Intel Core i9-10900K 10-Core Processor Review

The Last Dance for Intel


There’s no going around it: Intel is hanging on as much as it can but with the competition scoring numerous victories as of its last-gen while Intel is struggling, a loss at this stage may mean that this is Intel’s “Last Dance” at the top of the gaming mountain. There’s no revenge narrative or breaking-the-stalemate story here. It’s one of survival. Battling to keep a market position Intel has hold onto for such a long time that criticisms of its their lax development may ring true now that they have are trying to fight back an ever-evolving Ryzen threat.

Today, Intel releases its 10th-gen consumer5 desktop CPU to the market and in this review we’ll be taking a look at the current flagship of the Comet Lake-S stack with the Intel Core i9-10900K. This 10-core CPU is perhaps their last bid into claiming a win against AMD, brandishing a 5.3Ghz boost – albeit for a single core – and a nominal Turbo of 4.Ghz. Of course all of these have a catch and we’ll talk about that in this review.

We’ll also have the Intel Core i7-10700K for review and you read that in full at the link. The i7-10700K returns HyperThreading to the top-end i7 SKU but being an 8-core, basically is a reformed i9-9900K but with Intel’s improvements, has become a rather ideal chip.

With all of that said, let’s dive right in as we analyze the CPU’s gaming performance as well multi-core benefits and see if manages to keep Intel going, even for at least another generation, wherein perhaps within the expected shelf life of the 10th-gen CPU they may live to see the birth of their true successor; a 10nm or better architecture from Intel that will push the CPU war to a new era. Let’s begin!

Major parts of this review is shared with our Core i9 10900K review. If you’ve read that review, you can jump straight to the conclusion.

Intel 10th-gen CPU: What’s New

There’s really not a lot to talk about with the new CPU in terms of details but to dash through the specs, we do have plenty of SKUs launching and each of them are somewhat a more refined release than previous-gen. It’s much more easier to discern models this time around with Hyperthreading present in the full stack. Much more prevalent as well as Intel pointing our Thermal Velocity Boost.

If you’re not familiar, Turbo Velocity Boost sits on top of Turbo Boost 2.0 and Turbo Boost Max 3.0 but with board manufacturers can override Intel standards hence different boards having different CPU performance results but require better if not overdesigned VRMs. By default though, Intel fits the Comet Lake-S lineup from 125W and 65W.

We have the Intel Core i9-10900K sitting on top featuring a baseclock of 3.7Ghz and has a Turbo Velocity Boost(TVB) of  5.3Ghz. This is followed by no-IGP models and non-K models but we’re not interested in those so up next we have the i7 in the stack back with Hyperthreading, the i7 10700K and so forth. The chart is listed below for your reference. For a quick summary, the most noteworthy models here are the i9-10900K of course to see how Intel does 10-core on mainstream and then the i7-10700K which goes head-to-head with the 9900K versus last-gen. then we have the i5-10600K and i6-10600 for mainstream which is a  great middleground for mainstream builds and at its pricepoint, its both i5 will look to beat out the 3600 and 3600X from AMD. Last up is i3-10100, the entry-level 10th-gen Core CPU this generation and this pricepoint has always been the go-to for many builders and will be a good competition for AMD’s newer entry-level CPUs.

While the CPUs may be straight-forward, the motherboards are fairly kept to the high-end for the launch wave and we’ll here more about the other 400-series chips in the coming days. For now the Z490 is the top-end motherboard chipset and will support the entire range of 10th-gen CPUs from Intel for LGA1200.

SKU Cores / Threads Base Clock Turbo Boost 2.0 Turbo Boost Max 3.0 All Core Turbo Thermal Velocity Boost/All Core TDP Suggested Pricing (USD)
i9-10900K 10C/20T 3.7 GHz 5.1 GHz 5.2 GHz 4.8 GHz 5.3/4.9 GHz 125W $488
i9-10900KF 10C/20T 3.7 GHz 5.1 GHz 5.2 GHz 4.8 GHz 5.3/4.9 GHz 125W $472
i9-10900 10C/20T 2.8 GHz 5.0 GHz 5.1 GHz 4.5 GHz 5.2/4.6 GHz 65W $439
i9-10900F 10C/20T 2.8 GHz 5.0 GHz 5.1 GHz 4.5 GHz 5.2/4.6 GHz 65W $422
i7-10700K 8C/16T 3.8 GHz 5.0 GHz 5.1 GHz 4.7 GHz N/A 125W $374
i7-10700KF 8C/16T 3.8 GHz 5.0 GHz 5.1 GHz 4.7 GHz N/A 125W $349
i7-10700 8C/16T 2.9 GHz 4.7 GHz 4.8 GHz 4.6 GHz N/A 65W $323
i7-10700F 8C/16T 2.9 GHz 4.7 GHz 4.8 GHz 4.6 GHz N/A 65W $298
i5-10600K 6C/12T 4.1 GHz 4.8 GHz N/A 4.5 GHz N/A 125W $262
i5-10600KF 6C/12T 4.1 GHz 4.8 GHz N/A 4.5 GHz N/A 125W $237
i5-10600 6C/12T 3.3 GHz 4.8 GHz N/A 4.4 GHz N/A 65W $213
i5-10500 6C/12T 3.1 GHz 4.5 GHz N/A 4.2 GHz N/A 65W $192
i5-10400 6C/12T 2.9 GHz 4.3 GHz N/A 4.0 GHz N/A 65W $182
i5-10400F 6C/12T 2.9 GHz 4.3 GHz N/A 4.0 GHz N/A 65W $157
i3-10320 4C/8T 3.8 GHz 4.6 GHz N/A 4.4 GHz N/A 65W $154
i3-10300 4C/8T 3.7 GHz 4.4 GHz N/A 4.2 GHz N/A 65W $143
i3-10100 4C/8T 3.6 GHz 4.3 GHz N/A 4.1 GHz N/A 65W $122

Story Time: Skylake V4 Advanced Age Edition

The “Lakes” CPU from Intel has been with us since Skylake and they are built on Intel’s 14nm process. Broadwell, which didn’t have a mainstream commercial launch, was the first 14nm CPU but Skylake was the first commercially-available mainstream 14nm CPU for MSDT back in 2015.  This was followed by Kaby Lake which would complete the tick-tock cycle and Intel present new developments for the architecture or the fab process. Such was not the case and Kaby Lake was followed by Coffee Lake in 2018 and after that was Coffee Lake Refresh.

Yes, that’s right. We’ve had that Skylake all the from 2015 up to now and while technology advances so fast, Intel CPUs have been in limbo for the past 5 years but Intel wasn’t going to let that stop them. With every release since Skylake, we’ve seen frequencies jump and we’ve finally reached an era of 5Ghz CPUs, although not as a base clock, but still, easily achievable. This managed to keep Intel fighting but the other part of their survival strategy is to increase core count. Skylake was a quad-core CPU and today we’ll be taking a look at a 10-core CPU on mainstream. Intel has held off on increasing core counts for so long that despite whatever their reason was for not doing so, it slowly plagued their product. This is despite the fact that this has happened before.

History Has a Way of Repeating Itself

Back in the Pentium days of the early 2000s, Pentium was chasing clocks speeds, going from 1.6Ghz all the way to 3Ghz or more. The main problem here was heat. Mind you this was all single core chips. AMD released the first dual-core mainstream CPU and they found success. After over half-a-decade, Intel manages to rise back with their Core 2 Duo CPUs. AMD would remain competitive, battling the eventual release of Intel Core  (i7, i5, i3) with the FX CPUs. This would be met with much criticism, with people arguing that it is not a true multi-core CPU due to its design of shared resources between cores. AMD would eventually see defeat in the market with their Piledriver FX CPUs which chased high-CPU clocks at its 8-core count while requiring high-end AIO cooling to operate.

Past forward to modern times and with Coffee Lake Refresh the consumer reception was souring for Intel and mainstream favor for the DIY market has been with AMD. A market where the majority of gamers are counted in as its major demographics and with recent marketing for both CPU brands embracing esports as part of their campaigns, it has never been a better time to be a gamer. With so much love for gaming, it has of course become part of the marketing messaging that both AMD and Intel are drumming up in. But enter a new buzzword: content creation.

All throughout those times, AMD was pushing with their multi-core approach. Slicing through Intel’s market, AMD has finally achieved notable market success and after almost a decade, history repeats itself with Intel sitting in the same position AMD was with the Piledriver FX: high clocks, high heat, high price, but questionable performance and in this review, we’ll see if the Core i9-10900K can hold on to that gaming crown.

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