Comet Lake’s Z490 boards are ready… but Intel’s thirsty 10-core CPUs are not

Rumours suggest Intel is struggling with the power draw of its flagship chip and aren't ready to release it into the wild

Intel 10th Gen Wafer

The noises spilling out of CES 2020 this week suggest that motherboard manufacturers are getting frustrated over the Comet Lake CPU release. According to one report the new Z490 motherboards are all done and dusted and the manufacturers are just waiting on Intel to pull the trigger on its next generation of desktop processors… unfortunately the flagship chips are just not ready.

Intel has remained quiet about its plans for desktop CPUs in the face of increased competition from the red team. It has though shown off new Tiger Lake mobile processors and the first iteration of its new GPU, the Intel Xe DG1 graphics card. Of Comet Lake, however, there has been nothing.

Now, ComputerBase in Germany is suggesting that, while the lower-spec new Core processors are ready to be released, Intel is still working on the top-end 10-core CPU that’s set to be the headline-grabbing chip of the 10th Gen desktop lineup. And why is Intel still putting the 10-core mainstream CPU through its paces? Because it’s running a lot more thirsty than anyone really wants.

The report from ComputerBase claims that several motherboard manufacturers have revealed to them that the 10-core Intel Comet Lake CPU actually breaks the 300W mark under maximum load. If Intel’s pushing each of those cores to the expected single core Turbo frequency of 5.1GHz then you’d be looking at well beyond that initial figure.

Already our testing of the Intel Core i9 9900KS has the stock CPU, with just its eight cores running at 5GHz, delivering around 225W under load. So topping 300W is not beyond the realms of possibility for the 10-core chip; it is running on the same 14nm production process as the last however many generations of Intel desktop chip after all. It’s five. Five CPU generations since it was introduced with Broadwell, though the Core architecture has only remained the same for the past four generations.

Intel processor

The suggestion is that Intel wants to get this down to a more manageable level before it lets the flagship Comet Lake silicon out of the door. That said, we’d been expecting an April launch for the 10th Gen desktop parts for a while now, so the rumoured February release always seemed like a motherboard maker’s pipedream.

But you can understand why the motherboard makers are getting excited for the new Comet Lake generation; it means anyone looking to buy the new chip also has to get a new motherboard. MSI has seemingly confirmed the unannounced LGA 1200 socket is the next to come from Intel via the specs sheet for its latest CPU coolers, which means there is categorically no backwards compatibility on offer to processor upgraders.

But with the Ryzen 3000 series offering the 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X for around the same price as Intel’s eight-core chip, the Core i9 9900K, and with the Ryzen 4000 CPUs sporting the advanced Zen 3 architecture coming later in the year, Intel needs to come up with a bloody good reason for gamers to want Comet Lake if it hopes to make a dent in our list of the best CPUs for gaming. A 10-core, 20-thread specs list for $500+ just isn’t going to cut it.