Intel’s new i9-10900K—fast, yes; competitive, not so much

Intels new i9 10900K—fast yes competitive not so much

Enlarge / Intel’s shiny new 5.3—ish, perhaps, however in all probability not—GHz CPU is seen right here working on a Gigabyte AORUS Z490 Master board, on a Praxis wetbench chassis, with the wonderful NZXT Kraken fluid cooler.

Jim Salter

We lastly bought our grubby paws on the flagship SKU of Intel’s new Comet Lake desktop processors—the (sorta) 5.3GHz, (properly over) 125W TDP i9-10900Ok. Intel’s extraordinarily lackluster efficiency advertising and marketing led us to imagine the processor would in all probability be little if any enchancment over final 12 months’s i9-9900Ok—however, fortunately, that is not the case.

The extra troubling factor for Team Blue is that it is not solely competing with its personal CPUs. Intel’s actual competitors is not itself, it is AMD—and for now not less than, the corporate continues to be struggling to maintain its head above water.


Specs at a look: Core i9-10900Ok, as examined
OS Windows 10 Professional
CPU 10-core Intel Core i9-10900Ok—anticipated retail ~$525
RAM 64GB Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 3200—$400 at Amazon
GPU Intel UHD 630 onboard iGPU
HDD Samsung 860 Pro 1TB SSD—$275 at Amazon
Motherboard Gigabyte AORUS Z490 Master—$390 on Amazon
Cooling NZXT Kraken X63 fluid cooler with 280mm radiator—$150 at Amazon
PSU EVGA 850GQ Semi Modular PSU—$130 at Amazon
Chassis  Praxis Wetbench take a look at chassis—$200 at Amazon
Price as examined ≈$2,060

Intel’s new flagship i9 desktop CPU is, as you’d count on, very quick certainly. Also as you’d count on, for probably the most half its Ryzen 9 3950X equal kicks sand in its face and runs away laughing.

What we undoubtedly did not count on, given Intel’s lackluster advertising and marketing across the chip, is how properly it stacks up towards its personal predecessor. Although the model of the promised “up to 5.3GHz” that we noticed was solely 5.1GHz, the i9-10900Ok nonetheless represents a really wholesome 34-percent generation-on-generation enchancment versus final 12 months’s i9-9900Ok in all-threaded Cinebench R20 testing.

The comparability to Ryzen 9 3950X in all probability will not shock any Ars regulars—Intel will get its butt handed to it, and none too politely, in any multithreaded benchmark. On the opposite hand, Intel ekes out a win—albeit a really slender one—on the single-threaded model of the Cinebench R20 workload.

There actually is not a lot to select from in single-threaded Cinebench, which—whereas a considerably particular and slender mannequin—might be probably the most applicable general-purpose mannequin for single-threaded gaming efficiency. If you wish to take the single-threaded crown dwelling, the i9-10900Ok is your processor. We’re simply by no means sure it is price handwaving away a crushing disparity on multithreaded efficiency to take this one very slender win.

About that clock velocity

Passmark CPUinfo, HWinfo64, and Intel’s personal XTU agreed on one factor—our i9-10900Ok by no means broke 5.12GHz on any core. This fee matches the anticipated single-core Turbo velocity however falls wanting the “up to” guarantees we noticed for Turbo Boost Max and Thermal Velocity Boost—every of which have been supposed to offer us one other 100MHz increase, for a complete “up to” of 5.3GHz, for so long as thermal actuality permitted it.

With an open-air rig paired with an NZXT Kraken fluid cooler and 280mm radiator, we do not suppose many customers might be doing higher than we did on the thermal capability. So we reached out to our Intel contacts. The Intel Performance Maximizer software program is not obtainable for the i9-10900Ok but—however we should not have wanted it. The Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) was obtainable however unhelpful—any try to mess with the clock multiplier resulted in an instantly unstable system. Bumping the bottom clock fee cautiously elevated the bottom speeds however did nothing to enhance the utmost velocity achieved, and it did not assist our benchmark scores, both.

None of that is more likely to matter a lot. Intel was prepared to share its personal inside Cinebench R20 take a look at scores with us—ours have been a bit of higher than Intel’s on multithreaded, and so they have been a bit of worse than the corporate’s on single-threaded. We suspect the multithreaded win on our finish is because of our NZXT Kraken cooler, and the single-threaded win on Intel’s is a luck-of-the-draw higher particular person CPU out of the bin. These issues occur.

Also underneath the class of “these things happen”—the actual i9-10900Ok unit we bought has a mildly faulty UHD 630 built-in GPU. The system is fully steady doing any regular job or whereas stress testing absolutely the crap out of the CPU for hours on finish—however roughly 10 minutes into any GPU stress-testing benchmark, the system locks up. We wish to emphasize that there is not any purpose to imagine an issue in your complete i9-10900 line due to this—flawed CPUs are pretty uncommon, however they do occur; if this have been a retail buy, it will have simply gone again to Intel underneath guarantee.

Power and warmth

Read 'em and weep—the system gets up to 336W at-the-wall power during Cinebench testing. (It desktop-idles at 70W.)
Enlarge / Read ’em and weep—the system will get as much as 336W at-the-wall energy throughout Cinebench testing. (It desktop-idles at 70W.)

Jim Salter

When it involves warmth era and energy consumption, the i9-10900Ok is not precisely parsimonious—but it surely’s no Threadripper, both. Our take a look at system desktop-idled at 70W on the wall and maxed out at 336W throughout benchmarking. While that is at-the-wall energy, it corresponds fairly properly with what we anticipated—someplace within the neighborhood of 270W+ on the CPU underneath full, sustained load.

This is, after all, noticeably larger than Intel’s specified 125W TDP—however by now everyone knows higher than to suppose you are going to get most efficiency out of an Intel CPU working at solely its specified TDP, which is ample for all-core base clock solely.

The excellent news is, though the i9-10900Ok drinks extra energy than both its i9-9900Ok predecessor or its closest competitor—Ryzen 9 3950X, with a 105W TDP and an all-core, full-power draw of roughly 145W—it is nonetheless no Threadripper. The Kraken by no means had to enter leafblower mode to maintain the i9-10900Ok cool—so, with the appropriate cooler, it is not less than potential to comfortably share a small workplace with it.


The i9-10900Ok is on the excessive finish of the “what we expected” vary. It’s a really vital year-on-year enchancment from final 12 months’s i9-10900Ok, with—to our shock—a bigger all-cores than single-core efficiency improve.

Unfortunately, it nonetheless cannot compete properly with its Team Red competitors—AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950x got here out first, consumes much less energy, drastically outperforms it in multithreaded workloads, and is simply % slower on a single-threaded Cinebench R20 take a look at.

If the i9-10900Ok have been a drop-in alternative for earlier i7 and i9 rigs, its sturdy year-on-year efficiency increase could be price saving the cash on a brand new motherboard and simply plopping the brand new CPU into an present rig. Unfortunately, that is not the case—even in the event you’re working an i9-9900Ok, you are going to want an entire new motherboard for the i9-10900Ok, at a naked minimal—at which level, you would possibly as properly simply go forward and purchase Ryzen.

The Good

  • Unexpectedly sturdy year-on-year efficiency enchancment
  • Doesn’t want to show a 280mm radiator right into a leafblower to remain cool
  • If you need the quickest Intel desktop/gaming CPU, you have discovered it

The Bad

  • Higher energy consumption / warmth era than Ryzen 9 3950X
  • Thirty-nine % sooner multithreaded Ryzen 9 3950X sounds so much higher to us than Three % sooner single-threaded i9-10900Ok
  • Go forward and toss that outdated motherboard, Intel followers—it has reached the tip of the road

The Ugly

  • We’re in all probability going to see one other 12 months of 14nm+++++++++++++++++ from Intel in 2021, sadly
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