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Intel Core i9-9900KS 5GHz (8C16T) CPU Review

Rating: 7.5.

In a clear effort to stamp its clock frequency and gaming performance authority over AMD, Intel has released a ‘Special Edition’ version of the Core i9-9900K. Clocked at 5GHz out of the box on all eight cores, only the best of the Core i9-9900K silicon can become the Core i9-9900KS.

As will be a surprise to nobody, the TDP is increased to deal with the 5GHz clock speed. Perhaps more surprisingly, however, is that Intel is charging a reasonable $14-25 price premium for the i9-9900KS versus the i9-9900K. That seems to be a pretty reasonable mark-up for a 300MHz clock speed boost and the allure of a ‘limited edition’ piece of hardware.

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CPU AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X Intel Core i9-9900KS Intel Core i9-9900K Intel Core i7-9700K
CPU Architecture Zen 2 Zen 2 Zen 2 Coffee Lake Refresh Coffee Lake Refresh Coffee Lake Refresh
CPU Socket AM4 AM4 AM4 LGA 1151 rev. 2 LGA 1151 rev. 2 LGA 1151 rev. 2
Core / Threads
12 / 24 8 / 16 8 / 16 8 / 16 8 / 16 8 / 8
Base Frequency 3.8GHz 3.9GHz 3.6GHz 4.0GHz 3.6GHz 3.6GHz
All-Core Frequency Up to 4.6GHz Up to 4.5GHz Up to 4.4GHz 5.0GHz 4.7GHz 4.6GHz
Boost Frequency Up to 4.6GHz Up to 4.5GHz Up to 4.4GHz 5.0GHz 5.0GHz 4.9GHz
Unlocked Core Multiplier Yes (x0.25 granularity) Yes (x0.25 granularity) Yes (x0.25 granularity) Yes (x1 granularity) Yes (x1 granularity) Yes (x1 granularity)
L3 Cache 64MB 32MB 32MB 16MB 16MB 12MB
Max. Memory Channels
2 (DDR4) 2 (DDR4) 2 (DDR4) 2 (DDR4) 2 (DDR4) 2 (DDR4)
Max. Memory Frequency (Native)
2667 to 3200MHz 2667 to 3200MHz 2667 to 3200MHz 2666MHz 2666MHz 2666MHz
CPU PCIe Lanes 16+4+4 PCIe Gen 4 16+4+4 PCIe Gen 4 16+4+4 PCIe Gen 4 16 PCIe Gen 3 16 PCIe Gen 3 16 PCIe Gen 3
Manufacturing Process 7nm 7nm 7nm 14nm++ 14nm++ 14nm++
TDP 105W 105W 65W 127W 95W 95W
iGPU No No No Intel UHD 630 Intel UHD 630 Intel UHD 630
CPU Cooler Included Wraith PRISM Wraith PRISM Wraith PRISM No No No
MSRP $499 $399 $329 $513 $488-499 $374-385
UK Street Price (Oct 2019) £550 £375 £300 Around £599 £470 £350

The key differences between the Core i9-9900K and the ‘special edition’ Core i9-9900KS are pretty easy to summarise. The i9-9900KS gets a TDP increase from 95W to 127W, the all-core Turbo clock is increased from 4.7GHz to 5.0GHz, and the base frequency is bumped up from 3.6GHz to 4.0GHz. This is, more-or-less, an overclocked Core i9-9900K that is made possible by using the silicon that cooked best on Intel’s 14nm++ wafers.

The bump to 127W TDP is important to the defined Turbo power states for clock speed levels. However, most motherboards simply ignore the defined power states and set the sustained power duration towards infinite. This allows for maximum CPU clock speed under sustained all-core operation.

Two key differences not highlighted in the above table are noteworthy downsides for the ‘special edition’ part. Firstly, VPro support is missing on the 9900KS, though that’s unlikely to cause much concern given the target audience. More importantly, however, is the reduction in warranty from 3 years to 1-year. It is highly disappointing to see a ‘special edition’ part selling with a rather non-special 1-year warranty.

Intel claims that the warranty decision is due to the limited volume of the part. That’s disappointing when the cheaper Core i9-9900K is warranted for 3 years of usage. One would hope that the limited volume of the part is indeed the reason for the 1-year warranty, and not longevity concerns born out of pushing the frequency to the dizzying heights of 5GHz.

Jumping over to the Silicon Lottery website highlights that a Core i9-9900K that is capable of 4.9GHz under AVX loading is rare, even if the tested voltage is a reasonable 1.312V. The Core i9-9900KS does 5GHz under AVX loading out of the box. There’s nothing stopping anybody overclocking their Core i9-9900K to i9-9900KS-level performance. There’s just no guarantee that it’ll hold that performance level with stability.

If you want the ultimate plug-and-play solution for Z390, the Core i9-9900KS is it. And if you’re more into overclocking and tinkering with your system, perhaps the 9900KS CPU’s promise of higher quality silicon will be an appealing proposition.

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