Intel Core i9-10850K Review - Just as Good as the i9-10900K 76

Intel Core i9-10850K Review - Just as Good as the i9-10900K

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Today, we have for you the quirky new Core i9-10850K 10-core processor by Intel. Throughout May-July, we've reviewed almost every 10th Gen Core desktop processor in the retail channel, and first reports of an i9-10850K being in the works had us theorizing that the chip could either be a regional product or an OEM-exclusive. To us, it made little sense at the time—an unlocked 10-core/20-thread Socket LGA1200 processor that has nearly identical specs to the i9-10900K, just with 100 MHz lower clocks.

The Core i9-10850K in this review is based on Intel's latest 14 nm "Comet Lake-S" silicon. It is probably the last desktop outing of the five-year old "Skylake" CPU core that held Intel's fort against the AMD "Zen" onslaught. Over time, Intel has been making continuous improvements: more cores or threads to the dollar, more cache, and higher clock speeds. With the 10th Generation, Intel maxed core counts to 10 for the Core i9 brand extension, L3 cache to 20 MB, and clock speeds firmly north of 5 GHz.

Back to the Core i9-10850K—besides lower clock speeds, we are hard pressed to find any difference between the i9-10850K and i9-10900K. The i9-10850K has the same core configuration as all other Core i9-10900 CPUs: 10 cores, 20 threads, and 20 MB cache. Just like the Core i9-10900K, the i9-10850K features all three boosting algorithms for the 10 Gen Core i9 series: Turbo Boost 2.0, Turbo Boost Max 3.0, and Thermal Velocity Boost. The only difference is that the maximum boost is now 5.2 GHz, whereas the i9-10900K tops out at 5.3 GHz. 5.2 GHz is the same maximum boost the i9-10900 and 10900F are rated for.

Speaking of clock speeds, the Core i9-10850K comes with a base frequency of 3.60 GHz, just 100 MHz lower than the i9-10900K and a healthy 700 MHz higher than the locked i9-10900. The chip embarks on a fascinating journey toward 5.20 GHz from here. First, the classic Turbo Boost 2.0 algorithm responds to the parallelized nature of workloads and boosts frequency up to 5.00 GHz. From here, the two best-performing or favored cores receive a further 100 MHz uplift from the Turbo Boost Max 3.0 algorithm. Lastly, if your cooling is up to the job, the Thermal Velocity Boost feature opportunistically boosts a core to 5.20 GHz. Intel is pricing the Core i9-10850K at $465 (1000-unit tray pricing), but we got our chip at a retail price of €445 (including VAT), which converts to $450 and is $50 lower than the i9-10900K currently (€506 including VAT, which converts to $505).

In this review, we take a close look at the Core i9-10850K and investigate if you can potentially save yourself $50 by choosing this chip over the i9-10900K. Since the last string of Intel reviews, AMD launched its 3rd Gen Ryzen 3000XT processors, and we've added our testing data for the new chips in this review.

The i9-10850K is tested in three ways. The first set of data (green bar) is for the processor out of the box, with its power limit settings untouched (i.e., PL1=125 W, PL2=250 W). In the second set of data (red bar), we let the various Turbo Boost algorithms of the processor have free reign by relaxing the power limits, which is representative of a "max turbo" scenario. The third set of data (blue bar) represents a manual overclock of the processor to 5.1 GHz, taking advantage of the unlocked multiplier and relaxed power limits.

Intel Core i9-10850K Market Segment Analysis
 PriceCores /
Ryzen 7 1800X$2508 / 163.6 GHz4.0 GHz16 MB95 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i7-8700K$3506 / 123.7 GHz4.7 GHz12 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-9700K$3808 / 83.6 GHz4.9 GHz12 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-10700K$3758 / 163.8 GHz5.1 GHz16 MB125 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 7 3700X$2758 / 163.6 GHz4.4 GHz32 MB65 WZen 27 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 3800X$3408 / 163.9 GHz4.5 GHz32 MB105 WZen 27 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 3800XT$4008 / 163.9 GHz4.7 GHz32 MB105 WZen 27 nmAM4
Core i9-10900$44010 / 202.8 GHz5.2 GHz20 MB65 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 9 3900X$43012 / 243.8 GHz4.6 GHz64 MB105 WZen 27 nmAM4
Ryzen 9 3900XT$50012 / 243.8 GHz4.7 GHz64 MB105 WZen 27 nmAM4
Core i9-10850K$45010 / 203.6 GHz5.2 GHz20 MB125 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Core i9-9900K$5308 / 163.6 GHz5.0 GHz16 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i9-9900KS$6008 / 164.0 GHz5.0 GHz16 MB127 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i9-10900K$50010 / 203.7 GHz5.3 GHz20 MB125 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 9 3950X$72016 / 323.5 GHz4.7 GHz72 MB105 WZen 27 nmAM4
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