Intel Core i9-9900KS Review 112

Intel Core i9-9900KS Review

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Just a few days ago, Intel released its latest premium desktop processor, the Core i9-9900KS. This 8-core/16-thread processor is Intel's response to the dramatically changed competitive landscape after AMD's 3rd generation Ryzen desktop processor rollout. AMD's "Zen 2" architecture has achieved near-parity with Intel at IPC, or single-core performance, although Intel still claims a lead in gaming performance. Intel owes its upper hand in gaming performance to its processors' ability to reach and sustain higher Turbo Boost frequencies. In some games that scale well with multi-core, AMD has made big gains, and some of its CPUs, such as the Ryzen 7 3700X, have beat the Core i9-9900K.

Intel's new Core i9-9900KS is an exercise in pushing the brand's gaming leadership a notch higher, so it could appeal primarily to gamers who want the fastest CPU for gaming. Intel reckons that 8 cores with HyperThreading is sufficient muscle for gaming and focused its efforts on getting those cores to run at the highest possible frequency.

The Core i9-9900KS comes with an all-core Turbo Boost frequency of 5.00 GHz. This needn't be regarded as the chip's de facto clock-speed as all-core Turbo Boost isn't sustained for an indefinite amount of time, which is why Intel didn't list it as the chip's "processor base frequency," which is 4.00 GHz—a frequency that's guaranteed by the manufacturer unless the chip runs into its thermal limits.

It wasn't easy for Intel to come up with this chip. The company mentions that the Core i9-9900KS was built using the topmost bin of the 14 nm++ "Coffee Lake Refresh" silicon. Its TDP rating has been dialed up to 127 W, which is unprecedented for Intel's mainstream desktop processor lineup that never crossed 95 W before. The Core i9-9900KS is also being marketed as a limited edition product, and is branded "Special Edition." Intel has come up with such SKUs in the past, and the i9-9900KS is positioned as a spiritual successor to the Core i7-8086K, Core i7-4790K "Devil's Canyon" (not limited edition), etc.

The i9-9900KS hence isn't replacing the i9-9900K from the product stack, but, rather, topping it. Intel trimmed the pricing of the i9-9900K to $488 from its original $499 MSRP, and if you don't care about integrated graphics, there's also the i9-9900KF with a permanently disabled iGPU for around $465. If you only care about gaming and not overclocking, there are even locked Core i9-9900 and i9-9900F processors to check out, which are priced cheaper still.

Intel is pricing the Core i9-9900KS at $513–$524 in 1K quantities, so the retail price will be a bit above that. We're seeing $525 in some stores, which is a roughly 10 percent premium over the current Core i9-9900K. Around this price, AMD is offering the Ryzen 9 3900X, a 12-core/24-thread part that's been topping CPU performance charts. However, price listings for the Core i9-9900KS at many e-tailers are hovering at around $600 right now, which is quite a substantial markup. In this review, we take our retail Core i9-9900KS for a spin through our plethora of CPU and gaming tests to figure out if all an enthusiast-gamer really needs is this.

Intel Core i9-9900KS Market Segment Analysis
 PriceCores /
Core i7-8700K$3806 / 123.7 GHz4.7 GHz12 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-9700K$3608 / 83.6 GHz4.9 GHz12 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Ryzen 7 2700X$1958 / 163.7 GHz4.3 GHz16 MB105 WZen12 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 1800X$2508 / 163.6 GHz4.0 GHz16 MB95 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 3700X$3308 / 163.6 GHz4.4 GHz32 MB65 WZen 27 nmAM4
Core i9-9900K$4808 / 163.6 GHz5.0 GHz16 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i9-9900KS$5258 / 164.0 GHz5.0 GHz16 MB127 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Ryzen 9 3900X$50012 / 243.8 GHz4.6 GHz64 MB125 WZen 27 nmAM4
Ryzen 9 3950X$75016 / 323.5 GHz4.7 GHz72 MB105 WZen 27 nmAM4
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