Intel released their new 8core/16thread CPU, the i9 9900k back in October 2018 publishing an equivalent product to the well-received Ryzen 7 2700X by AMD. Intel also claimed that the i9 9900k is the best gaming CPU in the world, dethroning the i7 8700k. And while this is technically true in terms of performance, in this post we are going to tackle the i9 9900k vs i7 8700k dilemma and see why the i9 9900k is, for the most part, worth neither your time nor your money. But before showing you some actual benchmarks of the new “gaming CPU king”, let us take a look at the specifications and how the i9 9900k stacks up against the i7 8700k.

 

i9 9900k vs i7 8700k Specifications

ProcessorIntel Core i9 9900kIntel Core i7 8700k
Product FamilyCoffee LakeCoffee Lake
MSRP Price$488$359
Launch DateQ4 (October 2018)Q4 (October 2017)
Semiconductor14m14nm
Cores86
Threads1612
Base Frequency3,6 GHz3,7 GHz
Turbo Frequency5 GHz4,7 GHz
Cache16 MB12 MB
TDP95W95W
OverclockingYESYES
Officially supported memory speedDDR4 2666 MHzDDR4 2666 MHz
Integrated GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 630Intel UHD Graphics 630
Maximum Memory Support64 GB64 GB

 

As you can see the i9 9900k is based on the same 14nm manufacturing process, belongs to the same product family (Coffee Lake), has the same TDP and even has the same integrated graphics processor. The main difference between the i9 9900k and the i7 8700k in terms of specifications are the two more cores (8 instead of 6) with enabled hyperthreading which translates to 4 more threads for the i9 9900k, the slightly bumped overclocking potential of the 8c/16t counterpart and the bigger cache. The biggest difference, however, between the two is the pricing. Be prepared to pay $120 more for the i9 9900k and that is, of course, if you can find one at MSRP considering the fact that the processor is nowhere to be found at the moment as Intel cannot meet consumer demands for their latest product. Naming the pricing at the moment on Amazon and Newegg is pointless as the price is bound to change but I will include links to Amazon if you want to check out the prices for yourself.

 

A few improvements of the i9 9900k over its predecessor 

Performance wise, the i9 9900k is undoubtedly an absolute beast. An 8c/16t clocked at 5 GHz (considering you have enough cooling capacity) will perform top notch in games and makes total sense in productivity workloads crushing its AMD competition the Ryzen 7 2700X in almost all tests as you can see in the video below by Hardware Unboxed: 

 

A nice improvement is that Intel finally decided to include solder thermal paste on the i9 9900k which dramatically reduces heat output and the need of delidding the CPU for a mediocre overclock and the 5 GHz turbo boost should be easily reachable without having to “conduct a CPU surgery” as delidding is not recommended for most users. Extreme overclockers, of course, know their craft and will delid the CPU for maximum overclocking potential and stability. As you can see in this link by Tom’s Hardware, the i9 9900k runs 18 degrees cooler under the same cooling conditions tested with Prime 95, arguably the most CPU intensive benchmark utility. The load applied to the CPU by Prime 95 is way higher than any game or productivity workload and shows that Intel decided to improve the cooling solution for their latest high-end processor.

The i9 9900k packs two more cores and four more threads and is an absolute powerhouse in multithreaded benchmarks. In the above video by Hardware Unboxed, both games and productivity applications are being tested and the i9 9900k literally destroys its competition when it comes to productivity and is a few frames ahead of the i7 8700k due to its higher Instructions Per Clock (IPC) and Max Turbo speed. The overclocking capabilities are also better due to better thermals which makes the i9 9900k an 8core/16thread powerhouse excelling in both gaming and multithreaded workloads. Bear in mind, however, that you need a beefy cooler to take advantage of the great overclocking potential of the i9 9900k, adding up to the overall cost besides the motherboard (if you do not already have a Z370 motherboard. I strongly advice to not pair the i9 9900k with anything else than a high-end motherboard if you intend to overclock. Lower power phases will not be able to handle the i9 9900k’s power demands. Check out a great 10 power phase Z370 motherboard, at this link.

 

So that means that the i9 9900k is a great buy, right? Well, quite far from it.

Buying the i9 9900k makes total sense if you want the highest possible gaming performance while still doing a lot of productivity work, considering you are ok with paying a price premium and can wait until the processor is back in stock, because, right now, the i9 9900k is extremely difficult to find. To sum things up, if money is not an issue for you and you are not the bang for the buck type of buyer, want the best gaming experience while still heavily counting on productivity work and want the best of both worlds, the i9 9900k is definitely for you. But if this describes you, you are in the minority. For gamers alone, they would be much better off buying an i7 8700k which trades blows with the i9 9900k lacking only a few frames and that in 1080p. For higher resolutions like 1440p and 2160p, the CPU becomes irrelevant, especially in 4K, where the performance between the two processors is identical. In 1440p, the results are neck in neck and negligible. A great move by Intel is that they made the i9 9900k backward compatible with all Z370 motherboards (lower end motherboards are not worth combining since you can not take advantage of overclocking). It makes sense to upgrade to an i9 9900k if you have a high-end Z370 in your case as the only thing you need to do is update your BIOS to the latest version to support the 8core CPU which you should be doing anyway for optimal system stability.

In case you care more about productivity, skipping the i9 9900k completely and going for a Ryzen Threadripper CPU is a great decision. The Ryzen Threadripper 2920X was released in October 2018 and offers 12cores/24threads for $649 MSRP. While the price is certainly higher, you will benefit from the higher core count in the long run and the i9 9900k in its current pricing state does not differ much from the Ryzen Threadripper 2920X. Even the Ryzen 7 2700X makes much more sense as a budget option for production workloads as it is cheaper than the i7 8700k and has 8 cores/16 threads while being overclockable and coming with its own Wraith Prism RGB cooler. To make things even more favorable for AMD, their CPUs will all be supported by the AM4 platform until 2020. You will save a lot of money in the long run if you go with AMD for production work.

 

So, who should buy what? Let me sum it up for you:

  • If you want the best gaming performance and do not care about productivity work, go for the i7 8700k.
  • If productivity is what you are interested in and are not much or at all into gaming, go for either an AMD Threadripper CPU or for a more budget option, get the Ryzen 7 2700X.
  • If you want the best gaming experience and a better productivity experience than the Ryzen 7 2700X, have no problem spending more than MSRP and are patient enough to wait for product availability, get the i9 9900k.

Here are some indicative gaming benchmarks of the i9 9900k compared to the i7 8700k, Ryzen 7 2700X and a bunch of other CPUs in Assassins’ Creed Origins, a very CPU demanding title, in 1080p:

 

Honestly, for most gamers and people that rely on production work, the i9 9900k makes little to no sense. While the i7 8700k is recommendable to anyone aiming to build a capable gaming PC, the same cannot be said about the i9 9900k. The i9 9900k, while being a great processor, seems more like a desperate attempt from Intel to compete against AMD with their successful Ryzen lineup. The Ryzen 7 2700X outperformed the i7 8700k in multithreaded applications due to its higher core count and Intel was expected to deliver the 8c/16t successor to the i7 8700k. Well, they did but the i9 9900k is very hard to recommend to anyone with the plethora of Ryzen processors on the market right now and the excellent i7 8700k which offers almost equal gaming performance to the i9 9900k.

 

Misleading Intel Benchmarks and a failed marketing strategy

Before the release of the i9 9900k, Intel assigned a third party company, Principled Technologies, to benchmark and market their latest product by publishing the results on their website. While there is nothing wrong about hiring a third party company to do some independent benchmarking while other independent reviewers were still under NDA restriction and could not publish their results, problems arose when Steve from Gamers Nexus discovered the flawed methodology while testing the i9 9900k against the Ryzen 7 2700X. First of all, Principled Technologies extracted the median instead of the average result after running each benchmark three times. Secondly, they used the Stock Wraith Prism cooler on the Ryzen 7 2700X while equipping the i9 9900k with a Noctua UH14S cooler providing the i9 9900k with much better thermals than its Ryzen competitor. To make things worse, they did not use the same RAM speeds on both processors and ran each CPU with their officially supported RAM speed. It is known that Ryzen processors hugely benefit from higher speed RAM, which is generally better than low-speed RAM. If you want to read about the benefits of high-speed RAM, click here.

The absolute icing on the cake and the benchmark death of the Ryzen 7 2700X was when Principled Technologies decided to enable Windows 10 Game Mode on both CPUs. The problem with that is that game mode disables half the cores on the Ryzen processor, turning the Ryzen 7 2700X into a quad-core CPU. With half its cores disabled, it could not stand a chance against the i9 9900k and combined with the previously mentioned flawed testing methodology resulting in some disappointing and misleading results for the Ryzen 7 2700X, gave the i9 9900k an unfair advantage.

You can check out the video by Gamers Nexus with all the details below:

 

A few days later, Gamers Nexus confronted principled Technologies in their offices leading to a very interesting discussion. Check out the interview here:

 

 

Finally, after acknowledging their mistakes, Principled Technologies re-run their benchmarks and published their final i9 9900k results, which you can have a look at, here. The concerning part of this whole mess is that Intel was perfectly aware of the initial Principled Technologies benchmarks and confirmed that their benchmarks showed that “the i9 9900k is the world’s best gaming processor”. After Principled Technologies re-released their benchmarks, Intel stated: “Given the feedback from the tech community, we are pleased that Principled Technologies ran additional tests. They’ve now published these results along with even more detail on the configurations used and the rationale. The results continue to show that the 9th Gen Intel Core i9-9900K is the world’s best gaming processor. We are thankful for Principled Technologies’ time and transparency throughout this process. We always appreciate feedback from the tech community and are looking forward to comprehensive third-party reviews coming out on October 19″.

That goes to show that Intel was aware that the misleading benchmarks crippled the Ryzen 7 2700X and said nothing about it, simply stating that the new results still confirm that the i9 9900k is still the world’s best gaming processor. Even if the initial false benchmarks would not be retested, independent reviewers would release their results and compare them against Principled Technologies’ benchmarks and see a huge difference. The truth would come out, eventually. That was a really bad move by Intel and shows that they do not really care about their consumers. It does not matter if Principled Technologies was aware of their flawed testing methodology or not, the fact is that Intel was aware of it as there is no way that they would not know their competitors’ product capabilities but made up their minds to not say anything. Intel got backlashed a lot by the PC community for this.

 

Conclusion

The i9 9900k is by no means a bad CPU. Its gaming performance is top notch and the 8 cores clocked at 5 GHz pack a great punch that will give you great productivity potential. The problem is that its low to non-existent availability, high prices that exceed MSRP by far and existing competition make the i9 9900k very hard to recommend. If you have the money to spend and want the best combination of gaming and productivity work, you will certainly not be disappointed. On the other hand, the vast majority of gamers does not care as much about productivity, which makes the i7 8700k an intriguing option for gaming. For pure productivity work, a Ryzen Threadripper or even the Ryzen 7 2700X with its equal amount of cores and threads to the i9 9900k makes much more sense. The good thing is that the i9 9900k, i7 8700k and Ryzen 7 2700X are three excellent CPUs and you can not go wrong with either of them. Figuring out your use case and what you do most with your computer, is the ultimate factor that should determine your purchasing decision.

 

Well, this sums up my i9 9900k vs i7 8700k buying dilemma. What do you think of the i9 9900k? Do you intend to pick one up or do you already have an i7 8700k or Ryzen 7 2700X? Let me know your thoughts and what processor you currently have in the comment section below.