Intel just revealed its new Comet Lake-H processors for laptops, and the beefy flagship model is the Core i9-10980HK, which is capable of boosting up to 5.3GHz – but some new purported details on the power draw of the CPU cast further doubt on how often such peak speeds might be hit realistically in real-world usage, and the effect this chip might have on battery longevity.
In other words, the power consumption and thermals around the new flagship Core i9 could mean that it’ll struggle to hit peak speeds for any meaningful time in anything but the biggest and heftiest gaming laptops, which can fit in seriously chunky cooling solutions (or indeed batteries).
There have already been rumblings of concern about how the Intel Core i9-10980HK might pan out in reality, calling into question the upgrade value over and above its predecessor, the Core i9-9980HK, given that the new chip sticks at eight-cores, and its primary improvement is upping the max turbo speed from 5GHz to the aforementioned 5.3GHz.
But 5.3GHz only happens with Intel’s Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB) coming into play, and that’s where Andreas Schilling, editor of German tech site Hardwareluxx, shared some interesting nuggets of information on Twitter.
Some details about the Core i9-10980HK:- PL2 base: 107 W- PL2 max: 135 W (plus 10 W compared to the Core i9-9980HK)- Tau for PL2 is 56 seconds- Thermal Velocity Boost +200 MHz if cpu temp 65 °C or below- Thermal Velocity Boost +100 MHz if cpu temp 65 to 85 °CApril 2, 2020
We already knew that the ‘PL2 max’, in other words the short-term maximum power draw a chip can make, stood at 135W for the 10980HK, which as Schilling points out, is a 10W increase compared to the outgoing 9980HK.
In other words, to squeeze more clock speed out of the Core i9-10980HK, it is (unsurprisingly) necessary to pump even more power to the chip – and that ‘Tau’ value indicates how long the CPU can stay in that maximum power chomping state (just under a minute).
What’s really interesting here is the mentioned specifications for TVB in terms of temperatures, with the +200MHz boost (to 5.3GHz) requiring the CPU temperature to be at or below 65°C, and +100MHz can be hit if the temperature is above that, but still under 85°C.
So, what we have to remember now is that any laptop with the Core i9-10980HK, which will probably also be running a chunky GPU, and will get hotter the longer you leave it on, has to keep those temperatures down in order for Intel’s flagship Comet Lake-H offering to hit those 5.2/5.3GHz attention-grabbing speeds.
Meaning that as we’ve already mentioned, only the heftiest gaming laptops, which have a large chassis and plenty of room for beefy cooling solutions, will stand any chance of taming this power-hungry beast (and even then, in all honesty, it’s arguable how good a job might be done). You know, the sort of laptops which make something of a mockery of the idea of being a ‘portable’.
Being away from the power socket is another consideration, of course. With that sort of power consumption, obviously battery life is going to be hammered too. Again, that’s typical of beefy gaming laptops with powerful components, but the 10980HK is likely to take this to new eye-watering levels.
All of which brings us back round to the consideration that with the 10980HK, Intel has just had to push 14nm too far, and given all this, the CPU would appear to look like a bit of a wobbly proposition compared to its predecessor.
It has the same amount of cores as the 9980HK, but power consumption is jacked up to provide a TVB boost with huge question marks over its realistic value in real-world usage – and if it rarely hits top speeds, that means you’ll be looking at a 5.1GHz chip (effectively) playing a 5GHz 9980HK. Not that much of a difference, really, and speaking of value, it’ll exact much more of a premium than laptops with the 9980HK.
We still need to test the chip – and laptops using it – of course, but all this can’t help but provoke a lengthy session of head-scratching at this point. Particularly when you look at the power-efficiency – and superb performance – of AMD’s latest Ryzen 4000 mobile processors.
Aside from the flagship 10980HK, the rest of Intel’s Comet Lake-H line-up may look reasonably competitive with AMD from what we’ve seen from early claimed benchmarks, but even then, it very much looks like it will be an uphill struggle to fight against the new sparklingly efficient and powerful Ryzen 4000 CPUs.
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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).