It’s a war of CPUs that began in the 80s unbeknown to anyone, Intel included.
AMD started out creating licensed clones of Intel CPUs, slowly advancing their operations, and in 2016, they announced their first flagship Ryzen CPU, one that would challenge Intel’s monopoly on the market.
Fast forward to present day 2020. Both companies have released their brand new CPUs designed to take PC gaming to lofty new heights, and the battle rages on. So, to give you an insight into which one might be best for your gaming life, we’re going to be analyzing these two tech monoliths in detail.
We’ll be checking out their raw specifications to glean a general understanding of their capabilities, then we’ll take a look at components. After that, we’ll see what they’re truly made of, pitting them against each other in terms of pure performance.
To finish off, we’ll consider the results and assess their value for money. Ready to enter the warzone?
When it comes down to pure core muscle, the Ryzen 9 5900X dominates with 12 multithreaded cores. While the i9 10900K also has multi-thread core architecture, it only has 10 cores in total.
Generally speaking, the more cores and threads a CPU has, the more it’s going to be able to handle in terms of parallel workflows. So, yes, the Ryzen 9 comes out on top here, but what complicates matters for us is that the Intel CPU shows more progress than the Ryzen.
The i9 9900K from Intel’s last CPU series featured only 8 cores, so vast improvements have been made with the 10900K. Ryzen has been releasing CPUs with 12 cores for years now. This is probably due to AMD wanting to keep levels of the market separate. 12 cores may be as far as they’re willing to go at this price point.
After that, you’re paying big bucks for amazingly expansive designs, for example, the Ryzen Threadripper 3990X has 64 multi-thread cores.
Here we start to discover exactly how these CPUs are superior to their older siblings. The i9 10900K has a base clock speed of 3.7GHz, 100MHz faster than the 9900K. Interestingly, the 5900X has the same 3.7GHz base frequency, but that’s 100MHz less than the Ryzen 3900X.
Boosting the clock to its maximum frequency, the AMD CPU reaches a respectable 4.8GHz, 200MHz faster than the Ryzen 9 3900X.
It’s bad news for AMD on this front though as the i9 10900K absolutely smashes its predecessor and the 5900X, with a max boost speed of 5.3GHz. We have the patented Intel Thermal Velocity Boost to thank for that.
Both of these CPUs are unlocked, meaning they can be overclocked to squeeze the most performance from these chips. You should be able to mod the Ryzen 9’s base clock speed to 4.7GHz at 1.39V per core. The 10900K can be overclocked to around 5.1GHz, so there’s lots of headroom on both of these, but the Intel comes out on top here.
Intel has lagged behind AMD on memory systems in the past, but let’s see if they’ve managed to step it up this time around.
The Ryzen 9 features their typical 3 level cache system. The capacity split runs as such: L1 = 768Kb, L2 = 6MB, L3 = 64MB. It’s an awesome cache setup, but it’s exactly the same as the previous 3000X series iteration. It’s even supported by an identical 3200Mhz DDR4 memory system.
Moving on to the i9 10900K, we have a massive improvement on their last series, but unfortunately, Intel hasn’t done quite enough to dethrone the Ryzen. You can expect a single 20MB Intel Smart Cache supported by a DDR4-2933 memory system.
Specs draw a great deal of focus when a new CPU is released. It’s a succinct way for a company to advertise what the product is and what’s changed since their last efforts.
It’s also a fantastic way for consumers to get a general idea of their functionality, but it’s important to note that specs aren’t everything. With that in mind, let’s continue.
It’s no secret that despite the reverence gamers have for Ryzen CPUs, Intel CPUs are faster in single-core heavy applications. This was largely due to the CCD format of AMD’s cores.
CCD stands for core chiplet die, and in the past, AMD used separate CCXs fitted together to make their CCDs, but the minuscule separation due to not being a holistic component caused a fractional increase in latency, which in turn slowed down gameplay performance.
Thankfully, this is no longer the case with the 5000 series and their Zen 3 architecture. Their CCDs are designed in complete bundles that have direct access to the L3 caches, drastically reducing latency during gameplay.
PCI – Express
The Ryzen 9 has the i9 10900K by the scruff of the neck on this count as AMD still has exclusive rights to the PCI 4.0 technology, just as Intel has proprietary rights over their Thunderbolt interface. It’s a source of annoyance for a lot of gamers, as ideally, we’d like a system with both facilities.
Intel has once again settled for PCI Express 3.0. It has all the same lanes as the 4.0, but the transfer of data between your computer and external hardware is half as fast.
Quite a few motherboards are geared towards PCI-E 4.0, but they’re not as ubiquitous at this point in time. Don’t worry if you had your heart set on the Ryzen but don’t have a fully compatible motherboard. 0.4 will work in 0.3 port, but the motherboard sets the parameters, so your 0.4 will function at the speed of PCI-E 0.3.
This may be bad news for those of you who hadn’t planned on updating your motherboard to accommodate a new CPU, as Intel has released their 10th generation chips using a new LGA 1200 Socket.
While this is impractical for a lot of gamers, Intel may be looking to futureproof their CPU as this kind of socket becomes more commonplace in times to come.
AMD couldn’t have done things more differently. Much like their previous CPUs, the 5900X is compatible with AM4 motherboards. They have streamlined a little though, cutting out anything below the X470 and B540 boards.
So, AMD’s agenda seems to be focused on inclusivity while Intel looks to the future. This might be a hardline deciding factor either way for you. Saving money on a motherboard would be nice, but is it just delaying the inevitable? Submitting to the demands of the future now may be preferable to waiting until your system is completely obsolete.
Onboard Graphics Capabilities
As you’ll have noticed in the past, Intel normally fit their higher-end CPUs with an integrated graphics card, and the 10900K is no exception. Included in the price, you can expect 350Mhz base frequency Intel UHD 360 Graphics capabilities with 4K support.
So, what do you get with the Ryzen 9? Nada, zilch, nothing whatsoever, and that’s definitely something to consider when you’re choosing between these two CPUs, but it shouldn’t be a defining factor.
All you hardened button mashers out there will probably want to replace or run something alongside the Intel graphics facilities anyway, so either way, you’re forking out for the extra support.
In the past, AMD has included cooling systems with their CPUs. The 3900X for instance came with the Wraith Prism fan. It kind of acted as a trade-off for having no built-in graphics capabilities.
Unfortunately, they’ve forgone the fan this time, and we know you’d probably replace it with a more efficient fan or liquid system anyway, but it feels like they’re not bringing much to the table here. That said, it might be for the best when considering cost, but more on that later.
AMD has the core surplus which makes the 5900X a much better CPU for multitasking. For instance, if you’re an avid streamer, the 24 threads are going to go a long way in keeping both gameplay and video running smoothly.
But the 10900K hasn’t just rolled over and accepted defeat here. DirectX Support is a feature of their integrated graphics system that supports multimedia usage. If we’re being honest, it’s still not going to compete with 2 extra cores and 4 extra threads, but it’s a great touch.
Cinebench R20 Single-Threaded
When it comes to core testing, the Ryzen 9 5900X completely annihilates the i9 10900K. Even with faster clock speeds and Intel’s famously powerful single-core performance, the Ryzen ran the 10900K ragged.
It’s not just this second-in-line Ryzen that dominated during the single thread Cinebench tests, even the Ryzen 7 5800X destroyed the i9 10900K by around 20%.
Cinebench R20 Double-Threaded
The 10900K managed to claw a little bit of dignity back in the double-threaded Cinebench tests, but it still couldn’t compete with the extra cores in the 5900X.
The 5900X even came close to beating the 16-core Ryzen 3950X, the cream of their last crop.
Adobe Premiere Pro and HandBrake Video Encoding
The Ryzens also defeated the 10900K on the Adobe Premiere Pro benchmark test as well, although the difference wasn’t quite as shocking.
The thrashings continued when it came to HandBrake 4K video encoding tests with the Ryzen outperforming the i9 10900K by just over 20 points running at stock speeds, and just under 20 points overclocked.
7-Zip is a compression performance test that saw the Ryzen 9 5900X conquer the i9 10900K by a 37% speed rate.
Even with its stacked core-count the Ryzen 9 5900X is way more energy efficient than the 10900K, drawing 30 watts less on average under the same load.
A Note on TDP – Before we delve into the real-life FPS testing, let’s consider the TDP of these CPUs. TDP (thermal design power) is measured in watts and it refers to the maximum amount of power a process can draw for a single application and the maximum amount of heat that a cooling system can protect it from.
Both the 5900X and its predecessor had a TDP rating of 105 watts, but by making their chips 24% more efficient, you get much more power per watt.
Intel’s i9 10900K boasts a seemingly better 125-watt TDP rating, but 24% of the Ryzen 9’s 105 watts comes to 25.2, meaning that if AMD’s claims of efficiency are correct, their TDP is running at a relative 130.2 watts. Add that to their superior core count and you’ve got a CPU that might finally beat Intel for speed for the first time in over 15 years. Let’s find out!
FPS Gaming Benchmarks
Running these CPUs in 1080p for games such as Metro Exodus and Total War: Three Kingdoms, it’s an incredibly close contest with each of them accruing hairline victories depending on the game. What is blatantly obvious is that AMD has solved its latency issues once and for all.
For games like Horizon Zero Dawn, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Wolfenstein Young Blood, we saw the 5900X take vast leads over the Intel competitor. It also took an impressive 12% lead when these two were used to run Death Stranding.
There were plenty of games that the 10900K excelled at such as F1 2020, Watch Dogs: Legion, and Borderlands 3, but the gap was never significant enough to declare it a landslide victory. Intel did have their big wins here and there, trouncing the 5900X in Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, and Far Cry New Dawn.
To sum up, I think the fact that AMD have matched Intel for gaming, is irrefutable. The 5900X and the 10900K both average out at about 214FPS (depending on games played), so Intel may have lost their last bastion of performance here.
This is where you’ll be pleased that the Ryzen 9 didn’t come with all the bells and whistles like a cooling system or graphics card, reducing the price a little.
The AMD CPU has held its price far better than Intel’s flagship CPU.
Full Spec Label
Full Spec Content
Full Spec Label
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Hugely impressive single-core performance
A fantastic CPU for gaming
Provides the smoothest of game play, regardless of setting or resolution
New socket requires a new motherboard
Total L2 Cache
Total L3 Cache
TSMC 7nm FinFET
Rivals the Intel i9-10900K in gaming performance
High multicore performance
More expensive than the Intel alternative
Requires CPU cooler
This seems to happen with every iteration, and in the past, it’s been because of the number of cores and PCI-E 4.0. This time, the Ryzen is fighting Intel where they really live, their speed.
It was the one major feathers in their cap they had over AMD CPUs. Now with that playing field leveled, there’s really no doubt that the Ryxen 9 5900X is the better CPU.
Whether either of these CPUs is worth the money is ultimately up to you. Even though the Ryzen 9 obliterates the 10900K in pretty much every aspect of performance, and matches it frame for frame, you might find it hard to reconcile an almost unchanged format with that steep price tag.
Intel, on the other hand, has come up short, but their notable improvements to the 9000K series are myriad and impressive.
Both of these CPUs are going to have a hefty price tag as they’re freshly released, so. If you’re a bargain hunter, you’re not going to find it in these two CPUs for at least another couple of years, especially with the 5900X.
As impressive as the Ryzen’s core performance was, it played out pretty much as expected. AMD’s core constructions have outperformed Intel’s on most of their previous iterations. It’s the blistering speeds the Ryzen displayed that truly blew us away.
That said, both of these CPUs are amazing, and we’re positive they’ll both develop diehard followings. The Ryzen is technically better, but for responsive, high-quality gaming, you can’t really go wrong with either.