Intel Core i7-9700K 9th Gen CPU Review: Eight Cores And No Hyper-Threading

Intel's powerful Core i9 family recently displaced Core i7 as the company's mainstream desktop flagship. Mainstream is relative, though. The Core i9-9900K sells for more than $500, requires a high-end cooler, a beefy motherboard, and really needs to be paired with lots of fast memory. It's prohibitively expensive for all but the most affluent enthusiasts.

Core i7-9700K, on the other hand, lands right where we expect to find any other high-end, unlocked, Core i7 CPU. It even boasts a number of improvements compared to the previous generation. Like Intel's Core i9-9900K, the i7-9700K includes eight physical cores. However, it doesn't benefit from Hyper-Threading. That doesn't bother us much. After all, some software performs notably better on physical cores rather than logical ones, and the two-core increase compared to Core i7-8700K largely offsets the loss of Intel's simultaneous multi-threading technology.

Given the Core i7-9700K's lofty peak frequencies, improved multi-core Turbo Boost ratios, eight-core configuration, and solder-based thermal interface material that improves heat transfer and overclocking, Intel's latest Core i7 is an all-around winner.

Pricing is a bit of a problem, though. The Core i7-9700K sells for $385 if you can find one available at Intel's suggested retail price. Meanwhile, AMD's competing Ryzen 7 2700X retails for $329. The Ryzen also comes bundled with a capable cooler, whereas Intel makes you pay for a high-end thermal solution. The Core i7-9700K is faster than Ryzen in games, no doubt. But budget-limited builders might go the Ryzen route in order to afford a faster graphics card. And AMD's CPU still holds the advantage in some threaded application workloads.

For the enthusiasts among us who have some breathing room in their budgets, Core i7-9700K is a much smarter choice for gaming than the pricey Core i9-9900K, serving up similar performance at a significantly lower price.

Intel Core i7-9700K

The $385 Core i7-9700K lands between the $500+ Core i9-9900K and the $263 Core i5-9600K in Intel's line-up. Like all new K-series processors, the -9700K is manufactured on Intel's 14nm++ process. It includes an integrated UHD 630 graphics engine, sports unlocked ratio multipliers for easy overclocking, and supports dual-channel DDR4-2666 memory. Intel also responded to increasing RAM density by doubling memory capacity support up to 128GB. The -9700K also includes in-silicon mitigations for the Meltdown and L1TF (Foreshadow) vulnerabilities.


Core i9-9900K
Core i7-9700K
Core i5-9600K
Architecture
Coffee Lake
Coffee Lake
Coffee Lake
Socket
1151
1151
1151
Cores / Threads
8 / 16
8 / 8
6 / 6
Base Frequency (GHz)
3.6
3.6
3.7
Boost Frequency ( Active Cores - GHz)
1-2 Cores - 5.0
4 Cores - 4.8
8 Cores - 4.7
1 Core - 4.9
2 Core 4.8
4 Core 4.7
8 Core 4.6
1 Core - 4.6
2 Core - 4.5
4 Core 4.4
6 Core 4.3
L3 Cache
16MB
12MB
9MB
Process
14nm++
14nm++
14nm++
TDP
95W
95W
95W
Memory Speed
DDR4-2666
DDR4-2666
DDR4-2666
Memory Controller
Dual-Channel
Dual-Channel
Dual-Channel
PCIe Lanes
x16
x16
x16
Integrated UHD Graphics GT2 (Base/Boost MHz)
350 / 1200
350 / 1200
350 / 1150
Recommended Customer Pricing
$488 - $499
$374 - $385
$262 - $263

Previously, Intel's Core i7 series included Hyper-Threading technology, allowing four- and six-core models to execute eight or 12 threads simultaneously. Intel axes Hyper-Threading from the 95W Core i7-9700K, though. The company instead gives you an extra two cores. Assuming a 15-20% uptick from HTT under ideal conditions, we'd hypothesize that an 8C/8T -9700K should be faster than the 6C/12T -8700K in most workloads. Then again, we already have the benchmark results to back our supposition.

The Core i7-9700K includes 12MB of L3 cache, just like Intel's Core i7-8700K. But given a higher core count, that actually adds up to less cache per core than Intel's previous designs. Unfortunately, the company deliberately disabled on-die SRAM to keep Core i7-9700K from coming too close to Core i9-9900K's performance.


Base
1 Core
2 Cores
3 Cores
4 Cores
5 Cores
6 Cores
7 Cores
8 Cores
Core i9-9900K (GHz)
3.6
5.0
5.0
4.8
4.8
4.7
4.7
4.7
4.7
Core i7-9700K (GHz)
3.6
4.9
4.8
4.7
4.7
4.6
4.6
4.6
4.6
Core i7-8700K (GHz)
3.7
4.7
4.6
4.4
4.4
4.3
4.3
-
-
Core i7-8086K (GHz)
4.0
5.0
4.6
4.5
4.4
4.4
4.3
-
-
Core i5-9600K (GHz)
3.7
4.6
4.5
4.4
4.4
4.3
4.3
-
-
Core i5-8600K (GHz)
3.6
4.3
4.2
4.2
4.2
4.1
4.1
-
-

Core i7-9700K's solder-based thermal interface material (STIM) improves heat transfer between Intel's die and heat spreader, facilitating headroom for two more cores without violating a 95W envelope at base clock rates. Intel does cap its Core i7-9700K at a base frequency of 3.6 GHz, which is 100 MHz less than Core i7-8700K's base clock rate. But when you consider that the company enables higher Turbo Boost frequencies across the board, all while adding those extra cores, it's hard not to be impressed.

Just bear in mind that a 95W ceiling doesn't apply to Turbo Boost clock rates. Even in its stock configuration, Core i7-9700K begs for at least a 130W cooler. The eight-core die hides beneath the same heat spreader used on previous-gen six-core models. So, even with the STIM, thermal density presents challenges. If you plan on overclocking, open- or closed-loop liquid cooling is preferred. A beefy heat sink/fan combination won't give you much headroom (though it should be fine for stock operation, unlike Intel's Core i9-9900K).

ModelCores / ThreadsBase FrequencyBoost FrequencyMemory Support
PCIe Lanes
CacheTDPPrice
Core i9-9900K8 / 163.6 GHz5 GHz (1 / 2 Core)
4.8 GHz (4 Core)
4.7 GHz (6 / 8 Core)
DDR4-2666
16
16MB95W$488
Ryzen 7 2700X
8 / 16
3.7 GHz
4.3 GHz
DDR4-2966
16 + 4 (NVMe)
16MB
105W
$329
Core i7-9700K8 / 83.6 GHz4.9 GHz (1 Core)
4.8 GHz (2 Core)
4.7 GHz (4 Core)
4.6 GHz (6 / 8 Core)
DDR4-266616
12MB95W$374
Core i7-8086K
6 / 12
4.0 GHz
5.0 GHz
DDR4-2666
16
12MB
95W
$425
Core i7-8700K
6 / 12
3.7 GHz
4.7 GHz
DDR4-2666
16
12MB
95W
$330
Ryzen 7 2700
8 / 16
3.2 GHz
4.1 GHz
DDR4-2966
16 + 4 (NVMe)16MB
95W
$229
Core i5-9600K6 / 63.7 GHz4.6 GHz (1 Core)
4.5 GHz (2 Core)
4.4 GHz (4 Core)
4.3 GHz (6 Core)
DDR4-266616
9MB95W$262
Core i5-8600K
6 / 6
3.6 GHz
4.3 GHz
DDR4-2966
16
9MB
95W
$279
Ryzen 5 2600X
6 / 12
3.6 GHz
4.2 GHz
DDR4-2966
16 + 4 (NVMe)16MB
65W
$229
Ryzen 5 2600
6 / 12
3.4 GHz
3.9 GHz
DDR4-2966
16 + 4 (NVMe)16MB
65W
$199

Core i7-9700K drops into existing 300-series motherboards after a BIOS update, though Intel's partners also have a slew of Z390-based motherboards available. And whereas Core i9-9900K does require a top-of-the-line PSU for optimal performance, Core i7-9700K is a bit more forgiving.

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  • rantoc
    Considering the amonth of security flaws that have been found lately the lack of HT could become a blessing in the end!
  • logainofhades
    I would like to see a locked at same clocks review, for these CPU's. It seems you really have to push Intel, to handily surpass AMD. It reminds me of the FX vs Sandy bridge days.
  • sadsteve
    No more computer sleeping without SMT.
  • ingtar33
    Well I just went from an I5-4690K to an AMD Ryzen 7 2700 after seeing the price of intel's current lineup, and knowing that Ryzen2 is coming in another 6mo or so. Personally I thought it was a no brainer, since the 7 2700 could be had for $260, mine is in an mitx build right now with a little Kracken M22 cooling it, and as I type on it it's currently plugging along at 4.2 ghz with DDR4 3600 ram in it.

    What point am I making? Well, the motherboard, cpu cooler and cpu combined were cheaper then this i7 in this review. chew on that. And remember that ryzen2 should be out sometime in the spring of 2019, and it will be completely compatible with everything I just purchased while being on par with or even faster then this last intel chip.

    Now that you've chewed on that for a bit, ask yourself "why did THG stamp an editor approval on this chip again?" We probably should, "Just buy it," I guess, and not ask so many questions.
  • ingtar33
    Anonymous said:
    I would like to see a locked at same clocks review, for these CPU's. It seems you really have to push Intel, to handily surpass AMD. It reminds me of the FX vs Sandy bridge days.


    except that's not what we're seeing. 105.5 fps vs 94.9 fps is 10.4%, a 10.4% improvement for the 8c16t intel core i9-9900k. yet the chip is running at 5.0ghz vs the 8c16t ryzen 7 2700x at 4.2 ghz, which means the intel is clocked about 19.0% faster then the AMD to get a 10.4% lead in FPS.

    These Intel cpus DO NOT have higher IPS then Ryzen. If anything, assuming there isn't some sort of scaling issue in the testing suite, this seems to indicate that intel's cpus have moderately less IPS then AMD Ryzen+ and are currently getting by with clock speed alone. Which means this is as far away from sandy bridge vs fx then we could get. Sandy bridge didn't just clock to 5ghz, but was sporting almost 40% better IPS then Piledriver FX cpus.
  • InvalidError
    Anonymous said:
    And remember that ryzen2 should be out sometime in the spring of 2019

    You are getting product and code names confused. Ryzen 2 (Zen+) has been out for over six months already and your new Ryzen 2700 is one of those. Ryzen 3 (Zen 2) is what's coming out in 2019 on 7nm.
  • adam.oakes83
    INGTAR33, you can't just make up results and claim t
    It to be proven actuate by doing a math equation. 99.99% of the internet making claims with no source to back it up.
  • TerryLaze
    Anonymous said:

    except that's not what we're seeing. 105.5 fps vs 94.9 fps is 10.4%, a 10.4% improvement for the 8c16t intel core i9-9900k. yet the chip is running at 5.0ghz vs the 8c16t ryzen 7 2700x at 4.2 ghz, which means the intel is clocked about 19.0% faster then the AMD to get a 10.4% lead in FPS.

    These Intel cpus DO NOT have higher IPS then Ryzen. If anything, assuming there isn't some sort of scaling issue in the testing suite, this seems to indicate that intel's cpus have moderately less IPS then AMD Ryzen+ and are currently getting by with clock speed alone. Which means this is as far away from sandy bridge vs fx then we could get. Sandy bridge didn't just clock to 5ghz, but was sporting almost 40% better IPS then Piledriver FX cpus.


    This only works if you don't know CPU and GPU utilization.
    Looking at a lot of gaming benchmarks even the i3/pentiums/2400g etc are only 10-20% below the 9900k because gaming benchmarks are made to push the GPUs and not the CPUs so the GPUs bottleneck way before the CPUs,and even if they don't, scaling in games means that slower CPUs can just use more threads to get to the same FPS.
    Look at CPU benchmarks the deficit the ryzen CPUs have there is still there in gaming it just shows in the utilization where the ryzen cpu will have 30-40% more utilization (2700x vs 9900k) .
  • Dantte
    PCgamers did some testing delidding a 9900K and determined that the solder TIM does NOT provide any additional cooling when compared to a 8700K because the die is much thicker (about 32% thicker) and hampers the transfer. Also the solder is too thick as well.

    They tested and proved this theory by delidding and replacing the solder with conductonaut and got a 8C decrease in temps. Then they lapped the die -.15 and -.20mm and retested which came back with even lower results.
  • t99
    Glad I went with a 2600 for only 150$ new and just OC if needed. Basically a 2600x and the avg is within 20% of an OC'd 9900k and 10% of 8600k.

    When you account for the difference in cooling and motherboards as well you can get a 2600 + 1070ti for price of a 9700k.

    Maybe we will see larger gaps with the new intel when they test 1080p on a 2080. So glad I didnt wait and go with one of these
  • Karadjgne
    So what? As long as the cpu isn't hitting 100% to do whatever you need it to do, be it gaming or streaming or both or something different, does it really make a hill of beans difference if a Ryzen is sitting at 60% and an intel at 50%?

    Benchmarks are a tool, not gospel and 99% of all pc users couldn't tell, won't ever see any difference at all in anything they do. You'd need to be running both setups, side by side, running identical software, doing the same process and be using a digital timer. I see benchmarks where the 9900k does something in 2.3 seconds, the 2700x takes 2.6 seconds. Wow, really, the Intel is so much better, on a blown up graph.
  • t99
    Damn an OC'd 2600 (basically same fps as 2600x) at 150$ new is within 20% of 9700k and 10% of 8600k and cost over 2.5x & 1.5x more. Even if you bought a 9700k with a semi budget board and just enough cooling you could buy a 2600 and 1070ti for the same amount.
  • Dantte
    Anonymous said:
    Damn an OC'd 2600 (basically same fps as 2600x) at 150$ new is within 20% of 9700k and 10% of 8600k and cost over 2.5x & 1.5x more. Even if you bought a 9700k with a semi budget board and just enough cooling you could buy a 2600 and 1070ti for the same amount.

    So basically what you're saying is:
    - Intel CPU is more powerful and faster than AMD
    - AMD CPU is cheaper than Intel
    - You value price over performance so in your opinion, AMD is a better choice for you.

    Cool, we all have different values. A millionaire PC enthusiasts probably doesnt care one bit about price and would willingly spend $500 extra if it meant even 1% better performance (atleast this is how I would think in that situation).
  • kiniku
    If the Ryzen 2 provides decent IPC increases then I'll be on that. If not it will be the 9700K for my new rig next year.
  • stdragon
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Damn an OC'd 2600 (basically same fps as 2600x) at 150$ new is within 20% of 9700k and 10% of 8600k and cost over 2.5x & 1.5x more. Even if you bought a 9700k with a semi budget board and just enough cooling you could buy a 2600 and 1070ti for the same amount.

    So basically what you're saying is:
    - Intel CPU is more powerful and faster than AMD
    - AMD CPU is cheaper than Intel
    - You value price over performance so in your opinion, AMD is a better choice for you.

    Cool, we all have different values. A millionaire PC enthusiasts probably doesnt care one bit about price and would willingly spend $500 extra if it meant even 1% better performance (atleast this is how I would think in that situation).


    Depends. Do you value CPU only operations, or prefer gaming with a GPU? Because as far as gaming, an AMD/nVidia build is clearly the better value per dollar. It's factual, not even debatable.

    There's personal justification which is opinion based, and then there's economic facts.
  • InvalidError
    Anonymous said:
    Depends. Do you value CPU only operations, or prefer gaming with a GPU? Because as far as gaming, an AMD/nVidia build is clearly the better value per dollar. It's factual, not even debatable.

    Some people aren't bound to value/dollar and/or have performance targets that are only achievable with Intel's superior IPC and achievable overclocks due to their preferred games not scaling with core/thread count.

    For most people though, I agree that something like the Ryzen 2600 is a solid value proposition.
  • spentshells
    What I'm seeing is that and needs to up the clock speed them inch up their price a bit to be on the level with Intel.

    Good luck
  • Karadjgne
    Nah, Rx580 and gtx1060 are neck and neck performance, but the 580 is considerably cheaper. Seems this time around amd/amd is the value king, especially at 1080p
  • s1mon7
    At first, I thought this chip is a neat upgrade - an Intel chip with 8-cores and STIM. Then I realized that due to the minuscule IPC improvements I can't think of any use case for which this would be a good purchase.

    This chip is marketed for gamers, yet if you're on a recent quad-core i7, it offers merely 10% higher average and minimum fps in games than the 7700k, and at best (1080P, stock clocks), mind you. Overclock the 7700K and the difference shrinks due to its proportionally larger OC gains - the 10% stock clock speed gap shrinks to 4-5%, climbing back to 7-10% with overclocked Skylake and Haswell i7s. It makes me wonder.. apart from the unreasonable upgrade itch we all feel when something different like this launches, if you already own a recent Intel quad-core it doesn't really make any sense to upgrade for games, as there isn't much performance improvement.

    If you're concerned about the future games (what if they become more threaded?), it makes zero sense to upgrade now, since at the moment they perform almost the same, and the infinitely more "future-proof" solution is to upgrade when the games actually become more threaded to a then much better chip built around also actually faster cores.

    Since single-threaded performance is the same per clock as with Kaby/Skylake, the upgrade won't perceivably improve the user experience or lightly-threaded productivity performance. If multi-threaded prowess is what you're after, going Ryzen will get you similar frames than what you're getting now with a quad-core and significantly more heavy-weight performance per dollar for multi-threaded tasks.

    And even if you're not on a recent quad-core i7 and you're upgrading from something much weaker and more ancient, there's always something offering more bang for your buck than this chip, no matter what you want to use your chip for.
  • Dantte
    Anonymous said:

    Because as far as gaming, an AMD/nVidia build is clearly the better value per dollar. It's factual, not even debatable.


    This is incorrect, "AMD/nVidia build is clearly the better" performance per price comparison, "value" is an individual's OPINION, not fact, and is extremely debatable!

    Value (definition): a person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life.

    If the price of an object holds no importance to to an individual, then there is no value in who has the better performance/price comparison. Strickly speaking performance, Intel "is clearly better."

    Anonymous said:

    If you're concerned about the future games (what if they become more threaded?), it makes zero sense to upgrade now, since at the moment they perform almost the same, and the infinitely more "future-proof" solution is to upgrade when the games actually become more threaded to a then much better chip built around also actually faster cores.


    Again, what makes "sense" is a matter of personal opinion; what does or doesnt make sense to you may not be the same for another person. Same argument I made before, if I unlimited amount of money and only cared about having the best performance, I would upgrade now, and when the formula changes and there is a better performance CPU for the application, I would upgrade again...

    Also to have "infinitely more "future-proof" solution" is not to wait till the next best thing, because there will always be a next best thing, but to constantly change, upgrade, and 'chase the rabbit.'