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8 cores in a laptop: Intel announces improved 45 W 9th Gen H-series Coffee Lake-Refresh processors; Core i9-9980HK posts impressive preliminary performance

The 9th Gen Intel Coffee Lake-H Refresh processors are now official. (Source: Intel)
The 9th Gen Intel Coffee Lake-H Refresh processors are now official. (Source: Intel)
Intel has officially announced the 9th generation H-series 45 W processors today with several new features and performance improvements. Leading the stack is the Core i9-9980HK and the Core i9-9980H that sport an 8C/16T configuration with 16 MB L3 cache. The 9980HK is the only unlocked variant and can boost up to 5 GHz thanks to Intel's Thermal Velocity Boost. Preliminary performance results appear to show significantly improved multi-core performance compared to the 8th generation Coffee Lake CPUs. The 9th gen CFL-H Refresh CPUs will soon be seen in most gaming and content creation laptops from all major OEMs.

After several rounds of leaks, the Intel 9th Gen Coffee Lake-H (CFL-H) Refresh processors are finally here. Intel has officially revealed the latest entrant into the 9th Gen family, which will form the staple of most gaming laptops this year. Intel calls this "the world's most powerful laptop platform" and is aiming these new chips at enthusiast gamers, content creators, and those who demand premium performance. Let's check out what these new processors have to offer and while we are at it, also take a look at preliminary single-core and multi-core performance that we could evaluate in a couple of test systems that have just arrived in our labs.

(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)

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Architecture

The overall design of the CFL-H Refresh CPUs is on similar lines as the 15 W ULV Whiskey Lake-U processors announced at IFA 2018 last year, with a few new features. The latest Gen11 GT2 graphics will only debut with the 10 nm Sunny Cove CPUs later this year so all the 9th Gen CFL-H Refresh processors will continue to feature the Intel UHD Graphics 630 iGPU that offers HDMI 1.4 at 4K 30 Hz and DisplayPort 1.2-out at 4K 60 Hz. There is an integrated LSPCon to convert DisplayPort 1.2 signals to HDMI 2.0a if required. Overall, along with the eDP 1.4-out, we get support for up to four displays with the iGPU. Like their desktop counterparts, the new 9th Gen H-series CPUs also support 16 Gb die density DIMMs with 2 DIMMs per channel (2DPC) memory channels for a total of up to 128 GB DDR4 memory.

Coming to the PCH itself, we see that Intel is using a 300-series mobile chipset with integrated Thunderbolt 3 with a DDI interface, USB 3.1 Gen2, USB 2.0, SATA 3.0, and Intel LAN PHY. The new processors support Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 (Gig+) standard of which the non-CRF components are integrated on the PCH and the chipset interfaces with the WLAN CRF module via the CNVio interface. There is also native support for Intel Optane H10 with SSD storage that houses both the Optane memory and an Intel SSD 660p QLC NAND on a single M.2 PCB. It will be interesting to see whether OEMs prefer this setup or will go for a conventional M.2 NVMe implementation. Apart from these, the PCH also has dedicated SPI and eSPI lanes for sensors and memory card readers. The PCH and the CPU are connected by a high-speed Direct Media Interface (DMI) 3.0 bus.

(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)

SKUs — Two Core i9s and only one 'K' variant

Ever since the 9th Gen H-series SKUs were first noticed in Intel's regulatory compliance documents a couple of months ago, there has been some confusion on the exact specifications of these chips. Now that the CPUs are finally official, we get to know their full details.

The 8C/16T Core i9-9980HK is the flagship CPU of this generation for what Intel calls as 'Musclebooks', which in all probability implies 'THICC BOIS'. Remember Intel's Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB) that was first introduced with the 8th Gen Coffee Lake-H series? In the 9th Gen, TVB can help attain boosts up to 5 GHz on the 9980HK on a 45 W TDP envelope. Of course, for TVB to work, adequate cooling and a roomy chassis design is essential for the 'opportunistic overclock'. Add to the fact that the 9980HK is the only unlocked processor, which means this CPU is more geared towards desktop replacements than traditional notebooks.

The Core i9 also gets a non-K, 9980H that can also boost up to 4.8 GHz with the help of TVB similar to the Core i9-8950HK from the 8th generation. Intel says that the 9980H should be able to cater to thin and light creator laptops so expect it to feature on the upcoming Dell XPS 15 9580(?) and similar laptops. We weren't really enthused seeing the manner in which 8th Gen Core i9s throttled leading to severe performance penalties. It remains to be seen if OEMs incorporate at least perceivable improvements to minimize throttling and make full use of these chips in a thin form factor. Both the Core i9s feature a 16 MB L3 cache.

Towards the middle order, we have the Core i7-9850H and the Core i7-9750H with 6 cores & 12 threads, 12 MB L3 cache, and no TVB support. The 9850H is partially unlocked so it does have some limited overclocking potential. Finally, we have the 4-core, 8-thread Core i5-9400H and the Core i3-9300H with 8 MB L3 cache. All SKUs feature support for Intel Optane memory and dual-channel DDR4-2666 RAM.

(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)

Performance — Core i9-9980HK nearly as fast as the 9900K

Intel shared a few relative performance metrics during the presentation. As usual, these are under test conditions and the actual numbers might differ, which we'll get to know once we test the new laptops in our labs. Still, it helps to have a fair idea about the kind of performance bumps one can expect.

With the Core i9-9980HK, Intel says that the new chip has up to 18% better gaming performance (in terms of fps), up to 2.1x higher fps for streamers, and up to 28% faster 4K video editing when compared to the Core i9-8950HK. Similarly, Intel says that the 9th gen Core i7 should offer good performance leaps compared to the Skylake Core i7-6700HQ.

While we look forward to taking these new CPUs for a thorough test drive, we did get our hands on a couple of pre-production Schenker laptops powered by the Core i9-9980HK and the Core i7-9750H, and we ran the Cinebench R15 benchmark to see how the new processors stacked up to their last-gen brethren. From our results, we see that the Core i9-9980HK is within 5% of both single and multi-core scores of the desktop Core i9-9900K. These are impressive scores and it finally boils down to how well OEMs would make good use of this CPU. Compared to the 8950HK, the 9980HK posted modest improvements in single-core but was significantly ahead in multi-core as expected due to the added cores and a higher TVB headroom.

The Core i7-9750H posted moderate improvements over the Core i7-8750H in single and multi-core tests but the difference was quite significant when compared to the Skylake Core i7-6700HQ. It is still early days, but it seems from the initial results that if you are already rocking an 8th generation CFL-H CPU, the performance benefits might not be obvious unless you opt for the top-end Core i9s in the CFL-H Refresh.

(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)
Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit
Notebookcheck Desktop PC 2018
GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop), 9900K
218 Points ∼100%
Eurocom Sky X7C i9-9900K
GeForce RTX 2080 (Laptop), 9900K, 2x Samsung SSD 970 Pro 512GB (RAID 0)
212 Points ∼97%
no name
GeForce RTX 2080 (Laptop), 9980HK
205 Points ∼94%
Schenker
GeForce RTX 2070 (Laptop), 9980HK
200 Points ∼92%
Gigabyte Aero 15-Y9
GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q, 8950HK, Intel SSD 760p SSDPEKKW020T8
193 Points ∼89%
no name
GeForce RTX 2080 (Laptop), 9750H
190 Points ∼87%
Schenker XMG Neo 15 Turing
GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q, 8750H (Lüfter-Turbo)
174 Points ∼80%
Schenker XMG P406
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Samsung SM951 MZHPV256HDGL m.2 PCI-e
141 Points ∼65%
CPU Multi 64Bit
Notebookcheck Desktop PC 2018
GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop), 9900K
2021 Points ∼100%
Eurocom Sky X7C i9-9900K
GeForce RTX 2080 (Laptop), 9900K, 2x Samsung SSD 970 Pro 512GB (RAID 0)
1968 Points ∼97%
no name
GeForce RTX 2080 (Laptop), 9980HK
1930 Points ∼95%
Schenker
GeForce RTX 2070 (Laptop), 9980HK (Undervolting)
1742 Points ∼86%
Schenker
GeForce RTX 2070 (Laptop), 9980HK
1600 Points ∼79%
no name
GeForce RTX 2080 (Laptop), 9750H
1300 Points ∼64%
Gigabyte Aero 15-Y9
GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q, 8950HK, Intel SSD 760p SSDPEKKW020T8
1237 Points ∼61%
Schenker XMG Neo 15 Turing
GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q, 8750H (Lüfter-Turbo)
1224 Points ∼61%
Schenker XMG P406
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Samsung SM951 MZHPV256HDGL m.2 PCI-e
680 Points ∼34%

Better sustained performance with undervolting

We ran a Cinebench R15 Multi loop for 50 rounds to test sustained performance of the Core i9-9980HK on our pre-production Schenker laptop. At the default settings, we found that the short-term TDP peaked at 83 W for 48 seconds and finally sustained at 55 W. During this process, the 9980HK could score ~1600 points in the first run with all eight cores hitting 3.6-3.9 GHz at 83 W and dropped down to ~1420 points with all eight cores running at 3.2 GHz at 55 W.

To see if the 9980HK could perform any better, we undervolted the CPU to -130 mV while raising the power limit to 75 W. This condition offered the best sustained performance with the first loop hitting ~1740 points and continuing between ~1720 to ~1740 throughout the test. Laptops featuring the 9980HK that are thinner than our Schenker test model are likely to show increased throttling at heavy workloads. Therefore, those who wish to put the Core i9-9980HK to good use will have to don some elbow grease to tweak the voltages for better sustained performance.

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Eurocom Sky X7C i9-9900K GeForce RTX 2080 (Laptop), 9900K, 2x Samsung SSD 970 Pro 512GB (RAID 0): Ø1887 (1855.46-1948.65)
Schenker GeForce RTX 2070 (Laptop), 9980HK; Undervolting: Ø1728 (1721.24-1742.16)
Schenker GeForce RTX 2070 (Laptop), 9980HK: Ø1427 (1404-1600.26)

Availability

The new 9th Gen CFL-H series processors will start appearing in most gaming and content creation laptops starting now and well throughout the year. Upcoming iterations of the Dell XPS 15, the HP Spectre, and gaming laptops from Asus, MSI, and others will feature the new chips. We will, of course, be subjecting all the new launches to our battery of tests so stay tuned to NotebookCheck for the entire gamut of benchmarks and analysis.

(Source: Intel)
(Source: Intel)

Source(s)

Intel Press Brief

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 04 > 8 cores in a laptop: Intel announces improved 45 W 9th Gen H-series Coffee Lake-Refresh processors; Core i9-9980HK posts impressive preliminary performance
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2019-04-23 (Update: 2019-04-23)
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam - News Editor
I am a cell and molecular biologist and computers have been an integral part of my life ever since I laid my hands on my first PC which was based on an Intel Celeron 266 MHz processor, 16 MB RAM and a modest 2 GB hard disk. Since then, I’ve seen my passion for technology evolve with the times. From traditional floppy based storage and running DOS commands for every other task, to the connected cloud and shared social experiences we take for granted today, I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed a sea change in the technology landscape. I honestly feel that the best is yet to come, when things like AI and cloud computing mature further. When I am not out finding the next big cure for cancer, I read and write about a lot of technology related stuff or go about ripping and re-assembling PCs and laptops.