Intel Unveils 10th-Gen Core Chips, 10nm Ice Lake, 18% IPC Improvement, Sunny Cove Cores, Gen11 Graphics, Thunderbolt 3

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Intel’s traditional two-year cadence between new architectures was famously delayed for four years as the company struggled to bring its 10nm node online, but now Intel has finally whipped the covers off its 10nm 10th-Generation Core processors, codename Ice Lake, that are finally shipping.

Ice Lake’s headline feature is an 18% increase in average instruction per cycle (IPC) throughput compared to the aging Skylake architecture, but the gains are even higher in some applications, with peaks in the 30 to 40% range for some types of workloads (albeit lower gains in others).

The boosted performance comes courtesy of Intel’s new Sunny Cove cores and is a needed addition to help fight off the resurgent AMD, which recently touted a 15% improvement in IPC with its Zen microarchitecture on the 7nm process. AMD claims that its new third-gen Ryzen products have exceeded Intel’s Skylake single-core performance, long the hallmark of Intel’s dominating performance, albeit by small 1 to 3% margins. Given Intel’s large step forward, it looks like the Ice Lake chips can restore Intel’s single-core performance lead. 

Intel also whipped in its new Gen11 graphics engine, which Intel says will offer up to a 2X performance improvement and claims will take the performance crown from AMD’s APUs. Intel has also integrated new DLBoost capabilities that offer up to a 2.5x performance with AI workloads through new vector instructions. Other enhancements, like up to four Thunderbolt 3 ports with four times the throughput of USB 3 apiece, Wi-Fi 6 with performance up to gigabit speeds, and USB-C all converge to make the Ice Lake processors a compelling platform upgrade.

(Image credit: Intel)

The Ice Lake lineup is destined for notebooks and other thin and light devices. The chips will come in U- and Y-series variants that span the 9W, 15W and 25W TDP ranges. These 10th-generation processors will come with up to four cores and eight threads and 8BM of L3 cache. 

Intel has also bumped up dual-channel memory support to 4X32 LPDDR4X-3733 and DDR4-3200, which is a big improvement to ~60 GB/s of throughput that will help boost graphics performance. The Gen11 graphics will reach up to 1.1 GHz and also come in Iris Pro variants. 

The Ice Lake processors come with a maximum turbo frequency of 4.1 GHz, which is a notable step backwards from the 4.6Ghz peak boost clock speed of the previous-gen chips. That implies Intel still hasn’t fully optimized the 10nm node, though the company has communicated in the past that the first iterations of the 10nm process would come with lower peak performance than the mature 14nm++ processors, as shown on the left hand side of this chart Intel presented at its manufacturing day in 2017. You’ll notice Intel didn’t meet the dates listed, but the fundamental message behind the problems with scaling down to smaller nodes is clear.

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