Intel Core i9 9900K processor review

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Intel Core i9 9900K gets tested
Intel's new eight-core (16 threads) Coffee Lake-S processor

We have three Coffee Lake-S Series 9000 reviews available today, this review will cover the new flagship desktop processor that does not sit in the HEDT range. Yes, in this review we take the new flagship mainstream processor for a test-drive, meet the premium Coffee Lake-S eight-core processor that has been discussed so abundantly lately. This little beast has eight cores, sixteen threads and gets turbo bins that reach 5.0 GHz. Pair it with a nice Z390 motherboard and you will be looking at mighty fine performance and a downright excellent gaming processor.

Core i9 9900K... where is the 9800K, right? Well, I guess Intel has got some reserves left for later. The new 9900K is the much-discussed answer to the AMD Ryzen 2700X. It has eight cores, SMT is enabled thus you have sixteen threads and Intel would not be Intel if they did not cash in on high clock frequencies. That makes the Core i9 9900K the enthusiast product in their new mainstream processor series. I realize that is a weird line to read, but don't forget, there is an HEDT platform as well, with a multitude of cores available seen from this 8-core part. So, as enthusiast class as this processor is, it is segmented into a mainstream product line. The 9900K should be seated into your Z390 motherboard. A Z370 (update your bios first please) chipset based motherboard would work as well, but we do recommend you use one with a proper VRM implementation. Now, I've called the new processors a refresh, however, an 8-core part based on Coffee Lake-S has never been released by Intel before. So by refresh, I do mean the similar 14nm Coffee Lake processor architecture that was brought into the Core 9000 series, from that 8000 series. Six and eight-core processors in the mainstream segment, it's an all-new thing for Intel, and we do have to give credit where it's due; if you are going to purchase one of the three procs as listed today, you will need to thank AMD for that. Their aggressive product positioning with Ryzen and many cores forced Intel into fabbing more core processors. And you know what? That's a very good thing, as competition in the market makes companies go that extra mile. We expect the three processors to become extremely popular and in demand for the PC gamer, as each and every one of the processors will offer fantastic gaming performance if your graphics card is fast enough. Intel is able to boost the Turbo frequencies towards that 5 GHz domain. And that is a big advantage Intel has over AMD, which is wedged shut at that 4.2 GHz range with Ryzen 2000 (which is overall really good, but the high clock per core is where it matters in CPU bound gaming; e.g. with super high-end graphics cards like the RTX 2080 Ti). Intel is releasing these three 9000 series processors initially:

  • Core i5-9600K (6 Core / 6 Threads)
  • Core i7-9700K (8 Core / 8 Threads)
  • Core i9-9900K (8 Core / 16 Threads)
That does not mean you'll only see three processors in the Core 9000 range, word out on the street is that models like the 9100, 9400 and 9500 Core series processors will be released as well. However, this specific launch involves three processors. We will test all three of them spread out over three separated reviews.

If you checked out the product names then yes, you will have noticed it. Three processors are spread out over three Core ranges (i5/i7/i9), two out of the three processors will not get hyper-threading as, probably, the lineup would compete too much with the existing 8000 series. The flagship 9900K is a mad dawg proc with a boost allowance to a staggering 5 GHz, which is going to make this processor a single threaded beast in performance. The 9700K today is pretty much the same product, yet clocks 100 MHz lower on the boost frequency and lacks hyper-threading (SMT). That will have an adverse effect on your normal Windows applications performance wise. Gaming wise, however, SMT is hardly relevant if you have enough cores. The Core i5 9600K on its end is the entry-level product with a boost to 4.6 GHz and, with six logical cores, this might become a very attractive gaming processor. For multi-threaded applications obviously less so. The i9-9900K (8c/16t) is listed to sell at USD $479,- the i7-9700K (8c/8t) at $369,- and the i5-9600K (6c/6t) we expect to sell at $279. On the next page, we'll talk a bit more about it all, as the Turbos do need to be discussed. The boost frequencies only apply to a limited number of cores. Say two can do that 5 GHz, however, if you utilize 6 cores, it would drop down to 4.7 GHz and so on. Again, we'll list that on the next few pages.


In this review, we'll take the eight-core / sixteen threads Core i9 9900K through our benchmark paces. This is Coffee Lake, Intel's mainstream segment series processors that you will need to seat on a Z370 chipset based motherboard (with updated BIOS) or, better yet, the new Z390 motherboard. Gaming wise this product does a great job thanks to the high clock frequencies. Also, you'll be able to tweak this proc towards at least 5.0 GHz on all eight cores. On the next few pages, I will take you guys a little deeper into the architecture and processor series that is Coffee Lake, as well as the Z390 chipset. 

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