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Intel's Ninth-Gen Processors: 5 Things To Know

The new lineup of chips is targeted at high-performance desktop PC uses and features up to eight cores.

Intel Monday unveiled its next generation of Core processors with improved performance and enhanced security, including hardware-level protections against side-channel vulnerabilities such as Spectre and Meltdown.

The ninth-generation Core processors are targeted at desktop PCs, with a focus on gaming—although one solution provider told CRN that he expects demand for the chip beyond just gaming users.

[Related: Intel Unveils Ninth-Gen Processors With Up To Eight Cores]

Also known as Intel's Coffee Lake-S Refresh, the ninth-gen Core chips are available for pre-order now with shipping to begin Oct. 19.

What follows are five key things to know about Intel's ninth-gen Core processors.

Performance

Intel unveiled three chips in its ninth-gen Core lineup Monday—the Core i5-9600K, the Core i7-9700K and the Core i9-9900K. All three include gains on performance versus their eighth-gen counterparts:

  • For the ninth-gen Core i5, Intel is offering six cores and a clock speed of up to 4.6GHz, compared with four cores and a clock speed of up to 4.2GHz in the previous Core i5.
  • Both the ninth-gen Core i7 and Core i9 will offer eight cores compared with a maximum of six cores in the prior generation. This makes the new processors the first mainstream Intel chips to offer eight cores, Intel said.
  • The ninth-gen Core i7 reaches a clock speed of 4.9GHz versus 4.3GHz in the previous generation, while the ninth-gen Core i9 is clocked at up to 5GHz versus 4.8GHz previously.
  • Notably, the ninth-gen Core i9 also features 16 threads, compared with 12 threads in the prior generation.

Security

Since the start of the year, a total of six processor security flaws known as side-channel vulnerabilities have been disclosed, including several Spectre and Meltdown variants. Intel has promised both hardware and software fixes to address the vulnerabilities, and the company's ninth-gen processors help to deliver on that promise, according to the company.

In the ninth-gen chips, "protections include a combination of the hardware design changes we announced earlier this year as well as software and microcode updates," Intel said in a statement provided to CRN.

The ninth generation is the first Intel desktop processor line to get hardware protections against side-channel vulnerabilities, Intel said. The hardware-level fixes include partitioning to thwart hacking attempts.

The hardware protections address Meltdown Variant 3 in the ninth-gen processors, Intel said. A hardware fix is also built into the new chips for protecting against the L1 Terminal Fault, which was disclosed in August and is the most recently discovered side-channel vulnerability.

Meanwhile, Spectre Variant 2 and the vulnerability known as Variant 4 are being addressed with both microcode and software updates in the ninth-gen processors, and Meltdown Variant 3a is being addressed with microcode updates only, according to Intel.

‘Best’ Gaming Processor

Intel said the massive performance available in the ninth-gen Core processors makes them ideal for gaming users. The processors enable more than 220 frames per second on major games including Fortnite, the company said.

In particular, the Core i9-9900K is "the best gaming processor in the world" based on performance tests done by Intel, said Anand Srivatsa, vice president and general manager in the Client Computing Group at Intel, while unveiling the ninth-gen chips Monday in New York.

Initial gaming PC lines that are expected to feature the ninth-gen processors include HP Omen, Lenovo Legion and Dell Alienware, Srivatsa said.

Not Just Gaming

The ninth-gen Core processors may be of interest to more than just gaming customers, however. Along with featuring hardware-level protections against side-channel vulnerabilities, the ninth-gen processors are also debuting at a time when Intel is facing a CPU shortage—as a result of what interim CEO Bob Swan has described as a "surprising return" to growth in the PC market.

The circumstances may help to drive some non-gaming customers to the ninth-gen chips—particularly for customers that are looking for the latest security updates as soon as possible, said Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of LAN Infotech, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based solution provider.

"Any amount of ongoing protection we can present to them is best, given today's cyber positioning," Goldstein said in an email to CRN. "It's great seeing that they are working to fix the issue, but coming on top of CPU shortages [the ninth generation] does offer our clients a quick fix."

Price

Intel said that its recommended customer price for the Core i9-9900K is $488, while Core i7-9700K comes with a recommended price of $374. At the entry level for the ninth-generation processors, the Core i5-9600K features a recommended price of $262.

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