Intel’s new i9 is launching today, and our Intel i9 9900K review is now live, signalling the start of the 9th Gen… despite it being architecturally identical to the 8th Gen. The new eight-core / 16-thread chip is set to launch costing upward of $500. In other words, almost twice as much as AMD’s top octa-core CPU.
Pre-orders have already started appearing across major retailers, and if you want Intel’s halo processor, you’d better move quick. Benchmarks, too, have begun flooding in from across the web, and it looks almost certain that the i9 9900K is going to be one seriously capable processor. The benchmarks never lie…
Actually, benchmarks often lie, but mostly only the ones that appear as skewed mobile phone pictures. They really are the worst.
Though this isn’t the first time Intel has taken the initiative to stick the i9 prefix onto one of its fastest chips. The mobile i9 8950HK has been available for quite some time, and the HEDT platform chips, Skylake X, have been rocking i9 for a while. But, the i9 9900K is the first LGA 1151 compatible i9 part gamers can pair with a full-size discrete GPU for the very best gaming performance, and that’s pretty exciting.
And that move to desktop i9 chips is all thanks to AMD. While Intel will almost certainly never admit it, AMD’s Ryzen chips have put the pressure on its Core lineup, forcing it to bring six-, and, subsequently, eight-core CPUs to market ASAP. Intel’s unwavering single-core performance and more cores for multitasking? Sure, I’ll take it.
Intel i9 9900K release date
Intel is launching the i9 9900K on October 19, 2018, with Z390 motherboards already available to order.
Intel i9 9900K specs
The Intel i9 9900K will be an eight-core CPU that, thanks to Hyperthreading, will sport a whopping 16 threads. The chip will boost up to 5GHz, while the base clock will be a more modest 3.6GHz.
Intel i9 9900K performance
The 9900K offers the highest gaming performance you can glean out of a CPU, but the numbers are incredibly close between the top Intel and AMD eight-core CPUs, especially when you’re GPU-bound.
Intel has confirmed the i9 9900K launches today, finally lifting the lid on the eight-core / sixteen-thread processor during a recent event in NYC after months of rumours and speculation.
Intel is also set to release the Core i7 9700K, and Core i5 9600K 9th Gen CPUs at the same time too. These three new chips mark a return to core-parity between Intel and its AMD rivals, giving the Core architecture a pair of eight-core CPUs to stand against the best of the Ryzen processors.
With Intel currently suffering a reported 14nm manufacturing shortage, potentially 50% less capacity than the company needs to meet demand, we might see another ‘paper launch’ from Intel like we saw with the vanguard Coffee Lake launch this time last year.
Intel’s 14nm process is currently in a bit of a jam, and that’s led to reported shortages of Xeons, cancelled chipsets, and even rumours the company was considering outsourcing some manufacturing to rivals TSMC. Intel has firmly rebuffed these claims, but, to use an often overused idiom, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
The i9 9900K is an eight-core / 16-thread CPU. It will feature the same LGA 1151 socket support as Coffee Lake, and that means it’s going to be backwards compatible with older Coffee Lake 300-series motherboards, along with the latest Z390 motherboards. Unfortunately, that still means neither this CPU, or any of the new Coffee Lake Refresh chips, will be compatible with 100- or 200-series motherboards – but that’s hardly surprising.
|New – Core i9 9900K||8||16||3.6GHz||5GHz||16MB||95W||$488|
|New – Core i7 9700K||8||8||3.6GHz||4.9GHz||12MB||95W||$374|
|Core i7 8700K||6||12||3.7GHz||4.7GHz||12MB||95W||$359|
|Core i7 8700||6||12||3.2GHz||4.6GHz||12MB||65W||$303|
|New – Core i5 9600K||6||6||3.7GHz||4.5GHz||9MB||95W||£262|
|Core i5 8600K||6||6||3.6GHz||4.3GHz||9MB||95W||$257|
|New – Core i5 9600||6||6||3.1GHz||4.5GHz||9MB||65W||TBD|
|Core i5 8600||6||6||3.1GHz||4.3GHz||9MB||65W||$213|
|New – Core i5 9500||6||6||3GHz||4.3GHz||9MB||65W||TBD|
As for clock speeds, we can expect a single core turbo of 5GHz, up from a base clock of a more modest 3.6GHz. Back when Coffee Lake first launched, some motherboards ran the six-core i7 8700K at its single core boost speed across all cores. Whether or not that will be the case with the i9 9900K is yet to be seen, but it seems likely a 5GHz overclock across all cores will be likely.
As for TDP, the same leak indicates a 95W TDP. That’s pretty low, in fact, it’s identical to the i7 8700K, and a lot less than the eight-core i7 7820X – rated at 140W. But, considering TDP is more of a recommendation than a rule, it’s not that surprising for it to fall within the same 95W TDP limit common across all of the top K-series mainstream chips.
The pricing of these new CPUs could be a struggle for Intel. It hasn’t been able to drop the pricing of its Core i7 range, and so has dropped the Core i9 chip on top, making the pricing delta between core-equivalent AMD and Intel chips massive.
The Intel i9 9900K is officially listed for $530 (£492), although some pre-orders were already demanding a little more than that. With 14nm manufacturing looking a little tied up right now, tight supply of chips could lend to further increases.
With eight of Intel’s best cores, and Hyperthreading to boot, the i9 9900K dominates the gaming CPU leaderboards, but maybe not by as much as it’s premium price tag might have you believe.
We’ve finally been able to publish our own benchmarking numbers and, while it is possible to really highlight the performance difference between the best Intel and AMD processors, the difference isn’t that great in real world terms.
PCGamesN Test Rig: Asus ROG Strix Z370-E Gaming / X470-F Gaming, Nvidia GTX 1070 / RTX 2080 Ti, 16GB Crucial Ballistix DDR4, Samsung 860 EVO, Corsair HX1200i, Philips BDM3275
Intel originally commissioned Principled Technologies to run the rule over its new 9th Gen chips, as well as the upcoming new X-series processors, and the AMD competition. It was all looking good… until it was revealed that the benchmarking company had halved the core-count of the Ryzen 7 2700X by enabling the same Game Mode used in the Threadripper tests.
New i9 9900K vs. Ryzen 7 2700X benchmarks were subsequently released, still showing an Intel performance lead – official backing for its “world’s best gaming processor” claims – but one that’s much smaller than the previous results showed.
|Benchmark||Original fps delta||Updated fps delta|
|Ashes of the Singularity||57%||18%|
|Assassin’s Creed Origins||42%||12%|
|Far Cry 5||31%||20%|
|WoW: Battle for Azeroth||34%||30%|
|Civilization VI (AI)||16%||10%|
|Rainbow Six: Siege||18%||11%|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider||26%||17%|
We’ll be running the rule over the 9900K’s overclocking performance soon and, with its use of solder as opposed to thermal paste inside the heatspreader, we are hoping for big things. Though whether that will make any tangible difference to gaming performance we’re doubtful.