Intel Core i5-9600K Review 52

Intel Core i5-9600K Review

A Closer Look »

Introduction


The Intel Core i5-9600K is a mid-range 6-core desktop processor targeted at gamer enthusiasts, a user segment that mainly games on their PC, but has an understanding of hardware tweaking with the want to eke out a little more performance over time. The 2017 introduction of AMD Ryzen kicked Intel out of its decade-long slumber, forcing it to increase CPU core-counts across the board as advancements in silicon fabrication technology grounded to a halt and with it, the introduction of new core designs that could have brought about clock-speed improvements. Not only did the first-generation Ryzen processors force 50–100 percent core-count increases across the board with Intel's 8th generation Core processors, but the second-generation Ryzen chips also packed enough of an improvement to trigger a second round with the 9th generation Core "Coffee Lake Refresh" family.

Interestingly, while the $350-ish Core i7 and new $500 Core i9 LGA1151 segments received 8 cores, the Core i5 extension has been left largely untouched by Intel in terms of core counts. This is probably because the company either feels its 6-core/6-thread setup is sufficient to compete with AMD Ryzen 5 series 6-core/12-thread SKUs or doesn't see the cost benefit in investing a large 177 mm² 8-core silicon for their $190–$260 segment. The 9th generation Core i5 series hence only has a 6-core/6-thread configuration based on a die that physically just has 6 cores and an unchanged 9 MB of shared L3 cache. What's on offer are minor increments to clock speeds, support for up to 128 GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory, and hardware fixes against certain CPU vulnerabilities that haunted computing for the bulk of 2018. In theory, a hardware fix inflicts less of a performance penalty than a firmware fix, which 8th generation Core processors have to make do with.



The Core i5-9600K is clocked at 3.70 GHz with a maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 4.60 GHz, compared to the 3.60 GHz nominal and 4.40 GHz max Turbo speeds of the previous generation i5-8600K. It comes with an unlocked multiplier, making it easy to overclock. AMD's Ryzen 5 2600X is highly competitive with the i5-8600K, to where we had to hand the Ryzen a performance and value edge over the Intel chip. The minor clock-speed bump of the i5-9600K is an exercise in tilting the edge in favor of Intel. Unfortunately, Intel didn't back that effort by pricing this chip aggressively. It still has an MSRP of $259.99, continues to lack a stock cooling solution, and supply issues to the DIY retail channel continue to bludgeon the product's value proposition even as the 2600X can be had for $220 in many places.

In this review, we examine the performance of the Core i5-9600K across our entire suite of CPU-specific and gaming-specific benchmarks to test a hunch we have. Given today's AAA PC games are just beginning to utilize 6 cores, and given this chip's high clock speeds, could gamers potentially save a lot of money over pricier options, such as the i7-9700K or even 2700X, by choosing this chip instead?

Intel Core i5-9600K Market Segment Analysis
 PriceCores /
Threads
Base
Clock
Max.
Boost
L3
Cache
TDPArchitectureProcessSocket
Core i5-7500$2454 / 43.4 GHz3.8 GHz6 MB65 WKaby Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Ryzen 5 1600$1606 / 123.2 GHz3.6 GHz16 MB65 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i5-8500$2256 / 63.0 GHz4.1 GHz9 MB65 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i5-7600K$2704 / 43.8 GHz4.2 GHz6 MB91 WKaby Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i5-6600K$2254 / 43.5 GHz3.9 GHz8 MB91 WSkylake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i5-8600$2456 / 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$2606 / 63.6 GHz4.3 GHz9 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Ryzen 5 2600$1706 / 123.4 GHz3.9 GHz16 MB65 WZen12 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 1700$2008 / 163.0 GHz3.7 GHz16 MB65 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i5-9600K$2806 / 63.7 GHz4.6 GHz9 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-6700K$3204 / 84.0 GHz4.2 GHz8 MB91 WSkylake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-7700K$4304 / 84.2 GHz4.5 GHz8 MB91 WKaby Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-8700$3306 / 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$2308 / 163.4 GHz3.8 GHz16 MB95 WZen14 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 2700$2708 / 163.2 GHz4.1 GHz16 MB65 WZen12 nmAM4
Core i7-8700K$3706 / 123.7 GHz4.7 GHz12 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-9700K$4008 / 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$5508 / 163.6 GHz5.0 GHz16 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
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