Intel Core i9-10900K 10-Core Processor Review

The Last Dance for Intel


Intel is facing an uphill battle against a powering-up AMD and with the battles shifting from more-Ghz to the more-cores, it’s already become apparent there’s only so much you can squeeze out of an aging architecture. 14nm was just not made to be on a package this small and we’re seeing the seams burst as Intel plugs it in with various tricks to push it further.

We practically been previewed the Comet Lake-S when Intel released the 9900KS from last-generation. An all-core 5Ghz 8-Core CPU that managed to squeeze that clock speed in its TDP rating. From that release, Intel played around with the die and how they cool this CPU prettty much and we now have a refined 10th-gen that can manage  its heat output much better. But performance-wise, we’re not getting much.

With the Core i9-10900K being a 10-core processor, it’s value sits with productivity software and as our testing shows, prolonged and single-core benchmarks benefit the Core i9-10900K  but in purely multi-threaded work especially rendering and multimedia work, the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X easily beats the i9-10900K. The situation is made worse by the fact that AMD does this at lower clocks and while Intel can benefit from a single-core efficiency advantage, the 10900K falls a bit short when it comes to multithreaded work.

Talking about gaming performance, the Core i9-10900K is obviously a work processor given the number of cores but as a flagship, it has to offer the best of all worlds. The i7-10700K still edges it out overall due to its higher core clocks but that has always been the case even with last year’s release.  But just to sum it up for anyone curious if its good for gaming or not, it delivers nicely but nothing we haven’t seen before.

When compared to the i9-9900K, the story is pretty much the same.

Passing judgement on this generation is an article all its own so we focus on what we have at hand: the Core i9 10900K. As a 10-core CPU, Intel is now playing AMD’s game: pushing more and more cores but at 10-cores, is still too short to content with the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X clock for clock in multi-threaded applications. Motherboard helps Intel here a bit by allowing the CPU to push itself by removing power limitations, basically letting the CPU keep Turbo Boost forever, but letting the Core i9 10900K run at 4.9Ghz all the time produces  a massive amount of heat which is why we think ASUS has shipped their ROG boards with disabled MCE. This may change with a BIOS update as the 0508 pre-launch BIOS prompts the user on first boot if they want to remove power limits. Again, at 4.9Ghz, the CPU draw more than 320W from the wall and depending on how good your cooling is and good your CPU is, it will breach past 90*C. In our case, even heavy AIO cooling isn’t enough to cool the CPU under heavy loads.

Its worth noting that this CPU can do 5.3Ghz under certain situations, and while that may help in certain single-core workload, it is the idea of being stable 5.3Ghz that excite me and pushing all the core to 5.3Ghz and up is something I’ve been meaning to do once I get my hands on a retail chip. Intel has improved the design on the die for the 10th-gen Core processors and much exploration will be done once it has been released. The good news is that you’re getting a cooler chip provided it runs on its rated TDP as you can see in our temp and draw testing. While its alright to let an unrestrained Turbo run on short workloads, anyone that isn’t on a custom loop may experience deterioration quickly as well as a warmer room.

The Core i9-10900K has a tray price of $488 but posts in Newegg and Amazon has seen the Core i9-10900K at $599 or more. This is pretty much the same as any primary launch and given the global pandemic situation right now, logistics play a huge part in hurting most economies. Still, at launch, it’s definitely the tax one has to pay for first-adopter status notwitholding the platform cost with the 10th-gen requiring new 400-series motherboard particularly the Z490. The Core i9-10900K is not a CPU for everyone and barring first-adopters tax, it should level to $500 in a few months. At the price, it will still compete with the Ryzen 9 3900X but if and should AMD slash prices, this may be a more interesting situation especially if the $750 Ryzen 9 3950X makes it a tighter market.  What muddies the situation here is do you need all these cores? Intel’s gaming performance should entice gaming/workstation users who want the best-of-the-best despite that being a bit contested at this point but with motherboard hoping to sway decision towards this new release by tapping into the burgeoning content creator market, there may be some situations where AMD’s aging platform, be the cause of someone’s dilemma.

There’s no going around it: this is Intel’s last dance at being competitive to AMD. With news of Rocket Lake already brewing and 10nm already on laptops, there’s hope for progress as of this moment, Intel’s Core i9-10900K doesn’t change much in the current landscape, whether it’d be gaming or content creation. Still, the 10900K proves to be enough to keep high-end consumers who are willing to compromise or understand their work/play scenario to appreciate this CPU.

Intel Core i9-10900K 10-Core Processor Review
Final Thoughts
A capable CPU for modern computing requirements but is held back by its price, an expensive platform and an aging architecture.
Pros
Decent gaming performance
Good improvement on temperatures
Excellent single core performance
Soldered IHS
Cons
Ryzen 9 3900X is superior in multi-threaded work
Premium pricing
No cooling included with retail package
Minimal improvement in terms of gaming from last gen
8.4
Rating