Both AMD and Intel have compelling consumer CPU platforms. In a previous article, we compared AMD’s second-generation Ryzen against Intel’s new 9th generation Core processors to see which platform deserves to capture your hard-earned money. Looking at the company lineups as a whole, we concluded that the Intel Core i9-9900K is the fastest consumer-class CPU available for almost anything.
However, many people—even enthusiast gamers—can’t justify spending $499 (£432.59) on their processor. Presumably, most people shopping for a higher-end consumer CPU would be more inclined to consider a less-expensive option than a Core i9-9900K, like Intel’s Core i7-9700K or AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X.
AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X is an eight-core 16-thread 3.7GHz processor, with a top stock Precision Boost speed of 4.3GHz and a 105W TDP. It is AMD’s top-of-the-line Ryzen processor -- at least until the Ryzen 3000 CPUs arrive with a new Zen 2 architecture, reportedly later in 2019.
AMD’s second-generations Zen architecture features support for DDR4-2933 memory, whereas first-generation Ryzen platform officially supports DDR4-2667. The new architecture also includes improvements to AMD’s SensMI suite, which dynamically adjusts the performance of the CPU to ensure maximum performance efficiency.
SenseMI consists of five components: Pure Power monitors temperatures, voltages and currents, and adjusts the power delivery in real time to limit power usage; Precision Boost dynamically adjusts the CPU’s frequency in 25MHz increments to match the performance needs of the current task; XFR (eXtended Frequency Range) works with Precision Boost to unlock a higher clock ceiling if ample cooling is detected.
The Ryzen 7 2700X features AMD’s second-generation Precision Boost 2, which can address core clocks individually, and it includes XFR2 technology, which now unlocks up to 7 percent more headroom.
|Intel Core i7-9700K||AMD Ryzen 7 2700X|
|Cores / Threads||8/8||8/16|
|Base Frequency (GHz)||3.6||3.7|
|Boost Frequency(Active Cores - GHz)||1 Core - 4.92 Cores - 4.84 Cores - 4.78 Cores - 4.6||4.3GHz|
|Memory Speed||DDR4-2666||DDR4-2933 (single rank)DDR4-2677 (dual rank)|
|Integrated UHD Graphics GT2(Base/Boost MHz)||350 / 1200||no iGPU|
|Recommended Customer Pricing||$374 - $385||$329|
After trailing AMD's eight-core 16-thread Ryzen CPUs in core count for a couple of generations, Intel gave its Core i7 and Core i9 9th generation CPUs the same eight physical cores. Unfortunately, the new Core i7-9700K doesn't support Hyper-threading (that technology went to the new i9-9900K only), which means that it has half as many threads as its AMD competitor.
The Core i7-9700K features a base frequency of 3.6 GHz, which can reach a boost clock of 4.9GHz in single threaded applications, 4.8GHz across two cores, or 4.7GHz across four cores, and 4.6GHz on all eight cores. Intel’s 9th Generation Core architecture supports DDR4-2666 memory speeds, which is somewhat lower than the new Ryzen platform. Although, you should have no trouble running much faster memory. We ran DDR4-3466 for our i7-9700K review.
|Base||1 Core||2 Cores||3 Cores||4 Cores||5 Cores||6 Cores||7 Cores||8 Cores|
|Core i7-9700K (GHz)||3.6||4.9||4.8||4.7||4.7||4.6||4.6||4.6||4.6|
|Ryzen 7 2700X (GHz)||3.7||4.3||4.3||4.3||4.3||4.3||4.3||4.3||4.3|
Intel’s 9th generation Core processors now also feature solder-based thermal interface material (STIM), which in theory should improve heat dissipation. The improved thermal interface doesn’t enable much extra headroom for overclocking, but it allowed Intel to add two extra cores without deploying a smaller manufacturing process. These new chips are built on the same 14nm++ manufacturing process as the 8th generation CPUs.
Winner: AMD. In a matchup between the Core i7-9700K and the Ryzen 7 2700X, we have to give AMD the slight edge because both platforms offer dynamic core clock adjustments, but Ryzen features eight cores and 16 threads, whereas Intel’s i7 doesn’t offer thread doubling like AMD.
Intel’s 9th generation Core processors share the Intel 300-Series chipsets with the 8th generation processors, which means you have several possible motherboard options to pair with a Core i7-9700K.
Intel’s H310 is the company’s budget-class 300-series chipset. It technically supports the top-tier Core i9-9900K, but it forgoes features such as Optane memory support, PCIe 3.0, and more than two DIMMs for memory to keep the costs down. The Intel B360 (and iterative B365), H370 and Q370 chipsets offer varying features for different situations, but you shouldn’t even consider those options with the Core i7-9700K, because none of them let you overclock.
Intel doesn’t allow you to overclock your processor unless you have a motherboard equipped with one of Intel’s top-tier Z-series chipsets. The Z370 (with the latest BIOS installed) supports the new Core i7-9700K, but the new Z390 chipset offers additional features such as native USB 3.1 Gen2 ports and integrated Wireless-AC 2x2 160 MHz WiFi hardware.
AMD also offers a wide selection of chipset options for different use cases. The A300 and A330 chipsets are meant for budget-minded consumers who require just the bare minimum. The B350 and B450 chipsets are performance-oriented options that don’t support multi-GPU configurations. And the X370 and X470 are the high-performance options with all the bells and whistles, including support for dual-graphics card configurations.
AMD doesn’t limit overclocking to the top-of-the-line hardware, though. Every Ryzen processor comes unlocked from the factory, and you can overclock them with any motherboard with any chipset, save the lowest-end A320. However, we wouldn’t expect to see the same kind of performance gains as you would with an enthusiast-grade X470 motherboard.
Winner: AMD offers the better platform for motherboard choice. Intel’s options are restrictive and somewhat elitist, which arbitrarily raises the entry costs for Intel-based setups.
Intel and AMD both support overclocking, but each company has a different philosophy about the practice. All AMD Ryzen processors come unlocked from the factory, which means you can take the cheapest Ryzen CPU and push it to new limits. Intel, on the other hand, restricts overclocking to the expensive K-variants of its CPU lineup.
AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X features a base frequency of 3.7 GHz, and we managed to get another 500MHz out of our sample before hitting the voltage limitations. Intel’s Core i7-9700K starts at a lower base frequency of 3.6GHz, but it’s not uncommon to hit 5GHz or more on all eight cores.
More importantly, overclocking an Intel CPU nets a substantial performance increase in most tasks, whereas overclocking a Ryzen CPU doesn't offer much in the way of noticeable performance gains because AMD's Precision Boost 2 technology already dynamically pushes the CPU to its performance limits, provided you have a capable motherboard and cooler.
Winner: Intel. With higher maximum clock speeds and more performance gains, an Intel Core i7-9700K offers better overlocking potential.
AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X includes the company’s top-of-the-line “AMD Wraith Prism cooler, which features four copper heat pipes and a downward firing fan. The Wraith Prism also offers two modes; “L” mode is rated for 116w and operates at 2,800 rpm, and “H” mode can dissipate 124w of heat and operates at 3,600 rpm. And for the RGB fans out there, the Wraith Prism also features three RGB zones which you can control independently.
The Wraith Prism isn’t the most powerful cooler available, but it certainly gets the job done. In our tests, the cooler kept all eight cores of the Ryzen 7 2700X below 83 degrees Celsius even under our most extreme load tests. Most workloads don’t push your CPU to its limits like our stress tests, so you would likely see somewhat lower average temperatures. You could even manage a moderate overclock on the stock cooler.
However, the Wraith Prism’s performance comes at the expense of sound. AMD said the cooler should produce approximately 39dB of noise, which is true at idle. But under full load, we recorded 44dB coming from the bundled heat sink solution.
The extra noise that the Wraith Prism produces isn’t enough to knock it off the podium in this matchup, though. Intel doesn’t even offer a stock cooler for the Core i7-9700K, which means you must factor in the cost of a cooler when budgeting.
Winner: AMD, without question. Although, you should consider an aftermarket cooler if you wish to overclock your CPU to its fullest.
If raw gaming performance is what you’re after, the choice is abundantly clear: Intel’s Core i7-9700K tramples the AMD Ryzen 7 2700X in almost every game we tested. And in several cases, the i7 with stock clock speeds outpaced our overclocked Ryzen 7.
We previously named the Core i9-9900K the fastest gaming CPU we’ve ever tested. But the Core i7-9700K provided essentially the same performance in our latest round of gaming performance tests. The new i7 squeezed out an extra frame or two per seconds in Hitman, Grand Theft Auto V and Civilization V.Project Cars 2 and Ashes of the Singularity are the only games in our test suite that favor the i9’s extra logical threads.
AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X is no slouch when it comes to gaming performance, but the Ryzen CPU doesn’t compete on the same level as Intel’s latest offerings. In fact, Intel’s Core i5-9600K often outperforms the Ryzen 7 2700X in our game lineup.
That said, the Ryzen 7 2700X still falls within the upper range of the best gaming CPUs that we’ve tested over the years. And keep in mind that once you start raising your gaming resolutions above 1080p resolution, these performance difference tend to shrink as the GPU becomes the bottleneck. When gaming at 4K resolution with the same high-end graphics card, frame rates between the Intel and AMD CPUs here tends to be about the same.
Winner: Intel. Intel’s Core i7-9700K is the best overall gaming CPU. The i9-9900K may outperform it in some cases, but the extra costs overshadow the small performance delta. AMD’s CPUs aren't as competitive at the highest level of gaming performance.
The battle between Intel’s Core i7-9700K and AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X gets much more interesting when you factor productivity into the equation. AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X is better at certain tasks, such as rendering with Cinebench and Blender and compressing files with 7-Zip. However, some tasks, such as encoding with Lame or Handbrake, run faster on Intel’s Core i7-9700K.
Intel’s latest CPUs also favor Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite by a considerable margin.
Winner: Tie. Both Intel’s Core i7-9700K and AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X offer ample performance for day-to-day productivity work. AMD's higher number of threads give it in the advantage in some applications, while Intel's higher clock speeds help in others.
While its true that Intel’s Core i7-9700K offers more raw performance than AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X, AMD’s chip offers the better value overall because of its dramatically lower price. When you factor in the cost of a motherboard and cooler, a PC based on Intel’s Core i7-9700K can easily cost $130 more than a system equipped with an AMD Ryzen 7 2700X ($329/£299.99). For most consumers, the extra performance you get with the i7-9700K isn't worth the money.
Intel’s Core i7-9700K currently carries an MSRP of $385 (if you can find one), but these chips are in short supply and are currently selling for closer to $420 (£499 in the UK) and you need a Z370 or Z390 motherboard to go with it to unlock the CPU’s true potential.
AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X is much cheaper, and these CPUs have been available for a while, so you shouldn’t have trouble getting one at a reasonable price. At press time, we found the 2700X selling for as low as $295 in the U.S. and £295.99 in the UK. What’s more, AMD’s decision to enable overclocking on most chipsets means that you can pick up a compatible motherboard for well under $100, or £80. We even found a couple of B350 boards for under $60 in the U.S. and under £50 in the UK. You can expect to pay $100 and up for a Z370 motherboard in the U.S. and usually more than £90 in the UK.
Winner: AMD. The Ryzen 7 2700X offers much better performance for the money, especially when you factor in the cost of a cooler and motherboard.
The Bottom Line
Intel’s Core i7-9700K excels in two areas that AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X can’t touch: raw gaming performance in games and overclocking potential. If you’re after the absolute highest frame rates in your games, then the choice is clear: The i7-9700K is stronger in most games than a Ryzen 7 2700X. And if eking out the most performance by overclocking is important, you should stick with Intel's platform.
However, Intel’s hardware comes with a hefty price premium. Not only is the CPU quite a bit more expensive than AMD’s option, the Z370 and Z390 motherboards that you need for overclocking are also costlier than AMD’s alternatives. And to top it off, you also need an aftermarket cooler for the i7 processor, which widens the price gap even further. And, as of this writing, Intel’s new processors are in short supply, so if you manage to find one, you’ll probably pay significantly more than the MSRP for it.
AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X is a much more reasonable option for most people. With its eight cores and 16 threads, it should have no trouble crunching through any task you throw at it, including video rendering, audio encoding, image editing, file compression and modern gaming. Intel’s chip is faster in some tasks, but we’d rather run AMD’s platform and spend the extra $100 (£80) or more on other components than brag about a few extra FPS in our favorite games.
Overall Winner: AMD
|Round||Intel Core i7-9700K||AMD Ryzen 7 2700X|
While AMD's current flagship Ryzen chip definitively wins this battle, those who don't need to build or buy a new system now might want to wait and see what both Intel and AMD have up their respective silicon sleeves later in 2019. To get caught up on the next round of the seemingly unending CPU battle, check out the following features: