The number of cores on a processor is very important. At the end of the day, the cores, combined with frequency and architecture, dictate the amount of performance the chip can deliver. However, while having more of anything is typically better, not everyone needs a ton of cores or can put them to good use. Times have changed, and now it's common to find mainstream processors with up to 16 cores, such as the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X, but that healthy ration of cores, and the higher price point, isn't for everyone.
Assuming that you're looking for an octa-core chip, there are two formidable offerings on the market.
The Ryzen 7 3800X, codename Matisse, represents Team AMD. The processor is equipped with eight cores and 16 threads. On the other hand, we have the Core i7-9700K (codename Coffee Lake) chip, Intel's first Core i7 part that lacks Hyper-Threading technology. As a result, the Core i7-9700K checks in with eight cores and eight threads. The reason why we pick the Core i7-9700K for over the Core i9-9900K for this comparison is because the price tag on the former is the closest to the Ryzen 7 3800X.
To help you pick one, we put the octa-core processors from both chipmakers through a seven-round face-off, based on their features, overclocking, coolers, motherboards, performance, and value. If you're looking for a processor in a different price band, be sure to check out our Best CPUs page.
AMD taps into TSMC's 7nm FinFET manufacturing process for the Ryzen 7 3800X. The eight-core, 16-thread chip leverages the latest Zen 2 microarchitecture and packs 32MB of L3 cache. The octa-core chip ticks along with a 3.9 GHz base clock and a 4.5 GHz single-core boost clock.
Like AMD's other Zen 2 products, the Ryzen 7 3800X arrives with native support for DDR4-3200 memory modules. The processor provides users with up to 16 speedy PCIe 4.0 lanes to take advantage of the latest SSDs and graphics cards, but it lacks integrated graphics.
|Intel Core i7-9700K||AMD Ryzen 7 3800X|
|Architecture||Coffee Lake||Zen 2|
|Cores / Threads||8 / 8||8 / 16|
|Base Frequency (GHz)||3.6||3.9|
|Boost Frequency (GHz)||4.9||4.5|
|Integrated Graphics||Intel UHD Graphics 630||N/A|
|Recommended Customer Pricing||$374 - $385||$399|
The Core i7-9700K is still on Intel's 14nm process node and Coffee Lake microarchitecture. Unlike the Ryzen 7 3800X, the Core i7-9700K is limited to eight cores and eight threads. Intel bestows the octa-core processor with 12MB of L3 cache and base and single-core boost clock speeds up to 3.6 GHz and 4.8 GHz, respectively.
The Core i7-9700K has a dual-channel memory controller that officially maxes out at 128GB. However, the Ryzen 7 3800X is a step ahead of the Core i7-9700K in terms of memory speed support. The Ryzen 7 3800X plays fine with DDR4-3200 memory out of the box while Intel guarantees the Core i7-9700K up to DDR4-2933. The Core i7-9700K also comes equipped with Intel's integrated UHD Graphics 630 graphics solution.
Winner: AMD. The Ryzen 7 3800X has twice the thread count of the Core i7-9700K. The AMD chip also comes with 166% more L3 cache, which comes in handy for workloads that are sensitive to cache capacity. It1s other strong attributes include support for PCIe 4.0 and the DDR4-3200 standard. In Intel's case, the Core i7-9700K does come with integrated graphics, a must if you don't have a discrete graphics card, but that alone isn't enough to warrant a win over the Ryzen 7 3800X.
The Ryzen 7 3800X supports AMD's long-lived AM4 socket that resides on AMD 300-, 400-and 500-series motherboards. It's true that the only way to enjoy the benefits of the PCIe 4.0 interface is with the a newer 500-series motherboard, but there are still a plethora of options to choose from if you don't need the faster transfer speeds. In terms of pricing, the cheapest compatible motherboard for the Ryzen 7 3800X is available for $55, while the most affordable X570-based motherboard starts at $145.
The Core i7-9700K snaps into the LGA1151 socket as long as it is built around Intel's 300-series chipset. Although the LGA1151 has provided housing for two previous generations of chipsets, Coffee Lake processors aren't backward compatible with prior chipsets. In terms of pricing, budget Intel 300-series motherboards sell for as low as $55, while Z370 and Z390 models start at $115.
Coffee Lake is likely the last generation of processors that will grace the LGA1151 socket. Intel is expected to introduce the new LGA1200 socket for its upcoming Comet Lake chips. This means that those buying a LGA1151 motherboard today are basically investing in a moribund platform.
On the contrary, AMD, which has always provided better inter-generational support, has committed to the AM4 socket until 2020. Therefore, the next-generation Ryzen 4000-series parts are rumored to slide into the AM4 socket. Barring any significant changes, the new processors should be backward compatible with 500-series motherboards.
Winner: AMD. Both platforms offer a wide range of options for consumers. There are inexpensive models that cost almost nothing, and impeccably engineered models that command eye-watering prices. Nevertheless, if the rumors are true, the AM4 platform still has one last breath.
Both the Ryzen 7 3800X and Core i7-9700K come with unlocked multipliers that enable support for manual overclocking. Notwithstanding, Intel continues to have the upper hand in overclocking.
AMD has affirmed in the past that the chipmaker maximizes its Ryzen 3000-series processor for the best performance right out of the box. That's a clever way of saying that the Zen 2 chips don't have much manual overclocking headroom, but that's because the company exposes nearly the full performance of the processors at its stock settings.
While AMD advertises the Ryzen 7 3800X with a 4.5 GHz boost clock, the chip only hits that frequency on a single physical core, and like we see with most boost algorithms, under very specific conditions. Our experience with the Ryzen 7 3800X confirms AMD's statements. We could only get our Ryzen 7 3800X sample stable at 4.3 GHz on all cores with a 1.42V Vcore and an Auto Load-Line Calibration (LLC) setting.
Intel markets the Core i7-9700K with a 4.9 GHz boost clock, which is also the boost for a single core as well, although it can hit this frequency on any given core. The all-core boost for this model is 4.6 GHz. It's important to mention that, unlike previous processors, the Core i7-9700K uses a solder-based thermal interface material (STIM). In theory, this helps with heat transfer and increases headroom for overclocking. Our Core i7-9700K sample could sustain a 5.1 GHz overclock across all eight cores with a 1.345V Vcore and the LLC setting on automatic.
Winner: Intel. AMD's Zen 2 microarchitecture and TSMC's 7nm FinFET manufacturing process are still in diapers compared to Intel's incessantly-optimized 14nm node, so it's not surprising that that the first Zen 2 chips have little manual overclocking headroom. The Core i7-9700K is simply superior for manual overclocking.
Neither the Ryzen 7 3800X or Core i7-9700K are space heaters. You can get by with moden aftermarket cooling solutions of either the air or liquid variety.
The Ryzen 7 3800X has an official TDP (thermal design power) rating of 105W. If you already own an AM4 motherboard and are upgrading to the Ryzen 7 3800X, you can reuse the same CPU cooler as long as its cooling capacity meets the Ryzen 7 3800X's requirement. In any event, AMD includes the capable Wraith Prism cooler with the Ryzen 7 3800X.
The Core i7-9700K comes with a 95W TDP, apparently 10W less than the Ryzen 7 3800X, but these companies measure TDP based on entirely different criteria. The TDP value on Intel processors can be a bit misleading as the number represents the power consumption at the base clock speed. Once the chip's boost clock kicks in, the actual power consumption is a lot higher. In our review, the Core i7-9700K pulled up to 200W when pushed to the limit.
Winner: AMD. At peak loads, the Ryzen 7 3800X draws significantly less power in comparison to the Core i7-9700K. Consequently, its cooling requirements aren't as steep as the Core i7-9700K. Unlike Intel, AMD continues to bundles its stock coolers even with its high-end SKUs. Unless you're overclocking to the edge, the Wraith Prism will serve you well.
Intel doesn't include a stock cooler with the Core i7-9700K, which forces consumers to spend extra cash on an aftermarket cooling solution even if they don't plan on overclocking.
The Core i7-9700K and Ryzen 7 3800X aren't specifically aimed at gamers only. However, streamers and gaming content creators could find some very good value in the aforementioned octa-core chips due to their generous core counts.
The gaming results are in Intel's favor. Whether it be a big or negligible difference, the Core i7-9700K beats the Ryzen 7 3800X in all our gaming tests.
Winner: Intel. Hands down, the Core i7-9700K is the better gaming processor overall. If you use your processor primarily for gaming, the Core i7-9700K is a good choice.
The Ryzen 7 3800X might fall behind the Core i7-9700K in gaming, but it excels in other areas where having more cores is an advantage.
Thanks to its SMT (Simultaneous multithreading) capability, the Ryzen 7 3800X beats the Core i7-9700K in just about every multi-core workload, including general productivity, rendering, encoding and compression.
Winner: AMD. The Ryzen 7 3800X's multi-core performance is an absolute force to reckon with. The Core i7-9700K's lack of HyperThreading is exposed in workloads that reward more cores. However, the Core i7-9700K holds its own in single-core workloads.
|Price Per Core||Current Pricing (USD)||Cores / Threads||TDP (Watts)||Base / Boost Frequency (GHz)||L3 Cache (MB)||PCIe Lanes|
|Core i9-9900K||$65.62||$524.99||8 / 16||95||3.6 / 5.0||16||16 x PCIe 3.0|
|Core i7-9700K||$46.25||$369.99||8 / 8||95||3.6 / 4.9||12||16 x PCIe 3.0|
|Ryzen 7 3800X||$42.50||$339.99||8 / 16||105||3.9 / 4.5||32||16 x PCIe 4.0|
|Ryzen 7 3700X||$38.61||$308.89||8 / 16||65||3.6 / 4.4||32||16 x PCIe 4.0|
The Ryzen 7 3800X currently sells for $339.99, which works out to $42.50 per core. Meanwhile, the Core i7-9700K costs $369.99, or $46.25 for each core. On a pure price-to-price comparison, the Ryzen 7 3800X results in a better deal.
Since the Ryzen 7 3800X comes with a stock cooler, you only need to buy an AM4 motherboard if you don't own one. The big problem is that AMD doesn't have any motherboards outside of the X570 stack that support PCIe 4.0. The X570-based motherboards significantly increases the overall cost: You'll spend between $145 to $700 for a motherboard.
Rolling with the Core i7-9700K implies investing not only in a motherboard but also an aftermarket CPU cooler. Although you can get away with pairing the chip with a low-end 300-series motherboard, you probably want to shell out for a Z370 or Z390 motherboard for their added features. Z370 offerings retail for roughly $115 and $470, while Z390 retails between $115 and $965. A half-decent cooler to keep the Core i7-9700K's temperatures in check will set you back another $30, at the very least.
Winner: AMD. In general, it's slightly cheaper to put together a system around the Ryzen 7 3800X. Once AMD and its motherboard partners releases more affordable 500-series products, you'll get more bang for your buck.
The Bottom Line
If you're looking for a chip that can chew through a wide range of both threaded workloads and still handle gaming adeptly, Ryzen 7 3800X is the better pick of the two. AMD's octa-core offers cutting-edge features, like PCIe 4.0 support, and delivers exceptional performance in multi-core workloads. If you're looking for a processor for work, the Ryzen 7 3800X is hard to pass by. Ultimately, the Ryzen 7 3800X's biggest competitor comes from within AMD's own stable: The Ryzen 7 3700X is a very capable processor that brings the lion's share of the 3800X's performance, but at a lower price point. Keep that in mind at checkout.
The Core i7-9700K has two things going for it: The processor really shines in gaming and is a fun to overclock. We don't expect anyone to pick up a Core i7-9700K just to play games, so gaming performance ultimately takes the backseat. At stock settings, the Core i7-9700K is not even close to catching the Ryzen 7 3800X in multi-core workloads. The chip, when overclocked to 5.1 GHz, closes the performance gap in some situations. However, neither we or Intel can guarantee that every sample can hit that frequency.
Meanwhile, if you're looking for more general recommendations, check out our guide on how to buy a CPU.
Overall Winner: AMD
|Round||Intel Core i7-9700K||AMD Ryzen 7 3800X|
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Test System and Configuration
|AMD Socket AM4 (X570)||AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, Ryzen 7 3800X, Ryzen 7 3700X, Ryzen 5 3600X, Ryzen 7 2700X|
|MSI MEG X570 Godlike|
|2x 8GB G.Skill Flare DDR4-3200Ryzen 3000 - DDR4-3200, DDR4-3600|
|Second-gen Ryzen - DDR4-2933, DDR4-3466|
|Intel LGA 1151 (Z390)||Intel Core i9-9900K, i7-9700K, Core i5-9600K|
|MSI MEG Z390 Godlike|
|2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2667 & DDR4-3466|
|AMD Socket AM4 (X470)||AMD Ryzen 5 1600X|
|MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC|
|2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2933|
|All Systems||Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti |
|2TB Intel DC4510 SSD|
|EVGA Supernova 1600 T2, 1600W|
|Windows 10 Pro (1903 - All Updates)|
|Cooling||Corsair H115i - Stock and OC cooler except where noted in charts|
|Custom Loop, EKWB Supremacy EVO waterblock, Dual-720mm radiators (HEDT only - n/a here)|
|AMD Wraith Spire, as noted|