Intel launches 9th-gen, 8-core i9-9900K CPU and more

Sarah Tew/Techhnews

“Ninth-gen” doesn’t mean much relative to eighth-generation for Intel’s Core processors: The Coffee Lake-S 14nm++ process essentially makes it more power efficient and the chips have Wi-Fi 802.11ac on board, Intel announced Monday. 

But the addition of eight-core, 16 thread i9-9900K CPU and eight-core, eight-thread i7-9700K unlocked desktop processors to the line does. Especially if you want a power desktop system that will last a reasonably long time. Intel’s K series of processors are the unlocked versions that can be overclocked.

They don’t come cheap — systems will likely start at upwards of $2,000. But eight cores is a relatively happy medium between monsters like Intel’s i9 X series, which start at 10 cores, 20 threads for around $1,000, and six-core i7s that are great today but may not be in a few years — especially since Intel dropped hyperthreading from the i7 and lower ranges. 

If you’re looking for cheaper, AMD’s Ryzen 2700X offers eight cores, 16 threads for less money, though we’ll wait until the benchmarks are in before determining whether the tradeoffs — if any — are worth it.  

The i9-9900K also incorporates solder TIM, which delivers better heat dissipation properties for overclocking.

Preorders for systems from all the major manufacturers start today and they’ll start shipping Oct. 19.


Sarah Tew/Techhnews

Intel and the rest of the computer industry is really pushing the idea of a “creator” market segment as well as gaming, because those are the folks who need more power than usual — people who spend more — and typically upgrade systems every two to three years. And as one professional gamer pointed out, esports is a “money machine.” More cores helps when you’re both playing and streaming, for example.

Intel also rolled out ninth-generation desktop processors across the Core line, including i5 and i3, and an 18-core i9-9980XE at the other extreme. Workstation users will be thrilled with the new 28-core unlocked Xeon W-3175X with 125 megabytes per second memory bandwidth and 4.3GHz clock. It will begin shipping in December.

Increasingly games are being developed with six or more cores in mind, and when you’re ready to hit 1440p on high-quality settings (or 4K, eventually) higher-performance graphics cards like Nvidia’s RTX line mean the CPU is more likely to be the bottleneck than the GPU. And for nongaming, high-quality rendering still happens on the CPU, where more cores make a big difference. And some games already take advantage of as many cores as you can throw at them.

The i9-9900K gets a boost clock to 5GHz on two of the cores and up to 4.7GHz on all. The i7-9700K, however, is very close — it will boost to 4.9GHz on a single core (4.8GHz on two), or 4.6GHz on all cores. The difference is the i7 is drops hyperthreading, the technology that gives you eight threads on a quad-core processor, for example. At four cores, the most common popular optimization for most software, the i7-9700K boosts to 4.7GHz and the i9-9900K to 4.8GHz. So the gap between the the two processors many not be that large for tasks that don’t take advantage of hyperthreading or more than four cores. 

The CPUs aren’t completely future proof, though. The fastest memory they’ll support is DDR4-2666, while faster DDR4 is available now and DDR5 is on the horizon. You can overclock the memory, though.

An updated Z390 chipset adds more USB-C//Thunderbolt port support over the earlier Z370 as well.

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