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Intel’s new 10th Gen chips bring 5.0GHz clock speeds to gaming laptops

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Intel’s best laptop chips get better

Intel is announcing the next wave of its Core processors, and it’s finally bringing out the big guns, with its first 10th Gen Comet Lake H-series processors for laptops. They’re Intel’s beefiest, most powerful, and most demanding chips, designed to go in high-end gaming laptops and creative machines for users who need the most power. The new chips have a TDP of 45W, with clock speeds that can boost past 5.0GHz, a first for Intel’s processors.

The star of the show is the new Core i9 model, the Core i9-10980K, with eight cores, 16 threads, and a base clock speed of 2.3GHz that can boost all the way up to 5.3GHz. But Intel will be offering multiple chips that can reach maximum boost speeds of 5.0GHz or more between its i9 and i7 lineup (the two i5 chips max out at a paltry 4.6GHz and 4.5GHz). It’s a big leap forward, one that Intel promises should offer up to 44 percent better overall performance compared to a three-year-old laptop with a Core i7-7820HK.

The i9 and i7 chips also have a new feature Intel calls “Thermal Velocity Boost,” which helps Intel reach those 5.0GHz-plus speeds by automatically boosting clock frequency by up to 200MHz when the processor’s temperature measures 149 degrees Fahrenheit / 65 degrees Celsius or lower (assuming there’s power available).

Intel 10th Gen H-series

Model Cores / Threads Watts Boost / Base Frequency (GHz)
Model Cores / Threads Watts Boost / Base Frequency (GHz)
Intel Core i9-10980HK 8C / 16T 45W Up to 5.3 / 2.4 GHz
Intel Core i7-10875H 8C / 16T 45W Up to 5.1 / 2.3 GHz
Intel Core i7-10850H 6C / 12T 45W Up to 5.1 / 2.7 GHz
Intel Core i7-10750H 6C / 12T 45W Up to 5.0 / 2.6 GHz
Intel Core i5-10400H 4C / 8T 45W Up to 4.6 / 2.6 GHz
Intel Core i5-10300H 4C / 8T 45W Up to 4.5 / 2.5 GHz

If you’ve been keeping track, Intel’s been releasing its 10th Gen chips for months now in laptops, with both its 14nm Comet Lake processors and its fancy new 10nm Ice Lake chips (which offer better battery life, performance, and efficiency thanks to the process improvements). But until now, all of its 10th Gen chips have been either low-power Y-series chips designed for ultralights like the MacBook Air) or midrange U-series (think computers like the 13-inch MacBook Pro).

To be clear: these new chips are still Comet Lake chips built on Intel’s 14nm process (similar to the Comet Lake Y-series and U-series chips Intel released last summer). They don’t use the 10nm Ice Lake process or its upcoming successor, the 10nm+ Tiger Lake process that Intel teased at CES.

That means that a lot of the benefits that come with the 10nm Ice Lake chips — including Intel’s integrated Gen 11 Iris Plus graphics — aren’t coming to these new laptops. On the other hand, given that almost every H-series machine will have a discrete mobile GPU (like, say, Nvidia’s newly announced RTX Super lineup for laptops), the slower integrated graphics isn’t that big of a loss.

And the older process actually might help benefit the new H-series chips, as Intel’s long development time and experience with the incrementally developed 14nm node has helped it achieve better performance than it could at the 10nm level right now.

Like Intel’s other 10th Gen chips, the new H-series models will see some of the lineup-wide benefits, like integrated Wi-Fi 6 support and Thunderbolt 3. All the new H-series chips will also support Intel’s Optane memory.

The new chips are meant to be Intel’s answer to AMD’s highly anticipated Ryzen 4000 series — specifically, AMD’s top-of-the-line 45W H-series chips, like the Ryzen 9 4900HS, Ryzen 7 4800H, and Ryzen 5 4600H. While the first laptops with AMD’s new chips are just starting to roll out, early impressions of them have been extremely positive. Intel’s new chips look to raise the bar again compared to AMD’s top chips, offering faster clock speeds than AMD’s already impressive numbers. We’ll have to see how the new chips perform head to head — as well as how things like price, battery life, and laptop sizes compare — before we can see if Intel has defended its crown.

New laptops with the H-series chips should be available in the coming weeks, with manufacturers like Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, and more all debuting new or updated hardware alongside Intel’s announcement.