Intel 10th gen Ice Lake Performance pre-review: Come for the new cores, stay for the graphics

Should you wait to buy a 10th-gen Ice Lake laptop? The answer is, probably.

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Intel has touted Gen11 graphics as a game-changer. Despite being skeptical, we’d have to agree for the most part now. First up is UL’s 3DMark Sky Diver. It’s a lighter gaming test in the 3DMark Suite and doesn’t exactly push the GPU, but you can see a huge performance spike for Intel’s Gen 11 graphics over today’s UHD620 graphics.

The 25-watt setting puts Ice Lake about 75 percent faster than the Dell’s score. Perhaps more notable are the two laptops at the bottom of the chart. Both are Huawei Matebooks with discrete graphics. One features Nvidia’s GeForce MX150 set to 10 watts (the 1D12 version), and the other features the MX150 set to 25 watts (the 1D10 version).

The Iris Plus graphics with 64 EUs is dead even with the 10-watt MX150 variant. While it still loses to the 25-watt MX150 variant, it’s awfully close for comfort.

15 10th gen ice lake core i7 1065g7 3dmark sky diver graphics IDG

Whoa? An IGP matching a discrete graphics?!

We decided to push the GPUs with a tougher test, so we also ran 3DMark Time Spy and looked only at the graphics performance. For the most part, the results are the same and a big win for Intel Iris Plus graphics.

16 10th gen ice lake core i7 1065g7 3dmark time spy graphics IDG

3Dmark Time Spy is a DX12 benchmark. 

While Intel is likely hoping to eat into Nvidia’s MX150-range customer base, the truth is that’s just icing on the cake. What Intel is likely more concerned with is this company called Qualcomm and its upcoming SnapDragon 8cx chip running Windows 10. At Computex, Qualcomm gave PCWorld a preview of its graphics performance, showing it eating even top Whiskey Lake U CPUs.

Today, Intel would like to see Qualcomm’s 8cx and raise it, with Ice Lake U’s graphics performance about 45 percent higher. Yup, it’s press-preview laptop vs. press-preview laptop time.

17 10th gen ice lake core i7 1065g7 3dmark night raid graphics IDG

Intel just clapped back at Qualcomm.

The last 3DMark result we want to show off is the new Variable Rate Shader performance in the graphics core. Microsoft’s VRS basically enables performing high-quality shader effects on areas you care about. For areas you don’t care about or you won’t be looking at? They get lower settings.

Using a preview version of 3DMark, we were able to test the feature on Ice Lake U. The results suggest that games supporting VRS could see significant increase in graphics performance on 10th-gen Ice Lake U chips. 

18 10th gen ice lake core i7 1065g7 3dmark vrs IDG

Microsoft’s VRS feature lets games lower image quality in areas that don’t matter to increase frame rates.

With what time we had, we ran a few games as well. The first one was World of Tanks Encore. It’s a benchmark based on the popular free-to-play game, but it adds further enhancements. For the most part, it validates what we saw in 3DMark.

20 10th gen ice lake core i7 1065g7 world of tanks encore medium IDG

World of Tanks Encore benchmark generally agrees with 3DMark’s results.

We also ran Counter Strike: Global Operations on the laptops, set to a more playable 720p resolution. We unfortunately didn’t have time to run it in the 15-watt mode on Ice Lake, but at 25 watts it again torches the older UHD 620 graphics in today’s laptops. The MX150 variants did pull ahead further, however, so Iris Plus doesn’t match discrete on all fronts.

19 10th gen ice lake core i7 1065g7 cs go IDG

CS:GO is actually playable generally in excess of 60 to 80 fps on Intel’s Gen 11 graphics.

Conclusion

First, we’ll remind everyone that this is a performance preview. We’ll say that again: a PREVIEW. Unlike desktop CPUs, which you can mostly control, laptop CPUs are about the total package. Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake won’t be final until we see the first batch of laptops and what each OEM does with it.

With that said, our general takeaway is that the CPU is on a par with, or somewhat faster than, today’s laptops in most conventional applications that don’t touch the special sauce of improved encryption, AI or encoding features. In applications that touch those features, though, it’s a major upgrade over existing 14nm chips.

The real surprise is the performance of the Gen11 graphics. Intel’s integrated graphics have been the butt of jokes for years, but Iris Plus is a turning point. It is a generational performance uplift over UHD graphics and might just be the surprise killer feature of the CPU.

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