In case you hadn’t noticed, 10th Generation Intel “Comet Lake” desktop processors are widely available at very attractive prices right now. Many SKUs include integrated graphics, which is a big plus in these times of GPU shortages. So, should you buy a 10th generation Intel desktop processor?
10th Generation Intel Desktop Processors
The 14nm Intel “Comet Lake” desktop family was launched in Q2 of 2020, so they are about one year old. I was fairly neutral when I wrote about them last year. They have anywhere from two to ten physical cores, plus hyperthreading. You can have up to 128GB of DDR4-2933 RAM. There are only sixteen PCIe 3.0 lanes from the CPU, but this is enough for most desktop scenarios.
These Comet Lake CPUs will work in Z490, B460, H470, H410, Q470, and W480 chipset motherboards, although most people will probably want a Z490 or B460. This family of processors will also work in newer Z590, H570, B560, or H510 chipset motherboards.
In general, Comet Lake is a good choice for gaming and a pretty decent choice for most productivity tasks. If your main focus is productivity, AMD has much better choices available from their Zen 2 and Zen 3 generations.
So What Has Changed?
Several factors have changed over the past year to make these older Comet Lake processors a good choice for a new system. Intel has released their 11th generation Rocket Lake processors, with only incremental performance increases (and much higher prices). In addition, Intel has significantly reduced prices on the Comet Lake processors so they are a real bargain right now.
Last November, AMD released their Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 processors, which are much faster (and more power efficient) than Intel Comet Lake. Unfortunately, some Ryzen 5000 series processors are still very hard to get. There is also still some price gouging from some retailers that make Ryzen 5000 a less attractive choice at the moment.
Regular AMD desktop processors of the non-APU variety do not have integrated graphics. Normally that is not a big deal, since many people prefer to use a discrete GPU for better performance. Right now, there is a severe and ongoing GPU shortage, so having an integrated GPU is an important bonus. It lets you build a functioning system without having a discrete GPU. Having integrated graphics is also useful for troubleshooting purposes. Finally, some software will leverage integrated graphics even when you have a discrete GPU. An example of this is Intel Quick Sync that is used by some Adobe products.
10th Generation Intel Desktop CPU Choices
First of all, I do NOT recommend getting an Intel Comet Lake SKU that does not have integrated graphics. Any SKU with an F at the end does not have integrated graphics. Even though they are sometimes a little less expensive than a non-F SKU, I don’t think it is a good choice during the current GPU shortage.
These are my favorite CPUs from this generation.
The Intel Core i3-10100 has 4C/8T with a base clock speed of 3.60 GHz and a max turbo speed of 4.30 GHz. It has a 6MB L3 cache and a TDP of 65 watts. This is a decent entry-level processor that has similar performance to an Intel Core i5-8400 or an Intel Core i7-7700. You will be able to do some gaming with this system, but it may struggle with some demanding modern AAA titles.
If you live near a Micro Center, you can get this processor for $139.99, which is $35.00/core.
The Intel Core i5-10600K has 6C/12T with a base clock speed of 4.10 GHz and a max turbo speed of 4.80 GHz. It has a 12MB L3 cache and a TDP of 125 watts. This is a good processor for gaming, and it has enough cores to do some productivity work too. It has slightly better performance than an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 or an AMD Ryzen 5 3600X, for less money than either of those CPUs.
If you live near a Micro Center, you can get this processor for $199.99, which is $33.33/core.
The Intel Core i7-10700K has 8C/16T with a base clock speed of 3.80 GHz and a max turbo speed of 5.10 GHz. It has a 16MB L3 cache and a TDP of 125 watts. This is a great processor for gaming, and it has enough cores to do some good productivity work too. It trades blows with the AMD Ryzen 3700X and the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X.
If you live near a Micro Center, you can get this processor for $269.99, which is $33.75/core.
The Intel Core i9-10850K has 10C/20T with a base clock speed of 3.60 GHz and a max turbo speed of 5.20 GHz. It has a 20MB L3 cache and a TDP of 125 watts. This is essentially a less expensive version of the flagship Core i9-10900K that is just 100 MHz slower on the base and turbo clock speed. It will give you pretty similar productivty performance to an AMD Ryzen 9 3900X or an AMD Ryzen 7 5800X.
If you live near a Micro Center, you can get this processor for $329.99, which is $32.99/core.
What Do Other CPUs Cost Right Now?
Here is current pricing for some selected mainstream CPUs from both AMD and Intel at Micro Center. Micro Center changes their CPU pricing pretty frequently, and they seem to be going through a Ryzen 5000 gouging phase lately.
I somewhat suspect that Micro Center would like to sell some Intel 400 series motherboards and Comet Lake processors, which may explain their current pricing strategy.
Should You Buy a 10th Generation Intel Desktop Processor?
If you want a lot of performance for a good price, the answer is yes. Prices on these processors are so good, especially compared to Intel Rocket Lake and AMD Ryzen 5000 Series processors. The performance is not that much lower either. You won’t have PCIe 4.0 support, but most desktop workloads don’t really need it that much.
- Top 6 Best Desktop CPUs – January 2021
- What Parts Should I Use For a New PC?
- How to Decide if You Need a New PC
- Should You Buy an Intel Comet Lake-S Desktop System?
With Intel Comet Lake you can use an older (and probably cheaper) 400-series motherboard or you can use a newer 500-series motherboard. The newer motherboard would give you a better upgrade path in case you wanted to grab a discounted Intel Rocket Lake CPU at some point in the future.
With Micro Center, you can increase your savings by buying a CPU and motherboard together to get the $20.00 bundle discount. You can also consider getting an “open-box” motherboard to get a 20% discount on the motherboard. Micro Center will still honor the bundle discount if you do that, but you will need a manager to override the register.
If you have any thoughts or questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. You can also follow me on Twitter, where I am @GlennAlanBerry. Thank you for reading!