Intel likes 5.0 GHz processors. The one area where it claims a clear advantage over AMD is in its ability to drive the frequency of its popular 14nm process. Earlier this week, we reviewed the Core i9-9990XE, which is a rare auction only CPU but with 14 cores at 5.0 GHz, built for the high-end desktop and high frequency trading market. Today we are looking at its smaller sibling, the Core i9-9900KS, built in numbers for the consumer market: eight cores at 5.0 GHz. But you’ll have to be quick, as Intel isn’t keeping this one around forever.

The Battle of the Bits

Every time a new processor comes to market, several questions get asked: how many cores, how fast, how much power? We’ve come through generations of promises of many GHz and many cores for little power, but right now we have an intense battle on our hands. The red team is taking advantage of a paradigm shift in computing with an advanced process node to offer many cores at a high power efficiency as well as at a good frequency. In the other corner is team blue, which has just equipped its arsenal by taking advantage of its most aggressive binning of 14nm yet, with the highest frequency processor for the consumer market, enabled across all eight cores and to hell with the power. Intel’s argument here is fairly simple:

Do you want good all-around, or do you want the one with the fastest raw speed?

The Intel Core i9-9900KS is borne from the battle. In essence it looks like an overclocked Core i9-9900K, however by that logic everything is an overclocked version of something else. In order for Intel to give a piece of silicon off the manufacturing like the name of a Core i9-9900KS rather than a Core i9-9900K requires additional binning and validation, to the extent where it has taken several months from announcement just for Intel to be happy that they have enough chips for demand that will meet the warranty standards.

At the time Intel launched its 9th Generation Core desktop processors, like the Core i9-9900K, I perhaps would not have expected them to launch something like the Core i9-9900KS. It’s a big step up in the binning, and I’d be surprised if Intel gets one chip per wafer that hits this designation. Intel announced the Core i9-9900KS after AMD had launched its Zen 2 Ryzen 3000 family, offering 12 cores with an all core turbo around 4.2 GHz and a +10% IPC advantage over Intel’s Skylake microarchitecture (and derivatives) for a lower price per core. In essence, Intel’s Core i9-9900K consumer flagship processor had a chip that was pretty close to it in performance with several more cores.

Intel is pushing the Core i9-9900KS as the ultimate consumer processor. With eight cores all running at 5.0 GHz, it is promising fast response and clock rates without any slowdown. Intel has many marketing arguments as to why the KS is the best processor on the market, especially when it comes to gaming: having a 5.0 GHz frequency keeps it top of the pile for gaming where frequency matters (low resolution), and many games don’t scale beyond four cores, let alone eight, and so the extra cores on the competition don’t really help here. It will be interesting to see where the 9900KS comes out in standard workload tests however, where cores can matter.

Intel’s 9th Generation Core Processors

The Intel Core i9-9900KS now sits atop of Intel’s consumer product portfolio. The processor is the same 8-core die as the 9900K, unlocked with UHD 620 integrated graphics, but has a turbo of 5.0 GHz. All cores can turbo to 5.0 GHz. The length of the turbo will be motherboard dependent, however.

Intel 9th Gen Core 8-Core Desktop CPUs
AnandTech Cores Base
All-Core Turbo Single
Core Turbo
i9-9900KS 8 / 16 4.0 GHz 5.0 GHz 5.0 GHz UHD 630 2666 127 W $513
i9-9900K 8 / 16 3.6 GHz 4.7 GHz 5.0 GHz UHD 630 2666 95 W $488
i9-9900KF 8 / 16 3.6 GHz 4.7 GHz 5.0 GHz - 2666 95 W $488
i7-9700K 8 / 8 3.6 GHz 4.6 GHz 4.9 GHz UHD 630 2666 95 W $374
i7-9700KF 8 / 8 3.6 GHz 4.6 GHz 4.9 GHz - 2666 95 W $374

The Core i9-9900KS has an tray price of $513 (when purchased in 1000 unit bulk), which means we’re likely to see an on-shelf price of $529-$549, depending on if it gets packaged in its dodecanal box that our review sample came in.

Compared to the Core i9-9900K or Core i9-9900KF, the Core i9-9900KS extends its 5.0 GHz all through from when 2 cores are active to 8 cores are active. There is still no Turbo Boost Max 3.0 here, which means that all cores are guaranteed to hit this 5.0 GHz number. The TDP is 127 W, which is the maximum power consumption of the processor at its base frequency, 4.0 GHz. Above 4.0 GHz Intel does not state what sort of power to expect. We have this testing further in the review.


At present, Intel is competing against two major angles with the Core i9-9900KS. On the one side, it already has the Core i9-9900K, which if a user gets a good enough sample, can be overclocked to emulate the 9900KS. Intel does not offer warranty on an overclocked CPU, so there is something to be taken into account – the warranty on the Core i9-9900KS is only a limited 1 year warranty, rather than the standard 3 years it offers to the majority of its other parts, which perhaps indicates the lengths it went to for binning these processors.

From AMD, the current 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X that is already in the market has become a popular processor for users going onto 7nm and PCIe 4.0. It offers more PCIe lanes from the CPU to take advantage of PCIe storage and such, and there are a wealth of motherboards on the market that can take advantage of this processor. It also has an MSRP around the same price, at $499, although is often being sold for much higher due to availability.

AMD also has the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X coming around the corner, promising slightly more performance than the 3900X, and aside from the $749 MSRP, it’s going to be an unknown on availability until it gets released in November.

The Competition
Intel i9-9900KS Intel i9-9900K Anand
8 8 Cores 12 16 12 8
16 16 Threads 24 32 24 16
4.0 3.6 Base 3.5 3.5 3.8 3.9
8 x 5.0 2 x 5.0 Turbo 4.3 4.7 4.6 4.5
2 x 2666 2 x 2666 DDR4 4 x 2933 2 x 3200 2 x 3200 2 x 3200
3.0 x16 3.0 x16 PCIe 3.0 x64 4.0 x24 4.0 x24 4.0 x24
127 W 95 W TDP 180 W 105 W 105 W 105 W
$513 $486 Price $649 $749 $499 $399

It’s worth noting here that while Intel has committed to delivering ‘10nm class’ processors on the desktop in the future, it currently has made zero mention of exactly when this is going to happen. Offering a limited edition all-core 5.0 GHz part like the Core i9-9900KS into the market is a brave thing indeed – it will have to provide something similar or better when it gets around to producing 10nm processors for this market. We saw this once before, when Intel launched Devil’s Canyon: super binned parts that ultimately ended up being faster than those that followed on an optimized process, because the binning aspect ended up being a large factor. Intel either has extreme confidence in its 10nm process for the desktop family, or doesn’t know what to expect.

This Review

In our review, we’re going to cover the usual benchmarking scenarios for a processor like this, as well as examine Intel’s relationship with turbo and how much a motherboard manufacturer can affect the performance.

Test Bed and Setup
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  • Agent Smith - Friday, November 1, 2019 - link

    Only one year warranty with this CPU, reduced from 3yrs. So it’s marginally faster, uses more power, offers no gaming advantages and it’s price hike doesn’t justify the performance gain and warranty disadvantage over 9900k.

    ... and the 3950x is about to arrive. Mmm?
  • willis936 - Friday, November 1, 2019 - link

    Counter strike really needs to be added to benchmarks. It’s just silly how useless these gaming benchmarks are. There is virtually nothing that separates any of the processors. How can you recommend it for gaming when your data shows that a processor half the price is just as good? Test the real scenarios that people would want to use this chip.
  • Xyler94 - Friday, November 1, 2019 - link

    It's more because you need a specific set of circumstances these days to see the difference in gaming that's more than margin of error.

    You need at least a 2080, but preferably a 2080ti
    You need absolutely nothing else running on the computer other than OS, Game and launcher
    You need the resolution to be set at 1080p
    You need the quality to be at medium to high.

    then, you can see differences. CS:GO shows nice differences... but there's no monitor in the world that can display 400 to 500FPS, so yeah... Anandtech still uses a 1080, which is hardly taxing to any modern CPU, that's why you see no differences.
  • willis936 - Friday, November 1, 2019 - link

    csgo is a proper use case. It isn’t intense, graphically, and people regularly play with 1440p120. Shaving milliseconds off input to display latency matters. I won’t go into an in depth analysis to why, but imagine a human response time has a gaussian distribution and whoever responds first wins. Even if the mean response time is 150 ms, if the standard deviation is 20 ms and your input to display latency is 50 ms then there are gains to cutting 20, 10, even 5 ms off of it.

    And yes, more fps does reduce input latency, even in cases where the monitor refresh rate is lower than the fps.
  • Xyler94 - Tuesday, November 5, 2019 - link

    If you visually can't react fast enough, doesn't matter how quickly the game can take an input, you're still limited on the information presented to you. 240hz is the fastest you can go, and 400FPS vs 450FPS isn't gonna win you tournaments.

    CS:GO is not a valid test, as there's more to gaming than FPS. Input lag is more about the drivers and peripherals, and there's even lag between your monitor and GPU to consider. But go on, pretend 50FPS at 400+ makes that huge of a difference.
  • solnyshok - Friday, November 1, 2019 - link

    No matter what GHz, buying a 14nm/PCIE3 chip/mobo just before 10nm/PCIE4 comes to the market... Seriously? Wait another 6 months.
  • mattkiss - Friday, November 1, 2019 - link

    10nm/PCIe 4 isn't coming to desktop next year, where did you hear that?
  • eek2121 - Friday, November 1, 2019 - link

    The 3700X is totally trolling Intel right now.
  • RoboMurloc - Friday, November 1, 2019 - link

    I dunno if anyone mentioned yet, but the KS has additional security measures to mitigate exploits which are probably causing the performance regressions.
  • PeachNCream - Friday, November 1, 2019 - link

    I expect I will never own an i9-9900KS or a Ryzen 7 3700X, but it is interesting to see how close AMD's 65W 8 core chip gets to Intel's 127+W special edition CPU in terms of performance in most of these benchmarks.

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