9900K vs 10900K

We cross Intel's generations to see if there's a difference you need to consider for your next build

10900k vs 9900k

Today, we’ll be looking at two closely-related Intel Core i9 processors, the 9900K, and the 10900K. There’s one generation between them, so deciding on which of these solid processors to choose can be difficult.

We’ll be comparing them, in a sense, though a direct comparison across generations isn’t helpful to any of you who already own the 9900K. If you’ve got the 9900K, there’s no need to get the 10900K, and you won’t be able to justify the additional cost.

We’re more focused on if you have an earlier CPU model than the 8th generation or 9th generation Intel Cores, or maybe no CPU at all for your new build as yet.

Specifications

Here are some impressive specs for both the Intel Core i9-9900K and the Intel Core i9-10900K processors arranged into a neat table.

From here you can identify specific elements of a processor and see not just if one CPU beats the other, but how.

Intel Core i9-9900K

We’ll start with the oldest of the two models, the Intel Core i9-9900K, which is also the second-most powerful i9 processor in the entire Coffee Lake architecture series.

It was one of the 9th Generation releases in late 2018 as part of Coffee Lake Refresh, but don’t worry if you don’t even know what Coffee Lake is; we go into more detail about that below. For now, let’s see what else the Intel Core i9-9900K offers.

So, what does the powerful 9900K get you for your hard-earned cash? Unlike many of the Coffee Lake and even the Refresh series, these processors contain eight cores treated with Intel’s own Hyper-Threading tech to double the thread count of each core.

This means an eight-core microprocessor can have sixteen threads, providing a noticeable improvement to the performance power this CPU can net you.

At 3.60GHz, the 9900K has a surprising clock speed that you’ll only find in the higher-end, more powerful CPUs for now. To put its performance into perspective, the i7-9700K processor also has a base clock speed of 3.60GHz despite not even having Hyper-Threading compatibility.

The lack of multi-threading in an i7 processor was even controversial for a short time, but now they’ve added the ability here so that you get raw power and multi-tasking with the 9900K.

It’s unlocked, as was to be expected, and it’s been built with the potential of overheating in mind. The Thermal Design Power of the 9900K is the same as the rest of the 9th Generation Intel Cores, 95 watts. While this used to be fine, it’s a little on the low side nowadays if you play games where a lot is happening.

As for integrated features and other compatibilities, it features Intel’s own UHD 630 graphics while working best with DDR4-2666 RAM support. The graphics aren’t that important when you’re going to strap a mammoth GPU to the motherboard anyway, but the RAM support could be pretty useful if you tend to have a lot going on at once on your computer.

Intel Core i9-10900K

With the 10900K, we have the most powerful of the 10th Generation Series, also called Comet Lake after its architectural style, so expectations must be pretty high for this CPU.

Having only come out a few months ago, the Intel Core i9-10900K is a massive ten core processor with a thread buried into each one.

As you’d expect, the Hyper-Threading tech that Intel has pioneered has made its way here too, so there’s a second thread in each core. That doubles the 10900K’s thread count to an impressive twenty threads.

Running a machine off of this CPU makes you feel like your desktop is the commercial equivalent of a supercomputer that can shoot down so many processes and programs at once without crashing or stuttering along.

It hits a base clocking frequency of 3.70GHz when it’s running by itself but this jumps drastically if you start overclocking the PC, reaching as high as 5.20GHz. This is partly because its Thermal Design Power has been expanded to 125 watts, affording plenty of durability to the CPU and its ability to function when things start to get heated.

On the integration front, you guessed it, the Intel UHD 630 graphics again. As per usual, it doesn’t matter, and if you have the assets to buy this CPU you probably have a crazy-powerful GPU on the way too.

It also accommodates the next in DDR4 RAM storage, the 2933MHz sticks, as well as their Dual-Channel functions. Between those sticks and the added threads, the 10900K is your single best choice if you need a computer that can run intensive games and a bunch of programs or web tabs in the background.

Architecture

Architecture, which is sometimes referred to as the Series, is a way of categorizing design changes across CPU groups, from the basic core and thread count to more practical logistics like the sockets and chipsets that the CPU models require function.

For example, the 8th and 9th Generations of Intel Core processors belong to Coffee Lake, while the 10th Generation is part of Comet Lake. If the names are odd to you, it’s because they’re based on codenames that Intel has chosen. 

To tell you all about the 9900K and the 10900K, we’ll need to focus on a sub-series of Coffee Lake called Coffee Lake Refresh and then Comet Lake. Coffee Lake Refresh is the series of 9th Generation processors released near the end of 2018, and it included the i9-9900K Intel Core CPU.

It was the Refresh series that introduced i9s to the world and expanded their cores to eight. From this foundation came the Comet Lake 10th Generation processors like the i9-10900K CPU, where they upped the ante to include two extra cores and applied their Hyper-Threading to more models within the series than the Coffee Lake series had done.

The Coffee Lake and Coffee Lake Refresh CPUs attached to the motherboard through an LGA 1151 socket while using an Intel 300 chipset series. Within the 300 series, you had specific ones like the Z390, which is the chipset compatible with the 9th Generation CPUs like the 9900K.

Yes, this means your motherboard needs to support whichever socket and chipset your CPU requires, meaning you’ll likely need to replace your motherboard if you’re upgrading. If your motherboard is decked out with an LGA 1151 socket and a Z390 chipset, it won’t take the 10900K since that needs the updated 1200 socket and Z490 chipset.

With each leap in architecture, you usually find that the Intel guys have found ways to increase the TDP. TDP is Thermal Design Power; the maximum heat that a CPU will give off can be treated by cooling systems on the market, no matter the workload.

It’s measured in wattage, and where the Coffee Lake Refresh processors had a 95-watt TDP, the Comet Lake series has delivered a big jump ahead to 125 watts. This means better performance and more heat generated, so it needs a better cooling system to keep in check.

Clock Speed

Clock speed is the most basic way we measure the speed of a processor. By counting every cycle to the gigahertz, we can have an idea of how fast a processor is and then easily compare them to other CPUs. There are no caveats or context-specific details here; if a CPU has a higher base clock speed than its competitor, it’s the faster processor.

We’ve already said how the 9900K and the 10900K exist in a similar ballpark

Performance

The 9900K and the 10900K are two of the more powerful CPUs out right now, both of them being more than enough for your gameplay needs.

If a gamer is using an Intel Core i9 processor for their gaming rig, they’re very serious about the hobby, maybe even to the point of pursuing it as a career. You don’t tend to stack your PC full of powerful components like a 9th or 10th Generation processor for some casual gaming.

As we’ve covered, inside the processors will either be eight or ten cores depending on whether you’re getting a 9900K or 10900K. As cores get added, a CPU’s performance will become more and more powerful, and then an accompanying GPU is all you need to have both smooth and graphically impressive gameplay for the games you own. 

To expand how much a CPU can juggle at once, you’ll want to pay attention to the thread count too. The 9900K has sixteen threads for its eight cores, effectively doubling how much the 9900K can calculate. This is even more drastic with the stronger CPU, the 10900K, which has an unprecedented twenty threads.

Overclocking

We’d hope you know what overclocking is if you’re looking at CPUs of this caliber. It’s when you exceed the pre-set limits that a manufacturer has on the processor’s clock speed. This will increase the level of heat that the CPU is subjected to and void your warranty since any future problems could be pinned on you, not the manufacturers.

Overclocking is great for giving your PC some extra power before it does heavy-lifting, and it can be safe as long as you have a good cooling system.

Overclocking is more appealing for i5 and i7 CPUs for a very simple reason, what could you possibly need an overclocked 9900K or 10900K for? While we’re writing this, the 10900K remains one of, if not the, most powerful Intel CPU on the market.

The 9900K makes more sense to overclock, sure, but the same can be said for that too. These are powerful CPUs that’ll play nice with your videogames for the foreseeable future, so don’t expect to need much overclocking if you go with one of these processors.

Pricing and Availability

There are positives and negatives to being the most advanced CPUs of your series. Sure, they have the specs to face off against most other processors, even those from different brands, but they’re also more exclusive and are only bought by the most dedicated of gamers who can afford them.

This creates an interesting situation where yes, they’re available most of the time, but they’re also pricey, half because of the new tech they use and half because they’re not as popular as their i5 and i7 cousins, making them scarce.

As a general rule, the tech will trend downwards in price as the years roll on, and that is definitely true, but i9s aren’t consumer-ready i5s that sell hard and fast, so keep that in mind and shop around for a great deal on whichever one you want.

At any rate, there’s definitely a winner here for the affordability crowd, and that’s the 9900K. You’d be surprised how close some CPUs can cut it in terms of pricing, but at this point, you’d be better off with the 9900K over the 10900K since you can potentially shave hundreds off the purchase.

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Final Words

What we have here is a pair of great CPUs that’d be the backbone of any gaming rig’s performance, so don’t stress about which one you want.

Like we’ve said, keep your 9900K if you have one already and only upgrade once there’s a more substantial leap in quality performance between them, but virtually everyone else should be satisfied with whatever one they buy.

If money is no object and you love having the best, most cutting-edge computer components, you can find a decent deal for the Intel Core i9-10900K if you look hard enough online. Otherwise, you can “settle” for the 9900K, save money, and still get a great i9 CPU that outclasses most other people’s i5 or i7 models.