Let’s say you want to build yourself a new gaming system and are in the market for the best gaming CPU. While Intel still has the upper hand in gaming due to their better IPC performance and clock speeds, Ryzen CPUs are hard to ignore with their lucrative prices and higher core counts. So, you might ask yourself: What is the best gaming CPU in 2019? Undoubtedly, by looking at benchmarks, you conclude that the Intel i9 9900K is the best gaming CPU in 2019 and this is, paradoxically, a review of why you should not buy Intel’s latest CPU offering. In a previous post, which you can read here, we have been taking a look at the i9 9900K, which was released back in October 2018, and compared it to the i7 8700K, the 6 core/12 thread variant of mainly the same CPU but with lower cores and threads.
What is the best gaming CPU in 2019 and why should you not buy it?
Considering the uproar Intel got from not allowing backward compatibility of their newest processors with older motherboards, they finally decided to provide a BIOS update to owners of Z370 motherboards enabling them to use the latest CPU without having to spend money on a new MOBO. That does not mean, though, that Intel does not advertise the new Z390 motherboards as the ideal “host” for the i9 9900K. In case you have made up your mind to get the i9 9900K and do not own a Z370 motherboard, buying a Z390 board is the ideal choice due to better thermal capabilities.
The ability to use an 8c/16t processor on older motherboards had Intel worrying about the thermal performance of their newest CPU and went for Solder TIM on the i9 9900K to improve thermals a bit, but do not expect to be able to run the chip at the advertised 5GHz speed without some severe cooling solution. And by serious, I mean a custom water-cooling loop. As indicated by reviews conducted by Tom’s Hardware the i9 9900K runs extremely hot on an AIO liquid cooler or a capable air cooler, so it is not recommended to push the CPU any further than 4,7 GHz just to gain 1 or 2 extra frames.
Additionally, the performance difference compared to the i7 8700K is negligible, and a few extra frames do not justify the purchase of the i9 9900K. Even if you are reliant on more cores to get your work done and do more productivity work than gaming, at the current price point of the i9 9900K, you can get a Ryzen 2700X, a new motherboard, a high-end AIO or air cooler and you would still have spent less. The AMD Threadripper 1950X is a great alternative, hosts 16 cores and 32 threads, double the amount of the i9 9900K and costs around the same as the overpriced Intel CPU. For gaming purposes solely, the i7 8700K is an excellent choice if you can find one at MSRP because prices are pretty much inflated right now. You get great gaming performance on par with the i9 9900K, and while 6 cores and 12 threads are not a luxury anymore in 2019, you should be settled for the next couple of years.
Ryzen 2 is just around the corner and if the leaks prove to be true, Intel will have a hard time keeping up with AMD this time around. 6 cores and 12 threads are rumored to be offered on the “low-end” Ryzen 3 CPUs and the core, and thread count will increase with Ryzen 5, Ryzen and Ryzen 7. The 7nm die size also allows for lower power consumption and increased clock speeds. If rumors are true what we will be getting are multi-core Ryzen CPUs based on the 7nm microarchitecture with better thermals and higher clock-speeds.
5 reasons to NOT buy the i9 9900K
Essentially, here are 5 reasons why the i9 9900K is not worth buying at the moment. The i9 9900K is:
- A gaming CPU that performs almost identically to the i7 8700K with two extra cores and four threads.
- Can not keep its promise of reaching 5 GHz while overclocked with a reasonable cooling solution (a water-cooling loop is not the norm).
- An overpriced CPU you can not find at the $488 MSRP price point.
- An unjustified reason to spend money on a CPU that does not bring you any value neither in gaming nor in other applications that require CPU power.
- With Ryzen 2 just around the corner not holding off and buying an i9 9900K now would be both waste of money and lack of patience.
AMD Ryzen is the proof that monopoly is undesirable in any market
Until 2016, Intel was the only go-to choice for anyone wanting to assemble a custom PC. AMD had stopped being competitive a long time ago, and Intel was monopolizing the market, giving us incremental 5-10% performance upgrades from generation to generation. Apart from that, we were stuck on 4 cores for quite some time, with Intel refusing to increase core count or reduce the prices of their higher core CPU. 6 cores with hyperthreading were considered a luxury until generation “Skylake,” and you had to buy a high-end motherboard with a different socket (2066) to be able to take advantage of the higher core CPU since the 1151 socket was only compatible with lower core CPUs like the i7 6700K and i5 6600K. Not only were CPUs like the 6900K expensive ($1000+) but the motherboard itself would cost a fortune, too. To give you an example, the 6800K would cost around $500 with 6 cores, and 12 threads and the 6900K would cost $500 more just for two more cores. Intel was undeniably ripping us off for years, and AMD stepped in to save us from Intel’s monopoly.
AMD realized that they had a promising product that could turn the tides and compete with Intel again. Since Ryzen CPUs were still relatively new at the time, AMD was aware that their product needed a few years to be optimized to the point where it could compare with Intel on all fronts. And what did AMD do? It was the first time that we saw high core CPU variants ( Ryzen 1600, Ryzen 1700) with 6 and 8 cores on the mainstream platform at very reasonable prices. Not only that, but AMD promised backward compatibility up to Ryzen 2 (which will be released in 2019) meaning that any X370, X470, B350 or B450 motherboard would be able to support any Ryzen CPU. AMD had offered the average gamer the opportunity to get a 6 or 8 core CPU at the price of an i5 6600K or i7 6700K which were the buying choice of most gamers in 2016.
AMD knew that their CPUs could not antagonize Intel in IPC and were lacking in gaming performance, thus compensating consumers with reduced prices for more cores and threads. What AMD achieved with Ryzen was to force Intel to upper the core count on the Coffee Lake 8th gen CPUs. The i7 8700K is the best CPU Intel has released in years, featuring 6 cores and 12 threads on the mainstream platform. If it were not for AMD, the i7 8700K would probably be an i7 7700K with better clock speeds and improved overclocking potential. In other words, we would still be stuck at 4 cores with hyperthreading for the consumer market.
Zen 2 will force Intel to innovate again
AMD will release Zen 2 sometime in 2019. More information should be available on CES from 8th until 12th of January where AMD will introduce their latest 7nm CPU architecture. A renowned YouTuber, AdoredTV, who also predicted the RTX naming for the latest NVIDIA GPUs when everyone was still referring to them as “GTX” implying that the graphics cards would feature raytracing (RT) cores, has uploaded a video containing “leaks” on the upcoming Zen 2 CPUs. If this information turns out to be valid, which is possible, considering the trustworthiness of AdoredTV, things are looking particularly bad for Intel and good for consumers. You can check out the video below:
The good thing is that Intel will be forced to roll up the sleeves again and provide something worthwhile to consumers. Innovation is required, and that translates to Intel moving to the 7nm microarchitecture just as AMD did. Inability to compete with AMD on that front would mean that Intel has to drastically reduce prices for their CPUs to make them appealing to consumers, something that they will probably refuse to do as it will result in less profit. One way or another, Intel will have to do something not to lose the majority of their market share to AMD after they release Zen 2 in a couple of months.
To answer the question: “What is the best gaming CPU in 2019”?, the politically correct answer is the Intel i9 9900K. Does that mean that a gamer should spend his hard-earned money on an i9 9900K? Definitely not. While being the best gaming CPU on paper, it offers a negligible performance difference to the i7 8700K, a much more reasonable choice for gaming. So, who is the i9 9900K for, then? That is a difficult question to answer. It is mostly for gamers who are also dependant on workload applications on their day to day activities, not having a problem paying a premium for an 8c/16t CPU.
On top of that, to take full advantage of the i9 9900K and its 5 GHz overclocking potential, a Z390 motherboard is required in addition to a high-end cooler. If you do the math, the cost of the already overpriced i9 9900K rises significantly. In short, if you are both gaming and multitasking on your computer and have no problem spending a significant amount of money for your gaming experience, go ahead and buy the i9 9900k. But, especially with Zen 2 about to be released, it is tough to recommend the i9 9900K to anyone.
What is your opinion on the i9 9900K? Are you excited about the upcoming Zen 2 CPUs? Leave a comment in the comment section below, I am eager to hear your opinions on the subject.
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