We’ve heard a lot of rumors about the upcoming desktop Comet Lake chips, which are expected to feature Hyper-Threading across all products and a maximum of 10 cores on the top-end parts. The lowest-end Core i3 will be a 4C/8T part, putting it more-or-less on par with the Core i7-7700K from 2017. Not bad for just three years.
According to rumors, Intel originally planned another feature for Comet Lake, however — one it’s since had to back away from. While the company may have planned to introduce PCIe 4.0 with Comet Lake, it may have run into problems and delayed the introduction. Intel will be introducing PCIe 4.0 in the near future, but it’ll be inside a NUC system. The upcoming Panther Canyon-based NUCs will supposedly feature the technology.
It’s possible some motherboards will come to market with PCIe-enabling hardware already built-in, THG reports, allowing them to support the feature when Rocket Lake arrives. Rocket Lake is the successor to Comet Lake. Both platforms will share a new socket (Socket 1200) and Rocket is supposed to be a drop-in replacement for Comet, when it arrives.
Keeping track of all the various ‘Lakes’ is rather difficult, so here’s a quick primer. Right now, all Intel desktop CPUs are based on Skylake, which debuted in 2015. Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, and Comet Lake are all built on refined versions of Intel’s 14nm process. Intel has made significant improvements to its consumer desktop line in the past five years, but it has relied on clock speed and core count, not architectural improvements to do it. Rocket Lake will follow Comet Lake and still uses the 14nm process.
On mobile, the situation is different. Intel has already introduced its new 10nm+ architecture, Ice Lake, which improves IPC by roughly 18 percent, reduces clocks by roughly the same amount, and greatly improves GPU performance. Tiger Lake is expected to build on these gains when it launches in 2020, with an updated GPU with 1.5x more EUs and Intel’s new Willow Cove architecture. Tiger Lake will be built on the 10nm++ process, which should allow for increased clock speeds and better power consumption.
PCIe 4.0 Isn’t a Useful Feature for Most People
Even if this rumor is true, I wouldn’t worry much about the lack of PCIe 4.0 unless you’re in a very particular field. It may be useful to multi-GPU configurations for HPC, AI, and deep learning, but single-card consumer solutions don’t send that much traffic across the PCIe bus. Storage offers the chance for more immediate performance improvements, but the only time I notice the difference between a PCIe 4.0 and 3.0 connection is when I’m literally copying terabytes of data from one SSD to another. As a reviewer, that’s something I actually do fairly often. Most people, though, don’t. Smaller, faster copies don’t feel much different.
With PCIe 5.0 supposedly dropping on the very heels of PCIe 4.0, I just wouldn’t worry that much about this situation. If you wind up on PCIe 3.0 instead of 4.0, it just means your next upgrade to a PCIe 5.0 motherboard will be that much larger of a jump. Given that we’ve still got a significant chunk of the market using magnetic hard drives, it’s not likely that PCIe 3.0 transfers speeds via NVMe are going to feel slow any time soon.
It’s also worth noting that AMD reportedly considered turning PCIe 4.0 on for its older boards as well, but later decided against it. Turning on a feature like PCIe 4.0 support on motherboards that can’t quite electrically support the increased transfer rates would play merry hell with customer stability.
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