There was a time where Intel was the king of the desktop. If you wanted a modern gaming PC, you went to Intel. The performance and sheer power these chips had over the competition could not be understated. While AMD had some powerful options on paper, they simply did not compare when you got down to real testing. While those days seem to be over, with AMD catching up with their latest Ryzen processors, there is something to be said for how well the Intel flagship chips compare and still reign supreme if you are building a gaming monster, and this remains true with the latest Core i9-10900K.
The new Comet Lake-S desktop platform works hard to play catch up and gain ground where they lost some to AMD over the past few years. These new chips offer better specs all around and even include two extra cores when compared to 2018’s Core i9-9900K, bringing the total to 10-cores, and 20-threads. With a boost clock that can reach 5.3GHz across one or two cores, it is a powerful offering, and one that should have new PC builders salivating.
Looking at the two flagship offerings, the AMD Ryzen 3900X and the Intel Core i9-10900K, is a tricky proposition. Both these chips are powerful offerings, delivering more than most users really need on a day-to-day basis, while being enough for the new creator and gamer demographics. Both are great options, but depending on what your needs are, the Intel i9 still has enough edge to make it our top pick for 2020.
Currently for sale, the Intel Core i9-10900K sits at the top of the standard Comet Lake-S lineup. With an average price of $799.99 CAD, it is not a cheap offering by any means. Compare that to the slightly chapter Ryzen 3900X at $629.99, and Team Red comes out swinging on price. The 3900X delivers you a 12-core, 24-thread processor that in our testing was powerful and impressive on most of our benchmarks.
This being a new generation, if you are upgrading your old desktop, you will need to invest in a new Z490 chipset motherboard with the new LGA1200 socket. The old boards will not work with the new chips, so it is good to keep in mind should you be factoring that into buying decisions. While still utilizing the 14 nm process, based on benchmarks and real-world performance, this is one of the most powerful pieces of gaming silicon you can currently buy.
Looking at the i9-10900K and the biggest back of the box takeaway is the core count on offer in this mainstream CPU. An i9 boasting 10-cores and 20-threads is truly exciting, especially considering this is the first time it is seen in an Intel offering, outside of the X-range of chips. Utilize Hyper-Threading and you have access to 20 threads of processing muscle you can throw at games, video editing, or that exciting office suite. As I stated previously, this is more power than most consumers need, and more in line with the next generation of consoles than the computer from two years ago you are upgrading from.
Though it may have a base clock of 3.7GHz, with the help of Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and Thermal Velocity Boost, you will see the boost clock of 5.3GHz far more often. The new thermals and overall better profile provides a much faster, and consistent operation, especially compared to past offerings, and especially when compared to last generations 9900K, which had a few issues in this area.
Previously only available on the X-range of chips, Turbo Boost Max 3.0 is better overall by working on a per-chip basis and identifying what cores are the best at any given time, maximizing performance, and delivering an overall better experience to the end user. Velocity Boost on the other hand will ensure that you can push your CPU that extra mile, provided it remains under 70°C and the system has power to spare. This means the difference between 5.2GHz and that elusive 5.3GHz, making it even more impressive, especially in the mainstream range of CPUs.
In testing, with a Deep Cool liquid cooling system installed, we managed to hit the 5.3GHz while pushing the system, with it managing to stay well below 60°C for the standard slate of tests. In real world testing, using a series of games and Adobe applications, we saw the CPU sit comfortably at 5.2GHz in single core operations, and around 4.8-4.9GHz while running on all cores.
Even the numbers don’t show how well it performs in actual benchmarks though. The performance of the 10900K beat expectations for what it can deliver for a new gaming PC. With more games optimized for Intel, and how well the 9900K managed against the Team Red offerings, it is no wonder Intel is still dominating in the PC gaming and creative space.
Now, let us tackle the elephant in the room, the 10900K will not beat the 3900X in office and productivity applications. While the 10900K does crush it in gaming, the sheer number of cores on offer in the Ryzen CPU just deliver a better offering, and at the price point, a better option if you are looking to build a more balanced machine. But when gaming is the focus Intel still has that edge, and for anyone that demands only the best from the latest and greatest releases, it still reigns supreme.
Granted, gaming is now limited by the GPU, and while the CPU does play a major part in ensuring the game delivers the best possible offering, if you are pairing your new 10900K with a $80 GPU, you will have a bad time. This is why in testing we have paired our i9-10900K with a Nvidia RTX 2080Ti, and set it all on a ROG Maximus XII Extreme mainboard with 32 GB DDR4 HyperX RAM. We also have the CPU liquid cooled, to ensure thermal throttling will not play a part skewing any benchmarks.
It should be noted, that while the i9-10900K should be a great chip to push with overclocking, we did not do any testing for this review to ensure it best fits a mainstream user. Due to construction of this generation of CPU, there is plenty of headroom for overclocking, and provided you have the experience and know the risks, you should be able to push this CPU well past the advertised clock speeds, but please proceed with caution as you should with anything that could damage your new hardware.
As you can see from the charts, Intel has managed it once again, offering a CPU that crushes the competition for gaming. The raw power on offer just obliterates what Ryzen can do when base clock speed is the factor. Now as stated above, GPU is really going to be the bottleneck going forward, and this is especially true when trying to push games past 1080p. But for now, even still on the 14 nm process, the Intel i9-10900K is the king of mainstream gaming.
If you are upgrading from an Intel CPU older than three years, the differences are night and day. The 10900K is a beast, delivering fantastic results that crush past offerings. Even considering the age of the platform Intel is building on, this is astounding to see. While yes, AMD has pushed core counts, with some of the more impressive flagship CPUs dominating in power and threads, there is a reason why builders look to Intel for building gaming builds even today with other options on the market.
There are a lot of reasons to love what Intel has on offer in the i9-10900K. It is an evolution on a platform that delivers fantastic real-world results to gamers. While it may not have the core counts compared to what AMD has on offer, the speed, performance and power on offer still are second to none in gaming. If you are building a new PC and demand only the best the mainstream can buy, look no further than the i9-10900K, but make sure you don’t skimp on the GPU should you want to really push some polygons.