Intel Core i5-10600K processor review

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10th Generation Core series processors

10th Generation Core series processors (CML)

While we review the six-core part in this particular review, Intel has been expanding with an up-to 10-core and thus 20-threads processor in the mainstream desktop segment (thus not HEDT). Intel markets this series as its Core processor series whereas HEDT is Core-X. More recently it has been adding the denominator 'the Core i9 series' into that desktop lineup. Comet Lake-S based processors need to be paired with the 400 series chipset for motherboards, as it has a new processor socket, LGA1200. 

  • 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. 


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 while 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 for the premium models.

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 has 44 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes accumulated in total (16 from the CPU and 24 available from the chipset and 4 used as DMI 3.0 interlinks 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 are simply 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 as they are the ones that have an 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 it 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



The Series T

So many suffixes, A "K" means an unlocked processor. A "U" means the chip is designed for laptops and mobile devices, as "U" chips are Intel's "ultra-low-power" models. Where "F" means the chip has no built-in graphics processor the "T" means the chips are designed to use less power while also having less performance than the standard chips without any letters. For the 10th gen Core series, the T series have a low TDP in the 35 Watt range. 



TDP and PL States

Comet Lake processors are allowed to run load clock frequency values considerably higher and longer than 9th gen Coffee Lake. The TDP that is specified/listed is now 125 Watts for the more core parts, with 65 Watts for the more energy-friendly models. However, the story does not end there though as these values are based on what is called the P1 state. For a 9900K that value sits at 95W, with the Comet Lake S it's 125W, of course, it is two more cores so nobody will wonder about that. However, there is also a PL2 state where there's a higher power limit that can be applied for a relatively short time. If you allow me to take that 9900K again as an example, it had a PL2 allowance of 1.25 times PL1, = 119W, for a duration of 28 seconds.

Here's what's so different and where Intel yields most of its performance for Comet Lake. If I take the 10900K as an example, PL2 now is 2 times PL1, so 250W. That PL2 state is now also longer, 56 seconds. And therein it reaps the benefit of additional performance, substantially, but at the cost of energy and heat. 

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

In short, this means the overall performance of Comet Lake can be a lot higher compared to Coffee Lake (9th gen processors) 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 if you allow double the TDP for almost a minute these days.

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.


Another improvement is a thinner die, improving the thermal transfer from the cores to the IHS, which should help to maintain better temperatures or at least get heat away from the processor faster. 


Z490 and what is the deal with that listed PCI Express 4.0 support?

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 as a platform, however, will also support the following series, Rocket Lake-S, and that processor will move towards 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 being 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 works at very high frequencies, and that requires the signal to be completely clean. This information remains speculation and hearsay though. That also means Comet Lake is using a x4 DMI PCIe Gen 3 interlink (the link between the processor and chipset). Intel informed us of specifications for 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 -

WiFi 6 and 2.5Gb Ethernet has (had) a hardware bug

Intel has been bumping up their platform support for WIFI6 and faster Ethernet. A new Intel I225 Ethernet controller supports speeds of up to 2.5 gigabits per second. But at the time of writing, there was a hardware bug in the PHY chip: the inter-packet gap should be at least 5 bytes in size according to the IEEE standard, but the I225 controller appears to require at least 8 bytes. Herein a bug was spotted that crumpled down ethernet performance. 

As long as you use gigabit ethernet, this was no issue, but in combination with certain 2.5GbE routers and switches this caused issues, performance would drop to a few megabits per second in the early revision of this chip. With the latest firmware and drivers, the speed is automatically adjusted to 1 gigabit when such packet loss occurs; for a definitive solution, a new hardware revision of the controller is underway which should make the final retail boards in stores in time for launch. 

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