You would expect processors that come with disabled features to cost less than more-capable models, but according to Intel's latest price list, that standard reasoning doesn't apply to its new iGPU-disabled F-series processors.
Intel, despite its continued struggles transitioning to the 10nm node, wowed the CES crowd with some of its new forthcoming tech in areas like notebooks and servers, but the company's announcements were muted in terms of new actual shipping silicon, especially for desktop PCs. The company announced that it would have new 9th-generation processors for the desktop but didn't list the new models or specs.
We learned that, aside from the Core i5-9400 that is just a re-packaging of the Coffee Lake processors into a 65W part, Intel's only other new shipping products come in the form of de-featured processors: The new F-series processors lack the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 iGPU, as denoted by an "F" suffix on the product name. These chips come packing the same 14nm process and Coffee Lake microarchitecture as their other 9th-Generation counterparts. They also feature the same core counts, TDPs, and frequencies.
We previously weren't aware of the pricing on these new models, but Intel's new official price list reveals that the company has set their RCP (Recommended Customer Pricing) the same as their iGPU-equipped counterparts.
|Cores / Threads||Base / Boost Freq. (GHz)||Integrated Graphics||Memory Support||Cache||TDP||RCP|
|Core i9-9900K||8 / 16||3.6 / 5.0||UHD 630||DDR4-2666||16MB||95W||$488|
|Core i9-9900KF||8 / 16||3.6 / 5.0||No||DDR4-2666||16MB||95W||$488|
|Core i7-9700K||8 / 8||3.6 / 4.9||UHD 630||DDR4-2666||12MB||95W||$374|
|Core i7-9700KF||8 / 8||3.6 / 4.9||No||DDR4-2666||12MB||95W||$374|
|Core i5-9600K||6 / 6||3.7 / 4.6||UHD 630||DDR4-2666||9MB||95W||$262|
|Core i5-9600KF||6 / 6||3.7 / 4.6||No||DDR4-2666||9MB||95W||$262|
|Core i5-9400||6 / 6||2.9 / 4.1||UHD 630||DDR4-2666||9MB||65W||$182|
|Core i5-9400F||6 / 6||2.9 / 4.1||No||DDR4-2666||9MB||65W||$182|
|Core i3-9350KF||4 / 4||4.0 / 4.6||No||DDR4-2400||8MB||91W||$173|
|Core i3-8100F||4 / 4||3.6 / -||No||DDR4-2400||6MB||65W||$117|
|Core i3-8100||4 /4||3.6 / -||No||DDR4-2400||6MB||65W||$117|
Intel released the new processors as a relief valve during the ongoing shortage of its 14nm processors. The incredibly complex chip manufacturing process isn't perfect, so many processors come off the production line with defects. Intel can simply disable cores on a chip, instead selling it as a lower-end model, if a defect lands in a core. It stands to reason, then, that selling chips with disabled integrated graphics would allow Intel to sell chips with defects in the graphics units.
We've confirmed that Intel's new processors have the same die as the "normal" versions, so the disabled graphics units are still physically present. We also learned the disabled graphics unit doesn't impart any performance advantages, such as longer boost duration or higher overclocking capability. Simply put, you can expect the same amount of compute performance from these chips as their normal iGPU-equipped equivalents, meaning the only advantage would be that you might actually be able to buy the processors if the normal chips are out of stock.
There are tradeoffs, though. It stands to reason that customers with discrete graphics cards won't need the integrated graphics during normal use, but they do come in handy in the case of a GPU failure or if you retire an older chip to a system that doesn't have a discrete graphics card. There's obviously a very large market for CPUs without integrated graphics, as evidenced by the success of AMD's mainstream Ryzen lineup, but we typically expect a pricing offset that reflects the lack of graphics capability.
We're told that OEMs are particularly interested in these models. According to recent leaked images, the retail boxes for F-series processors include a prominent "Discrete Graphics Required" listing on the front, so Intel is communicating the lack of integrated graphics clearly to the customer.
Intel's production shortfall, which comes largely as a byproduct of record demand, has caused periodic shortages and ongoing price hikes. But it remains to be seen if the new F-series processors will land at a lower price at retail outlets. Retailers weigh a complex set of factors, with availability being a key consideration, when setting the final retail price. That means the F-Series processors could theoretically retail at lower prices if their equivalents are harder to source, but by setting the recommended pricing at the same level as the full-featured models, Intel has (perhaps inadvertently) given retailers license to mark the lesser models up to the same pricing we see with the processors impacted by the shortage.
We've found that pricing and availability for many of Intel's flagship 9th-generation processors have stabilized recently, although they largely still aren't available at the recommended price points. Provided the F-series processors land on shelves in enough volume to help offset the shortage, they could help alleviate pricing pressure on Intel's standard models. That's obviously Intel's intention here, but in either case, if all things are equivalent availability-wise, Intel has set the pricing for the defeatured processors at the same level as their better-equipped counterparts.
That means the F-series processors likely won't save you any money, but they could be the only option at checkout.