Intel Core i9-10900K Review: Ten Cores, 5.3 GHz, and Excessive Power Draw

Kick the tires and light the TDP fires

Intel Core i9-10900K
(Image: © Future)

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Rendering on Intel Core i9-10900K

Ryzen processors are apex predators in the realm of threaded workloads, and despite the 10900K's additional two cores, the Ryzen 9 3900X continues that trend as it leads in all of the threaded tests. The 3900X also scrapes out a lead in the single-core Cinebench test, but the 10900K leads in the single-threaded POV-Ray benchmark. The stock 10900K is faster than the 5.1GHz overclocked configuration in both of these single-threaded tests, indicating the workload was correctly assigned to 5.3 GHz-capable core. 

That highlights that our all-core overclock, while faster in multi-threaded tasks, involves sacrificing single-threaded performance in other applications. We've seen this situation plenty of time with Ryzen processors in the past, particularly with manual overclocks, but it's certainly new to Intel's chips. 

Encoding on Intel Core i9-10900K

The single-threaded LAME and FLAC encoding tests lend themselves well to the strengths of the 10900K, which takes a pronounced lead in both tests. Again, the Core i9-10900K's stock configuration beats out its own overclocked configuration.

While most encoders are inherently single-threaded, the new Intel/Netflix-designed SVT-AV1 leverages multi-threading to great effect. As such, the Ryzen 9 3900X and 3950X take the lead over the 10900K.  

The threaded HandBrake x264 and x265 tests really speak to the AVX performance improvements AMD made to the Zen 2 architecture. Naturally, the chips with higher thread counts enjoy a lead here. 

Web Browsing on Intel Core i9-10900K

Browsers tend to be impacted more by the recent security mitigations than other types of applications, so Intel has generally taken a haircut in these benchmarks on fully-patched systems.

We sure hope you're not considering buying a fire-breathing Core i9-10900K just to browse the web, but this type of workload is universal. Single-threaded performance still reigns supreme in these tests, so the 10900K sweeps the field. Notably, the overclocked 10900K rig beats out the stock configuration, highlighting the fact that the CCPC2 drivers responsible for pinning threads into the fastest core aren't 100% accurate. 

Office and Productivity on Intel Core i9-10900K

Compilation, Compression, AVX on Intel Core i9-10900K

Once again leveraging its 12 cores and 24 threads to great effect, the Ryzen 9 3900X scores another win against the 10900K in the LLVM compilation benchmark. Meanwhile, the 7zip and Zlib compression/decompression benchmarks also rely heavily upon threading and work directly from system memory, thus avoiding the traditional storage bottleneck in these types of tasks. The Ryzen processors sweep the Intel competitors on the 7zip compression side of these tests, and nearly pull off the same feat in the 7zip decompression test.  

The heavily-threaded y-cruncher benchmark, which computes pi using the taxing AVX instruction set, reveals what we consider to be erroneous test results based upon our previous experience with Intel chips based on the never-ending Skylake architecture. We expect better scaling in this test given the 10900K's extra two cores, but the eight-core 9900K and 9700K beat Intel's new part at stock settings, and widen the gap after overclocking. We've scrutinized these test results heavily, especially to determine if the overclocked Core i9-10900K throttles during the workload, but we can't find signs of enough heat generation to trigger the throttling algorithms. Given this Intel launch follows the standard trend of late-arriving firmwares, it's possible that the problem resides with the motherboard. In either case, we're following up with Intel on the matter.   


MORE: Intel and AMD Processor Hierarchy Comparisons

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Paul Alcorn
Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech

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

  • jeremyj_83
    Isn't this the wrong time of year to be selling space heaters?
  • Wait for it. The intel shills are coming to this thread soon to wail us their one lone song
  • st379
    7 fps more on average than 9th gen.... very impressive:cautious:.

    At least we have rdna 2, ampere and ryzen 4000 later this year. There will be some very exciting products later this year.
  • dave.jeffers
    Even if you want the 10900k, they are saying its a paper launch. Will be interesting to see how long it takes for NE and Amazon to get stock.
  • tummybunny
    This talks about fully-patched systems. Is this considered to be a fully patched system or can we expect a host of patches for SPECTRE etc. to slow everything down when they are eventually released.

    I expected more discussion of what Intel might have done to reduce the endless list of security threats that have been uncovered in the last few years.
  • King_V
    Mandark said:
    Wait for it. The intel shills are coming to this thread soon to wail us their one lone song

    Well, I mean, it does, after all, offer the biggest lead in terms of frames/second than the top AMD processor. With a 2080Ti. Um... at 1080p. At frame rates where the human eye is incapable of perceiving the difference.

    But, think of it this way, at lower resolutions (1600x900, 1280x720), the frame rate lead would be EVEN MOAR!!
  • Isokolon
    so they're releasing a CPU that for a home user is basically useless and is still worse as a workstation than a 3900X?

    Intel really needs to up their game.
  • jeremyj_83
    "The heavily-threaded y-cruncher benchmark, which computes pi using the taxing AVX instruction set, reveals what we consider to be erroneous test results based upon our previous experience with Intel chips based on the never-ending Skylake architecture."
    In Anandtech's review we see the same behavior for the 10900k. Ian's said "y-Cruncher is another one where the Core i9 performs worse than the Core i7 in the multithreaded test, despite being better on the single threaded test. We again put this down to memory bandwidth. We need to update this test to the latest version of y-Cruncher, which has additional optimizations for Zen 2 processors, but also to increase the digit count in our MT test. "
  • dimar
    9900K will serve me well for few more years. Will be looking for upgrades once DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 hit the market.
    Hoping for some crazy stuff from AMD and Intel.
  • InvalidError
    Not exactly surprised that the 10900k isn't a value king. I am far more interested in the updated bang-per-buck on the 10600k and 10700k.