Intel i9-9900K CPU Review: Solder vs. Delid, Streaming Benchmarks, & Gaming vs. 2700(X), 8700K, More

By Published October 19, 2018 at 9:00 am
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Intel’s i9-9900K’s most boasted feature in all marketing is its solder, so we decided to test thermals with the new soldered interface, then delid the CPU and put thermal paste back on it for more testing. It’s backwards from what we typically do (which is removing paste for liquid metal), so we’ll be looking at soldered vs. paste tests, gaming benchmarks, Blender workloads, overclocking, and livestreaming benchmarks in our review of the i9-9900K today. Benchmarks include comparative testing versus the Intel i7-8700K, AMD R7 2700 (and overclocked/2700X variant), R7 1700, i9-7900X, 7960X, and more. The full list of primarily featured CPUs is below.

This new series of Intel CPUs adorns the “9000” suffix. The main CPUs are the 9900K, an 8C/16T part (4.7GHz all-core), the 9700K (8C/8T), and the 9600K (6C/6T). Despite the naming convention and marketing play at being a “9th Gen,” these products are a refreshed Coffee Lake architecture (still 14nm). Of note, the Z390 motherboards work with 8000-series CPUs, like the 8700K, and the Z370 boards mostly work with the 9000-series CPUs. Some exceptions apply here, but just check the manuals and support listings before making purchases. Power delivery can be a concern on the lower-end Z370 boards when considering 9900K CPUs.

Other than this, the entirety of marketing has felt largely centered on “STIM,” or soldered thermal interface material. After years of complaining from technical media, including our own outlet, Intel is finally moving back toward the Sandy Bridge era of solder. It’s an Indium solder – a soft one – but that’s something we’ll talk about momentarily.

Other key items of note include the price: The i9-9900K is expensive, priced at around $530 on Amazon. For perspective, the 8700K costs about $370 (6C/12T), the R7 2700 non-X is about $250 and can be overclocked to equivalence with a $300 2700X, and the 7900X is about $900. The 9900K is significantly more expensive than the previous high-end Intel desktop CPU, and therefore significantly more expensive than the R7 2700(X). Of course, we still need the perspective of performance to understand whether that price difference gets anything meaningful.

MCE, Vdroop, Overclocking

A few notes before beginning with the review:

Vdroop rears its head on the ASUS Maximus XI Hero that we used for 9900K testing. On this motherboard, an input of 1.4V with LLC level 7 resulted in a voltage of about 1.341V when running 8C, or about 1.35V with 6C. ASUS is aware of this. The 8086K seems to be less affected on the same motherboard.

Update: We have learned that the ASUS BIOS text is incorrect in describing the behavior of LLC at level 7. The text states: "The load-line is defined by the Intel VRM specification and affects the level of voltage supplied to the processor. Higher load-line calibration settings result in reduced VDroop at the expense of voltage overshoot and will increase CPU temperatures due to higher voltage under load. Select from level 1 to 7 to adjust the load-line above. Level 1 = greater Vdroop, Level = 7 minimum VDroop." [sic] In reality, Level 8 is now the highest setting, and level 7 will no longer be minimum vdroop. In this regard, the behavior is correct, and there is not any vdroop outside of expectations. It is only the description text that was wrong.

Separately, MCE also makes a bit of a comeback.

We have noticed that ASUS’ Maximus XI Hero we used follows Intel’s spec for boosting and power behavior, unlike some other boards. We noticed that Gigabyte and MSI tend to run over spec as their ICCMAX is not limited in the way that ASUS limits its own. You can still bypass these settings with overclocking, but stock, they should follow Intel’s spec. This can impact scores in reviews to some extent.

Test Components

Tested CPUs primarily include the below list:

Motherboards used for testing are as follows:

Constants used are as follows:

Windows 10 version 1803 was used for all testing with Windows Update disabled. PresentMon is used for framerate data logging, with custom scripts for capturing data accurately.

Click "Next" to continue to Page 2: Solder vs. Delid Paste Performance


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Last modified on October 25, 2018 at 9:00 am
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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