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A Look At Intel Core i9-9900K Workstation & Gaming Performance

Intel Core i9-9900K Packaging

Date: November 30, 2018
Author(s): Rob Williams

There’s a lot to like about Intel’s Core i9-9900K that goes beyond adding 33% more cores over last year’s i7-8700K. The 9900K can peak at 5GHz, and barely throttles back when all eight cores are engaged. Add to that the introduction of solder TIM, a chip like the 9900K has been a long time coming, so let’s dive in.



Intel 8-core Core i9-9900K Review

Also check out our look at Intel Core i9-9900K performance in Linux.

As soon as AMD released its first Zen-based processors in the spring of 2017, many people began to wonder: “What’s Intel going to do to keep things interesting?” Well, while the company has been struggling to get its 10nm products out the door in wide volume, it’s been in a privileged situation where it has had the capability to strike back. That’s not a reality afforded to many.

Not long after Ryzen launched, we saw Intel introduce Core X-series months later. Suddenly, 10-core processors didn’t seem so impressive. Instead, we have 18-core processors today at-the-ready, with the promise of a 28-core Xeon to come soon. It’s probably safe to say that the idea of owning a 28-core Xeon could be scrapped unless you plan on spending many thousands of dollars on only the CPU.

Intel 9th Gen i9-9900K Box And Silicon

Intel followed its Core X-series up last summer with the 8th-gen Coffee Lake processors, ushered in with the help of chips like the six-core Core i7-8700K. At the time of its release, the 8700K was heralded for its outstanding single-threaded and gaming performance. Fast-forward to today, and the new i9-9900K is being touted for the same things. So, the 9900K is like the 8700K… just better.

We’re not sure how a chip like the 9900K earns a Core i9 denotation, but there are many reasons why Intel’s top “mainstream” chip is worth a look. The obvious difference between it and the 8700K is that it offers 8 cores, and 16 threads. In the grand scheme, that’s actually a bit boring. What’s far from boring is a 5GHz clock speed, which applies to 1- and 2-core Turbos. The 9900K will only then back down slightly to 4.8GHz per-core with 3- and 4-core Turbo, and settle on 4.7GHz for 5~8-core Turbo.

Normally, a CPU will drop its clock speed down dramatically between a 1-core and all-core Turbo, but the 9900K shies away from that, becoming one of the most aggressive chips we’ve seen. A 300MHz drop between top and bottom might not mean much if the clock speed was modest to begin with, but we’re talking about 4.7GHz~5GHz here.

What that ultimately means is that technically, the 9900K should deliver the best possible single-threaded performance, which is pretty much most of your general use computing. Measuring something like that in the real-world is mind-numbingly difficult, but benchmarks can fortunately help paint us an easier-to-understand picture.

Before moving onto a look at test specs and benchmarks, here’s an overview of Intel’s current-gen lineup:

Intel 9th-gen Core Processors
CoresClock (Turbo)L3MemoryTDPPrice
Core X-Series
i9-9980XE18 (36T)3.1 GHz (4.5)24.75MBQuad165W$1979
i9-9960X16 (32T)3.5 GHz (4.5)22MBQuad165W$1684
i9-9940X14 (28T)3.8 GHz (4.5)19.25MBQuad165W$1387
i9-9920X12 (24T)3.4 GHz (4.5)19.25MBQuad165W$1189
i9-9900X10 (20T)3.5 GHz (4.5)19.25MBQuad165W$989
i9-9820X10 (20T)3.8 GHz (4.5)16.5MBQuad165W$898
i9-9800X8 (16T)3.8 GHz (4.5)16.5MBQuad165W$589
Core Series
i9-9900K8 (16T)3.6 GHz (5.0)16MBDual95W$488
i7-9700K8 (8T)3.6 GHz (4.9)12MBDual95W$374
i5-9600K6 (6T)3.7 GHz (4.6)9MBDual95W$262

On the mainstream side of the fence, Intel currently offers three different 9th-gen SKUs, with the 8-core i9-9900K leading the pack. The i7-9700K follows the 8700K by upping the core count by two cores, but at the same time shaves off HyperThreading. Intel clearly had to do something to further differentiate the top two chips. The i5-9600K delivers an Intel 6-core at a cheaper than 8700K price, at $262/1,000 units.

The mainstream chips stick to the usual dual-channel memory controller, while the enthusiast platform bumps that to quad-channel (matched by AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper platform). For those with big bandwidth needs, that platform could be better-suited than the mainstream one. The same goes for anyone with a need for lots of PCIe bandwidth – that’s still best taken care of on the enthusiast platforms.


Overclocker Joe “Steponz” Stepongzi overclocking an i9-9900K at a recent event

All three of Intel’s 9th-gen mainstream chips share a TDP of 95W, which probably means that one of them is lying. While the 9900K adds HyperThreading to the mix, versus the 9700K, it also boasts an additional 4MB of level 3 cache.

If there’s anything strange about this lineup, it’s probably the fact that the 9900K is an 8-core chip, and the 9900X is a 10-core one. That’s a weird overlap, and one that could be confusing to the regular consumer – especially since one of those chips costs literally double the other one. I admit even I was confused for a time about this. Perhaps the 9900K should have been called 9700K, but what fun is there in making sense of everything?

A nice thing about this 9th-gen launch is that these new chips will work in most last-gen motherboards. That means that you could upgrade your rig to a new chip but opt for a last-gen (and hopefully less expensive) motherboard. We’d implore you to double-check the support page of the board in question, though, to make sure that an EFI update that adds support for the latest CPUs is in fact available.

Test Methodology & Systems

Benchmarking a CPU may sound like a simple enough task, but in order to deliver accurate, repeatable results, and not to mention results that don’t favor one vendor over another, strict guidelines need to be adhered to. That in turn makes for rigorous, time-consuming testing, but we feel that the effort is worth it.

This page exists so that we can be open about how we test, and give those who care about testing procedures an opportunity to review our methodology before flaming us in the comments. Here, you can see a breakdown of all of our test machines, specifics about the tests themselves, and other general information that might be useful.

Let’s start with a look at the test platforms, for AMD’s TR4 (MSI’s MEG X399 Creation and Aorus’ X399 GAMING 7) and AM4 (ASUS’ CROSSHAIR VII HERO), along with Intel’s LGA2011-v3 (ASUS’ ROG STRIX X299-E GAMING), and LGA1151 (EVGA Z370 FTW and ASUS’ ROG STRIX Z390-E GAMING).

To prevent unexpected performance results, the “Multi-Core Enhancement” optimizations (effectively overclocking all cores to max turbo, instead of just two cores) offered by ASUS on its respective motherboards is disabled. There is, however, an exception. For Ryzen 2 testing, we have to use the DOCP profile on the motherboard to take proper advantage of the memory kit (though that doesn’t appear to overclock anything).

All platforms were run with DDR4-3200 speeds, and 14-14-14 timings. Accomplishing that kind of thing used to be extremely difficult, but fortunately it’s a lot easier today, and helps us keep things as close to apples-to-apples as possible.

Here’s the full breakdown of the test rigs:

Techgage’s CPU Testing Platforms

AMD TR4 Test Platform #1
ProcessorAMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX (3.0GHz, 32C/64T)
MotherboardMSI MEG X399 Creation
CPU tested with BIOS 1.0EN43 (Jul 27, 2018)
MemoryG.SKILL TridentZ (F4-3200C14-8GTZ) 8GB x 4
Operates at DDR4-3200 14-14-14 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA TITAN Xp (12GB; GeForce 398.82)
StorageHost OS: WD Blue 3D NAND 1TB (SATA 6Gbps)
Scratch Drive: Samsung 970 EVO 512GB (NVMe)
Power SupplyCooler Master Silent Pro Hybrid (1300W)
ChassisCooler Master MasterCase H500P Mesh
CoolingCooler Master Wraithripper Tower Cooler
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro (Build 17134), Ubuntu 18.04 (4.15 kernel)
AMD TR4 Test Platform #2
ProcessorAMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X (3.5GHz, 16C/32T)
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X (3.4GHz, 16C/32T)
MotherboardGIGABYTE X399 Aorus Gaming 7
CPU tested with BIOS F10 (July 10, 2018)
MemoryG.SKILL Flare X (F4-3200C14-8GFX) 8GB x 4
Operates at DDR4-3200 14-14-14 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA TITAN Xp (12GB; GeForce 398.82)
StorageHost OS: WD Blue 3D NAND 1TB (SATA 6Gbps)
Scratch Drive: Samsung 970 EVO 512GB (NVMe)
Power SupplyEnermax RevoBron 80+ Bronze (600W)
ChassisEnermax Equilence
CoolingEnermax Liqtech TR4 AIO (240mm)
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro (Build 17134), Ubuntu 18.04 (4.15 kernel)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti - SLI Configuration NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti - SLI Configuration
As tested configuration: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti - SLI Configuration
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
As tested configuration: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
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As tested configuration: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View

There’s not too much to say here outside of the fact that since we wanted to keep the 2990WX to its own machine for further testing, the 2950X was tested in the same motherboard as the 1950X. That gave us a chance to test a new Threadripper in a year-old motherboard, and we can report it’s been flawless (we flashed the latest EFI with the 1950X still in the board, which made things a touch easier).


AMD AM4 Test Platform
ProcessorsAMD Ryzen 7 2700X (3.7GHz, 8C/16T)
MotherboardASUS Crosshair VII HERO Wi-Fi
CPU tested with BIOS 0804 (July 9, 2018)
MemoryG.SKILL Flare X (F4-3200C14-8GFX) 8GB x 4
Operates at DDR4-3200 14-14-14 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA TITAN Xp (12GB; GeForce 398.82)
StorageHost OS: WD Blue 3D NAND 1TB (SATA 6Gbps)
Scratch Drive: Samsung 970 EVO 512GB (NVMe)
Power SupplyEVGA Bronze 600B1 (600W)
ChassisFractal Design Define C
CoolingNoctua NH-U12S SE-AM4 (1x120mm)
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro (Build 17134), Ubuntu 18.04 (4.15 kernel)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti - SLI Configuration NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti - SLI Configuration
As tested configuration: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti - SLI Configuration

Nothing special had to be done on the CROSSHAIR VII HERO to get up and running quickly. As covered above, we had to run with the DOCP Standard profile to get the memory to run at optimum settings. Again, in testing, we couldn’t see how that improves performance outside of applying the proper memory settings, so we believe the setting requires further input for an actual boost to performance (eg: overclocking).


Intel LGA2011-3 Test Platform
ProcessorsIntel Core i9-7980XE (2.6GHz, 18C/36T)
Intel Core i9-7960X (2.8GHz, 16C/32T)
Intel Core i9-7900X (3.3GHz, 10C/20T)
MotherboardASUS ROG STRIX X299-E GAMING
CPU tested with BIOS 1004 (Nov 14, 2017)
MemoryG.SKILL TridentZ (F4-3200C14-8GTZ) 8GB x 4
Operates at DDR4-3200 14-14-14 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA TITAN Xp (12GB; GeForce 398.82)
StorageHost OS: WD Blue 3D NAND 1TB (SATA 6Gbps)
Scratch Drive: Samsung 970 EVO 512GB (NVMe)
Power SupplyCorsair Professional Series Gold AX1200 (1200W)
ChassisCorsair Carbide 600C
CoolingNZXT Kraken X62 AIO (280mm)
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro (Build 17134), Ubuntu 18.04 (4.15 kernel)
CyberPowerPC AMD VR Gaming PC - Keyboard Switches CyberPowerPC AMD VR Gaming PC - Keyboard Switches
As tested configuration: Intel Core i9-7980XE
CyberPowerPC AMD VR Gaming PC - Keyboard Switches
CyberPowerPC AMD VR Gaming PC - Keyboard Switches CyberPowerPC AMD VR Gaming PC - Keyboard Switches
As tested configuration: Intel Core i9-7960X
CyberPowerPC AMD VR Gaming PC - Keyboard Switches
CyberPowerPC AMD VR Gaming PC - Keyboard Switches CyberPowerPC AMD VR Gaming PC - Keyboard Switches
As tested configuration: Intel Core i9-7900X
CyberPowerPC AMD VR Gaming PC - Keyboard Switches

This ASUS motherboard tries to trick us into accepting core boost optimizations after selecting the XMP profile. That’s disregarded, to keep things as apples-to-apples as possible.


Intel LGA1151 Test Platform #1
ProcessorsIntel Core i7-8700K (3.7GHz, 6C/12T)
MotherboardEVGA Z370 FTW
CPU tested with BIOS 1.08 (March 20, 2018)
MemoryG.SKILL Flare X (F4-3200C14-8GFX) 8GB x 4
Operates at DDR4-3200 14-14-14 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA TITAN Xp (12GB; GeForce 398.82)
StorageHost OS: WD Blue 3D NAND 1TB (SATA 6Gbps)
Scratch Drive: Samsung 970 EVO 512GB (NVMe)
Power SupplyCorsair RM650X (1200W)
ChassisNZXT S340 Elite Mid-tower
CoolingCorsair Hydro H100i V2 AIO Liquid Cooler (240mm)
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro (Build 17134), Ubuntu 18.04 (4.15 kernel)
Intel LGA1151 Test Platform #2
ProcessorsIntel Core i9-9900K (3.6GHz, 8C/16T)
MotherboardASUS ROG STRIX Z390-E Gaming
CPU tested with BIOS 0602 (October 19 , 2018)
MemoryG.SKILL TridentZ (F4-3200C14-8GTZ) 8GB x 4
Operates at DDR4-3200 14-14-14 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA TITAN Xp (12GB; GeForce 398.82)
StorageHost OS: WD Blue 3D NAND 1TB (SATA 6Gbps)
Power SupplyCorsair RM650X (1200W)
ChassisNZXT S340 Elite Mid-tower
CoolingCorsair Hydro H100i V2 AIO Liquid Cooler (240mm)
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro (Build 17134), Ubuntu 18.04 (4.19.4 kernel)
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
As tested configuration: Intel Core i9-9900K
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Intel Core i7-8700K CPU-Z & GPU-Z As-tested Screenshots Intel Core i7-8700K CPU-Z & GPU-Z As-tested Screenshots
As tested configuration: Intel Core i7-8700K
Intel Core i7-8700K CPU-Z & GPU-Z As-tested Screenshots

On the EVGA board, there’s nothing strange to report, because there’s no boosts built-in after setting the DRAM to 3200. The ASUS motherboard did offer to apply core optimizations for the 9900K, which we rejected.

Testing Considerations

For the bulk of our testing, we use Windows 10 build 17134 with full updates as the base. Our basic guidelines are:


Encoding Tests

Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Encoding: Adobe Premiere Pro (Media Encoder)
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Encoding: LameXP
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View

Adobe Premiere Pro
LameXP
MAGIX Vegas

(You can click each name to go straight to that result.)


Rendering Tests

Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Rendering: Adobe Dimension CC
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Rendering: Arnold in Maya 2018
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Rendering: Blender
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
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Rendering: Cinebench
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
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Rendering: Cinema 4D
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Rendering: Corona in 3ds Max 2019
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
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Rendering: POV-Ray
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Rendering: Radeon ProRender in Maya 2018
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
dBpoweramp - Convert FLAC to MP3 dBpoweramp - Convert FLAC to MP3
Rendering: V-Ray Next in 3ds Max 2019
dBpoweramp - Convert FLAC to MP3
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z) Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Rendering: V-Ray Benchmark
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)

Adobe Dimension
Arnold (Maya 2018) (Also relevant to: 3ds Max, C4D, Houdini, Katana, Softimage)
Blender
Cinebench
Cinema 4D
Corona (3ds Max 2019) (Also relevant to: C4D)
KeyShot
POV-Ray
Radeon ProRender (Maya 2018) (Also relevant to: 3ds Max, Blender, C4D, SolidWorks)
V-Ray Next (3ds Max 2019) (Also relevant to: C4D, Houdini, Maya, Rhino, SketchUp)
V-Ray Benchmark
SiSoftware Sandra 2018

(You can click each name to go straight to that result.)


Gaming Tests

UL 3DMark

(You can click each name to go straight to that result.)


If you think there’s some information lacking on this page, or you simply want clarification on anything in particular, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Encoding: Premiere Pro, Vegas, & LameXP

We’re going to kick off this performance look with a handful of encoding tests. Encoding is one of those scenarios that can be extremely hit-or-miss when it comes to taking good advantage of big CPUs. Sometimes, applications will give the impression that they’re making proper use of the CPU, but we’ve found more than once that some applications actually just use the entire CPU very poorly.

Fortunately, the situation is getting a lot better over time. As an example, for most of its life, Adobe’s Lightroom didn’t use more than a few cores and threads. Today, the application can use most of whatever CPU you can hand it, although we’re not sure it uses it entirely effectively.

A couple of tests were scrapped for this article that were present in the 2990WX review, including DaVinci Resolve and Agisoft PhotoScan. PhotoScan didn’t give expected results, likely due to the fact that we didn’t detail the testing procedure well enough when we began running the test for that previous review. DaVinci was skipped over for the simple fact that our tests need to improve. HandBrake also got a cut because of issues with previous testing, but for up-to-date performance there, check out our look at i9-9900K Linux performance.

In time, we plan to add DaVinci back in, as well as some others, like Capture One. If we can ever get reliable repeated testing out of Adobe Lightroom, it will hopefully be reintroduced at some point, as well.

Tests on this page include Adobe Premiere Pro and MAGIX Vegas Pro video encoding, as well as FLAC to MP3 conversions with LameXP.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Adobe Premiere Pro AVC CPU Encode Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

From the get-go, we can see the Core i9-9900K make a considerable difference with these encodes in comparison to the last-gen six-core 8700K. This isn’t something we see too often, but somehow AMD’s 2700X manages to not just catch up to the 9900K, but beat it out ever-so-slightly with the 4K to 1080p encode.

At the top of the chart, we can see that Premiere Pro isn’t designed for a chip like the 2990WX, although it’s highly expected we’ll see that fixed with future builds. Ultimately, these CPUs scale close to what we’d expect, but adding a GPU into the mix changes things up a bit:

Adobe Premiere Pro AVC CUDA CPU plus GPU Encode Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

The 2700X beat out both the 8700K and 9900K in the software encode, but add CUDA and the GPU to the mix, and the 9900K suddenly overtakes AMD’s competing eight-core. This kind of thing isn’t too surprising given how we’ve seen Premiere Pro perform in the past, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

The differences here are not so extreme that it makes a decision between AMD and Intel an easy one. In some regards, it’s just nice to see the 2700X compete well, since multimedia encoding is a definite Intel strong-suit.

Does anything change with an encode from an 8K source?

Adobe Premiere Pro HEVC CPU Encode Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

Yet again, AMD’s 2700X performs very well with these CPU-based encodes, beating out the 9900K and its older 8700K brother. After that point, the encode scales quite well up until the 16 core chips are introduced. With those many core chips, the gains are very difficult to appreciate, meaning that there is such thing as too much CPU for some encode tasks.

How does CUDA change up this one?

Adobe Premiere Pro HEVC CUDA CPU plus GPU Encode Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

Rinse and repeat: AMD falls behind the 9900K here, but keeps ahead of the 8700K. Somehow, adding a GPU to the mix for heterogeneous encoding benefits Intel more than it does AMD. But… as optimized as Premiere Pro is for Intel, it’s also optimized for NVIDIA, so the two are a perfect match, much to AMD’s chagrin.

Ultimately, AMD performs very well overall in comparison to the 9900K, CPU+GPU encoding aside. It actually performs better than I expected it to, so let’s see if that carries on over to the MAGIX Vegas encode.

MAGIX Vegas

MAGIX Vegas Pro CPU Encode Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X outperformed the 9900K in Premiere Pro’s software encode tests, but roles were reversed when CPU+GPU encoding was introduced. We see that same kind of scaling in MAGIX Vegas Pro, although it’s important to note that this encode is completely CPU-driven.

This article is about the 9900K, but we can’t help but continue to be impressed with the 2700X, as we didn’t expect it to keep up to the 9900K so well in these tests. Another important angle to look at this from is with the 8700K: the new 9900K is a substantial upgrade, although that of course doesn’t mean it’s a worthwhile upgrade if you already own an 8700K (you may wish to wait for the next-gen equivalent).

LameXP

LameXP MP3 Encode Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

Music encoding isn’t as popular as it once was thanks to the advent of streaming services, but if you’re still devoted to your own digital music collection, the time may come when you need to convert one format to another, and if that time comes, a bigger CPU is going to come in handy.

LameXP is a free tool that takes great advantage of modern CPUs, allowing them to encode up to 32 tracks at once. In our case, we take 500 FLACs and encode them to 320Kbps MP3s, representing the scenario where someone takes their lossless ripped audio CDs and encodes them to high-bitrate audio for portable use.

While LameXP is very scalable, it doesn’t behave incredibly well on AMD’s Threadripper 2990WX, which could owe some of the blame to software updates that need to come along – namely for Windows. Or, it could simply be an architectural design quirk that causes the performance to drop. Either way, it’s nice to see scaling like we do from the 6- to 16-core chips here.

Rendering: Arnold, Blender, KeyShot, Radeon ProRender & V-Ray Next

There are few things we find quite as satisfying as rendering: seeing a bunch of assets thrown into a viewport that turn into a beautiful scene. Rendering also happens to be one of the best possible examples of what can take advantage of as much PC hardware as you can throw at it. This is true both for CPUs and GPUs.

On this page and next, we’re tackling many different renderers, because not all renderers behave the same way. That will be proven in a few cases. If you don’t see a renderer that applies to you, it could to some degree in the future, should you decide to make a move – either to a different design suite, or different renderer plugin. An example: V-Ray supports more than just Autodesk’s 3ds Max that we test with; it also supports Cinema 4D, Maya, Rhino, SketchUp, and recently announced, Houdini.

SolidAngle Arnold

SolidAngle Arnold (Maya 2018) CPU Render Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

For rendering, the more CPU horsepower there is at the ready, the faster the render is generally going to be. Of course, faster clock speeds will make a big difference in rendering, but it’s hard to have such a high clock speed that it manages to negate a handful of cores. In Arnold, the 32-core Threadripper 2990WX rules the roost, with Intel’s last-gen 18-core sitting a bit behind it.

As for the focus of this article, the Core i9-9900K once again leaps ahead of the 8700K, and also AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X, which performed really well against Intel’s new eight-core overall.

While Maya was used as the test base here, Arnold performance will scale similarly with the same render plugin in other design suites, such as 3ds Max – so don’t make the mistake in thinking this performance isn’t entirely relevant to you if you’re an Arnold user in any other suite. The same applies to most renderers that offer cross-program plugins.

Blender

Blender Cycles CPU Render Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

With Blender, we’re starting to develop a trend started with SolidAngle’s Arnold. The i9-9900K once again topples the six-core 8700K from last year, and also beats out AMD’s 2700X with a similar margin as before.

Again, it doesn’t take much extra horsepower (or corespower?) to see some dramatic gains here. AMD’s and Intel’s top chips prove their dominance at the top, with AMD’s 32-core in particular calling the first position home. It’s worth noting that Blender performance seems to be a bit better in Linux than it is in Windows, as evidenced by the benchmark result from our complement Linux assessment.

KeyShot

KeyShot CPU Render Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

KeyShot has to be one of the most satisfying renderers to use, since it takes great advantage of iterative rendering, enabling it for a project as soon as it’s loaded. This allows users to quickly see the results of their scenes from different angles, and because KeyShot is completely CPU-bound, the bigger the chip, the quicker a useful number of iterations are going to render.

Ignoring the fact that the 32-core chip has obvious issues with the interior scene (something we’re not sure was fixed in the new KeyShot 8 quite yet), the i9-9900K again iterates quite well on the 8700K’s performance, becoming one of the few CPUs that renders both projects in a similar amount of time.

It’s not at all important to this performance outlook, but because of that performance anomaly with the 2990WX, the 2700X performs the same in the interior scene. KeyShot is one suite in particular we plan to increase our coverage on, so we look forward to putting these chips through even more tests – and with the latest version of the software.

Radeon ProRender

AMD Radeon ProRender (Maya 2018) CPU Render Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

AMD’s Radeon ProRender plugin is an interesting one, and not only because it’s crafted by one of the major CPU and GPU vendors. ProRender seems to operate the absolute best on AMD’s own hardware, which isn’t too much of a surprise. That’s one thing that might have kept the 2700X so competitive with the 9900K here. It even managed to win the automotive booth demo, which is the more complex of the two scenes.

As a bit of proof that ProRender performance is interesting, note the fact that the 16-core Intel chip beat out the 18-core one, something that ordinarily would not happen. Similarly, heterogeneous rendering works better on AMD+AMD than Intel+NVIDIA, so if you take ProRender very seriously, and especially if you want to go the multi-GPU route, AMD is currently the safest bet (more can be read on this here).

Chaos Group V-Ray Next

Chaos Group V-Ray (3ds Max 2019) CPU Render Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

We’ll start our V-Ray look with the actual renderer plugin in Autodesk’s 3ds Max, and follow-up with the standalone benchmark result in a moment. First and foremost, the 9900K once again performs a fair bit better than its older 8700K brother. In the match-up between 9900K and 2700X, AMD falls behind, but not too far behind.

Ultimately, the faster the CPU, the better the overall performance, but Intel seems to get an edge from the get-go. You can see some heterogeneous results from earlier this year if you want to see how much a render can benefit from taking advantage of both the CPU and GPU at the same time.

We do not put a ton of faith in Chaos Group’s standalone V-Ray benchmark, but our reason has more to do with the GPU component than the CPU one. The GPU renderer isn’t as consistent on AMD as it is NVIDIA, so we tend to avoid it, but for CPU, it’s seemingly accurate on all architectures. That said, this standalone benchmark is based on V-Ray 3.5, rather than the newer 4.0, but it still works as a good way to test one machine against another. That assumes you don’t mind registering with Chaos Group to snag the download.

Chaos Group V-Ray Standalone Benchmark CPU Score (Intel Core i9-9900K)

We finish off this first batch of rendering results with more of the same: the 9900K beats out the 2700X, but only by a slim margin. It easily beats out the older 8700K, and sits a fair distance behind the 7900X, which has four extra threads to take advantage of.

Rendering: Adobe Dimension, Cinebench, Cinema 4D, Corona, POV-Ray

We hope you’re not sick of rendering, because there’s a lot more of it on this page. On the previous page, many big-name renderers were tackled, but on this one, others are being gazed at, along with some synthetic tests that will allow you to test your own PC against ours.

Adobe Dimension

Adobe Dimension CC CPU Render Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

Adobe’s Dimension is a newer application, only a little older than a year. Despite its young age, it’s experienced a number of builds that have continued to iterate on performance and stability. Recently, Dimension CC 2.0 came out, but this performance here is based on the older 1.1.1 version.

You’ll notice that the 2990WX was tested with SMT off for this one, and that’s because the project won’t open on the platform with SMT left on. That’s something that doesn’t change with the new 2.0 version, and is likely a bug that will never get resolved without moving to a different project. We definitely have that planned at some point in the future.

This is one test where the 9900K really managed to separate itself from the 2700X, and gain even better when compared to the 8700K. Dimension doesn’t seem to love AMD too much, given the 16-cores perform a pinch worse than Intel’s 10 core, so pure strength on the AMD side is needed to impress us here.

No surprises here: Intel dominates an Adobe test. Next!

Cinema 4D & Cinebench

Cinebench R15 Multi-thread CPU Score (Intel Core i9-9900K)

We continue with everyone’s favorite standalone benchmark: Cinebench. Like the standalone V-Ray benchmark, the overall usefulness of Cinebench in today’s landscape is questionable, since five major Cinema 4D versions have been released since Cinebench R15. That said, while the GPU test in Cinebench is certifiably useless at this point in time, the CPU-based renderer hasn’t likely changed all too much between R15 and R20 – but even so, it represents a definite “best case” for rendering.

That all said, the 9900K soars past the 8700K to hit nearly 2070 Cinebench points, edging out AMD’s equally eight-core 2700X. As for the 2990WX, it’s experienced some hitches on its journey to this point, but it sure does enjoy the view from up top here.

Multi-threaded performance is only part of the equation: what about single-threaded?

Cinebench R15 Single-thread CPU Score (Intel Core i9-9900K)

With the 8700K, Intel impressed us all with leading Cinebench single-thread scores, and it’s once again impressed with its new 9900K. This is one of the rare tests that completely separates Intel from AMD, since its IPC and clock speeds are top-rate, and very hard to beat. Naturally, the highest-clocked of the AMD parts beat the bigger core models, oddly putting the 8-core AMD Ryzen close to the 18-core Intel.

Synthetic testing is fine for the most part, but a performance evaluation wouldn’t be complete without some real-world tests. Does the real Cinema 4D match the performance of the standalone benchmark? That apparently depends.

Cinema 4D CPU Render Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

The 9900K easily beat out AMD’s 2700X in Cinebench, but the battle is fiercer with the real Cinema 4D. Here, the 2700X actually beats Intel’s 9900K in the interior scene render, with the roles reversed for the candies render.

One thing Cinema 4D and Cinebench can agree on is that the more cores you have at your disposal, the happier you’re going to be when rendering with MAXON’s design tool. That’s probably part of the reason AMD has been cooperating with MAXON quite a bit this past year, partly fueled by the fact that the company’s ProRender plugin is now available for C4D.

Corona Renderer

Corona (3ds Max 2019) CPU Render Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

Are you tired of seeing renderers that scale really well yet? Hopefully not, because Corona once again shows us what a decked-out processor is capable of. Like KeyShot, Corona is unique in that it completely ignores the GPU for rendering, so quite simply, the more powerful your CPU, the better your rendering performance is going to be. That remains true all the way up to the top with the Threadripper 2990WX.

This is another test where AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X doesn’t fall too far behind the 9900K. Why that’s notable is that AMD offers some very good performance-to-cost ratios. To get better than the 9900K in this lineup, you’ll be splurging on an enthusiast platform, either with AMD’s entry-level Threadrippers, or Intel’s Core-X – the latter of which starts at $1,000 for the 10-core model.

POV-Ray

POV-Ray Multi-thread CPU Score (Intel Core i9-9900K)

Our Cinebench scores from earlier highlight a reason why AMD is so keen on promoting its chips with it. There, the 32-core 2990WX outperformed the 18-core i9-7980XE by 50%. In POV-Ray, a classic ray tracer, that gain gets whittled down to 25%. That’s still noteworthy, but of course doesn’t quite scale like we’d expect a move from 18- to 32-cores to.

POV-Ray also disagrees a bit in the 9900K vs. 8700K battle. In Cinebench, the gain was 44%, whereas here, it’s “only” 33%. Considering the fact that the 9900K has 33% more cores than the 8700K, a 33% gain in performance seems a lot more likely than 44%.

What about single-thread performance?

POV-Ray Single-thread CPU Score (Intel Core i9-9900K)

Single-thread performance is where POV-Ray agrees with Cinebench, as the 9900K performs about the same 7% better than the 8700K. Ultimately, POV-Ray performance only matters so much, but it’s a good gauge to see how each chip will handle single-threaded operations, which aside from your heaviest workloads will dominate your computing.

System: SiSoftware Sandra 2018

While this article has no lack of synthetic benchmarks, SiSoftware’s Sandra makes it very easy to get reliable performance information on key metrics, such as arithmetic, multimedia, cryptography, and memory. Sandra is designed in such a way that it takes the best advantage of any architecture it’s given, so each CPU always has its best chance to shine.

That means a couple of things. This is definitely the “best” possible performance outlook for any chip, and doesn’t necessary correlate with real-world performance in other tests. It’s best used as a gauge of what’s possible, and to see where one architecture obviously differs from another.

Multimedia

SiSoftware Sandra Multimedia CPU Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

Intel typically performs extremely strongly against AMD in any multimedia test, although our Adobe Premiere Pro tests earlier proved that there are exceptions to some rules. Still, it simply can’t be argued that Intel offers the best multimedia performance, and this Sandra chart proves it, where the 8-core Ryzen falls behind the 6-core Intel.

Naturally, you’ll want to pay more attention to the real-world tests, but if a solution takes advantage of Intel’s bells and whistles, it’s going to make a difference. Even the 32-core 2990WX struggles to come even close to Intel’s 16-core.

Arithmetic

SiSoftware Sandra Arithmetic CPU Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

With Sandra’s Multimedia test, Intel had a clear lead, but normality returns with this Arithmetic test. Here, the 2700X slides in behind the 9900K, though by a notable distance. As a synthetic test, it’s little surprise that the results here put the 9900K at about 30% faster than the six-core 8700K.

We’ve probably mentioned the 2990WX too much already, but when it sits on top of so many charts, it’s hard to ignore. This is one test that takes great advantage of as many cores as you have, so the 32-core chip sits pretty at the top of this chart.

Cryptography

SiSoftware Sandra Cryptography CPU Performance (Intel Core i9-9900K)

AMD didn’t perform spectacularly well in the encryption test from our Linux performance look, but with Sandra, it simply dominates. The Ryzen 7 2700X sits well ahead of the 9900K, and likewise the 8700K.

This is one test that offers very interesting scaling between the 9900K and 8700K, as the gain is a meager 11%, which is a stark contrast to the nearly 30% we’ve been seeing from most other tests. It’s almost too bad that mining wasn’t still relevant – AMD might have a hard time keeping the 2990WX on the shelves. It’s especially notable that the $1,000 16-core 2950X outperforms Intel’s $1,000 10-core.

Memory Bandwidth

SiSoftware Sandra Memory Bandwidth (Intel Core i9-9900K)

This memory bandwidth test isn’t what I’d call incredibly important (and we’re sure there are other sets of benchmarks that would paint a better picture), but from an overall synthetic standpoint, the 9900K and 8700K are effective equals. This is another test that has AMD in the lead of the two chips, which is interesting since AMD’s Threadrippers fall behind the competing Core X-series chips from Intel.

One thing’s very clear from these results though: a quad-channel memory controller makes a considerable difference, and it’s not hard to tell which is which in this chart (but as a hint, the top six are quad-channel).

Gaming: Ryzen 7 2700X vs. Core i9-9900K

For unexplained reasons, or at least perhaps because there’s been such a major workstation focus on Techgage this past year, we really didn’t have many games tested in advance of this article. The first few charts on this page represent the usual synthetic testing, with the older 398.82 GeForce driver. This is merely to see how Intel’s new chip behaves overall in gaming compared to the full stack of chips.

Because the 9900K has such a heavy gaming focus, we’d be remiss to not expand our gaming coverage at least a little bit for this article. So, after these first few charts, we’ll be throwing others at you representing AMD 2700X vs. Intel 9900K performance across seven games at three 16:9 resolutions. That covers most of the important bases, including “does it suck at 1080p?” and “is there a difference at 4K?”.

Let’s get started with UL’s super popular 3DMark:

UL 3DMark Fire Strike 1080p Score (Intel Core i9-9900K)

An overall 3DMark score is essentially an aggregate of the CPU and GPU tests, although the CPU tests are not weighed as heavily as GPU, which is why you see a chip like the 2950X dominate the CPU test, but sit a few notches down from the top in the overall score.

Because the 9900K has such strong single-threaded performance, it soars to the top with the overall score, despite falling under the bigger core chips in the CPU test. Interestingly, the 10-core Intel chip fell behind the 8-core 9900K in the CPU score here, hinting that single-threaded performance can help negate extra cores, which seems fair given so few modern games will take advantage of more than a few cores.

UL 3DMark Fire Strike 4K Score (Intel Core i9-9900K)

This chart seems to make a lot more sense. It’s still the DirectX 11 Fire Strike test, but at 4K resolution, and here, the CPUs seem to have saner scaling, thanks partly to the fact that the overall scores are super similar to one another. From bottom to top, there’s a delta of a mere 350 points, representing 5%.

At this level, it’s hard to declare anyone as a winner, because the performance can change from one day to the next, and the odd way the scores are tabulated puts the 2950X ahead of the 8700K, which isn’t at all the reality in real-world gaming.

Does anything change in the DirectX 12 test?

UL 3DMark Time Spy 1440p Score (Intel Core i9-9900K)

This test was run at the midrange resolution of 1440p, putting us in between 1080p and 4K. Ultimately, we see similar scaling as before, but it’s not scaling that makes a ton of sense. The 2950X again outperforms the 8700K only because it has extra cores – and again, that kind of performance difference would not be seen in the real-world. This could be the last time 3DMark graces our CPU review pages.

AMD 2700X vs Intel i9-9900K Gaming Performance

(The remainder of tests on this page were tested four times each, then averaged. There were no cases where one test run delivered a big enough performance delta to require a fifth run.)

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X vs Intel Core i9-9900K - 3DMark and Superposition

OK, we guess there was one more time when 3DMark would be seen (sorry). With completely up-to-date GeForce drivers, the latest EFIs, etc, both the 2700X and 9900K perform similarly to one another in 3DMark and Superposition overall. Intel comes out ahead, but the differences are minor in the grand scheme.

What about real games?

2700X vs. 9900K: 1920×1080

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X vs Intel Core i9-9900K - 1080p Gaming (Average FPS)

With real games at 1080p, bigger differences can begin to be seen between the 2700X and 9900K. The biggest differences are with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (+24% for Intel) and Far Cry 5 (+27% for Intel). In fact, there isn’t a single test here that hasn’t chosen Intel as its side. Granted, it’s important to note that we’re dealing with framerates above 100 FPS, so it’s not as though AMD’s chip is delivering poor performance overall. Fortunately, even if AMD gets pummeled, it always has the performance-to-cash ratio card in its pocket.

Minimum framerates are also important, so we wanted to see if anything would change there:

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X vs Intel Core i9-9900K - 1080p Gaming (Minimum FPS)

Intel wins the 1080p gaming fight quite easily. Even though all of these framerates are respectable for real-world use, Intel makes its dominance clear. Still, this is 1080p gaming; does much change at 1440p?

2700X vs. 9900K: 2560×1440

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X vs Intel Core i9-9900K - 1440p Gaming (Average FPS)

At 1440p, the gaming performance between the two chips tightens up a bit, exhibiting less difference overall. With Deus Ex, the performance becomes about identical. The biggest difference seen is with Ghost Recon Wildlands, representing a performance gap of close to 10%. What about 1440p minimums?

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X vs Intel Core i9-9900K - 1440p Gaming (Minimum FPS)

Yet again, we see pretty modest deltas between both chips here, with Far Cry 5 being the outlier with a 16% gap between them. In all cases, the minimum framerate comes nowhere near 60 FPS, which is great to see.

Overall though, Intel remains incredibly dominant. Where the 2700X could match the 9900K in some application tests, gaming is another beast, and it becomes clear why Intel’s marketing push has been so heavily gaming-focused.

2700X vs. 9900K: 3840×2160

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X vs Intel Core i9-9900K - 4K Gaming (Average FPS)

Wrapping up our gaming testing, 4K resolution shows the smallest performance deltas we’ve seen up to this point. The biggest difference here is with F1 2018, which amounts to a 6% gain for Intel. The others are either exact or extremely close.

It’s clear that Intel’s gaming prowess is strong, but the higher the resolution, the smaller the gain in performance will be. The most important aspect of this really is that AMD’s performance isn’t too bad at all. We knew Intel would come ahead, but to see such modest differences overall is nice.

But, it’s all about the minimums, baby:

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X vs Intel Core i9-9900K - 4K Gaming (Minimum FPS)

You’ve got to love the kind of strain 4K resolution has on graphics cards, because it gives people a continued reason to seek the next top-end graphics card out. In this continued look, AMD performs very strongly, although Intel yet again takes the lead in the end.

Ultimately, the performance between these two chips is quite minor at 4K, modest at 1440p, and notable at 1080p. That is to say, at high-resolution, the differences are so minor, that you’re not going to go wrong with AMD if you want to save some money. Conversely, if your goal is strictly 1080p, and especially 144Hz, you should be eyeing Intel.

Final Thoughts

Also check out our look at Intel Core i9-9900K performance in Linux.

There are many things to like about Intel’s 9th-gen processors. The fact that they’re simply better than the 8th-gen is enough for me to be happy, because for so long, it was hard to get truly excited about CPUs. I think we owe AMD thanks for spurring Intel on, but Intel’s been doing a great job at executing its rebukes.

After the i7-8700K came out, I couldn’t help but immediately feel a little underwhelmed by its six cores. It’s not that six cores is poor by reasonable standards, but Intel already had a 10-core enthusiast chip before it.

Here we are today, a mere year later, with another two cores for the top-end mainstream chip. Bear in mind: the i7-7700K was a quad-core processor, and that was tops of the 7th-gen Core series. And not to mention the more than ten years worth of generations before it (2009’s Core i7-975 was also quad-core, while the first from Intel was 2007’s Core 2 Quad Q6600 – a chip that cost $851 USD at its release.)

Intel Core i9-9900K Press Sample

While I felt six-core was a bit lacking with the 8700K, I feel like eight cores with the 9900K is a definite “sweet spot”. That is to say, it’s not overkill for most people, but it still offers a lot of grunt to get good work done. For those trying to maximize their dollar, the enthusiast platforms have simply not been a great option. And even now, I suppose that the 9900K is not that cheap, considering this 8-core costs at least $100 more than last year’s 6-core.

Intel is clearly charging a premium for its 9900K, but it’s a premium product. It’d be a little insulting if the 9900K was the only eight-core of the 9th-gen, but it isn’t. The i7-9700K is spec’d similarly to the 9900K – it drops 100MHz on the Turbos, 4MB off the level 3 cache, and foregos HyperThreading. But it does all that for a similar price as last year’s 8700K, so at least those splurging the same amount of money today are going to get more value than they would have last year.

There are a couple of other highlights surrounding the 9900K, such as its domination in scenarios that thrive on fast single-threaded performance. Gaming is also tops with this chip, which was to be expected given its aggressive clock speeds. It also has room to grow for future games with 16 threads on tap. And then there’s also the addition of solder thermal interface material under the chip’s integrated heatsink – a great move on Intel’s part. It’s allegedly not as great a solution as it could be, but it’s still an important change, and a big improvement over last year’s thermal paste that makes a CPU run at least 10 degrees hotter than it should.

Intel 9th-gen Core Processor

The biggest downside with the 9900K is its $500+ price tag, but again, the chip has so much going for it, that it’s not surprising to see Intel capitalize on it as much as possible. The great thing is that the 9700K exists, because it wouldn’t be that far off the performance mark when run against the 9900K, and what it does shave off results in more than $100 in savings. Truthfully, I might find that to be the more alluring CPU from a value standpoint, but those opting for the biggest chip will get those tasty 5GHz Turbos right out of the box, and also some additional level 3 cache.

It’s great to see the CPU market bustling as it is. Both AMD and Intel are offering aggressive products, one way or another. In this case, you’ll pay a premium for Intel to get the best performance, or go with AMD to get improved value at the expense of weaker single-threaded and slightly weaker multi-threaded performance. One of the 30 or so graphs in this article should help you figure out which side of the fence you want to be on.

Intel Core i9-9900K 8-core Processor - Techgage Editor's Choice
Intel Core i9-9900K 8-core Processor

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