The CPU determines how efficiently your software will run. The number of cores and threads, as well as the clocking speed, will all have a major impact on gaming. So how do you choose between two CPUs with very similar essential features?
Take the 9900K and the 9900KF. As their name suggests, these are pretty similar CPUs. In fact, they’re almost identical.
Launched one year apart, the 9900K processor and 9900KF processors have quite a lot in common. In fact, when it comes to essential features, they are basically the same. The 9900KF essentially an altered version of the 9900K. So, if the essential features are identical, what makes them different?
These differences aren’t major, but they will matter. Although we’ll get onto the more complex capabilities of these two CPUs further down, the essential difference is that the 9900KF has the same features as the 9900K but without an onboard graphics unit.
As you can see from the table above, the essential features of both the 9900K and the 9900KF are identical. The differing features are mostly advanced and relate to the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), or lack thereof in the 9900KF.
But, although they are the same, let’s go over exactly what these features mean and what they can do.
As both the 9900K and the 9900KF have the same number of cores, it’s impossible to make a comparison in terms of number. So what about structure?
8 is a high number of cores, although the ideal number for gaming is generally considered to be 6. 6 cores offer a good balance between capability and future-proofing.
8 cores do allow for future-proofing so you won’t have to reinstall a new CPU when more complex games are released. To generalize a little, a higher number of cores does mean that the CPU will be able to run more tasks. This isn’t a hard and fast rule as the number of channels and threads.
But as both the 9900K and the 9900KF have the same number of cores, there isn’t going to be a huge difference in what they can do. But this higher number of cores does mean there is the potential capacity for overclocking and a more efficient processor overall.
Essentially, 8 cores will allow for the CPU to manage tasks well and will allow for future-proofing. If you want to invest in something that you won’t have to upgrade for a while, then either the 9900K or 9900KF is great in terms of cores.
Threads and cores might seem similar but they do have different functions. While the cores are the physical hardware that controls how many tasks the CPU can complete at once. The threads are essentially the virtual component. The threads manage the tasks and organize them so that the core can run them.
Similar to the number of cores, the number of threads will have an impact but aren’t the sole feature to focus on. In fact, it’s not a good idea to focus on any one feature as the most important. While it can be said that 6 cores are ideal for gaming, there is a lot of give and take. And personal preference is also important.
Each core can manage one task at a time. When playing video games, multiple cores will be needed. So multiple threads will be needed to make sure that these are run as efficiently as possible.
If you want to run background apps at the same time as the video game, then you’re going to need more threads. The number of cores will allow the tasks to run but the threads are also necessary to make sure that they run well and don’t interfere with each other.
As with the cores, the number of threads for both the 9900K and 9900KF are the same. 16 is a fairly high number of threads. But the standard ratio of threads to cores is 2:1 so this isn’t surprising.
Essentially, the cores will run efficiently because there is a good number of threads available to work with them. The most important thing to know about the threads in this CPU is that there are enough and they will run well enough for gaming.
The differences begin to show when it comes to the more advanced features of the 9900K and 9900KF. The main difference is the 9900KF lacks a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU).
Without this graphics unit, the 9900KF also lacks the Intel Stable Image Platform (SIPP), and Intel Trusted Execution Technology. The 9900K has both.
So what difference does the GPU have? The GPU is obviously an important feature for gaming. (Read on to the Performance section for more information on how the 9900KF works without a GPU). But what about the GPU in the 9900K?
Depending on who you ask, many experienced gamers would disable an integrated GPU, which is one of the reasons why the 9900K even exists.
Overall, the GPU of the 9900K is fine and will work well. But, you might be tempted to disable it and use a separate graphics card. For this reason, the 9900KF trumps the 9900K.
SIPP allows the disk image to function and transition seamlessly between certified hardware combinations. For gaming, the inclusion of the Intel Stable Image Platform is negligible. It’s easy to look at the specifications and assume that the CPU with the most features will be the best.
But anyone concerned about the speed of their CPU knows this isn’t necessarily the case. It’s a generalized argument that can be contradicted with some CPUs, but fewer features can mean that the CPU runs faster and has a greater capacity for overclocking.
Previously, the Intel Core i9-9900K has been described by the company as “the best gaming CPU ever”. This is a bold, but not necessarily inaccurate, claim. The 9900K is an excellent CPU as it is fast and has the capacity for overclocking. But what does the 9900KF have to offer in comparison?
As has already been seen, the 9900K and 9900KF are very similar CPUs. The primary difference is that the 9900K has an onboard graphics unit whereas the 9900KF does not. But what does this mean in practicality?
You are likely already aware but if you choose to purchase a CPU without an onboard graphics unit, then you will have to also buy a separate graphics card. Buying a separate graphics card, as is necessary for the 9900KF, will bring the overall price of the CPU up.
Due to the limited difference between the 9900K and the 9900KF, there is a limited difference in their performance. The biggest difference can really only be seen in terms of overclocking.
The lack of an onboard graphics unit does suggest that there is an increased capacity for overlocking. Many CPUs are sold locked so that they cannot be overclocked. This is intentionally done to prevent users from overworking and messing around with the processor. But both the 9900K and the 9900KF are unlocked.
This means that both can be pushed to their limit. The style of these processors means that they are ideal for gaming. They both feature Solder Thermal Interface Material (STIM) which is specifically designed to maximize the heat transfer from the processor to the cooler.
When it comes to gaming, the GPU is generally more important than the CPU. If speed and performance are more important to you than cost. Purchasing the 9900KF and an additional GPU will provide a faster and more visually appealing gaming experience.
For gaming, clock speed is incredibly important. The clock speed dictates how quickly your game is going to run.
The cores control the tasks, the threads organize them and make sure they run efficiently but the clock speed is an indication and measurement of how quickly the CPU will run overall.
Generally speaking, a clock speed of somewhere between 3.5GHz and 4.0GHz is ideal for gaming. So, the 3.6GHz clock speed of both the 9900K and 9900KF is fine.
If you want a faster CPU, both the 9900K and 9900KF are unlocked. They both have a maximum capacity of 5.0GHz which is a good amount of extra capacity.
Price-wise, the 9900KF is slightly cheaper than the 9900K. But this isn’t a large variation in price. It definitely isn’t a big enough variation to cover the lack of an integrated graphics processing unit.
The 9900KF has one fewer feature than the 9900K but they are still very close in price. As mentioned above, if you choose to purchase the 9900KF then you will likely have to separately purchase a graphics card. This will bring the overall price of the CPU up. Which will defeat the purpose of purchasing a simpler and cheaper version.
Both of these CPUs are currently available on Amazon and neither has been discontinued. Although the 9900KF is a newer version, it has by no means replaced the 9900K.
It is not simply the case that the 9900KF is an improved version of the 9900K. It has been released more recently but simply as an altered version of the 9900K.
Overall, the prices of both the 9900K and the 9900KF are quite expensive. Intel is a well-known brand and is reliable. So you will be investing your money in something reliable and durable. But, there are cheaper alternatives that will have similar features.
This is especially true considering the 9900KF has fewer features. The lack of a GPU should really bring down the price of the 9900KF a bit more than it already does.
So, if the 9900K is calling out to you, then go ahead but it’s not likely to go anywhere anytime soon. But the 9900KF is a great option if you want to control the quality of the graphics yourself and have a bigger budget.
For processors that are so similar, it is difficult to claim which is the superior CPU. The 9900KF has fewer features than the 9900K, yet they are available at very similar price points.
It isn’t simply the case that the 9900KF has fewer features so is inferior and therefore more affordable. The features the 9900KF is lacking allow for a potential increase in overclocking. So there is the potential for increased gaming speeds.
Essentially, the 9900KF provides more options. If you regularly find yourself disabling the integrated graphics unit on a CPU and using a separate graphics card, then the 9900KF allows you to mess around with its potential. 9900KF allows for more freedom when it comes to overclocking.
This is useful but doesn’t really justify the similarities in price. As mentioned above, you will still be required to purchase a separate graphics card. So not only will purchasing the 9900KF cost almost the same as the 9900K but it will end up being more expensive overall.
The 9900KF is useful but the 9900K is still superior, simply because it has more features for the same price. There are arguments for the capacities and potential of the 9900KF. But you can’t really argue the superiority of a CPU based on what it might be able to do.