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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
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Rendering on Intel Core i9-10900K

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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

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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

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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

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

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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.   

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Paul Alcorn

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