Intel Core i7-9700K Review 49

Intel Core i7-9700K Review

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Intel introduced its 9th generation Core processor family with much fanfare earlier this month. The company increased core counts for a second time in the past couple of years, but this time, only bolstered its expensive Core i7 and new Core i9 mainstream-desktop SKUs with more cores. AMD managed to close the gap between its first Ryzen processors and Intel's 8th gen "Coffee Lake" processors with its new 2nd-gen Ryzen 2000-series. Had Intel stuck to the same 6-core die and incrementally updated it with features, such as a soldered IHS and higher clocks, it would have played into AMD's game, which was probably waiting with higher-clocked SKUs based on its 8-core "Pinnacle Ridge" die. Intel knew the only way out was to build a new 8-core die.

Upon its completion, Intel's product managers may have discovered that a fully unlocked "Coffee Lake Refresh" die is also much faster than the Core i7-8700K to be sold at its price-point, owing to 33% more cores and L3 cache. Intel hence decided to monetize it at a higher price point of $500, with the Core i9-9900K. It now needed something to sell at $350–$400 that's reasonably faster than the i7-8700K. Configuring the die as a 6-core/12-thread wouldn't have made the cut since the underlying micro-architecture is the same. Intel's answer came in the form of the Core i7-9700K, which is 8-core/8-thread and has just 12 MB of L3 cache. In a way, it has double the muscle of Core i5 quad-core processors from 2016, which are 4-core/4-thread with 6 MB of L3 cache. Despite the lack of HyperThreading, Intel hopes that the two additional physical cores will make the chip faster than the i7-8700K. Higher clock speeds, up to 4.9 GHz Boost, also contribute to this design effort.

The Core i7-9700K is designed to replace the i7-8700K from the product stack, at around $400. This 8-core chip is the first Core i7 product from Intel to lack HyperThreading. Intel has also reduced the L3 cache amount from 16 MB to 12 MB, or 1.5 MB per core. Each of the eight cores can address the entire 12 MB of L3 cache. Base clock speed is a touch lower than with the i7-8700K, at 3.60 GHz vs. 3.70 GHz. The maximum Turbo Boost frequency, however, has increased to 4.90 GHz vs. 4.70 GHz, which should improve performance with less parallelized workloads. For the i7-9700K and i9-9900K, Intel is introducing soldered integrated heatspreaders, which could contribute to lower temperatures by improving heat transfer between the CPU die and metal heatspreader.

Intel is introducing the new Z390 Express chipset with those new processors. This premium chipset is positioned above the Z370 Express and comes with higher CPU VRM requirements to ensure the highest possible overclocking headroom for the new 8-core processors. Also on tap is a newer integrated USB 3.1 controller. It also helps people identify motherboards that are guaranteed to support 9th generation Core processors out of the box. All other Intel 300-series chipsets for LGA1151 client, including H310, B360, H370, and Z370, support these processors, but require BIOS updates.

In this review, we take a close look at a retail Core i7-9700K processor supplied to us by our friends at, one of Europe's leading online retailers of PC components.

Intel Core i7-9700K Market Segment Analysis
 PriceCores /
Core i5-8600$2506 / 63.1 GHz4.3 GHz9 MB65 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Ryzen 5 1600X$2206 / 123.6 GHz4.0 GHz16 MB95 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i5-8600K$2806 / 63.6 GHz4.3 GHz9 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Ryzen 5 2600$1506 / 123.4 GHz3.9 GHz16 MB65 WZen12 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 1700$1908 / 163.0 GHz3.7 GHz16 MB65 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i7-9600K$2806 / 63.7 GHz4.6 GHz9 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-6700K$3504 / 84.0 GHz4.2 GHz8 MB91 WSkylake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-7700K$4504 / 84.2 GHz4.5 GHz8 MB91 WKaby Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-8700$3006 / 123.2 GHz4.6 GHz12 MB65 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Ryzen 5 2600X$2206 / 123.6 GHz4.2 GHz16 MB95 WZen12 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 1700X$3208 / 163.4 GHz3.8 GHz16 MB95 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 2700$2508 / 163.2 GHz4.1 GHz16 MB65 WZen12 nmAM4
Core i7-8700K$3906 / 123.7 GHz4.7 GHz12 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-9700K$4208 / 83.6 GHz4.9 GHz12 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Ryzen 7 2700X$3058 / 163.7 GHz4.3 GHz16 MB105 WZen12 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 1800X$2508 / 163.6 GHz4.0 GHz16 MB95 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i9-9900K$5808 / 163.6 GHz5.0 GHz16 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
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