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Intel Core i7-10700K Review: Taking the Gaming Shine Off Core i9

Core i9 gaming at Core i7 pricing

(Image: © Intel)

The $387 (MSRP, current street price higher) Core i7-10700K offers more performance than the previous-gen Core i9-9900K, and it comes at a significant gen-on-gen price reduction of $114 that's useful for other additives, like a better GPU, motherboard, or SSD. The Core i7-10700K also provides shockingly-good performance in gaming, particularly after overclocking, which takes some of the shine off the $488 (MSRP) Core i9-10900K. 

On the surface, the 10700K looks like the go-to chip for enthusiasts chasing the best gaming performance possible within a limited budget, but AMD's reduced pricing, not to mention Intel's own competition from the Core i5-10600K, muddies the waters. 

In the chart below, we plot gaming performance using average frame rates and a geometric mean of the 99th percentile frame times (a good indicator of smoothness), which we then convert into a frames-per-second measurement. Bear in mind that we tested with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti at 1920x1080 to alleviate graphics-imposed bottlenecks. Differences between our test subjects shrink at higher resolutions.

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At stock settings, the Core i7-10700K is roughly 5% faster than the Core i5-10600K in our test suite, and that delta shrinks to 3% after overclocking. That slim lead comes at a $124 (32%) premium, though, which isn't worth it for all but the performance-obsessed. 

Conversely, the 10700K only trails the 10900K by 4% at stock settings and less than 1% after overclocking, taking the shine off the 10900K's leading gaming performance. If you're focused on gaming, those slim deltas don't justify the 10900K's $101 premium, but the 10900K's extra two cores do come in handy for productivity applications. 

The Ryzen 7 3700X offers the best mix of price and gaming performance in this bracket, but it trails the 10700K by 6% at stock settings and 14% after overclocking. That means you won't have as much room to grow on the gaming front as newer, faster GPUs come to market. You'll have to buy your own cooler for the 10700K, but the Ryzen 7 3700X comes with a bundled cooler and costs $87 less, so it's a worthy lower-cost alternative if you're not after bleeding-edge gaming performance. 

The 3900X offers essentially the same level of gaming performance as the Ryzen 7 3700X, so, if you choose to go with an AMD processor, the latter is the better bang-for-your-buck choice for gaming-focused builds.

The Ryzen 9 3900X offers 35% more performance than the stock 10700K in threaded productivity applications and slots in at a solid $415 price point. The 3900X was still 27% faster even after we tapped into the 10700K's overclocking potential, making it a no-brainer for productivity work. The Ryzen 9 3900X also comes with a bundled cooler that's fine for stock operation, which improves the value proposition over the Core i7-10700K for threaded productivity work. 

The Core i7-10700K is a stellar overclocker that yields big performance gains with reasonable conventional cooling solutions, like high-end air coolers or mid-range AIOs. In contrast, the Core i9-10900K essentially comes overclocked out of the box, so performance gains are slim. It also sucks a prodigious amount of power, thus requiring expensive cooling solutions. 

Overall, the Intel Core i5-10600K is the best value for gaming-focused builds, while the Ryzen 9 3900X is obviously the best choice for threaded productivity work. Conversely, the 10700K is a far better value for gamers than the 10900K, particularly if they're not afraid to overclock and therefore gain access to essentially the same level of gaming performance. 

AMD has left a pricing gap in its Ryzen 3000 series that it will fill soon with the Ryzen 7 3800XT, but despite that pricing advantage, the Core i7-10700K appeals to a limited cross-section of users. If you're primarily interested in gaming and overclocking is on the menu, the Core i7-10700K offers the best performance in its price range and leaves more room in the budget than the Core i9-10900K. For productivity work, the Ryzen 9 3900X is a far better deal, though, and it's no slouch on gaming, either, making it the better all-around CPU. 

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