Although Intel added more cores to its previous-gen Coffee Lake processors in an effort to keep up with AMD’s Ryzen CPUs, struggles with its 10nm node obviously delayed a more significant response. The company’s ninth-generation Core processors, otherwise known as the Coffee Lake refresh, represent another step forward in a contentious battle for desktop supremacy.
Intel Core i9-9900K at Amazon for $639.99
Intel’s line-up matches AMD’s Ryzen core-for-core, including a new Core i9 with eight Hyper-Threaded cores (8C/16T) and the highest frequencies we’ve seen in the mainstream space. There’s also a bulked-up Core i7 armed with two extra cores, plus a revamped Core i5. AMD isn’t setting still though: The company recently released its own new flagship, the 16-core 32-thread Ryzen 9 3950X, to fend off Intel’s new challengers.
AMD’s high core counts, aggressive prices, and nods to enthusiasts have earned it plenty of goodwill. Now it’s Intel’s turn to respond. The Core i9-9900K, for instance, ships in a translucent plastic dodecahedron obviously meant to wow system builders, similar to the way AMD impressed with its Threadripper packaging. Intel also switched back to using Solder Thermal Interface Material (STIM) between the die and heat spreader, facilitating better thermal transfer to cope with more cores and higher overclocks. Ninth-gen Core CPUs are also Intel’s first with hardware-based mitigations for the Meltdown and Foreshadow vulnerabilities. These should minimize the performance impact of circumventing recently discovered exploits.
Core i9-9900K is the fastest mainstream desktop processor we’ve ever tested. But it’s also one of the most expensive. Knowing that Intel does not match AMD’s value proposition, is the ultimate in desktop performance worth paying extra for? The new Core i9 was incredibly impressive through our benchmark suite. However, most users would be better served by cheaper alternatives, such as Core i7-9700K.
Then again, if money is no object and you have the need for speed, Core i9-9900K is the CPU to buy.
Intel Core i9-9900K
The Coffee Lake refresh begins with three new K-series processors. They all feature the same underlying Coffee Lake microarchitecture as previous-gen models. And as expected, the Core i5 and Core i7 brands are represented. This time around, though, an eight-core, 16-thread Core i9 commands the spotlight.
The new K-series chips are manufactured on Intel’s 14nm++ node, include an integrated UHD 630 graphics engine, sport unlocked ratio multipliers that enable easy overclocking, and boast support for dual-channel DDR4-2666 memory. Intel also responds to increasing RAM density by doubling memory capacity support up to 128GB.
|Core i9-9900K||Core i7-9700K||Core i5-9600K|
|Architecture||Coffee Lake||Coffee Lake||Coffee Lake|
|Cores / Threads||8 / 16||8 / 8||6 / 6|
|Base Frequency (GHz)||3.6||3.6||3.7|
|Boost Frequency ( Active Cores – GHz)||1-2 Cores – 5.04 Cores – 4.8 8 Cores – 4.7||1 Core – 4.92 Core 4.8 4 Core 4.78 Core 4.6||1 Core – 4.62 Core – 4.54 Core 4.46 Core 4.3|
|Integrated UHD Graphics GT2 (Base/Boost MHz)||350 / 1200||350 / 1200||350 / 1150|
|Recommended Customer Pricing||$488 – $499||$374 – $385||$262 – $263|