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Intel's Core i9-9900K CPU reviewed


One ring to rule them all

Intel's Core i9-9900K is here. With eight cores and 16 threads clocked at up to 5 GHz (on as many as two active cores, to boot), plus a 4.7-GHz all-core Turbo Boost 2.0 clock, the i9-9900K has the potential for incredibly formidable performance. We've been testing that performance down to the very last minute, and we have a comprehensive set of results to share with you now, but analysis of those results will have to trickle in as we fully digest the reams of data our work has produced. In honesty, though, a chip with the kinds of performance we've been seeing over the past few days doesn't need us to vouch for much on its behalf.

We'll be adding more detail and flavor to this article throughout the day (and intermittently, at best, as I'll be traveling by air and won't have consistent Internet access), but if you want more perspective on the i9-9900K, David Schor at WikiChip has an excellent run-down of the Coffee Lake Refresh silicon that underpins ninth-generation Core CPUs. For our part, let's dive right into our performance results.

Our testing methods

As always, we did our best to deliver clean benchmarking numbers. We ran each benchmark at least three times and took the median of those results. Our test systems were configured as follows:

Processor Intel Core i7-8700K Intel Core i7-9700K Intel Core i9-9900K
CPU cooler Corsair H100i Pro 240-mm closed-loop liquid cooler
Motherboard Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Master
Chipset Intel Z390
Memory size 16 GB
Memory type G.Skill Flare X 16 GB (2x 8 GB) DDR4 SDRAM
Memory speed 3200 MT/s (actual)
Memory timings 14-14-14-34 2T
System drive Samsung 960 Pro 512 GB NVMe SSD

Processor AMD Ryzen 7 2700X AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
CPU cooler EK Predator 240-mm closed-loop liquid cooler
Motherboard Gigabyte X470 Aorus Gaming 7 Wifi
Chipset AMD X470
Memory size 16 GB
Memory type G.Skill Flare X 16 GB (2x 8 GB) DDR4 SDRAM
Memory speed 3200 MT/s (actual)
Memory timings 14-14-14-34 2T
System drive Samsung 960 EVO 500 GB NVMe SSD

Processor AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1920X
CPU cooler Enermax Liqtech TR4 240-mm closed-loop liquid cooler
Motherboard Gigabyte X399 Aorus Xtreme
Chipset AMD X399
Memory size 32 GB
Memory type G.Skill Flare X 32 GB (4x 8 GB) DDR4 SDRAM
Memory speed 3200 MT/s (actual)
Memory timings 14-14-14-34 1T
System drive Samsung 970 EVO 500 GB NVMe SSD

Processor Core i9-7900X
CPU cooler Corsair H100i Pro 240-mm closed-loop liquid cooler
Motherboard Gigabyte X299 Designare EX
Chipset Intel X299
Memory size 32 GB
Memory type G.Skill Flare X 32 GB (4x 8 GB) DDR4 SDRAM
Memory speed 3200 MT/s (actual)
Memory timings 14-14-14-34 1T
System drive Intel 750 Series 400 GB NVMe SSD

Our test systems shared the following components:

Graphics card Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
Graphics driver GeForce 411.63
Power supply Thermaltake Grand Gold 1200 W (AMD)
Seasonic Prime Platinum 1000 W (Intel)

Some other notes on our testing methods:

  • All test systems were updated with the latest firmware, graphics drivers, and Windows updates before we began collecting data, including patches for the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities where applicable. As a result, test data from this review should not be compared with results collected in past TR reviews. Similarly, all applications used in the course of data collection were the most current versions available as of press time and cannot be used to cross-compare with older data.
  • Our test systems were all configured using the Windows Balanced power plan, including AMD systems that previously would have used the Ryzen Balanced plan. AMD's suggested configuration for its CPUs no longer includes the Ryzen Balanced power plan as of Windows' Fall Creators Update, also known as "RS3" or Redstone 3.
  • Unless otherwise noted, all productivity tests were conducted with a display resolution of 2560x1440 at 60 Hz. Gaming tests were conducted at 1920x1080 and 144 Hz.

Our testing methods are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have any questions regarding our testing methods, feel free to leave a comment on this article or join us in the forums to discuss them.