So the day is finally here! One of the worst kept secrets in computer technology finally rears its head after a week after Z390. I am of course talking about the new Intel Core i9-9900K processor which has officially just been unveiled and we get to grips with it and see if it’s the high-end processor we’ve been waiting for.
There’s surely going to be many comparisons to AMD’s line of processors which include the Ryzen 1st and 2nd generation processors such as the Ryzen 7 1800X which we did review last year. Unfortunately, since Gavin left Play3r last year to further his career at Anandtech (sad face), we haven’t seen any samples from AMD and our overlord Dave has only seen a couple of CPUs since last year. Enough of all that though as you’ve come for a CPU review and it’s about time we delved into what the new Intel Core i9-9900K has to offer.
Intel Core i9-9900K vs Core i7-8700K vs Core i7-7700K Specifications
Looking at the specs across the table above in comparison to other processors we have tested, the Core i9-9900K has a total of 8 cores and 16 threads. This makes it the highest spec desktop based Intel processor outside of the HEDT market so far. Much like the previous Core i7-8700K processor, the Core i9-9900K has a TDP of just 95W and has a slightly better onboard graphics chip in the UHD 630. Outside of the core and thread count, the biggest change in specification comes in the turbo frequency. The i9-9900K boosts up to 5GHz which is absolutely brilliant and those worrying about the temperatures shouldn’t, INTEL ARE FINALLY USING SOLDER AGAIN (Insert cheers here).
For people looking to make use of the overclocking features of this processor, a Z390 motherboard is needed. The Z390 chipset includes the following features:
- Full overclocking control
- Support for Intel Optane Memory and SSDs
- Integrated USB 3.1 Gen 2
- Integrated Intel Wireless-AC Support
One of the most interesting aspects of the new Core i9-9900K processor is the new packaging. The box is a dodecahedron which is similar to that of a dice you might find in a game of dungeons and dragons. It’s certainly eye-catching and in a retail environment it should turn some heads. Some of the more technical features include support for 2666MHz DDR4 memory although the new Z390 motherboards can support speeds of 4000MHz and higher. Other features include support for Intel’s Optane memory and Intel Optane SSD, as well as being the first 5GHz Intel processor out of the box!
Intel® Core™ i9-9900K Processor Key Features
- Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0: Dynamically increases the processor frequency up to 5.0GHz when applications demand more performance. Speed when you need it, energy efficiency when you don’t.
- Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology: Allows each processor core to work on two tasks at the same time for up to 16 total independent tasks (threads) providing parallel processing capability for better multi-tasking with threaded applications.
- Intel® Smart Cache: 16MB of shared cache allows faster access to your data by enabling dynamic and efficient allocation of the cache to match the needs of each core, which can help significantly reduce latency to frequently used data and improving performance.
- CPU Overclocking Enabled (with Intel® Z390 or Z370 chipsets)1,2: Fully unlocked core multiplier, base clock, and memory ratios as well as options to modify power settings and per core overclocking enable ultimate flexibility for overclocking.
- Graphics Overclocking Enabled (with Intel® Z390 or Z370 chipsets)3: Unlocked graphics multiplier allows for overclocking to boost the graphics clock speed.
- Integrated Memory Controller: Supports 2 channels of DDR4-2666 memory with 2 DIMMs per channel. Support for memory based on the Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (Intel® XMP) specification.
- PCI Express* 3.0 Interface: Supports up to 8 GT/s for fast access to peripheral devices and networking with up to 16 lanes configurable as 1×16, 2×8, or 1×8 and 2×4 depending on the motherboard design.
- Chipset/Motherboard Compatibility: Compatible with all Intel® 300 Series chipsets with the latest BIOS and drivers.
- Intel® UHD Graphics 6303: Integrated 3D performance with support for Microsoft DirectX* 12 and Ultra HD 4K resolution display for immersive mainstream gaming. For Microsoft DirectX* 12 testing, the performance-tuned Intel graphics driver is expected to be available for download on Intel Download Center by the 9th generation Intel® Core™ processor family product introduction. The Intel® UHD Graphics 630 dynamic graphics frequency ranges up to 1200MHz.
- Vibrant Media: Enhanced, built-in visual features deliver a seamless visual PC experience for rich Ultra HD 4K entertainment and HD gaming.
- Intel® Quick Sync Video Technology: Media processing for incredibly fast conversion of video files for portable media players or online sharing including support for HEVC 10-bit (H.265) encode/decode to playback premium 4K Ultra HD content from selected service providers. 4K Ultra HD content from selected service providers.
Intel Core i9-9900K Performance: i9-9900K vs i7-8700K (Which is better?)
Test Bench and Setup
In the interest of fairness and to show real-world performance, the processor was left at stock. All of the motherboards and processors saw in the graphs below are set with multi-core enhancement enabled (on supported models) and are at the mercy of the motherboard itself. To keep things on an even playing field along with previously tested processors, we have used the same DDR4 memory running at 3000MHz with the same graphics card and the same testing methodology.
Note: The Intel Core i3-8350K processor was tested on the ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex and as per our last review, the i7-7820X processor was tested on the ASUS X299-A PRIME motherboard. The Intel Core i9-9900K is tested on the new ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac motherboard and the previous 8th generation Core i7-8700K was tested on the ROG STRIX Z370-F motherboard.
Motherboard: ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac
CPU: Intel Core i9-9900K (Stock settings)
CPU Cooling: be quiet! Silent Loop 240mm
GPU: ZOTAC GTX 1060 6GB
RAM: Ballistix Elite 3000MHz 16GB (2x8GB)
PSU: be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 1000w
OS: Windows 10 Professional x64
3DMark Fire Strike
3DMark Time Spy
PC Mark 8
Ashes of The Singularity
Tom Clancy’s: The Division
Total War: WARHAMMER
The Intel Core i9-9900K Review: The Verdict
It’s clear that the announcement surrounding the new Intel Coffee Lake Refresh was a badly kept secret as the new supporting Z390 chipset was announced earlier on in the year. Whether that was a mistake on Intel’s part or a cleverly strategised marketing ploy, we will never know. One of the biggest wins for the new Intel Core i9-9900K processor is most definitely attributed to the 5GHz turbo clocks on two of the cores. A lot of processors advertising boost usually does this on just one core. Factor that in with the 2 additional cores over the Core i7-8700K and you have a new gaming champion.
A lot of people are probably going to spend most of their time trying to compare the new i9-9900K versus the Ryzen range of processors. This is a fair comparison and given that the Ryzen 7 2700X retails for £330 (give or take a few quid) and the new i9-9900K costs around £599, it’s hard to justify the cost. As AMD didn’t sample us the 2nd generation of Ryzen processors we haven’t been able to include them in our CPU charts, but the new Intel offering does show a nice increase over the Ryzen 1st generation of processors, that much is true.
When you consider the i9-9900K vs i7-8700K debate, the newer 9th generation processor beats out the i7-8700K for two main reasons. The higher core clock turbo frequency and the extra core and thread count. It is worth mentioning that both of these processors will work on the Z370 AND Z390 range of motherboards meaning the i7-8700K might have a price drop and be worth a punt. The i7-8700K is still a great processor and if you’re not too bothered about the AMD versus Intel kerfuffle, Intel does make the better CPUs for gaming when you completely remove the pricing and value elements from the equation.
- Intel is finally using solder again for better temperatures and better overclocking headroom
- Fastest desktop processor from Intel to date
- The best gaming CPU currently on the market; 8 cores and 16 threads of pure performance
- Good performance
- Reasonable price (when omitting Ryzen from the equation)
- Z390 chipset is what we all deserved a year ago
- The first 5GHz Intel CPU
- Still expensive compared to AMD’s Ryzen processors
Intel has a new gaming champion with the Core i9-9900K and not only is it Intel’s fastest desktop processor to date, but it’s also the most powerful. It has 8 cores and 16 threads which makes it universally versatile for tasks such as gaming, video editing and photography. The biggest thing comes in the thermal department and as Intel has reverted back to using solder, this has one main benefit; LOWER TEMPERATURES! A result of this is better overclocking headroom and this only spells victory for Intel.
While you wait for Intel’s anticipated 10-nanometer processors sometime in the next year or so, the Intel Core i9-9900K champions Intel’s vision of being the best of the best, and this new processor is just that. It’s currently the best gaming CPU on the market and has plenty of features, especially the added goodness the Z390 chipset brings to the table. The Intel Core i9-9900K more than deserves our gold award and if the launch price was cheaper, it would be an easy platinum!
Thanks to Intel for sending a sample of the Core i9-9900K in for review.