Intel Core i9-9900K vs i7-9700K: Is the i9 Really the Best Gaming CPU?

Over the past decade, Intel’s Core lineup included of these main product families, the Core i3, i5, and the i7. The first one was meant for offices while the other two were for gamers and content creators. A while back, Intel suddenly introduced a bunch of Core i9 parts. To make matters even more confusing, there isn’t just one i9 family: There’s the mainstream consumer lineup consisting of the Core i9-9900K/9900/9900KF and then there are the HEDT parts comprising of the Core i9-x980, x980XE, etc.

In this post, we’re talking about the mainstream Core i9-9900K which Intel claims is the best gaming CPU money can buy. We’ll be comparing it against the similarly specced Core i7-9700K and decide if it is worth the extra $150.

Intel Core i7-9700K vs i9-9900K: Specifications

Core i7-9700KCore i9-9900K
Base Clock3.6GHz3.6GHz
Boost Clock4.9GHz5GHz
L2 Cache2MB2MB
L3 Cache12MB16MB
Price$374$550 ($474 for KF)

On paper, the Core i9 is a factory overclocked i7 with hyperthreading enabled and slightly more L3 cache. While SMT is mostly irrelevant in gaming and the clock speed delta is too small to make a notable impact, the L3 cache size is known to significantly affect gaming performance.

Test Bench

  • Motherboard: ASRock X370 Taichi
  • Memory: Trident Z Royal 16GB (8×8) @ 3600MHz
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super

Intel Core i7-9700K vs Core i9-9900K: Gaming Performance

All the games were tested at 1080p using the highest quality preset.

Assassins’ Creed’s Anvil Engine benefits from higher core counts as well as core clocks. But here, despite having a higher boost clock the core i9-9900K is slightly slower than the 9700K. This is most likely due to the latter having access to higher L2 cache per thread compared to the 9900K.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider sees the Core i9-9900K take the lead with a marginally higher average as well as better lows.

Ashes of the Singularity once again favors the Core i9. This title is known to leverage as many threads as you throw at it. So this isn’t a surprise.

Far Cry 5 is one of the most CPU intensive titles around. And yet, the Core i9-9900K provides no apparent benefit over the i7-9700K in this game. To top it off, the lows are better for the Core i7 although both being above 60, it’s rather inconsequential.

Hitman 2 is a DirectX 12 title known to utilize multi-core CPUs well. Here, it seems like the additional resources of the 9900K do benefit it, albeit ever so slightly.

Power Consumption and Overclocking

Despite having a rated TDP of 105W, the Coffee Lake chips draw a lot more power. In fact, in Cinebench the Core i9-9900K ended up consuming almost 300W. In comparison, the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X which offers similar performance in the program draws just over 65W!

Testing AMD’s Low Power Eco Mode on the Ryzen 3000 CPUs


Across various games, the Core i7 drew a maximum of around 125W while the i9-9900K hit the ceiling a little below 200W. That’s a lot of power. You can run a 64 core Epyc Rome processor with that much juice. And Intel is planning to push more cores into the Comet Lake-S chips and increase the core clock on top of that. I’m curious to see how the power draw holds up.

Conclusion: Is the i9 Worth it?

This is rather straight-forward. Is the Core i9 a better option? On paper, yes but practically speaking there’s almost no difference in the gaming performance of the two chips. You’re paying an additional $100 just for a fancy box and the i9 label. You get a much better bang for your buck with the $400 Core i7-9700K.

Areej Syed

Processors, PC gaming, and the past. I have been writing about computer hardware for over seven years with more than 5000 published articles. Started off during engineering college and haven't stopped since. Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Divinity, Torment, Baldur's Gate and so much more... Contact: areejs12@hardwaretimes.com.
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