Intel Core i9-10980HK Overview: Flagship Laptop computer CPU

The Core i9-10980HK is the flagship from Intel in the 10th generation. This is the third CPU after the Core i7-10875H and Core i7-10750H that we looked at in the Comet Lake H series. Therefore, we now get a fairly comprehensive overview of where Intel is positioned correctly in the market. This Core i9 chip is usually found in the most expensive laptops you can get, but it also promises to be the fastest.

To quickly summarize what Intel offers this generation for high-end laptops: There is only one Core i9 processor, the 10980HK, which offers 8 cores, 16 threads and Intel standard 45 W TDP. There is also 16MB cache, DDR4-2933 memory support and the CPU is unlocked. This means that you can adjust the multiplier table and other values ​​if the laptop manufacturer offers you this functionality.

In terms of clock speeds, it's a bit everywhere. The base clock of the 10980HK is 2.4 GHz. The maximum turbo on a single core is 5.3 GHz with Thermal Velocity Boost – which means that the CPU has to run below 65 ° C to achieve this clock. The normal Turbo clock drops to 5.1 GHz at over 85 ° C and to 4.4 GHz with an all-core load. And of course, due to the performance constraints on mobile form factors, none of these clock speeds are achievable with continued workload.

The reason why there is a single Core i9 laptop processor this year is that Intel has introduced an 8-core CPU into the Core i7 series known as the Core i7-10875H (see our review). The two main differences between this year's Top Core i7 and Core i9 are that the latter is unlocked and there is a slight difference in clock speed of 100 MHz / 200 MHz for base and boost clocks. However, since these speeds don't tell us how the CPU runs under a sustained workload, the real difference between these parts on paper is a mystery. We will solve this riddle today.

As of today’s report, we’ll review the full capabilities of Intel’s 14nm technology for today's mobile CPUs because the 10980HK is the best of the best in silicon and performance. It will be very interesting to see how it can compete with AMD's 7nm chips, especially the 8-core Ryzen 7 4800H.

For today's tests, we use the gaming laptop MSI GE66 Raider in its first-class CPU and GPU configuration. Inside, we find the Core i9-10980HK in conjunction with an RTX 2080 Super Max-Q GPU, 16 GB two-channel DDR4 memory, a 1080p 300Hz display and a fairly large 99.9 Wh battery.

While we generally prefer slimmer designs for gaming laptops, the MSI GE66 case with a premium metal construction and an interesting RGB LED light bar on the front edge is much nicer than expected. The GE66 is not particularly thin, so this "laptop" has a lot of weight, but as we are used to from top portable slot machines, it fits into the cooling solution that can handle this type of laptop with high-end hardware. All in all, good construction, great display, great keyboard, the GE66 surprised us.

In this test we will show you two performance configurations. One of these is the default settings for the Core i9-10980HK, which means a long-term PL1 power limit of 45 W. The GE66 does not run as standard at this performance limit, but should represent the Core i9's performance in slim and lightweight 15-inch productivity laptops, such as: B. a Dell XPS 15 device.

The second configuration is the maximum that the GE66 Raider offers: a 75 W PL1 limit that is more like a best-case scenario and what you would normally see from more powerful gaming notebooks. In both configurations, we left the boost states untouched, and with this system that surpassed a 115 W PL2 for a few seconds.

It is important to consider the PL2 limit or the observed boost performance limits as this allows Intel to achieve the nominal boost clock rates. It takes 115 W for this Core i9 to run at 4.2 GHz all-core, while we have rarely (if ever) seen the CPU reach 5.1 GHz. In Cinebench R20 single thread, 4.8 GHz and about 30 W power consumption were common.

Various CPUs are listed in the benchmark diagrams of this test. These are average values ​​of the processor configuration in different laptops. The full list of laptops tested can be found here. We try our best to make these comparisons from apple to apple as much as possible. This means that we have to eliminate thermal bottlenecks if we can and work with the same 16GB dual-channel memory configuration. Unless otherwise stated, we also test with standard TDP limits.


Let's start this benchmark session with Cinebench R20. The performance of the Core i9-10980HK is very interesting compared to the Core i7-10875H. Although both are 45 W, 8 core processors, the Core i9 is pretty fast. We see a 20% performance advantage here. This is partly due to the higher boost power limit of 115 W compared to 80 W, but the rest is due to the Core i9 part, which simply clocks higher overall. The Core i9 CPU is probably a better part too, but we'll examine that a little later.

We also see that the 10980HK matches the performance of the 10875H when configured at around 62W in our Gigabyte Aorus 15G test system, which is a decent efficiency improvement. We are also a good 30% faster than the Core i7-10750H within the same 45 W envelope and around 20% slower than the Ryzen 7 4800H.

Even if we bring the 10980HK up to a sustained power consumption of up to 75 W, it cannot exceed the Ryzen 7 4800H and is ~ 5% behind this workload. The single-thread performance is also at the level of the 4800H and below that of our 10875H laptop.

Cinebench R15 shows similar results: The Core i9-10980HK is the fastest Intel 14nm laptop CPU we've tested, but with multi-core workloads, it's not fast enough to keep up with the latest Ryzen processors, although it outperforms Ryzen single-thread speed.

Handbrake is one of the most important benchmarks for productivity-oriented laptops because it is a long production test. After you have finished your work, press the Go button and make a sandwich. If you want to slap a sandwich and get back to work quickly, you should choose a Ryzen processor, as the Ryzen 7 4800H was 20% faster than the Core i9-10980HK in this test and saved about 7 minutes of coding time.

With the Core i9-10980HK, however, don't waste too much time on your sandwich break, as it is still 11% faster than the Core i7-10875H and 25% faster than the Core i7-10750H. Increasing the 10980HK to 75W gets closer to what AMD offers with Ryzen, but it doesn't fully match the performance offered.

Blender is another important multi-core productivity benchmark. Here too we see that the Core i9-10980HK achieves a decent performance increase of 14% compared to the i7-10875H with the same performance limit. Increasing the power limit from 45 W to 75 W in Blender, with a 20% increase, is the biggest improvement we saw in our test suite. Ryzen still holds the crown of overall performance with the 4800H. Intel is simply unable to achieve AMD's 7nm 14nm technology within reasonable limits.

Excel is usually a heavy workload for Intel processors, and this is no exception. While the Core i7-10875H is in the ballpark of the AMD Ryzen 7 processor, the Core i9-10980HK can achieve a performance advantage of ~ 10% in calculations with a large table. This is largely due to increased all-core watches, as this workload only takes a few seconds.

There's not much of a difference between 10980HK, 10875H, and Ryzen 7 4800H in PCMark 10's productivity test, which is about lower productivity performance. The 10980HK is 9% faster than the 10750H, but with practically the same performance at the top, there's no reason to spend a lot of money on a Core i9 if you only use your notebook for light document work.

The Essentials performance, which measures app loading and other lighter tasks, is also relatively close between most high-end processors.

The 10980HK can achieve single-digit performance increases over the 10875H in the 7-Zip range, with a greater gain in decompression. As we've seen from other 8-core Intel CPUs, the 10980HK is faster than Ryzen when compressed, but slower when decompressed.

MATLAB is another benchmark that is largely run in the processor's all-core boost state. As a result, the gains over the 10875H are lower than with continued performance. We see a 5% difference, although this increases to 15% compared to the 10750H. Compared to Intel and AMD, the performance roughly corresponds to both.

The most popular single-threaded workload of all users is Acrobat PDF export, one of the strongest results for Intel processors. Since our 10980HK system cannot be quite as high as the 10875H, it falls behind a bit in this test, but Intel holds a double-digit profit compared to Ryzen with this workload.

AES crypto performance remains unchanged compared to other 10th generation Intel processors because this workload is hardware accelerated. AMD's AES decryption block is faster than Intel's and therefore leads to better encryption performance in this test.

For code compilation, we first have GCC compilation, which is the single-thread compilation of our tests, although it sometimes hits multiple cores. Here the 10980HK is about 15 to 20 percent faster than Core i7 processors, but still 8 percent behind AMD's Ryzen 7 4800H. This gap to Ryzen is reduced with the strongly multithreaded Chromium compilation, but only in passing: AMD is even faster here.

We'll round off this test with a quick look at some of our compute-intensive workloads that are somewhat influenced by the GPU. Given that the MSI GE66 contains a powerful RTX 2080 Super Max-Q, there are some tests where this component has a greater impact than the CPU. But the results can still be useful for some people.

Adobe Photoshop, which uses the Puget workload, comes first. This is a mostly CPU-limited benchmark once you reach discrete mid-level graphics. There is no real difference in performance between the Core i9-10980HK and the Core i7-10875H, both exceed the Ryzen 7 4800H by 10%. This makes one of Intel's 8 core parts a great choice for those who mainly use Photoshop.

DaVinci Resolve uses the GPU a lot. Therefore, choosing a laptop with a strong discrete GPU is the best course of action for Resolve editors. Core i9 laptops are often paired with high-end GPUs. It is therefore not surprising that the coupling of the 10980HK with the RTX 2080 Super brings it to the top of the charts.

There are several stories to tell about Adobe Premiere performance. With the latest version 14.2.0, which introduces GPU-accelerated coding for Nvidia and AMD GPUs, many aspects of the export have become more demanding. For this reason, like Resolve, we see parent GPUs that do a good job with this workload. In this sense, the Core i9 configuration ends up high.

The processing performance largely corresponds to the configurations Ryzen and Core i9, as can be seen in the live playback test from Puget. If you use effects like the Warp Stabilizer, Ryzen is even better off with double-digit percentages. Ryzen will also give you better performance, or worst case performance, if you export using 2-pass encoding that is not GPU accelerated outside of the standard effects.

Clock speed: Core i7 against Core i9

Before we look at some performance summaries, we wanted to show you the clock speeds for the Core i9-10980HK and the Core i7-10875H in handbrake to see how Intel's superior binning for the Core i9 part enables more sustainable performance with the same performance limit. At 45 W, the 10875H generally ran 2.8 GHz over the long term in our benchmark, while the 10980HK comfortably pushed 3.1 GHz with the same workload. This difference of 300 MHz clock speed is the reason why the Core i9 CPU finished the coding 10% faster.

This can of course be improved by increasing the power limits, undervoltage and overclocking that are possible with this unlocked part of the K series, depending on whether your OEM allows it and whether there is enough thermal headroom. However, with the default settings and the same performance limit, we found that the Core i9 part had better silicon, so there was a difference between the SKUs.

Breakdown of benefits

The Core i9-10980HK is generally faster than the Core i7-10875H. We saw performance increases of up to 20% in multithreaded workloads, although a difference of 5 to 10% is more realistic in most scenarios. Not everything comes from increased power consumption in the burst state, the chip is also better grouped.

This better grouping allows the 10980HK to work around the Core i7-10875H mark if the power limit is increased to 62 W. The basic performance of this Core i9 should therefore be approximately in a 10875H configuration of the middle to upper level.

The 10th generation flagship processor from Intel is also significantly faster than the Core i7-10750H under the same 45 W limit. The upgrade to 8 cores offers up to 35% better multi-core performance with an average performance increase of almost 20 percent. In a test like Handbrake, the 10980HK can almost match the clock speeds of the 10750H, but two additional cores lead to this performance delta.

The 10980HK is commonly used in laptop cases that use a power configuration above 45W. When we increased the power limit to the maximum allowable MSI using the built-in utilities with the GE66 (approx. 75 W), we saw an increase in permanent multi-core workloads of up to 20%. This further separates the Core i9 part from the Core i7s, although it is very important what exact performance configurations you compare.

While the 10980HK is the fastest 14nm mobile CPU to date, it is beaten in most multithreaded tests by AMD's 7nm Ryzen 7 4800H. At 45W, the Core i9 processor is about 20% slower, but offers better single-thread performance and better cache-limited performance. Whether Ryzen or Intel is better for you depends on the workloads you run.

Even at 75 W, the Core i9-10980HK can't beat the Ryzen 7 4800H across the board, although this configuration is generally pretty close. An even higher power configuration such as 90 W or 100 W should outperform the standard Ryzen 7 4800H at the expense of heat and power.

What we have learned

Starting with the positive things, we were surprised at how much better this Core i9-10980HK is compared to the Core i7-10875H. We expected similar long-term performance at 45 W on both CPUs, with the Core i9's advantage mainly being due to higher power limits, but that's not the case. The 10980HK can clock higher within the same TDP, which leads to a modest gain depending on the test. This makes the 10980HK the fastest mobile Intel CPU currently.

With a higher performance limit, the 10980HK is also a good choice for a productivity-oriented laptop, as it comes fairly close to the AMD Ryzen 7 4800H in multi-core tests and surpasses it in the single-core area. Yes, it is much less efficient, cannot achieve this performance on battery power and needs a better cooling solution. However, buyers of a more powerful Core i9 notebook should not feel that they are clearly inferior to the mid-range AMD laptop APU. The same is not true for the rest of the 10th generation parts that lag behind Ryzen in productivity tasks.

This is especially true if you consider that most Core i9 laptops are equipped with a powerful GPU like an RTX 2070 or higher. Since AMD laptops are not currently available with top-end GPUs, Intel is the standard choice for a high-performance DaVinci Resolve system or a first-class slot machine, to name just two examples.

The Core i9-10980HK also has its reservations. The fact that a significant increase in performance is required to match a Ryzen 7 4800H makes it unsuitable for the thinner and lighter laptops that you'd expect from a Dell XPS 15 ultraportable type. And this is where Intel is currently stuck at 14 nm. To drive this new Core i9, they had to pull their best silicon and push performance limits far beyond what some laptops can do.

The other big disadvantage will be the price. PC manufacturers will only use the Core i9 in high-end laptops, so the starting price for a 10980HK laptop will be well over $ 2,000. The currently cheapest system we could find brings you $ 2,500 back with an RTX 2070 Super Max-Q GPU that is itself capable of doing so. The GE66 Raider we tested today is closer to $ 3,000.

Because AMD offers similar or better multi-core performance for laptops starting at $ 1,000, Intel is under pressure from a different perspective. If you're happy with an RTX 2060 GPU or don't need anything faster for your production workloads, it doesn't make much sense to spend more than twice as much on a system that largely performs or performs poorly.

For gaming, the Core i9 will serve a niche of exclusive, expensive laptops equipped with a fast, discrete GPU. Unlike desktops, you cannot choose what your CPU / GPU combination should look like. So far, most Ryzen laptops don't get the most powerful graphics chips, and it's the GPU that controls most of your gaming experience.

With laptop-class GPUs, a Core i7-10750H with a high-tier GPU like an RTX 2070 Super is fine. For most, there is little incentive to spend more on a Core i9 if the price difference is several hundred dollars.

Those of you looking for high productivity performance can get it with a Ryzen 7 at a much cheaper price, and those looking for a high-end gaming laptop that isn't currently serviced by AMD systems want it possibly at a lower price with a Core i7-10750H laptop. This makes the Core i9 the best choice for those who want top-end games as well as top-end productivity performance or top-end productivity in apps that use the GPU a lot.

We have mixed feelings about what the Core i9-10980HK delivers, although it's clear that when you buy a gaming laptop, the CPU is one factor among many. The MSI GE66 Raider that we tested for this test seems to be a great machine, and we believe that MSI's design and attention to detail did a really good job. It's a long way from a value option, but obviously the Core i9-10980HK isn't aiming for value either.

Purchasing links
  • MSI GE66 Raider i9 / 300Hz / RTX 2080S at Amazon
  • MSI GS66 Stealth i9 / 300Hz / RTX 2070S at Amazon
  • Intel Core i9-10980HK laptops at Amazon
  • Intel Core i7-10875H laptops at Amazon
  • Gigabyte Aorus 15G XB on Amazon
  • Nvidia RTX 2070 Max-Q laptops at Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS laptops at Amazon
  • Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q laptops at Amazon

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