Intel Core i9-9900KS Processor Review: GHz vs Ryzen

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The whole story with the appearance of the Core i9-9900KS on the market from the very beginning made us feel deja vu. Why? Yes, it’s very simple, we saw similar events sixteen years ago, when AMD released its revolutionary Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX processors with the Hammer microarchitecture. Then, in order to rebuff these novelties, Intel urgently organized the release of Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processors equipped with a 2-megabyte L3 cache, hastily converted from Xeon MP server chips. Now, of course, the situation is developing in a slightly different scenario, but the overall plot outline has remained the same. Not being able to symmetrically respond to the competitor’s daring encroachments, Intel gets out as best it can and instead of a new product family offers temporary flagship «quick response» processors.

The Core i9-9900KS is just such a hand-made answer to the third generation Ryzen. Remember, Intel made an announcement about the upcoming release of this processor in early June at Computex — just a few days before the announcement of the Ryzen 3000. The meaning of such a step was easily guessed just at what moment it was made, because in reality the Core i9-9900KS reached the market only a few months later — in November. At the same time, there is nothing that makes the Core i9-9900KS so far in advance, it is just a slightly overclocked version of the eight-core Core i9-9900K, which in reality should become Intel’s main trump card only for the next few weeks of high pre-Christmas demand.

We’ll see Intel’s full response to the Ryzen 3000 pretty soon. The release of 10-core processors Comet Lake is scheduled for the first quarter of 2020. But if you want to put the new Intel processor under your tree, the Core i9-9900KS will have to be content. However, do not think that this will be something like a «consolation» gift. Intel, without false modesty, says this about the Core i9-9900KS: “Based on the Core i9-9900K, we made the world’s best gaming processor even better‘, and it seems to be true.

Translated from marketing, this thesis means that the Core i9-9900KS that went on sale is a special version of the Core i9-9900K, built on selected semiconductor crystals that are capable of operating at even higher clock frequencies. Moreover, “special” is literally: the letter S, which appeared at the end of the model number, is an abbreviation for Special Edition. The formal characteristics of the novelty are such that the Core i9-9900KS is able to operate at a “beautiful” frequency of 5.0 GHz while simultaneously loading all eight cores. Only one thing is confusing: the duration of the warranty period for such an accelerated processor is limited to one year, while the regular Core i9-9900K (in the box) has a three-year warranty.

The manufacturer emphasizes the exclusivity of the Core i9-9900KS by saying that for the manufacture of such CPUs, he has to use a special procedure for selecting semiconductor crystals, which is why the circulation of such processors is quite small. What specific number of «special» chips will be put on the market is not reported, but you can be sure that next year it will be problematic to buy a Core i9-9900KS in a store. This is partly due to the fact that the markup for the Special Edition label and 5 GHz frequency is not so high and cannot become a significant barrier for buyers. The recommended cost of the Core i9-9900KS is $513, just $25 more than the price of the regular Core i9-9900K.

However, the question of whether it is worth chasing the Core i9-9900KS still remains, and we will try to answer it in this review, in which we compare the new Intel product with affordable alternatives from the same price category, among which even not a regular Core i9-9900K, but a 12-core AMD Ryzen 9 3900X.

⇡#More about Core i9-9900KS

The Core i9-9900KS has become the fifth member of the Coffee Lake Refresh family to receive model number 9900. Its brothers have always offered eight cores with support for Hyper-Threading technology and had a 16 MB L3 cache, but differed in thermal package, overclocking capabilities, target frequencies and the presence or absence of an integrated graphics core. In Core i9-9900KS, as in the crown of the entire evolution of the ninth generation of Core, all these characteristics are turned to the maximum values, but when compared with the indicators of previously released related processors, the formal specifications of the Core i9-9900KS are by no means amazing.

Core i9-9900KS Core i9-9900K Core i9-9900KF Core i9-9900 Core i9-9900T
Cores/Threads 8/16 8/16 8/16 8/16 8/16
Base frequency, GHz 4.0 3.6 3.6 3.1 2.1
Turbo frequency (max.), GHz 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 4.4
L3 cache, MB sixteen sixteen sixteen sixteen sixteen
Overclocking There is There is There is Not Not
Integrated graphics UHD 630 UHD 630 Not UHD 630 UHD 630
Memory, DDR4 2×2666 2×2666 2×2666 2×2666 2×2666
TDP, W 127 95 95 65 35
Price $513 $488 $463 $439 $439

Only the estimated heat dissipation of the Core i9-9900KS looks impressive in this table — 127 watts. However, among the mass processors there were instances and hotter, just remember, for example, about the Intel Core 2 Extreme or AMD FX Black Edition of the nine thousandth series.

The higher base frequency of the Core i9-9900KS than the other 9900s means absolutely nothing. Firstly, as we know, Intel processors never really work on it, and the aggressiveness of Turbo Boost 2.0 technology determines the real frequencies. Secondly, the increase in the base frequency is a direct consequence of raising the bar for the thermal package, because, according to the current formulation, TDP is precisely defined as the heat dissipation of the processor at the nominal base frequency.

Therefore, in order to fully appreciate the exclusivity of the Core i9-9900KS, you need to look deeper — at the maximum frequencies achievable in the turbo mode when loaded with a different number of computing cores. It’s funny that recently Intel decided to remove information about these values ​​from public access, and now the company is faced with the fact that it was done in vain, because without this the advantages of the Core i9-9900KS cannot be shown. However, with some patience, the values ​​of turbo frequencies can be found out experimentally or with the help of diagnostic utilities.

And only in this case, the advantages of the Core i9-9900KS become clearer: when loaded with six or more cores, this processor is allowed to operate at 300 MHz, or 6.3%, faster than the Core i9-9900K and Core i9-9900KF.

Base frequency, MHz Maximum frequency in turbo mode, MHz
8 cores 7 cores 6 cores 5 cores 4 cores 3 cores 2 cores 1 core
Core i9-9900KS 4.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0
Core i9-9900K 3.6 4.7 4.7 4.7 4.8 4.8 4.9 5.0 5.0
Core i9-9900KF 3.6 4.7 4.7 4.7 4.8 4.8 4.9 5.0 5.0
Core i9-9900 3.1 4.6 4.7 4.7 4.8 4.8 4.9 5.0 5.0
Core i9-9900T 2.1 3.6 3.8 3.9 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4

However, in reality, all this does not mean at all that choosing the Core i9-9900KS for your system will get you 5.0 GHz under any load. Do not forget that turbo frequencies are the maximum auto acceleration that is possible, but not guaranteed. Turbo Boost 2.0 technology automatically increases the CPU frequency not just based on the number of working cores, but also taking into account other parameters, in particular the nature of the load and, most importantly, the power consumption generated by it. The theory places two limits on the power consumption of the processor in turbo mode, PL1 and PL2, which limit it under short-term and long-term loads. The PL2 limit, which sets the maximum consumption for long periods of time, is assumed to be equal to the passport TDP value. The PL1 limit is usually set to a quarter of the PL2 limit, allowing the processor to consume more than its TDP, but only for short periods of time. The maximum duration of such time intervals is set by the constant τ, which, according to the specification, can be selected in the range from 1 to 8 seconds.

All this means that when designing the Core i9-9900KS, it was assumed that it would consume no more than 127 watts for long-term loads and no more than 159 watts for short-term ones. And such consumption limits with a 5-GHz frequency are clearly incompatible. For example: even the Core i9-9900K at its turbo frequency of 4.7 GHz in multi-threaded rendering in Cinebench R20 consumes about 195 watts. The new Core i9-9900KS at 5.0 GHz in this test shows a consumption of about 220 watts.

Therefore, if everything was honest and in accordance with the specification, then we would not see any 5.0 GHz even close. This is illustrated by the following graph, in which we showed the Core i9-9900KS frequency curve depending on the load in Cinebench R20, built when this processor was running with the PL1 and PL2 limits set correctly, set to 127 and 159 watts. A similar curve is also shown here for the Core i9-9900K, in which these limits are set a quarter lower in accordance with the specification — at 95 W and 119 W.

Although the Core i9-9900KS runs at a noticeably higher frequency compared to the Core i9-9900K, we are still not talking about 5 GHz at full load. This frequency can be observed if the number of threads loaded with work does not exceed six, and no more. The maximum multi-threaded load in Cinebench R20 cuts the Core i9-9900KS frequency to 4.5 GHz due to the fact that Coffee Lake Refresh silicon, produced using 14-nm technology, always sharply increases energy appetites.

However, all these frequency studies are interesting purely theoretically, since motherboard manufacturers, with the tacit consent of Intel, simply ignore the limits of PL1 and PL2, setting them to the maximum. You can meet some meaningful settings for these restrictions only on inexpensive motherboards with a rather weak power scheme, while the vast majority of Z390 platforms by default twist these restrictions to maximum and obviously unattainable values. And that is why the decrease in frequency with an increase in power consumption beyond the limits set by the TDP specification is not observed in reality for Intel processors.

Until now, Intel and motherboard manufacturers have gotten away with such a free attitude to power consumption parameters. Everyone was happy, because users eventually received, albeit not as economical as stated in the specifications, but automatically accelerating to the maximum frequencies for turbo mode with increased performance.

But with the Core i9-9900KS, this trick passes with a creak. Running at 5.0 GHz, this processor generates so much heat that only select cooling systems can handle it. For example, during testing of our Core i9-9900KS instance, we encountered the failure of our usual Noctua NH-U14S and NH-D15 air supercoolers. With both a single-section and a two-section tower, the processor quickly reached a temperature limit of 115 degrees when launching Prime95 29.8 and fell into throttling. It was possible to achieve stable operation of the Core i9-9900KS at a frequency of 5.0 GHz in any programs, without exception, only after switching to liquid cooling. And not just any, but one of the most efficient LSS of the closed cycle NZXT Kraken X72, which is equipped with a 360 mm radiator.

  NZXT Kraken X72

But even with such a powerful LSS, the processor temperature during the tests reached 108 degrees, which, however, is natural, given the 275-watt power consumption of the Core i9-9900KS under a heavy load, seasoned with AVX2 instructions.

All this means that owners of the Core i9-9900KS, who are not properly prepared for cooling this processor, can easily face temperature throttling, even if they arm themselves with a completely efficient cooling system and do not overclock it. We are absolutely sure that soon forums and groups on social networks will be overwhelmed by a wave of complaints about overheating of the Core i9-9900KS at default settings. Intel has only one way to avoid this: to somehow agree with motherboard manufacturers so that, at least in the case of the Core i9-9900KS, they do not ignore the setting of consumption limits.

Of course, you need to keep in mind that we checked the temperature regime in Prime95 29.8 — a program that warms up processors very much by searching for Mersenne numbers. Such heating is not so common in common tasks, but, for example, there is a high risk of overheating when transcoding video content with modern encoders or when rendering. Therefore, having installed the Core i9-9900KS in the system, it is better to devote some time to checking the temperatures and setting it up. We would recommend either manually selecting the consumption limits for PL1 and PL2, or setting a down correction to the frequency when using AVX instructions, or trying to reduce the supply voltage. And you don’t need to believe in stories about 5.0 GHz “out of the box” always and everywhere: this is hyperbole (artistic exaggeration).

A quite reasonable question arises here: is the Core i9-9900KS better than the Core i9-9900K, if a $25 overpayment for this CPU does not guarantee the absence of overheating at a frequency of 5.0 GHz and, moreover, inevitably dooms the user to careful selection of cooling and additional system setup? But the answer to it is still positive. At a minimum, the Core i9-9900KS is indeed based on selected Coffee Lake Refresh dies, resulting in slightly lower temperatures and power consumption at the same frequency and voltage. For example, we compared the thermal and energy characteristics of the Core i9-9900KS and Core i9-9900K samples at our disposal at a frequency of 4.7 GHz at a voltage of 1.25 V with the NZXT Kraken X72 liquid cooling system. And as you can see from the results obtained when running the Prime95 stress test, the Core i9-9900KS really turns out to be, all other things being equal, more economical and cooler.

4.7 GHz, 1.25 V Maximum temperature Maximum consumption
Core i9-9900KS 86 °С 218 W
Core i9-9900K 90 °С 226 W

In addition, the Core i9-9900KS processors, unlike the Core i9-9900K and Core i9-9900KF, are guaranteed to be based on R0 stepping semiconductor crystals. And this means that they already have hardware patches for some sensational vulnerabilities, in particular Fallout and Specter V4 (Speculative Store Bypass). However, from a practical point of view, this does not mean too much. Hardware fixes, like their software counterparts, have about the same impact on performance, and in the end, Core i9-9900KS users gain nothing other than not having to update microcode and install critical operating system and software updates.

⇡ # Overclocking

Considering how the Core i9-9900KS warms up when operating in the «nominal» mode at a frequency of 5.0 GHz, it would be strange to expect some kind of exploits from it in the overclocking field. However, to achieve higher frequencies, overclockers can use a special spare tool that helps a lot with overclocking Core X-series HEDT processors. Namely, the frequency limitation when the processor is working with AVX instructions.

The fact that in the case of the Core i9-9900KS it can have a positive effect on the result is evidenced, for example, by the fact that all foreign stores offering samples of the Core i9-9900KS with overclocking guarantee use it. And on Caseking.deand on when sorting processors, a down-correction of -2 or -3 is used for the multiplication factor when working with AVX instructions.

But it didn’t help us at all. Our copy of the Core i9-9900KS could not provide stability at a frequency of 5.1 GHz when working with resource-intensive programs, even if they did not use AVX instructions. In other words, the processor turned out to be without any overclocking potential at all, 5.0 GHz is its ceiling.

However, this should not be surprising at all. We are dealing with a CPU already pre-overclocked at the factory, which was chosen among the regular Core i9-9900K precisely on the principle of performance at a frequency of 5.0 GHz. And if its overclocking potential allowed it to take more distant frontiers, Intel would certainly take advantage of this to improve the characteristics of its offer, because we are not talking about a mass product, but about a special limited series of processors.

Actually, all this fits well with the results of the selection of the most successful representatives of the Core i9-9900KS family, which is carried out by store specialists According to the statistics they collected, only one of the three copies of the Core i9-9900KS accelerates beyond 5.0 GHz. And we, obviously, did not get the «happy» chip this time.

⇡#How we tested

It looks like AMD and Intel at the top of the consumer segment are going their separate ways. While AMD is offering a 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X running at an all-core load of around 4.0-4.1GHz, Intel has released an octa-core Core i9-9900KS clocked at 5.0GHz. Both of these processors cost about the same, that is, it turns out that manufacturers have started a game of «frequency against cores», and therefore it is especially interesting to compare their offers. However, in addition to the Core i9-9900KS and Ryzen 9 3900X, two more processors took part in the test: the Core i9-9900K, which was needed in order to see the performance advantage that the S ending in the model number gives; and the Ryzen 7 3800X, AMD’s older octa-core.

Thus, the list of components involved in testing is as follows:

  • Processors:
    • AMD Ryzen 9 3900X (Matisse, 12 cores + SMT, 3.8-4.6 GHz, 64 MB L3);
    • AMD Ryzen 7 3800X (Matisse, 8 cores + SMT, 3.9-4.5 GHz, 32 MB L3);
    • Intel Core i9-9900KS (Coffee Lake Refresh, 8 cores + HT, 4.0-5.0 GHz, 16MB L3);
    • Intel Core i9-9900K (Coffee Lake Refresh, 8 cores + HT, 3.6-5.0 GHz, 16 MB L3).
    • CPU cooler: NZXT Kraken X72.
  • Motherboards:
    • ASRock X570 Taichi (Socket AM4, AMD X570);
    • ASRock Z390 Taichi (LGA1151v2, Intel Z390).
  • Memory: 2×8 GB DDR4-3600 SDRAM, 16-16-16-36 (G.Skill Trident Z RGB F4-3600C16D-16GTZR).
  • Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti (TU102, 1350/14000 MHz, 11 GB GDDR6 352-bit).
  • Disk subsystem: Samsung 970 EVO Plus 2TB (MZ-V7S2T0).
  • Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower DPS G RGB 1000W Titanium (80 Plus Titanium, 1000W).

All compared processors were tested with the settings accepted by the motherboard manufacturers «by default». This means that the power consumption limits indicated in the specifications are ignored and the maximum possible frequencies are used in order to obtain maximum performance. It is worth emphasizing that the vast majority of users operate processors in this mode, since enabling limits on heat dissipation and power consumption requires special BIOS settings.

Testing was performed on the Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (v1903) Build 18362.175 operating system using the following driver set:

  • AMD Chipset Driver;
  • Intel Chipset Driver;
  • Intel Management Engine Interface Driver;
  • NVIDIA GeForce 441.08 Driver.

Description of the tools used to measure computing performance:

Comprehensive benchmarks:

  • Futuremark PCMark 10 Professional Edition 2.0.2144 — testing in Essentials scenarios (typical work of the average user: launching applications, surfing the Internet, video conferencing), Productivity (office work with a word processor and spreadsheets), Digital Content Creation (digital content creation: editing photographs, non-linear video editing, rendering and visualization of 3D models). OpenCL hardware acceleration is disabled.
  • 3DMark Professional Edition 2.10.6799 — testing in the Time Spy Extreme 1.0 scene.


  • 7-zip 19.00 — archiving speed testing. The time taken by the archiver to compress a directory with various files with a total volume of 3.1 GB is measured. The LZMA2 algorithm and the maximum compression ratio are used.
  • Adobe After Effects CC 2019 16.1.1 — Animation video rendering speed test. The time taken by the system to render a pre-prepared video in 1920 × 1080@30fps resolution is measured.
  • Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 20.0.6 — Graphics performance testing. The average execution time of the Puget Systems Adobe Photoshop CC Benchmark 18.10 test script, which simulates the typical processing of an image taken by a digital camera, is measured.
  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC 8.4.1 — performance testing for batch processing of a series of images in RAW format. The test scenario includes post-processing and export to JPEG at 1920 × 1080 resolution and maximum quality of two hundred 16-megapixel RAW images taken with a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.
  • Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2019 13.1.5 — performance testing for non-linear video editing. It measures the rendering time to YouTube 4K format of a project containing HDV 2160p30 footage with various effects applied.
  • Blender 2.80 — testing the speed of the final rendering in one of the popular free packages for creating three-dimensional graphics. The duration of building the final bmw27 model from Blender Benchmark is measured.
  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2017 (15.9.13) — measuring the compilation time of a large MSVC project — a professional package for creating three-dimensional graphics Blender version 2.79b.
  • Stockfish 10 — testing the speed of the popular chess engine. The speed of enumeration of variants in the position «1q6/1r2k1p1/4pp1p/1P1b1P2/3Q4/7P/4B1P1/2R3K1 w» is measured.
  • V-Ray 4.10.03 — testing the performance of a popular rendering system using the standard V-Ray Benchmark Next application.
  • x265 3.2+9 10bpp — testing the speed of video transcoding to the promising H.265/HEVC format. To evaluate performance, we use the original 2160p@24FPS AVC video file with a bitrate of about 42 Mbps.


  • Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Resolution 1920 × 1080: Graphics Quality = Ultra High. Resolution 3840 × 2160: Graphics Quality = Ultra High.
  • Civilization VI: Gathering Storm. Resolution 1920×1080: DirectX 12, MSAA=4x, Performance Impact=Ultra, Memory Impact=Ultra. Resolution 2560×1440: DirectX 12, MSAA=4x, Performance Impact=Ultra, Memory Impact=Ultra.
  • Far Cry 5. Resolution 1920 × 1080: Graphics Quality = Ultra, HD Textures = On, Anti-Aliasing = TAA, Motion Blur = On. Resolution 3840 × 2160: Graphics Quality = Ultra, Anti-Aliasing = Off, Motion Blur = On.
  • Gears 5. Resolution 1920 × 1080: Default Quality = Ultra. Resolution 3840 × 2160: Default Quality = Ultra.
  • Hitman 2. 1920 × 1080 resolution: DirectX 12, Super Sampling = 1.0, Level of Detail = Ultra, Anti-Aliasing = FXAA, Texture Quality = High, Texture Filter = Anisotropic 16x, SSAO = On, Shadow Maps = Ultra, Shadow Resolution = high. Resolution 3840 × 2160: DirectX 12, Super Sampling = 1.0, Level of Detail = Ultra, Anti-Aliasing = FXAA, Texture Quality = High, Texture Filter = Anisotropic 16x, SSAO = On, Shadow Maps = Ultra, Shadow Resolution = High.
  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Resolution 1920 × 1080: Overall Image Quality = Ultra High. Resolution 3840 × 2160: Overall Image Quality = Ultra High.
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Resolution 1920×1080: DirectX12, Preset=Highest, Anti-Aliasing=TAA. Resolution 3840 × 2160: DirectX12, Preset = Highest, Anti-Aliasing = Off.
  • Total War: Three Kingdoms. Resolution 1920 × 1080: DirectX 12, Quality = Ultra, Unit Size = Extreme. Resolution 3840 × 2160: DirectX 12, Quality = Ultra, Unit Size = Extreme.
  • Watch Dogs 2. Resolution 1920 × 1080: Field of View = 70°, Pixel Density = 1.00, Graphics Quality = Ultra, Extra Details = 100%. Resolution 3840 × 2160: Field of View = 70°, Pixel Density = 1.00, Graphics Quality = Ultra, Extra Details = 100%.
  • World War Z. Resolution 1920 × 1080: DirectX11, Visual Quality Preset = Ultra. Resolution 3840 × 2160: DirectX11, Visual Quality Preset = Ultra.

In all gaming tests, the results are the average number of frames per second, as well as the 0.01-quantile (first percentile) for FPS values. The use of the 0.01-quantile instead of the minimum FPS is due to the desire to clean up the results from random bursts of performance that were provoked by reasons not directly related to the operation of the main components of the platform.

⇡#Performance in complex tests

The special Core i9-9900KS essentially differs little from its regular counterpart Core i9-9900K: the difference is only in the clock frequency, and it only manifests itself when a significant number of computing cores are loaded. Based on the frequencies, the advantage of the novelty can be from zero to six percent. This is exactly what is observed in the PCMark 10 test, which simulates the user’s work in typical scenarios. Moreover, the Core i9-9900KS turns its strength to us only when working with digital content, where it manages to show about 4% higher results compared to the Core i9-9900K.

It is interesting to look at the results in 3DMark Time Spy Extreme, a test that measures gaming performance in a hypothetical case when the game code is optimized for modern processors, effectively uses multithreading and works with vector instructions. In this case, the Core i9-9900KS turns out to be 5% faster than the standard Core i9-9900KS, but this is clearly not enough to catch up with the Ryzen 9 3900X: the result of the AMD flagship is still much higher.

⇡#Performance in applications

It would be foolish to hope that a small increase in operating frequencies within the turbo mode can cause any significant performance change. From a qualitative point of view, the Core i9-9900KS remains the same octa-core as the Core i9-9900K, but with a slightly better performance level. The average advantage, judging by the results of tests in resource-intensive applications, is about five percent. This is enough for the Core i9-9900KS to be called the fastest mass-produced octa-core, but it cannot become a worthy competitor for the Ryzen 9 3900X. Twelve AMD cores are undeniably better than eight Intel cores in almost any content creation and editing activity. And this means that the Core i9-9900KS has no reason to claim the title of the best $ 500 processor for workstations.


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⇡ # Performance in games

⇡#Tests in 1080p resolution

It is with an emphasis on unsurpassed speed in games that Intel presents its limited Core i9-9900KS processor. This is logical and fair: in such applications, the Skylake microarchitecture, despite its venerable age, feels like a fish in water. With no bottlenecks in the logic design, Coffee Lake Refresh processors scale perfectly with increasing clock speeds in terms of gaming performance. The Core i9-9900KS clearly confirms this: the FPS it provides is about 2-3% higher compared to the Core i9-9900K, despite a rather small difference in clock frequency, which is 300 MHz at best.

Naturally, this allows Intel’s flagship to increase its lead over its competitor’s offerings. If we talk about the situation on average, then at Full HD resolution, a special Core i9-9900KS processor in tandem with a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card can offer about a 15 percent FPS advantage compared to the Ryzen 7 3800X and Ryzen 9 3900X equipped with the same GPU.

⇡#Tests in 2160p resolution

As the resolution increases, the gap between processors is expected to shrink, as the main load begins to fall on the video card. However, it is not possible to completely level the difference in the power of different CPUs even at 4K resolution. If we talk about the Core i9-9900KS and Core i9-9900K, then the systems based on them are almost the same in terms of performance in high-definition games. But the difference between the Socket AM4 and LGA1151 platforms still remains. Defending its title as the fastest gaming processor, the Core i9-9900KS offers about 3% better frame rates than the competing $500 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X.

⇡#Power consumption

The Core i9-9900KS is the first processor in our practice that the most powerful Noctua NH-D15 supercooler can’t handle with heat removal. Still, as we showed above, its real heat dissipation in the most severe cases can reach up to 275 watts. And this means that in terms of its energy appetites, the Core i9-9900KS outperforms not only competitors, but also almost all HEDT processors available on the market. Nevertheless, such a terrible situation develops mainly under stressful load, in the more familiar states of the Core i9-9900KS not so muchlooks like a hot iron.

This can be illustrated by measurement results. The digital power supply of the Thermaltake Toughpower DPS G series, which we use in the test system, allows you to control the consumed and output electrical power, which we use for measurements. The graphs below show the total consumption of systems (without a monitor), measured «after» the power supply, which is the sum of the power consumption of all components involved in the system. The efficiency of the power supply itself in this case is not taken into account.

You can’t imagine a better illustration of what forces Intel was able to squeeze out of 14-nm Coffee Lake Refresh silicon at 5 GHz with a load on all cores. Judge for yourself: a 6% increase in frequency compared to the Core i9-9900K translates into an increase in processor consumption by a quarter. As a result, the eight cores of the Core i9-9900KS far exceed the 12 cores of the Ryzen 9 3900X in terms of power consumption and heat dissipation. That is, in terms of specific performance per watt, Intel is now hopelessly losing to AMD: the limit of the capabilities of 14-nm technology has already been reached, and this situation cannot be changed by adding plus signs after designating process standards.

Some consolation for potential buyers of the Core i9-9900KS here can be the fact that the gaming load, which this processor is primarily aimed at, does not use all the cores and threads available in it, and almost does not use AVX instructions. Therefore, in purely gaming systems, it will be much easier to cope with the heat dissipation of the Core i9-9900KS. In the next graph, you can see how many watts this processor consumes and dissipates (in isolation from the rest of the system) during the Watch Dogs 2 gaming benchmark.

As you can see, we are not talking about almost three hundred watts of consumption by the processor alone, as in resource-intensive stress tests. The Core i9-9900KS behaves quite meekly, its peak consumption does not exceed 133 watts, and on average in a game that is quite well optimized for multithreading, the processor requires 110-120 watts of electricity. That is, those users who use their computer only for games may not even notice how hot the Core i9-9900KS has.


Experience suggests that when processor manufacturers start talking about preparing for the release of some special editions of chips, it does not end well. Typically, such products appear in response to significant advances by a competitor, and although they are presented as a demonstration of the technological power of the catching party, in reality they make a very ambiguous impression. The new Core i9-9900KS is just an excellent illustration of this thesis.

Intel released its «special» processor as a temporary asymmetric response to the competitor’s massive flagship offerings, the 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X and the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X, flavoring its appearance with the rhetoric «the best gaming processor just got better.» And this, in general, is true, in games there really are no equal Core i9-9900KS. However, being an overclocked version of the regular Core i9-9900K, the novelty also brings with it big problems, which the average user will most likely not like to overcome. Therefore, despite the fact that the price difference between the Core i9-9900KS and the Core i9-9900K is only 5%, we would be careful not to recommend it to anyone who was originally going to buy the Core i9-9900K.

Overclocking to 5.0 GHz, legalized at the specification level, led to a serious increase in heat dissipation, and therefore the special Core i9-9900KS processor needs very special cooling, which, of course, they forgot to warn users about, showing them a TDP of 127 W, while that the real heat dissipation can be more than two times higher. Therefore, such a processor can only be recommended to those who are willing to spend time and money fine-tuning the platform and selecting cooling systems. If you just want the best gaming performance out of the box and with a minimum of problems, then you better opt for the regular Core i9-9900K, which demonstrates high performance in games without any overclocking, obviously bypassing any competitor offers in frame rate.

Add to this that the Core i9-9900KS, like the Core i9-9900K, is not a universal flagship processor, ideal for solving any task. In addition to games, it performs well only in applications that cannot fully parallelize the load and are therefore responsive to clock speeds. But for the most part, these are office or Internet applications, which, most likely, do not need high-speed systems. Therefore, the main target audience for older Intel LGA1151 processors at the moment is gamers.

If you are a professional or just interested in maximum performance in content creation or processing applications, your needs today are better covered by older AMD processors under SocketAM4, which have more advanced multithreading capabilities. And no legal overclocking of eight-core Intel can change this. Moreover, at about the same price as the octa-core Core i9-9900KS, the 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X can also be recommended to those users who combine entertainment and work on one computer. After all, as the test results clearly show, the advantage of the 12-core processor in resource-intensive creative applications clearly outweighs its lag in games.

And in conclusion, we simply have to warn you that if you liked the Core i9-9900KS, despite everything, it’s better not to delay the purchase decision. The batch of these processors released by Intel is limited in volume, and company representatives warn that after the New Year it will most likely not be possible to buy the Core i9-9900KS in a retail network.


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