CPU & Motherboards

Intel Core i9-9900K and Core i7-9700K Processor Review: Gaming Performance with RTX 2080 Ti

Intel has been the dominant CPU in the mainstream market for the majority of the last decade. All that changed when AMD released their Ryzen series of processors and now on their 2nd-gen of the chips, Intel has been on keen on retaking back its lost market share. Most of those that made the switch have been on the mainstream and enthusiast market with the growing trend of streaming and content creation creating a large market for affordable, high-performance systems. Intel’s first salvo was the 8th-gen Core processors including six-core processors, their first core count increase in the mainstream segment in nearly a decade. There’s been speculation since then that an 8-core part was on the horizon. Fast-forward nearly a year and we have the new 9th Core processors from Intel.

Related: Read our Core i9 10900K review and Core i7-10700K review 

Intel is currently challenged into going 10nm which means the 9th-gen Core processors are still on the 14nm fabrication process. They are a refinement of the Coffee Lake architecture but feature a couple of improvements over the original 8th-gen release. Besides an increased core count, Intel will also be implement soldered TIM on the 9th-gen processors. This should help in bringing temps down with the increased core count but also please enthusiasts at the same time who have been complaining about Intel’s choice of TIM for the longest time. Intel introduced their first 5ghz out of box CPU with the Core i7-8086K from last generation but this was merely a marketing act as the 5ghz was limited to single-core non-AVX loads. 5ghz on all cores was still a manual task. The Core i9-9900K will improve things on that front as the processor will have a 2-core active 5ghz Turbo clock.

Today we’ll be taking a closer look at the new 9th-gen Core processors from Intel, specifically the top end Core i9 9900K and the now second-best Core i7-9700K. The Core i9-9900K is an enthusiast-level CPU featuring 8-cores and 16-threads, the only processor as of this writing, to feature HyperThreading in the entire 9th-gen stack. The Core i9-9900K will feature a base clock of 3.6ghz and a Turbo frequency of 5Ghz (2-cores). It will have 2MB of L3 cache per core and is rated with a 95W TDP. The Core i7-9700K features 8-cores as well but only 8-threads. It also has a base clock of 3.6Ghz and will Turbo up to 4.9Ghz (single-core). The Core i7-9700K has 1.5MB per core L3 cache and has an 95W TDP as well. Both processors have soldered TIM and will fit the LGA1151 socket on boards featuring Intel 300-series chipsets.

In this review we’ll focused purely on performance especially in gaming. We’ll take a close look at the how both CPU perform in gaming using the fastest graphics card we have right now with the NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti.

Performance Testing

Test Setup – Intel

Processor: Intel Core i9-9900K / Intel Core i7-9700K
Motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus XI Extreme
RAM: Corsair Vengeance RGB DDR4-3600 2x8GB
SSD: WD SSD Blue 1TB SATA
VGA: NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
PSU: Seasonic Platinum 1050W
Cooler: Fractal Design Celsius S36 360mm AIO Liquid Cooler
TIM: Noctua NT-H1
Display: Viewsonic VX2475Smhl-4K Ultra HD monitor

Test Setup – AMD

Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X / AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
Motherboard: ASUS ROG Crosshair VII HERO
RAM: Corsair Vengeance RGB DDR4-3600 2x8GB
SSD: WD SSD Blue 1TB SATA
VGA: NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
PSU: Seasonic Platinum 1050W
Cooler: Fractal Design Celsius S36 360mm AIO Liquid Cooler
TIM: Noctua NT-H1
Display: Viewsonic VX2475Smhl-4K Ultra HD monitor

Notice: As many already know, most motherboards will have varying frequency multipliers and this may affect performance overall. As this is part of their out of the box configuration we see it fit to use them as is. All data presented here in are with the default motherboard settings for stock performance. Overclocked performance will be indicated where needed. All tests are performed on stock DDR4-2133 settings.

Rendering and Encoding

Arithmetic Benchmarks

System Benchmarks

Memory Performance

Temperature and Power Draw

In this test we’ll measure how much manufacturer-set BIOS settings affect temperature and power draw. As we’re dealing with pre-launch samples, more mature BIOS may change these over time.

We really don’t put too much stock on individual component temperatures as they will vary depending on usage and we do not benchmark using extreme loads anymore as they’re not reflective of real world applications. To stress the CPU, we use a 20-minute run of AIDA64 stress test. We recorded the peak CPU temps and cross-match HWINFO and AIDA64 readings. For power readings, we measure the peak system draw.

CPU Performance – Gaming

For benchmarking methodology please see our game benchmark method guide.

Frame rates and frame times of a 60-second game play were recorded using FRAPS v3.5.99. The test results are the average of 3 benchmark runs. Since this is a GPU review, we benchmarked the area of the games that put heavy load on the GPU.

All our test runs are repeatable, click the links below for area and details. Read our benchmarking methodology.

  • The Witcher 3 – Novigrad City
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider – Temple of Kitezh

See our Youtube playlist for benchmark sequences.

The games and corresponding image quality settings used are shown in their respective tabs.

Note: Some proprietary technologies of NVIDIA like PCSS, HBAO+, and HairWorks work on AMD GPU’s BUT to maintain uniformity amongst GPUs, these have been turned OFF.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

The reboot of the gaming phenomenon Tomb Raider puts players in Lara Croft’s hiking boots as we pick-up from the last game. Featuring upgraded graphics, DX12 support and new image quality improvements, this game challenges new hardware with its graphical offering.

DirectX11
Anti-aliasing: FXAA
Very High settings
Ambient Occlusion: On
Pure Hair: Off
Vignette Blur: Off
Motion Blur: Off
Bloom: On
Tessellation: On
Screen Space Reflections: On
Lens Flares: On
Film Grain: Off

1920×1080

2560×1440 3840 x2160 Ultra HD The Witcher 3

CD Projekt Red’s latest installment in the Witcher saga features one of the most graphically intense offering the company has to date. As Geralt of Rivia, slay monsters, beasts and men as you unravel the mysteries of your past. Vast worlds and lush sceneries make this game a visual feast and promises to make any system crawl at its highest settings.

Frame Rate: Unlimited
Nvidia HairWorks: Off
Ultra Settings
Motion Blur: Off
Blur: Off
Anti-aliasing: On
Bloom: On
Sharpening: High
Ambient Occlusion: SSAO
Depth of Field: On
Chromatic Aberration: Off
Vignetting: On
Light Shafts: On

1920×1080

2560×1440

3840×2160

Conclusion

Intel has finally caught-up with AMD in the core count game for the mainstream audience. This means gamers, content-creators and enthusiasts now have an option from Intel featuring an 8-core 16-thread part to compete with AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X. For multicore, multithreaded application, the AMD options are far more attractive options given that Intel’s previous i7-8700K only had 6-core and video encoding as well as other multithreaded applications benefited favored AMD heavily. Games on the other hand was on Intel’s side.

Looking at our performance charts, the Core i9-9900K pretty much dominated this shootout leaving the Ryzen 7 2700X behind. The Core i7-9700K, despite lacking HyperThreading, managed to keep up with the 8-core Ryzen. Looking at our gaming tests, its a bit more telling of where the new processors really matter. At 1080p, the Core i7 8700K still manages to be on the same level as the 9th-gen CPUs. The AMD Ryzen 7 2700X does trail behind, almost 40% at 1080p on both our games. These are our most CPU-intensive games though and we’ll take a broader look with more games in our gaming-focused coverage of this CPU. As resolution goes higher, as expected performance evens out amongst our test systems.

We’ll talk about power draw, temperatures and overclocking in an upcoming article but a quick summary of it would be that since we’re looking a refresh of the 8th-gen processors, power draw is relatively similar. Thanks to the soldered TIM, temperatures do seem to be better and is most evident in the Core i7-9700K. The added frequency does make the chip hotter and with HyperThreading enabled on the Core i9 9900K, it does get hotter under load on stock. Overclocking the 9th-gen CPU is a bit tricky though. Despite being capable of 5ghz easily and with lower voltages, the 9th-gen Core processors are limited by their 95W TDP and while doable, some may feel uncomfortable raising the TDP limit on their system.

Value-wise, at over 500$ the Core i9-9900K is already competing in HEDT price territory. With Intel’s recent price increase, it’s expected but at this price range and performance offering, the Core i7 9700K looks to be a more viable option if you need a balanced gaming+content creation system. On a purely productivity setup, AMD still trumps Intel in this respect and with Intel having little to no history of price drops, it will be an exciting situation once AMD releases their Zen2 processors especially if Intel still cannot drop to 10nm.

In closing, Intel’s new Core i9-9900K takes the performance crown in the mainstream segment but for a premium. Its brother the Core i7-9700K, is a cheaper option but something about an i7 without HyperThreading just doesn’t seem right. But pricewise, the i7-9700K manages to beat the Core i7-8700K making it a considerable upgrade for a bit more. From a purely gaming perspective, you’re not losing much coming from an i7-8700K.

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BossMac Suba

Owner and lead reviewer for Back2Gaming. More than 10-year of corporate IT experience as well as consumer IT journalism. His extensive skill set and experience in communicating complicated technical details into easily understandable bits. He's been with you since dial-up and the ISA slot. His favorite animal is the scapegoat.

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