Intel Core i9-9900K Review Roundup: What Critics Are Saying

World's 'Fastest' Gaming Processor

Intel's ninth-generation Core processors started shipping on Friday, and the reviews are out, with most of them focusing on the company's new flagship gaming CPU, the Intel Core i9-9900K.

Also known as Intel's Coffee Lake-S Refresh, the ninth-gen Core processors are targeted at desktop PCs, primarily for gaming, though the company has also cited content creation as a use case. Beyond Intel's high-end Core i9-9900K, the company also released the Core i5-9600K and i7-9700K today.

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

Both the ninth-gen Core i7 and Core i9 pack eight cores compared to a maximum of six cores in the previous generation. The Core i9 comes with a clock speed of 5GHz and 16 threads, compared with the last generation's 4.8GHz and 12 threads, respectively. The Core i5 and Core 7, on the other hand, offers clock speeds of 4.6GHz and 4.9GHz and thread counts of six and eight, respectively.

So what have critics had to say about Intel's latest flagship CPU? Major publications agreed that it is the world's "best" or "fastest" CPU for gaming or mainstream computing purposes. However, some said the Core i9-9900K's $499 list price could be a barrier for some.

Here's a roundup of the biggest takeaways from reviews.

'Simply A Monster Of A CPU'

PCWorld called the Core i9-9900K the world's "fastest" CPU, both for gaming and mainstream computing purposes. The outlet found that the Core i9-9900K outperformed against Intel's last-generation Core i7-8700K and AMD's Ryzen 7 2700X across many tests, including for compression, encoding and modelling.

"Hopefully, even ardent AMD fans would have to admit the results in applications put the Core i9-9900K at the front of the line for mainstream CPUs," the review said.

The Core i9-9900K also came out ahead of the Core i7-8700K and AMD's Ryzen 7 2700X in gaming performance tests, which led PCWorld to conclude that the "Core i9-9900K is simply a monster of a CPU." And though the Core i9-9900K is a couple hundred dollars more expensive than AMD's Ryzen 7 2700X, the publication said the performance gains made it a worthwhile investment.

'The Processor Isn't For Everyone'

PC Magazine noted that Intel's ninth-generation Core i9-9900K is "the first i9 processor to become available on Intel's mainstream desktop platform," making it less expensive than the family of Core i9 chips from Intel's Core X family between the cost of the processor itself and the motherboard.

However, the Core i9-9900K's $499 list price means that it is now Intel's most expensive CPU in recent history and that it may be a bit of a leap for people who wanted to upgrade from last-generation's Core i7-8700K, the publication said.

In the end, PC Magazine called the Core i9-9900K a "wonder of modern silicon engineering," noting how Intel built the CPU using the same 14-nanometer manufacturing node as previous generation processors.

"This processor isn't for everyone, but for those who can afford both it and the serious cooling needed to overclock it, the Intel Core i9-9900K will not disappoint gamers, content creators, and extreme multitaskers who expect their CPU in a single-GPU system to do it all and do it all well," the review said.

'Intel's First 5GHz CPU That Anyone Can Buy'

Gizmodo commended the Core i9-9900K for being "Intel's first 5GHz CPU that anyone can buy." This is a special occasion, the publication said, because 5GHz had only been previously available in Intel's limited edition i7-8086K CPU that launched earlier this year and AMD's FX 9590, "though the CPU was ultimately not as fast as that clockrate promised and largely considered a failure."

Like PC Magazine, Gizmodo said the Core i9-9900K isn't worth it "unless you're spending a lot of time rendering." It added that "the AMD options will be nearly as fast for nearly half as much" while noting that the i9-9900K "actually rivals" AMD's Ryzen Threadripper 2950X, which costs $400 more.

Regardless, however, Gizmodo said the large number of CPU options in the markets is a good thing for consumers. "No matter your budget right now both AMD and Intel are producing wicked fast CPUs right now," the publication concluded.

Core i7-9700K And i5-9600K Also Worth It

In its review, Tom's Hardware compared the Core i9-9900K with the new i7-9700K and i5-9500K and concluded that the second-tier "i7-9700K, even at stock settings is competitive with the -9900K in most titles, especially considering the $115 you save by stepping down a notch."

The publication also commended the lower-tier Core i5-9600K, saying that even at stock settings, the $263 product "regularly beat an overclocked $378 Ryzen 7 2700X in games, and we expect even more performance from the Core i5 once we overclock it."

While Tom's Hardware said that the Core i9-9900K is "the fastest gaming processor in the market," it's hard to justify the price if customers already have a modern four- or six-core CPU.