Intel Core i9-9900K 9th Gen CPU Review

Intel Core i9-9900K 9th Gen CPU Review

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

We’ve all been waiting for mainstream processors like Intel’s Core i9-9900K. This is the CPU we wanted Intel to make ever since AMD Ryzen processors outperformed the company in terms of core count and multi-threading performance. This is the CPU we wanted Intel to make ever since AMD Ryzen processors outperformed the company in terms of core count and multi-threading performance.

The Intel Core i9-9900K is Intel’s first mainstream Core i9 chip, featuring eight cores, 16 threads, and the ability to boost to a maximum clock speed of 5.0GHz. In the end, AMD’s new octa-core processor not only closes the gap with its best processor, it actually surpasses it.

In our testing, it did not prove to be quite the world’s best gaming processor that Intel claimed, at least not with the drivers currently available. In the near future, we’ll continue testing the Intel Core i9-9900K, but for now, this CPU may better serve content creators than gamers.

Specifications and chips

Intel Core i9-9900K 9th Gen CPU Review

In addition to being one of Intel’s first mainstream octa-core processors, the Intel Core i9-9900K also has the highest thread count in the Coffee Lake Refresh lineup at 16 threads. This means Ryzen 2nd Generation processors will finally outperform their AMD rivals in hyper-threading performance.

AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X has eight cores and 16 threads with clock speeds of 3.7GHz and 4.3GHz, respectively. In contrast, Intel’s new Core i9 chip runs at a 3.6GHz base frequency and boosts to 5.0GHz with a single core or 4.7GHz with six to eight cores.

It’s incredible that the Intel Core i9-9900K is able to integrate all these cores and threads-not to mention its 400MHz faster clock speeds-into a chip with the same 95-watt (W) thermal package as previous Coffee Lake CPUs.

Intel’s new line of processors features a soldered, integrated heat spreader (IHS), which we’re very excited about. Thermal interface materials made from solder have proved to be extremely useful for heat dissipation. The Intel Core i9-9900K is ten degrees Celsius cooler than the Intel Core i7-8700K and Intel Core i7-8086K.

In contrast to Coffee Lake, users won’t have to purchase a new motherboard to install the Core i9. It is fully compatible with existing Z370 motherboards. The new Intel Z390 platform only supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 for 10Gbps data transfer speeds through traditional full-sized USB ports and has integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 for gigabit wireless speeds, so that’s a good thing if you plan on only upgrading your CPU.

Test System Specs.

  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti (11GB GDDR5X VRAM)
  • RAM: 32GB Vengeance LED DDR4 (3,200MHz)
  • Motherboard: Asus ROG Strix Z390-E Gaming
  • Power Supply: Corsair RM850x
  • Storage: 1TB Samsung 970 Pro M.2 SSD (NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4)
  • Cooling: Thermaltake Floe Riing 360 TT Premium Edition
  • Case: Corsair Crystal Series 570X RGB
  • Operating system: Windows 10

Performance

Intel Core i9-9900K 9th Gen CPU Review

It has been a while since Intel’s processors were able to compete with AMD’s high-core count, massive multithreading performance, but the Intel Core i9-9900K does just that.

With the highest single-core and multi-core test results we’ve seen, Team Blue’s first mainstream Core i9 chipsets set a new benchmark for processing power. The huge advantage the 9900K gains over any other mainstream CPU is amazing to see, as is the noticeable increase in Cinebench scores.

Aside from synthetic benchmarks, this massive increase in processing power results in some of the fastest video encoding times we have seen in Handbrake.

Intel may have been a little overconfident when they called this chip the world’s best gaming processor. The chip will deliver the same, if not worse, frame rates as the last generation of Intel Core i7-8700K, which has two fewer cores and four fewer threads.

We were surprised not to see any performance improvement in CPU-intensive games like Total War: Warhammer II.

During our testing, we encountered string bugs, like the inability of the processor and motherboard to recognize the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, leading to multiple blue screens of death and crashes.

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti we plugged in only made matters worse, to the point that we couldn’t even start Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Rather than a 1080p and high-quality setting, we got a message that our system was not powerful enough.

We’re testing this processor on early drivers, so when the new software rolls out in a few weeks or months, we may see performance improvements. Nevertheless, if you’re a gamer, you’d be better off getting a more affordable CPU at the time of this review.

Pros Cons
Tight energy consumption. Little to no improvement in gaming.
Runs noticeably cooler. Expensive
Dominating hyper-threading performance

Verdict

Despite being late to the party with its first mainstream octa-core processor, Intel’s Core i9-9900K is an impressive debut. The Intel Core i9-9900K’s significant increase in processing power can’t be overstated, and this CPU will help any video editor, Photoshop master, or any other creative professional.

The 9900K may have the highest specs we’ve ever seen on a mainstream Intel processor, but it still consumes power as efficiently as Intel’s previous-generation chips. As a result of the soldered heat spreader, Intel’s chips are also running cooler than ever.

As new software drivers and patches become available, we’re hoping to see improvements to gaming performance.

Ultimately, though, Intel’s $579 (£599) and $479 (£469, about AU $796) prices when they first came out were difficult for most people to justify, but content producers could. In the meantime, gamers seeking the ultimate gaming processor would be better off looking elsewhere.