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The Intel Core i9-9900K Review: Competition Renewed

Author: Ken Addison
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Platform Compatibility and Test Configuration

In addition to a full suite of games, we are testing this round of CPUs in a variety of synthetic and real-world benchmarks.

  • Geekbench
  • Euler3D
  • 7-zip Compression
  • Cinebench R15
  • Blender
  • POV-Ray
  • Handbrake
  • X264 Benchmark
  • RFO Benchmark (Revit 2019)
  • V-Ray Benchmark
  • IOMeter

As far as the hardware competition is concerned, we wanted to compare the i9-9900K to flagship processors of Intel's past, including the 8700K and i7-7700K, as well as AMD's currently flagship Ryzen 7 2700X. Additionally, we decided to compare the i9-9900K to the lower end HEDT parts from AMD and Intel, namely the 16-core Threadripper 2950X and the 10-core Intel Core i9-7900X. 

The full testbed configuration is listed below:

Test System Setup
CPU

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
Intel Core i9-9900K
Intel Core i9-7900X
Intel Core i7-8700K

Motherboard

MSI MEG X399 Creation (Treadripper) - BIOS 7B92v11​

ASUS PRIME X299 Deluxe (Skylake-X) - BIOS 1503

ASUS Crosshair VII Hero (Pinnacle Ridge) - BIOS 0804

MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC (Coffee Lake) - BIOS A11

ASUS ROG MAXIMUS IX CODE (Kaby Lake) - BIOS 1301

Memory

16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3200

Operating at:

2667MHz (Skylake-X, Coffee Lake)
2933 (2nd Gen Threadripper, Pinnacle Ridge)

Storage Corsair Neutron XTi 480 SSD
CPU Cooler Corsair H100i 240mm All-in-One Liquid Cooler
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080Ti 11GB
Graphics Drivers NVIDIA 416.16
Power Supply Corsair RM1000x
Operating System Windows 10 Pro x64 RS5 (17763.55)

Video News


October 19, 2018 | 09:17 AM - Posted by DanE4 (not verified)

I want to see how far i9-9900k can be overclocked until BSOD occurs.

October 19, 2018 | 10:18 AM - Posted by Ken Addison

In my particular setup, going from 5.0 to 5.1 GHz all-core immediately bluescreened the system when any load was applied!

October 19, 2018 | 10:46 AM - Posted by Particle (not verified)

This review commits the cardinal sin of chart generation: The colors representing a given product change from chart to chart.

October 19, 2018 | 03:05 PM - Posted by Ken Addison

How so? The focus of this review (i9-9900K) is light blue while the rest of the data points are red. The graphs with multiple data points do differ from this the best, but I tried to highlight the 9900K result in blue in every chart.

October 19, 2018 | 04:15 PM - Posted by Particle (not verified)

Take a look at the charts for Euler and 7z. The color that represents a given product changes from chart to chart.

October 20, 2018 | 11:36 AM - Posted by kabdo (not verified)

This threw me off as well. I ended up opening up this review on 2 screens - one to view legend and one to view charts.

October 22, 2018 | 07:49 AM - Posted by Ken Addison

Ah, Sorry! Naturally excel ruined the charts... I will correct that going forward!

October 19, 2018 | 11:33 AM - Posted by Vince (not verified)

So the Intel i9-9900K is not the best CPU for gaming.

October 19, 2018 | 12:12 PM - Posted by Anonymouse (not verified)

It's undisputably the best CPU for gaming. It may not the the /optimum/ CPU for gaming if price/perf if your factor to optimise for, but then you'd probably end up with an i3 being the optimum in that situation.

October 20, 2018 | 12:47 AM - Posted by Dark_wizzie

I understand Intel's not the easiest company to like, but this AMD faboyism is idiotic.

October 19, 2018 | 12:22 PM - Posted by loophole (not verified)

One minor correction to the chart on the first page: the Ryzen 7 2700X has 16MB of L3 cache rather than the 20MB listed. Unless that row is supposed to be L2 + L3? But this throws the Intel numbers into question...
The PCIe lane count is also a little inconsistent because the TR 2950X is listed as 64, which clearly includes the 4 lanes used to connect to the X399 chipset, while the 2700X is listed as 20, which doesn't include those lanes bound for the chipset.

And that concludes the nitpicking :)

October 19, 2018 | 03:05 PM - Posted by Ken Addison

I appreciate these kinds of nitpicks. The appropriate corrections have been made. Thanks@

October 19, 2018 | 06:42 PM - Posted by loophole (not verified)

Great, that 2700X L3 cache figure looks better. I think there's still an issue with the PCIe lanes though. Here's what I was attempting to convey:
2700X 2950X
PCIe lanes (inc. lanes to chipset) 24 64
PCIe lanes (exc. lanes to chipset) 20 60

So, my thinking is that 20 was correct for the 2700X as that's the number of usable lanes after connecting the chipset, but the 2950X should be dropped to 60 as you've only really got that many available to peripherals.

And *that* concludes the nitpicking :-P

October 19, 2018 | 03:49 PM - Posted by Randy (not verified)

I'm not in the market, and while the hardware is impressive I don't have the scratch for this kind of stuff. My 2600X and RX 480 4GB are meeting my needs at this time. Next upgrade will be the GPU, but not until its interfering with my needs.

TLDR: Cool chip bro....not marketed for me clearly.

October 19, 2018 | 04:49 PM - Posted by Cyclops

I was considering this processor for an upgrade but it seems as if it's incompatible with windows 8.1, and I refuse to install windows 10 on my main machine.

October 20, 2018 | 06:01 PM - Posted by Anonymous71 (not verified)

And 8.1 is better how exactly ???

October 21, 2018 | 10:40 AM - Posted by NotHavingToBendOverAndTakeItWithABigSmile (not verified)

It's not better than 7 but 8.1's EOL is 2023 and has less of that Windows 10 style forcing that always breaks things.

Windows 8.1 can be made to look like windows 7 with third party software to turn off 8.1's annoying TIFKAM UI nonsense and did I mention that 8.1 has no update forcing that breaks things like Windows 10. And don't forget the latest windows 10 Update that's deleting some folk's user libraries like My Documents, My Pictures, etc. So 7 is EOL in 2020 and 8.1 is EOL in 2023 and 8.1 is really pretty much the same under the hood as windows 7 with some minor tweaking for 8.1 and that crappy TIFKAM UI in 8.1 that can be fixed via third party UI software.

Windows 10 and its Candy Curshing that can not be kept from re-installing with the next forced update along with the Bend Over Here It Comes Again(BOHICA) treatment of forcing on the PC's owner from the folks in Redmond.

Enjoy your 10 UWP(Universal Windows Peasant) existence!

October 19, 2018 | 05:34 PM - Posted by elites2012

1. if revit 2019 does not work well on multicore processors. then this is something you should not be using for a benchmark. something is clearly wrong. 2. your running games on these chips knowing that they are coded specifically for intel chips. 3. when has intel made a chip from the ground up? ryzen is a ground up chip, so they are not writing for it yet. they are barely patching games to run on ryzen. this is another bias review for intel.

October 19, 2018 | 10:13 PM - Posted by Dapple (not verified)

He could downclock the cpu to 2ghz, throw it in a b350 motherboard, and tap dance around in an AMD bodysuit....something tells me you would still claim the review was biased toward Intel

October 20, 2018 | 03:33 AM - Posted by Manda (not verified)

Wow, this is the first review I read that say 9900k is a good value at 500++ bucks.

October 20, 2018 | 04:32 AM - Posted by TickTock (not verified)

Who is this processor for? Genuine question.

Gamers are better off with the previous generation once OCs are applied.

Workstations are much better off with Threadripper, especially since first gen are going for sub €500.

So who is Intel going after with this product that needs a $100 just to keep it from Throttling at stock speeds?

October 20, 2018 | 11:33 AM - Posted by EpycXeonOrItsNotWorkstationWorthy (not verified)

Workstations are better off with Epyc and 128PCIe lanes and 8 memory channels per socket. For Folks that need more memory bandwidth a Dual Socket Epyc/SP3 motherboard can be had for around $450-$550(Supermicro H11DSi costs $512) and 2, 16 core/32 thread Epyc 7301s cost around the same price a one Threadripper 2990wx.

So its better to get 2 of the lower cost Dual Socket Epyc 7301 SKUs and have 16 total memory channels across 2 sockets if you are doing any workloads that love more memory bandwidth. The 7301($825.00) is very affordable and the cost of 2 and an Epyc/SP3 Dual Socket MB can come in at a similar cost than TR 2990wx($1,799) and MEG Creator MB($500).

Workstations are better off not with Threadripper and only 64 PCIe lanes and 4 memory channels when one could get a dual socket Epyc/SP3 MB with 16 memory channels across 2 sockets in dual Epyc 7301 configuration. Also with 16 memory channels to populate the user has more options to purchase those very low cost low capacity 4GB ECC RDIMMS($58-$70 per DIMM) and still have 64 GB of total memory or 128GB of memory for 8GB ECC RDIMMs($100-$150 per DIMM).

ECC memory is costly compared to non ECC memory but that's what workstation users require if they are doing and professional production workstation workloads. Used Server/Workstation memory costs even less but still memory is not cheap these days.

October 20, 2018 | 08:54 PM - Posted by Anony (not verified)

Yeah I'm not seeing how this is a gold award.

October 21, 2018 | 09:50 AM - Posted by Subsailor

This should be a silver award at best due to the high price.

October 22, 2018 | 11:59 AM - Posted by CostsToMuchRelativeToTheAddedPerformance (not verified)

The i9 9900K is Intel's attempt at trying to maintain its higher markups/margins against AMD's Zen+/Zeppelin based competition. Intel still has the relatively better IPC and clock speeds against the Ryzen 7 2700X 8 core/16 thread competition. But the relative performance difference that the i9 9900K provides above the 2700X does not justify the added cost. So AMD's Ryzen 7 2700X will be a better price/performance value even at 1080p with any gaming at 1400p and above an even closer march-up after things become more GPU bound anyways. And really its that latency Advantage that helping Intel in gaming at 1080P.

The i7-9700K at 8 cores/8 threads(Hyperthreading Disabled)
is the better gaming value at 1080p than the i9 9900K and the Ryzen 7 2700X may be a little better at some workloads compared to the i7-9700K but if you are mostly into gaming then really the 9700K($374.00 - $385.00 Intel ARK MSRP) is priced closer to the 2700X.

But still on the Tech Report's review of the 9900K the Ryzen 7 2700X's frame times are not really that bad even at the 11.1ms frame times in Hitman where the Ryzen 7 2700x performs a little better than both the 9700K and the 9900K. It's only at the frame times below 11.1ms that Intel's 9700K and 9900K really begin to take the lead at 1080P in hitman. So that's where Intel better latency performance helps and still the 9700k leads there even above the 9900K.

Also on most of the other titles looking at the 11.1ms frame times the Ryzen 7 2700x is not that far behind compared to Intel's latest until the frame times get to the 8.3ms and 6.94ms frame time ranges where the 9700K and the 9900K trade blows for dominance.

I guess if you are gaming on a high refresh rate monitor at 1080p on ultra settings then Intel may look better but I'll bet that with some minor settings adjustments that the 2700X would get enough of a higher frame rate that the image quality differences would not be noticable on higher FPS gaming for 144Hz monitors with display adaptive sync activated. It all depends on the game and how that game can be set to target higher average frame rates and most folks are only going to notice high Frame Variance rather than image quality during high frame rate gaming.

Now if only the review sites would do more testng where they lower some settings while trying to get the 2700X to perform like the 9900k in gaming and see if anyone will notice the difference at between 90 and 140 FPS. Because at 1080p that's not really enough resolution to tell the difference at higher FPS anyways.

Really Tech Report still thinks the i7 8700K was already the world's best CPU for high refresh rate gaming so that's maybe still an option also.

October 22, 2018 | 09:50 PM - Posted by odizzido2 (not verified)

Thanks for testing 1920x1080

October 23, 2018 | 11:04 AM - Posted by Penteract (not verified)

Most reviewers test CPUs at 1080p these days while using a top-end video card because the CPU will most often be the bottleneck. At 1440p or especially 4K the graphics card is more likely to be the performance limiter and differences in processors won't show up nearly as well.

October 23, 2018 | 12:42 AM - Posted by ajeba99 (not verified)

Yeah, don't agree with why you gave it the Gold Award; undeserved. Silver at best.

November 13, 2018 | 09:38 PM - Posted by tbob22 (not verified)

"In both 7-zip compression and decompression, the i9-9900K only falls to the i9-7900X, managing to best even the 16-core Threadripper CPU." on page 3...

Are you reading a different chart? The 2950x is much faster in both compression and decompression.

Also.. My 5 year old e5-1680v2@4.4ghz:

Compression: 61,251
Decompression: 65,302

March 1, 2019 | 09:04 PM - Posted by coyote

AMD 2950X vs. i9-9900K

I love the PC Perspective HW Leaderboard, but while the i9-9900K may deserve to be the Dream System CPU, for multi-threaded desktop workstations it looks to me that the AMD 2950X blows it away(1).

Why not split the Leaderboard into Gaming and Productivity tracks?

(1)
https://cpu.userbenchmark.com/Compare/Intel-Core-i9-9900K-vs-AMD-Ryzen-T...
https://techgage.com/article/intel-core-i9-9900k-workstation-gaming-perf...

March 3, 2019 | 06:44 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

Worth considering, a few other sites split that way in addition to the ones you mention.  For the moment it is the best on the market overall so it sits there but for my next update I will mention TR and X399 as choices for those that work and game.

March 5, 2019 | 05:58 PM - Posted by coyote

Great idea, Jeremy!

I know some people game and work. For others their only demanding PC use is gaming. My only demanding PC use is work.

With the current Intel/AMD competition it might be more difficult than ever for one pick to fit all.

March 21, 2019 | 01:43 PM - Posted by HeadPack (not verified)

Benchmarks aside, the difference this chip makes in Revit is noticeable. Coming from a 1700 oc'd to 3.9, the application feels visibly snappier. Enscape, a plugin for real time visualization, also has the model ready much quicker. However, especially with bigger models, say 200MB plus, there is still the occasional waiting to do. Looking at the Task Manager, it seems some more multithreading could speed things up. Hence, if one uses mostly Revit, the 9700K might be just as capable.

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