Intel Core i9-9900K Review

👤by Vortez Reviews Comments 📅19-10-18
Features & Specifications

Intel Core i9-9900K

- 8 Physical Coffee Lake cores, 16 threads, supporting Hyperthreading.
- 3.60 GHz Base Clock, 5 GHz Turbo Mode
- 16 MB SmartCache
- Socket LGA1151
- Fully Unlocked Multiplier
- 64GB DDR4 support (Dual-Channel Mode)
- 40 total PCI-Express Lanes shared among chipset and other integrated and expansion devices
- 16 PCI-Express 3.0 lanes direct to the CPU –1x16 / 2x8 / 1x8 + 2x4 configurations
- 95W TDP


In 2016 Intel formally retired the ‘Tick-Tock’ architectural development model. The rising costs of ever shrinking process nodes to keep up with Moore’s Law had become untenable, so more needed to be done with the technology available. This ushered in the ‘Process -> Architecture -> Optimisation’ model, three distinct phases on the same process, beginning with Broadwell on 14nm. Yes, Broadwell.

Since then Skylake, Kaby Lake and Coffeelake have each been released on the same 14nm process node, with the latter two being optimisations of the Skylake architecture. Alleged delays to the rollout of Intel’s 10nm process and sudden stiff competition have required a more imaginative use of what’s to hand.

Core i9-9900K CPU Die

It will come as no surprise to learn that both the 14nm process and Coffeelake architecture have been repurposed for Intel’s 9th Generation CPUs, albeit in a more complex combination that had perhaps been initially desired. For Intel, the CPUs represent a generational leap due to performance improvements rather than technological innovations, a justifications that echoes those used for the 8th Generation last year.

Intel’s Core i9-9900K is an 8-core CPU with Hyperthreading enabled, supporting a total of 16 independent threads. In that regard it overlaps with Intel’s Skylake-X HEDT range, which offer between six and eighteen cores with Hyperthreading as standard. Architectural differences between Coffeelake and Skylake-X aren’t trivial and include a quad-channel memory controller and more complex caching system, but users will look to the 9900K for similar workhorse tasks such as gaming, streaming and video rendering.

In common with previous designs that utilise Hyperthreading the 9900K is equipped with more Smart Cache than models without, in this instance the 8-core 9700K. Not only does this cache have value when Hyperthreading, it also tends to improve the performance of only lightly threaded tasks on a clock for clock bases. This is often why the top-end i7’s (and now i9’s) are recommended for the best possible performance in gaming, and contributes to Intel’s general IPC lead.

Intel 9th Generation Core Lineup Comparison


Although the main CPU cores tend to get the attention when it comes to discussions of premium and gaming-oriented models, the vast majority of Intel’s CPU range also feature integrated graphics components. While not as powerful as discrete GPUs they do nonetheless occupy a useful niche for video encoding, low-impact gaming (especially on mobile platforms) and troubleshooting. This GPU is also DirectX12 Compliant, and as a Quick Sync Video device is also a robust performer for video transcoding.

The i9-9900K incorporates Intel UHD Graphics 630 with a base frequency of 350MHz that boost up to 1.20 GHz; video memory is allocated from main system memory. External display support typically depends on the extent to which video outputs are built into a specific motherboard, but the chips supports 4K60Hz output over HDMI and DisplayPort. The platform should also support Microsoft Playready 3.0 DRM and hence applications such 4K streaming services as Netflix.

If desired, the Integrated GPU of K-Series CPU can be overclocked when operating in tandem with a suitable Z-series Motherboard, although there shouldn’t be most call for it in desktop configurations where this chip would be present.


As a K-Series CPU, the Core i9-9900K is unlocked for overclocking when paired with a compatible Z390 or Z370 CPU. Both frequency multiplier and memory clock speeds can be adjusted independently, pushing the envelope of performance during all-core operation. While the CPU boasts a maximum turbo of 5GHz, this figure only applies when only a single core is operating; lesser turbo modes apply as more cores are loaded. Overclocking typically disables these Turbo modes in favour of a frequency which applies to all cores simultaneously; as a result the maximum stable 8-core overclock may even be lower than the 5 GHz Turbo Mode, depending on the other factors such as voltages, cooling and the so-called ‘silicon lottery’.

For the first time since the Sandybridge (2nd Generation Core CPU) era Intel have equipped their performance-class mainstream desktop processors with solder as the thermal interface material between silicon die and heatspreader, rather than a paste compound. The i7-9700K and i5-9600K are slimmed down versions of the full-fat i9-9900K with features and cores selectively disabled, but both also come shipped with solder TIM.

Solder is a better conductor of heat than paste TIM, allowing for better efficiency in heat transfer from CPU die to cooler. When utilising the same cooler, this should mean that the die will operate at lower temperatures compared to a paste TIM solution. Adept overclockers who run closer to the limit with more high-end solutions including bespoke water cooling may be especially appreciative of this fact, and it removes the temptation to de-lid the chip and apply a liquid metal TIM.

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