Intel Core i9-9900K Hardware Review

Intel Core i9-9900K Hardware Review

Months Later, Intel’s Latest Flagship Still Stands Strong

Type: CPU
Score: 8/10

While the Ryzen lineup has been giving Intel some trouble in recent years, there is no denying that Intel still has a strong position in the desktop and server space.

The Core series of processors are still some of the fastest chips on the market, and while Intel is still working with a 14nm process, what they have managed to do with that range is still impressive. Even months after its release, Intel’s latest flagship, the Core i9-9900K, still stands as one of the fastest gaming desktop chips money can buy.

We at CGMagazine have been using the Core i9-9900K for a few months now. It has sat as our baseline for all new CPU reviews and is used daily as our video and gaming test bench. The processor, while a few months old, still stands strong against the competition, and as Intel drops the prices on these CPUs, the value proposition becomes even more compelling.

Intel Core i9-9900K Hardware Review 1
Intel Core i9-9900K on Asus ROG Strix Z390-E Board

While not a cheap CPU by any stretch, the Intel Core i9-9900K can be purchased for under $500 USD now, making it a competitive option against AMD’s Ryzen 9 3900X ($535 USD). Due to this processor still being able to achieve higher scores in select games and apps over AMD’s latest offerings, the 9900K has become a very interesting option for people looking for a high-end option for a new gaming build or editing PC.

Much like the Ryzen 9 series, the Core i9 is not a mainstream chip. Yes, you can use it in a standard gaming PC and you will be very happy, but with the number of cores and level of performance onboard, the i9-9900K really shines for content creation and more advanced tasks. If you are looking to stream and game from the same computer, or even looking to dive into complex video or audio editing, the i9 makes a strong case for consumers. Combine that with fantastic video encoding abilities, and even months after release, the Intel Core i9-9900K remains a strong contender, even against the more modern 7nm Zen 2 range of processors.

Intel Core i9-9900K Hardware Review 4
Intel Core i9-9900K Die Shot

The highlight specs of the i9-9900k are without a doubt the clock speeds and the thread count on offer. The 9900K boasts a turbo of up to 5 GHz, combine that with 8-cores and 16-threads and you have yourself a very powerful CPU. Yes, the i9 9900K will rarely push its self to the peak of 5 GHz and in our testing, it was more commonly seen around 4.8 – 4.9 GHz. Even with this fact, the chip performed admirably across all workloads, demonstrating just how versatile this CPU really is.

For all testing, we used our gaming and video test bench setup consisting of 16GB of DDR4 G.Skill RAM, an Asus ROG Strix Z390-E gaming motherboard, a Vega 64 GPU, and a Western Digital Black SSD. We ensured all tests of the AMD CPUs were on comparable hardware where possible to ensure the most comprehensive look between the value and performance of our benchmarked processors.

It should also be noted that while a modern CPU is a good asset for gaming, most modern titles do not take full advantage of what these processors have to offer. While there will be some variations between games, the bigger change will be seen with the GPU. With that said, let’s take a look at some benchmark results and see how the Core i9-9900k actually fairs against its competitors.

Intel Core i9-9900K Hardware Review 1

Jumping into 3D Mark Time Spy, even against the powerhouse AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, the cheaper Intel CPU manages to hold its own relatively well. Scoring 10720 on the CPU score compared to 11776 on offer with the 3900X, team blue is fighting a tight race. In Cinebench R15, things get a little bit more interesting with the single-core score of 205 for the 9900K and 206 for the 3900X. Neck and neck, that is until you look at the multi-core score, where Ryzen 9 3900X destroys the Core i9-9900K with a score of 3173 compared to 2166.

Intel Core i9-9900K Hardware Review 2

Looking at our standard range of gaming tests, and the 9900K outshines the more expensive competition from AMD. In Assassins Creed Odyssey, the Core i9-9900K managed an impressive 74 FPS compared to the top end of 72 FPS for the Ryzen 9 3900X. While much of these scores could be improved by swapping graphics cards, the simple fact games are currently more optimized for Intel-based CPUs is something to consider when building new gaming or stream rig.

Intel Core i9-9900K Hardware Review 3

It is often hard to compare CPUs, especially when looking at gaming or productivity software since patches and updates often will fix discrepancies that are in place. That being said, because Intel remains aware of market conditions and is adjusting the price of its processors to fit with demand, the 9900K has gotten more interesting as time has gone on. While it has lost a bit of ground against AMD in recent months, with the release of the Zen 2 range of chips, what is on offer from Intel at a lower price is still very impressive. In synthetic tests, the Ryzen 9 3900X should destroy the Intel i9 9900K, yet when looking at real-world performance it still manages to hold strong moving into 2020.

If you are looking to build a new streaming desktop, or just want a future proof gaming setup, the Intel Core i9-9900K still stands as a solid offering, and at the new lower price, it is now a great value, offering plenty of bang for your buck. It is fantastic to see AMD and Intel making the CPU landscape better for consumers through their healthy competition, and a few months after the release of the 9900K is a perfect example of this, making it a more exciting offering than when it first launched. Intel’s latest flagship processor is a solid chip that will give users plenty of power going forward.

8
As the market forces the prices of CPUs down, the Intel Core i9-9900k is a far more exciting and interesting offering, making it a great choice for new builds or streaming setups.