With Intel and AMD at core parity, how does the CPU landscape look?

One of the most radical changes to happen in the last two years in the PC hardware space has to be the launch of AMD's Ryzen processors. Despite the failure that was the FX-series with their Bulldozer architecture, AMD managed to shock the industry with the performance of their next generation Zen architecture.

After generations upon generations of consumer processors topping out at four cores going back to the Core 2 days, Intel finally launched their first 6-core processor for consumers with the 8700K almost exactly a year ago.

AMD's continued to persevere with the launch of the second generation Ryzen 7 2700X earlier this year, which managed to improve the single-threaded performance gap between AMD and Intel. 

Still, this performance gap existed, leaving room for what Intel is launching today, their first 8-core mainstream consumer processor, the Core i9-9900K. Finally having core count parity with AMD, and still holding an advantage in single-threaded performance, this launch has garnered a lot of attention.

  Core i9-9900K Ryzen 7 2700X Threadripper 2950X Core i9-7900X Core i7-8700K Core i7-7700K
Architecture Coffee Lake Refresh Zen+ Zen+ Skylake-X Coffee Lake Kaby Lake
Process Tech 14nm++ 12nm 12nm 14nm+ 14nm++ 14nm+
Cores/Threads 8/16 8/16 16/32 10/20 6/12 4/8
Base Clock 3.6 GHz 3.7 GHz 3.5 GHz 3.3 GHz 3.7 GHz 4.2 GHz
Boost Clock 5.0 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.4 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.7 GHz 4.5 GHz
L3 Cache 16MB 16MB 32MB 11MB 12MB 8MB
Memory Support DDR4-2666 (Dual-Channel) DDR4-2933 (Dual-Channel) DDR4-2933 (Quad-Channel) DDR4-2666 (Quad-Channel) DDR4-2666 (Dual-Channel) DDR4-2400 (Dual-Channel)
PCIe Lanes 16 16 64 44 16 16
TDP 95 W 105 W 180 W 140 W 95 W 91 W
Socket LGA1151 AM4 TR4 LGA-2066 LGA1151 LGA1151
Price (MSRP) $499 $329 $899 $1000 $349 $329

From an architectural standpoint, there are no changes with the new 9th generation Intel lineup compared to the previous 6th, 7th, and 8th generation parts. The same core Skylake microarchitecture is found here, with the same "14nm++" process node introduced to the desktop with Coffee Lake.

One of the significant changes with the new Intel 9th generation processors is one that enthusiasts have been quite vocal about, the move back to Solder-based TIM to attach the heat spreader to the CPU die. This move to STIM, as Intel is calling it, should provide for lower temperatures at stock operation, as well as additional overclocking headroom.

The advantages of STIM can already been seen in the stock clock speeds, with a single core turbo frequency of 5 GHz on the i9-9900K.

While we only have the opportunity to take a look at the Core i9-9900K, Intel is also launching two other processors in their 9th generation lineup today, the Core i5-9600K and the Core i7-9700K. We hope to take a look at these processors soon, including the puzzling tradeoff of an increased core count, but the loss of hyperthreading for the i7-9700K.

These new 9th generation processors remain compatible with existing 300-series motherboards including Z370, H370, and B360, but Intel is also releasing a new chipset alongside the i9-9900K in the form of Z390.

Z390 Chipset

In general, the Z390 chipset can be boiled down to two new features—native USB 3.1 Gen 2 support, and integrated support for Intel 802.11 AC Gen 2 Wireless. Keep in mind though, just because the chipset supports wifi doesn't mean that motherboard manufacturers will implement the wireless features. In order to utilize the wireless functionality, additional hardware has to be added to the motherboard. We've already seen a significant amount of Z390 boards which skip the Intel wireless solution.

While these new features might not be exciting to a lot of folks, remember that a new chipset gives motherboard manufactures the chance to add additional non-chipset provided features, and do things like improve upon power delivery designs.

For this review, we are using the MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC for our Coffee Lake testing, including both the i7-8700K and the i9-9900K.

Coming in at just under $200, the MPG Z390 Gaming Edge represents a mid-range product in MSI's Z390 lineup, combining a solid core feature set for gamers with all the bling including RGB LEDs for those who might be into that.

With a new power delivery layout and VRM heatsink design, the MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC is build to handle the increased power delivery needs of this new 8-core processor.

This is just a preview of our upcoming Z390 content as our motherboard reviewer, Morry, has been working hard testing an array of new Z390 offerings.

Review Terms and Disclosure
All Information as of the Date of Publication
How product was obtained: The product is on loan from Intel for the purpose of this review.
What happens to the product after review: The product remains the property of Intel but is on extended loan for future testing and product comparisons.
Company involvement: Intel had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.
PC Perspective Compensation: Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by Intel for this review.
Advertising Disclosure: Intel has not purchased advertising at PC Perspective during the past twelve months.
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Consulting Disclosure: Intel is not a current client of Shrout Research for products or services related to this review. 
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