Intel Comet Lake lack of PCIe 4.0 support is a big missed opportunity

After almost a year and a half of waiting,
Intel Comet Lake-S
has finally arrived, bringing a 10-core
processor to its mainstream lineup for the first time – one with
pretty amazing clock speeds.

Just on the performance front, it does everything it needs to
– the Intel Core
i9-10900K
provides some pretty incredible single- and
multi-threaded performance, even if it doesn’t quite topple over
AMD’s current hold on the desktop CPU throne. 

We’re not living in such a simple world anymore, however, where
performance is all that matters. Even if we’re only talking about
PC gaming, the exclusion of PCIe 4.0 doesn’t bode well for future
performance of systems with Comet Lake processors, especially where

graphics cards
and storage are concerned. 

How can something so small be so important?

PCIe 4.0 is the future, sorry

When I first heard that PCIe 4.0 was coming to the AMD X570
platform back at Computex 2019, I
knew that it would be an improvement over PCIe 3.0, I just didn’t
realize how much of an improvement it would be. 

I’ve only had the chance to test one SSD that uses the
interface, the Gigabyte Aorus NVMe Gen4 SSD that AMD provided in my
testing kit when I reviewed the
Ryzen 9 3900X
and Ryzen 7
3700X
. That SSD is currently locked up in an office building in
Manhattan, but when I tested that processor, I was able to get
speeds of 4,996 MB/s in the CrystalDiskMark sequential read test.
To put that in perspective, the Adata XPG SX8200 Pro I use on my
test bench gets 3,720MB/s in the same test – that’s  a 25%
improvement already, from one of the fastest PCIe 3.0 SSDs to one
of the first PCIe 4.0 SSDs.

The best
SSDs
will get faster and faster on this interface as time goes
on, making PCIe 3.0 SSDs obsolete in the same way that NVMe SSDs
did to SATA SSDs. 

That’s even before you consider the other major component on
PCIe – the best graphics cards. Sure, the only graphics cards
that use PCIe 4.0 right now are AMD Navi cards like
the Radeon RX
5700 XT
, but that’s going to change. We’ve already heard rumors
that the
RTX 3000 cards are going to use PCIe 4.0
, and if that’s not
enough, Nvidia is already using PCIe 4.0 in its
server-grade Ampere products

There’s more to gaming than a shiny GeForce RTX 2070 Super

Gaming gaming gaming

The PS5 and
Xbox Series
X
are just a few months away at this point, and both Sony and
Microsoft won’t stop talking about the SSDs in these systems and
how they’re going to push gaming forward. Hell, remember that
Unreal
Engine 5 tech demo
that looked incredible? The developers
behind that are saying that if PC gamers want to be able to see
stuff like that they’re going to
have to pick up an NVMe SSD
.

And, yeah, you can do that with a Comet Lake-S processor, that’s
absolutely true. But if the consoles are all using PCIe 4.0 SSDs,
it’s not going to be long before that’s the baseline of performance
for AAA games – that’s kind of how it goes with each console
launch. 

Intel likes to make claims that it makes the best
processors
for gaming, and what it bases those claims on is
that single-core performance is the most important factor. And, for
the most part, it’s right – at launch. 

Given how even in my briefing for these 10th-generation Comet
Lake-S processors, Intel compared the Intel Core i9-10900K to the
Core i7-7700K because people typically upgrade every 3-5
years. 

With a high-end product like the Core i9-10900K, there are going
to be users that will upgrade as soon as Intel’s 11th-generation
desktop chip comes out, sure, but there are going to be many more
that will be relying on that processor far longer than just a year
or two.

Never thought a console would make me urge caution to people
thinking about buying a top-end CPU

Intel should have waited

Back at
CES 2020
, when Intel teased Xe
graphics
and Tiger Lake, I
said that Team Blue
needed to launch a desktop processor
if it wanted to stay
relevant. And it did that. However, nothing exists in a
vacuum. 

By launching a new processor that not only is expensive enough
on its own, but also requires a whole new
motherboard
, Intel is essentially asking that consumers spend
hundreds (if not more) on a system that’s going to be, in some
ways, inferior to a console in less than a year. 

Because lightning-fast storage is shaping up to be one of the
battling grounds of the upcoming generation of games – and you
can be damn sure that will include the best PC games – Intel’s
lack of PCIe 4.0 seems incredibly short-sighted, especially for a
company that puts so much value in PC gaming. 

Only time will tell if PCIe 4.0 becomes as big a deal as I think
it will, but it’s not looking so hot for Intel. Here’s to hoping
that the rumors that Rocket Lake is going to follow close behind
Comet Lake are true – Intel’s going to need PCIe 4.0 support if
it wants to be the best CPU for gaming. 

Source: FS – All Tech News 2
Intel Comet Lake lack of PCIe 4.0 support is a big missed
opportunity