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Intel Announces 5.0 GHz Core i9-9900KS, Unveils 10nm Ice Lake Benchmarks

In a bit of pre-keynote excitement, Intel dropped the barest of details about its new Special Edition Core i9-9900KS processor during its Computex Kickoff Event. Intel's new Core i9-9900KS is an eight-core 16-thread model that boosts to 5.0 GHz on all cores - a leap of 300 MHz over the standard Core i9-9900K. It also features a 400MHz higher base frequency of 4.0 GHz. 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Intel also unveiled performance results for its 10nm Ice Lake processors that are coming to market this year, claiming impressive performance gains with its Gen11 integrated graphics performance that wrests the crown from AMD. Intel provided plenty of benchmarks for both graphics and AI workloads to back its claims.

Intel Core i9-9900KS

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Like the Core i9-9900K before it, the -9900KS comes with Intel's a translucent plastic dodecahedron packaging, which means it won't come with a bundled cooler.

Cores / ThreadsBase Frequency (GHz)Boost Frequency (GHz)TDPRecommended Customer Pricing
Core i9-9900KS8 / 164.0 1-2 Cores - 5.04 Cores - 5.0 8 Cores - 5.0??
Core i9-9900K8 / 163.61-2 Cores - 5.04 Cores - 4.8 8 Cores - 4.795W$488 - $499

Intel bakes the Special Edition Core i9-9900KS with the same 14nm++ process and Coffee Lake architecture as the standard Core i9-9900K, meaning they are essentially the same processor. However, the KS model comes armed with a higher 4.0 GHz base frequency and an all-core 5.0 GHz boost frequency, meaning it represents the highest-binned silicon of Intel's flagship mainstream desktop chip.

Active CoresBase1 Core2 Cores3 Cores4 Cores5 Cores6 Cores7 Cores8 Cores
Core i9-9900KS (GHz)
Core i9-9900K (GHz)

Intel also didn't reveal the TDP rating for the chip, but as the company measures the rating at the base frequency, the jump to 4.0 GHz will result in an increased TDP rating (perhaps in the 105W range). As we can see in the chart above, the -9900KS offers a decent increase in performance across the range of active cores, but these clock frequencies are with standard instruction sets. That means the performance during AVX workloads will shift into a lower frequency range.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Intel did demo the processor running at a full 5.0 GHz using its own internal power thermal utility (PTU) tool that we've also used for stress testing in past reviews. This utility generates intense workloads, but the test didn't include AVX instructions. Given the higher clock speeds across the range of active cores, we expect AVX clocks to increase in a similar fashion, but we'll need to wait until the processor launch before Intel shares those details.

Intel demoed the chip with a standard desktop motherboard, albeit a high-end Gigabyte Aorus Pro. Intel cooled the chip with a 240mm ROG Ryujin 240 cooler (no chiller this time around) and powered the system with an 850W Corsair HX850i power supply, highlighting that the all-core 5.0 GHz boost is accessible to mere mortals with fairly standard high-end components.

In contrast to the company's F-series models, the -9900KS comes with a functioning integrated graphics unit. Also, unlike the auction-only -9900XE, you can buy this processor at retail. As a special edition chip (as opposed to a limited edition), Intel plans to have wide availability but hasn't announced pricing or the date it will hit shelves.

The Core i9-9900KS does look like a compelling chip for enthusiasts that want the best performance possible without the extra effort (or pricier components) of overclocking. We're sure that Intel will price this halo part accordingly, though. Intel touts the Core i9-9900KS as the next step up the gaming performance ladder, and we'll put those claims to the test when the chip lands in our labs.

10nm Ice Lake and Gen11 Graphics

Intel also pulled back the veil on several benchmarks of its oft-delayed 10nm Ice Lake chips that will come armed with Gen11 graphics and Sunny Cove cores. Intel claims that its new revamped integrated graphics engine outperforms AMD's APUs by impressive margins, but we have to caution that, as with all vendor-provided benchmarks, we have to take the results with a grain of salt. You can read more about the Gen11 graphics architecture here, but from a high level, it bumps the number of execution units (EUs) from 24 up to 64 within the same power envelope. It also comes with a number of finer-grained improvements to the architecture that Intel says delivers one teraflop of 32-bit and two teraflops of 16-bit floating point performance in a low power envelope.

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel conducted a number of live demos during its Computex Kickoff event, which included a few of the titles in the test results above and below. Intel compared the 15W Core i7-8650U with 16GB of DDR4-2400 memory to an unspecified 15W Ice Lake-U (4+2) processor paired with 8GB of LPDDR4X-3733 memory in a head-to-head contest. As we can see above, the Ice Lake processor notched impressive wins across the full range of 1920x1080 game benchmarks, highlighting a massive gen-on-gen improvement.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Intel also provided a series of gaming benchmarks pitting the Vega-powered 25W Ryzen 7 3700U against a pre-production 25W Ice Lake processor. Intel declined to specify if this processor will come to market, but Intel's benchmarks, when normalized for power consumption, show the Ice Lake processor beating the Ryzen 7 3700U in most benchmarks, albeit by margins that range from near-ties (and one loss) to a 15% advantage.

In either case, if backed by independent third-party benchmarks, an Intel processor beating AMD's APU would reverse years of AMD's dominance in integrated graphics. That isn't entirely unbelievable given the extent of Intel's reworking of the architecture, but we're sure AMD isn't standing still, either.

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Intel also showed a demo of its VRS (Variable Rate Shading) technology, which is a foveated rendering technique that boosts performance significantly, and reminded us that AMD's integrated graphics don't support VRS. Intel showed results from an upcoming VRS benchmark from UL Benchmarks, the makers of 3DMark and other tools, that highlight a 40% gain for Gen11 graphics performance with the feature enabled.

Interestingly, Intel also compared the performance of the 25W Ice Lake demo once again, this time with the processor falling behind the Ryzen 7 3700U with VRS disabled, yet taking the lead over the AMD chip with VRS active. Intel confirmed that it didn't conduct the other gaming benchmarks with VRS active, and the obvious implication is that VRS could open up a further performance advantage for Intel.

AI to the Desktop

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel also demonstrated a number of benchmarks with AI-equipped optimizations that provided big performance boosts. Intel's Gen11 graphics support VNNI to boost AI performance, whereas AMD's integrated graphics have no explicit support for AI-boosting enhancements, such as the company's own RoCM suite. Intel is investing heavily in enabling developers to take advantage of its next-gen graphics engine for AI workloads and says we can expect a wide uptake of AI-acceleration for desktop PCs over the coming years.

We expect to learn more details during Intel's keynote later this week.

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.