Rumor: Hyper-Threading Comes to Core i3 With Intel’s 10th Generation Comet Lake

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Intel’s desktop business is in something of a tight spot. While the company’s mainstream 8th and 9th Generation CPUs offered very strong performance against AMD’s Ryzen throughout 2017 and 2018, the launch of AMD’s latest 7nm parts has increased the competitive pressure on Intel. AMD’s decision to bump its desktop CPUs all the way up to 16 cores, combined with the IPC improvements it made at 7nm, presents a challenge for Chipzilla.

Last year, Intel made headlines when it removed Hyper-Threading from its CPU lineup.SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce At the time, this was widely interpreted as a response to Spectre and Meltdown. Now, there are consistent rumors that Hyper-Threading is making a return to 10th Generation desktop parts, codenamed Comet Lake. Apparently, that may include the Core i3, which hasn’t featured HT since Intel shifted from 2C/4T chips in the 7th Generation to 4C/4T Core i3 CPUs with the 8th. According to noted leaker @TUM_APISAK, Intel’s Core i3-10100 is a 4C/8T part, with a 3.6GHz base clock.

This leak comes from a SiSoft Sandra database and could very well be accurate. Boost clock is not given for the chip, but the Core i3-9100 was a 4C/4T CPU with a 3.6GHz base clock and a 4.2GHz boost. If Intel simply keeps the clocks the same, the new Core i3 will be 10-20 percent faster than the previous model. The other significant change, of course, is that Intel would be selling a Core i3 CPU in 2020 in the same configuration as a Core i7 CPU from 2011 to 2017. AMD’s Ryzen has driven significant improvements to Intel silicon over the past ~2.5 -3 years (depending on when Comet Lake launches).

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The more interesting question is what this means for Intel’s Core i5 lineup. All of AMD’s Ryzen 5 3000 CPUsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce are 6C/12T chips, while Intel has historically opted for a Core i5 with either a 4C/4T or 6C/6T configuration. Intel doesn’t have to add HT to Core i5 just because it adds the feature to Core i3, but it seems more likely than not. Again, we’d expect HT to offer a 10-20 percent performance improvement at the same frequency.

It will be interesting to see how these trends play out between the two companies. Intel is weakest to AMD at the upper range of the stack, where AMD can exploit higher core counts. The Core i9 family is expected to top out at 10 cores, while the Ryzen 9 stretches up to 16. Core i7, i5, and now potentially i3 could all wind up being equal between the two companies with this next generation. If so, the performance variance between them will come down to clock and intrinsic architecture.

Comet Lake will be a new 14nm desktop CPU family with up to 10 cores. New motherboards are expected for this launch, with the CPU family expected to arrive in Q1 2020. AMD is expected to launch the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X in November, but it isn’t expected to make any other modifications to the Ryzen 3000 desktop family until the next product refresh cycle, probably in the summer of 2020.

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