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Intel i9-10900K vs Intel i9-9900K: Which is better for gaming?

Thinking about updating your gaming rig during the lockdown? Then you’re likely going to be tempted by Intel’s shiny new, top-end Core i9-10900K, and for good reason.

Intel’s marketing it as the fastest gaming CPU ever made and, though we haven’t tested it yet, there’s evidence to back up the claim on paper.

But, with channel pricing starting at nearly $500, and Intel’s previous-gen’ i9-9900K set to get a hefty discount as retailers rush to clear stock, you may be wondering if it’s worth saving some dosh and going for the older model.

Here to help and make you have all the facts before opening your wallet, we’ve created an easy to read breakdown detailing how the two CPUs compare.

Intel i9-10900K vs Intel i9-9900K – Specs

You can see a breakdown of the two CPUs core specs in the table below. The big differentiators are the i9-10900K top clock speed and increased thread count.

Spec Intel i9-10900K Intel i9-9900K
Base clock speed 3.7GHz 3.6GHz
Boost clock speeds on all cores 5.1GHz 4.7GHz
Boost clock speed single-core 5.2GHz 5.0GHz
Cores 10 8
Threads 20 16

The 5.2 GHz top speed, according to Intel, will offer radically better performance than the older i9. Specifically, in its press deck, the company quotes up to 33% performance improvements on key titles, including Mount and Blade 2.

The bump to 10 cores, with Intel Hyperthreading across the board, is another key differentiator. Though it doesn’t match AMD Ryzen’s top CPU core count, it means the newer i9 should be better for creative processes than its predecessor. Intel’s quoting it as being 18% faster for video editing than the ninth gen i9K.

Related: Best PC games

But the more exciting upgrades for us here at Trusted Reviews relate to the i9-10900K’s cooling and Turbo Boost Max 3.0 features. Intel’s tweaked the CPU’s manufacturing process to improve the CPU’s heat dissipation.

Specifically, Intel finally listened to the overclocking community and thinned the i9-10900K die. Specifically, it’s thinned the silicon wafer down to be a meagre 0.8mm thick. This let Intel add 0.3mm to the IHS heat spreader. In layman’s terms, this means the new i9-109900k should be more efficient at dissipating heat and let it run cooler than the 9900k, which is great as we found the old model ran fairly hot. It also means the newer chip should be better for overclocking.

Turbo Boost Max 3.0 intelligently identifies the fastest performing cores in each instance and instantly uses those. This is a cool feature because, as any hardcore overclocker will know, clock speeds are variable. So one of 10 cores may clock higher than the others, this is why hardcore gamers overclock on a per-core basis. Turbo Boost doing it automatically should lead to general performance improvements and more stable single and dual-core top speeds on the new i9.

The final big differentiator is the 10th gen’s baked in support for the new Wi-Fi 6, which will, in theory, help gamers enjoy the new standard’s improved stability and multi-device connectivity if the rig it’s in has a compatible router running nearby.

Related: Best gaming CPU

Intel i9-10900K vs Intel i9-9900K – Price

Tempted by the new chip? You should be as the upgrades on offer are palpable. But before you part with your cash, keep in mind the new 10900K will likely be very, very, very expensive. UK pricing hasn’t been revealed, but Intel’s selling it on the channel to retailers for $488 (roughly £388 at the time of publishing). Retailers will, in turn, bump up that price when they start selling the chip.

As it stands, the i9-9900K is still retailing at £500 at most stores. Though if past chip launches are anything to go by the price will plummet once the 10th gen chip goes on sale. This could make it a much more cost-effective option, especially considering the fact it’s still blisteringly fast and will handle most gamers’ needs with ease.

Even now the previous gen i9 is powerful enough to run pretty much every game on the Steam and Epic stores at frame rates above 60fps when paired with a decent GPU. The only downsides are that it’s not THE fastest for gaming anymore and that it doesn’t have integrated Wi-Fi 6 support. This means the older i9 won’t be quite as future proof as Intel’s 10th gen chip.

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