktop to ensure single-threaded tasks run on the fastest cores. Pretty much end-users with liquid cooling will benefit from this the most.

Architecture changes

The Comet lake series processors have genuinely been based upon the Skylake architecture as a building block that you know from pretty much all socket 1151 parts, but then scaled upwards and from there on you have seen tweaks and fabrication process updates. So that means Intel is still at its 14nm node. Opposed to expensive architecture changes in caches and so on, Intel has been using the architecture as a modular design, adding cores. Intel applies a familiar L2 cache of 256 kB and L1 is at 64kB  in total (32kB  data + 32kB  instruction caches. However, relative to that the L3 cache is 2 MB per core. With these processors, you will now see three Turbo modes dubbed 2.0, 3.0, and explained in more detail in a lower paragraph, Velocity boost. Comet Lake-S processors offer an increase in clock frequencies and thus performance, as well as addressing security fixes in hardware, better protection against side-channel attacks. This series offers slightly 44 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes in total (16 from the CPU and 24 available from the chipset and 4 used as DMI 3.0 interlink inbetween the CPU and chipset). You'll notice  Wi-Fi 6 and 2.5GbE support for these new processors, don't get confused as that is not native, the controllers simply are made compatible, motherboard manufacturers can opt to add-in the appropriate modules as a feature.


Comet Lake Die, count and spot them, that's 10 cores. 

10th Gen Intel Core Desktop Specifications and Prices

It is a bit much to list the pricing of all the models, but we'll cherry-pick some SKUs, the rest you can observe from the slides. The Core i9-10900KF will cost $ 472,-, the i7-10700KF will cost $349,- and the i5-10600KF will cost $232,-  We highlight the KF series these as they are the ones that have unlocked multiplier and do not have integrated graphics, similar to the conditions of what AMD offers with Ryzen. The Core i3-10300 goes for $143,- the i3-10100 for $122, these two will be competing with the Ryzen 3 3100 at $99 and Ryzen 3 3300X at $120. Below we created an overview of what is released specifically in the Core range, as there are also Pentiums and Celerons released. Models with a K in the suffix are unlocked, and with an F as a suffix means it has no (active) integrated GPU. 


CPUCores / ThreadsBase ClockSingle Core TurboMax Turbo 3.0All Core TurboThermal Velocity BoostTDPUSD
i9-10900K 10C / 20T 3.7 GHz 5.1 GHz 5.2 GHz 4.8 GHz 5.3 / 4.9 GHz 125W $488
i9-10900KF 10C / 20T 3.7 GHz 5.1 GHz 5.2 GHz 4.8 GHz 5.3 / 4.9 GHz 125W $472
i9-10900 10C / 20T 2.8 GHz 5.0 GHz 5.1 GHz 4.5 GHz 5.2 / 4.6 GHz 65W $439
i9-10900F 10C / 20T 2.8 GHz 5.0 GHz 5.1 GHz 4.5 GHz 5.2 / 4.6 GHz 65W $422
i7-10700K 8C / 16T 3.8 GHz 5.0 GHz 5.1 GHz 4.7 GHz - 125W $374
i7-10700KF 8C / 16T 3.8 GHz 5.0 GHz 5.1 GHz 4.7 GHz - 125W $349
i7-10700 8C / 16T 2.9 GHz 4.7 GHz 4.8 GHz 4.6 GHz - 65W $323
i7-10700F 8C / 16T 2.9 GHz 4.7 GHz 4.8 GHz 4.6 GHz - 65W $298
i5-10600K 6C / 12T 4.1 GHz 4.8 GHz - 4.5 GHz - 125W $262
i5-10600KF 6C / 12T 4.1 GHz 4.8 GHz - 4.5 GHz - 125W $237
i5-10600 6C / 12T 3.3 GHz 4.8 GHz - 4.4 GHz - 65W $213
i5-10500 6C / 12T 3.1 GHz 4.5 GHz - 4.2 GHz - 65W $192
i5-10400 6C / 12T 2.9 GHz 4.3 GHz - 4.0 GHz - 65W $182
i5-10400F 6C / 12T 2.9 GHz 4.3 GHz - 4.0 GHz - 65W $157
i3-10320 4C / 8T 3.8 GHz 4.6 GHz - 4.4 GHz - 65W $154
i3-10300 4C / 8T 3.7 GHz 4.4 GHz - 4.2 GHz - 65W $143
i3-10100 4C / 8T 3.6 GHz 4.3 GHz - 4.1 GHz - 65W $122

TDP - PL States

Comet Lake processors are allowed to run load values considerably higher and longer than 9th gen Coffee Lake. The TDP that is specified/listed is now 125 Watt. However, the story does not end there though as that is the P1 state. For a 9900K that value sits at 95W, with the Comet Lake S thus 125W, of course, it is two more cores so nobody will wonder about that. However, there is also a PL2 state where a higher power limit that can be applied for a relatively short time. Let's take the 9900K again, it had a PL2 allowance of 1.25 times PL1, = 119W, for a duration of 28 seconds. If I take the 10900K as an example, PL2 now is 2 times PL1, so 250W. That PL2 state now also is longer, 56 seconds. And therein reaps the benefit of additional performance, substantially. 

CPU  P1 State PL2 State  Duration
Core i9 10900K 125 Watt 250 Watt 56 seconds
Core i7 10700K 125 Watt 229 Watt 56 seconds
Core i5 10500K 125 Watt 182 Watt 56 seconds
Core i9 9900K 95 Watt 118 Watt 28 seconds
Core i9-9900KS 127 Watt 159 Watt 28 seconds

In short, this means the overall performance of Comet Lake could be a lot higher compared to Coffee lake and older processors, but that also will have an effect on power consumption and inevitably, heat levels. That new and close to a minute PL2 state duration, however, is significant. With such significant power states, we do fail to see the significance and reliability of a listed TDP value these days if you allow double the TDP for almost a minute these days.

Z490 and what about PCI Express 4.0?

While the new Z490 motherboards mechanically can handle PCI Express 4.0, the reality is that Comet lake-S is a PCI Express 3.0 compatible product series. Z490, however, will also support the following series, Rocket Lake-S, and that processor will move towards What about PCI Express 4.0  The following is unconfirmed but, Comet Lake-S actually was designed to support PCI Express 4.0. However an issue prevents PCIe 4.0 to become usable, so the platform will support PCI-E 3.0 instead. The reason behind this is the presence of Jitter in the Z490 chipset signal, that causes instability in the data signal and that means that specifications required for the PCI-Express 4.0 certification are simply not met. PCI-E 4.0 is working at very high frequencies, and that requires that the signal be completely clean. This information remains speculation and hearsay though. That also means Comet Lake is using an x4 DMI PCIe Gen 3 interlink (the link between the processor and chipset). Intel informed us specifications of the three consumer chipsets: Z490, H470 and B460. A cheaper H410 chipset will follow at a later date. The Z490 chipset largely resembles its predecessor in terms of its feature set.

OC / Tweaking Yes - - Yes
PCIe 3.0 lanes CPU 16 16 16 16
PCIe 3.0 lanes chipset 24 20 16 24
SLI / Crossfire Yes - - Yes
SATA3 6 6 6 6
USB 3.1 6 4 0 6
USB 3.0 10 8 8 10
USB 2.0 14 14 12 14
AX WiFi 6  Yes, by CNVi Yes, by CNVi No, controller
2.5 Gigabit LAN Yes, by PHY Yes, by PHY Yes, by PHY -

As in all generations, Intel brings new developments for overclocking in this new tenth generation. The ones highlighted by the company are Hyper-Threading per core, overclock of the PEG and DMI buses, and better control of the voltage-frequency curve. They will also renew their XTU utility with more functions and a better graphical interface.


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