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Intel Core i9-9900KS Special Edition CPU Review

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Introduction

The World’s Best Gaming Processor, Made Even Better

Intel’s Core i9-9900K was the first high volume consumer CPU to hit 5 GHz out of the box as well as their first mainstream 8-core CPU. This potent combination has allowed the 9900K to be billed as the ‘Worlds Best Gaming Processor’ by Intel and has allowed it to retain that title for just over a year, even against stiff competition. While we wait for the next generation, Intel has cherry-picked the very best silicon from the best wafers to provide the basis for today’s launch, the Intel Core i9-9900KS Special Edition. This limited-edition CPU boasts an increased base clock over the i9-9900K as well as the out-of-the-box ability to Boost all 8 cores to 5.0GHz at the same time. The world’s best gaming processor just got better!

ProClockers would like to thank Intel for sending the Core i9-9900KS over for us to check out!

Intel’s take on the Core i9-9900KS:

The Intel Core i9-9900KS processor is the latest addition to Intel’s line of unlocked desktop processors, bringing eight cores and sixteen threads of performance to the gaming and performance enthusiast. Gamers and overclocking enthusiasts will be able to take performance to the max with the 9th Gen Intel Core i9-9900KS Special Edition processor. Only select chips from Intel wafers can achieve this specification to run up to 5.0 GHz all-core turbo. Quantity is limited for this special edition product.

An Intel® Z390 chipset-based motherboard is required to optimize some of the features of the Intel® Core™ i9-9900KS processor:

  • Up to 5.0 GHz all-core turbo frequency; up to 4.0 GHz base frequency, which allows games to run faster when they scale across more cores for higher frame rates
  • Eight cores, 16 threads, 127W TDP, 16 MB Intel Smart Cache, and up to 40 platform PCIe lanes
  • Compatible with existing Z390 motherboards
  • Up to 27% faster mega-tasking when you simultaneously game, stream, and record compared with a 3-year-old PC
  • Up to 35% more frames per second compared with a 3-year-old PC
  • Up to 17% faster 4K video editing compared with the previous generation and up to 78% faster compared with a 3-year-old PC
  • One-year warranty
  • Overclock confidently with new and enhanced features like Intel Performance Maximizer, which makes it easy to dynamically and reliably custom-tune the unlocked processor based on the processor’s individual performance DNA

The 9900KS’ claim to fame is out of the box boosting to 5.0GHz. Unlike the i9-9900K (no ‘S’) which can only boost to 5.0GHz with up to 2 cores active, the 9900KS can boost to 5.0GHz with every single core active. The base clock also gets an 11% bump to 4.0 GHz, up from 3.6GHz. To get this extra headroom, Intel had to increase the Thermal Design Power to 127 Watts, a hefty 33% increase. As any semi-serious overclocker knows, power consumption increases are not linear with clock speed and aggressively pushing clock speeds can spiral power consumption (and heat) out of control quickly, so a 33% increase in power only nets an 11% increase in clock speeds really isn’t unexpected at all.

Features & Specifications

Intel Core i9-9900KS Processor Key Features:

  • Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0:  Dynamically increases the processor frequency up to 5.0GHz when applications demand more performance.  Speed when you need it, energy efficiency when you don’t.
  • Intel Hyper-Threading Technology:  Allows each processor core to work on two tasks at the same time for up to 16 total independent tasks (threads) providing parallel processing capability for better multi-tasking with threaded applications.
  • Intel Smart Cache:  16MB of shared cache allows faster access to your data by enabling dynamic and efficient allocation of the cache to match the needs of each core, which can help significantly reduce latency to frequently used data and improving performance.
  • CPU Overclocking Enabled (with Intel Z390 chipsets):  Fully unlocked core multiplier, base clock, and memory ratios as well as options to modify power settings and per-core overclocking enable ultimate flexibility for overclocking.
  • Graphics Overclocking Enabled (with Intel® Z390 chipsets):  Unlocked graphics multiplier allows for overclocking to boost the graphics clock speed.
  • Integrated Memory Controller:  Supports 2 channels of DDR4-2666 memory with 2 DIMMs per channel.  Support for memory based on the Intel Extreme Memory Profile (Intel XMP) specification.
  • PCI Express 3.0 Interface:  Supports up to 8 GT/s for fast access to peripheral devices and networking with up to 16 lanes configurable as 1×16, 2×8, or 1×8 and 2×4 depending on the motherboard design.
  • Chipset/Motherboard Compatibility:  Compatible with all Intel® 300 Series chipsets with the latest BIOS and drivers.
  • Intel UHD Graphics 630:  Integrated 3D performance with support for Microsoft DirectX 12 and Ultra HD 4K resolution display for immersive mainstream gaming.  For Microsoft DirectX 12 testing, the performance-tuned Intel graphics driver is expected to be available for download on Intel Download Center by the 9th generation Intel Core processor family product introduction.  The Intel UHD Graphics 630 dynamic graphics frequency ranges up to 1200MHz.
    • Vibrant Media:  Enhanced, built-in visual features deliver a seamless visual PC experience for rich Ultra HD 4K entertainment and HD gaming.
    • Intel® Quick Sync Video Technology:  Media processing for incredibly fast conversion of video files for portable media players or online sharing including support for HEVC 10-bit (H.265) encode/decode to playback premium 4K Ultra HD content from selected service providers.

Specifications:

Essentials

  • Product Collection – 9th Generation Intel Core i9 Processors
  • Code Name – Products formerly Coffee Lake
  • Vertical Segment – Desktop
  • Processor Number – i9-9900KS
  • Status – Launched
  • Launch Date – Q4’19
  • Lithography – 14 nm
  • Use Conditions – PC/Client/Tablet

Performance

  • # of Cores – 8
  • # of Threads – 16
  • Processor Base Frequency – 4.0 GHz
  • Max Turbo Frequency – 5.00 GHz
  • Cache – 16 MB SmartCache
  • Bus Speed – 8 GT/s DMI3
  • TDP – 127W

Supplemental Information

  • Embedded Options Available – No

Memory Specifications

  • Max Memory Size (dependent on memory type) – 64 GB
  • Memory Types – DDR4-2666
  • Max # of Memory Channels – 2
  • Max Memory Bandwidth – 1.6 GB/s
  • ECC Memory Supported  No
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Processor Graphics

  • Processor Graphics – Intel UHD Graphics 630
  • Graphics Base Frequency – 350 MHz
  • Graphics Max Dynamic Frequency – 1.20 GHz
  • Graphics Video Max Memory – 64 GB
  • 4K Support – Yes, at 60Hz
  • Max Resolution (HDMI 1.4) – 4096×2304@24Hz
  • Max Resolution (DP) – 4096×2304@60Hz
  • Max Resolution (eDP – Integrated Flat Panel) – 4096×2304@60Hz
  • DirectX Support – 12
  • OpenGL Support – 4.5
  • Intel Quick Sync Video – Yes
  • Intel InTru 3D Technology – Yes
  • Intel Clear Video HD Technology – Yes
  • Intel Clear Video Technology – Yes
  • # of Displays Supported 3
  • Device ID – 0x3E98

Expansion Options

  • Scalability – 1S Only
  • PCI Express Revision – 3.0
  • PCI Express Configurations Up to 1×16, 2×8, 1×8+2×4
  • Max # of PCI Express Lanes – 16

Package Specifications

  • Sockets Supported – FCLGA1151
  • Max CPU Configuration – 1
  • Thermal Solution Specification – PCG 2015D (130W)
  • TJUNCTION – 100°C
  • Package Size – 37.5mm x 37.5mm

Advanced Technologies

  • Intel® Optane™ Memory Supported – Yes
  • Intel® Turbo Boost Technology  2.0
  • Intel® vPro™ Platform Eligibility Yes
  • Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology  Yes
  • Intel® Virtualization Technology (VT-x)  Yes
  • Intel® Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d)  Yes
  • Intel® TSX-NI – Yes
  • Intel® 64  Yes
  • Instruction Set – 64-bit
  • Instruction Set Extensions – Intel® SSE4.1, Intel® SSE4.2, Intel® AVX2
  • Idle States – Yes
  • Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology – Yes
  • Thermal Monitoring Technologies – Yes
  • Intel Identity Protection Technology Yes
  • Intel Stable Image Platform Program (SIPP) – Yes

Security & Reliability

  • Intel® AES New Instructions – Yes
  • Secure Key – Yes
  • Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel SGX) – Yes
  • Intel® Memory Protection Extensions (Intel MPX) – Yes
  • Intel OS Guard – Yes
  • Intel Trusted Execution Technology – Yes
  • Execute Disable Bit  Yes
  • Intel Boot Guard – Yes

Packaging & A Closer Look

Our review sample Intel Core i9-9900KS comes in a large outer box bearing the Intel logo.

The box flips open to reveal the same unique shape packaging the Core i9-9900K came in a year ago.

The signature clear blue dodecahedron sits in a base of soft foam, with a matching piece in the lid section to hold it centered.

At a glance, the only way to tell the 9900K from the new 9900KS packaging is the Special Edition badge on the face, similar to the one we saw on the Core i7-8086K.

Through the clear blue plastic, we can see the actual CPU container inside.

The back edge has some info about needing an Intel 300 series motherboard for this CPU.

A security seal holds the sleeve together, and it unfolds off of the packaging once cut.

With the sleeve out of the way, the clear blue shell pops open into two pieces to reveal the inner packaging.

The inner packaging holds the CPU in place behind a window opening.

The top lifts off to reveal the typical Intel clamshell laying in a foam block.

As our CPU is a review sample, it bears engineering markings rather than the retail markings you would get buying one. Most of it is cryptic, but it does bear the 4.00GHz base clock speed.

The back of the LGA 1151 CPU looks pretty typical.

System Configration & Testing

CPU: Intel Core i9-9900KS

Ram: 16GB G.skill TridentZ RGB 3200Mhz C16

GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 FE

Mobo: ASUS ROG Maximus XI Extreme

SSD: Samsung 960 Pro 2TB

Cooling: Custom 360mm loop, EK Velocity CPU block, EKWB PE 360mm radiator, Monsoon MMRS res, and EKWB D5 Pump. Cooled by three Corsair ML120 Pro fans.

 

Performance Testing

General Performance Testing

All performance testing was done at default ‘out-of-the-box’ clock speed. Games were ran at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and higher settings enabled as noted.

PCMark 10

PCMark 10 is the complete benchmark for the modern office. It is the ideal test for organizations that are evaluating PCs for a workforce with a range of performance needs. The tests in this benchmark cover a wide range of activities from everyday productivity tasks to demanding work with digital media content.

PCMark 10 uses a modular approach to build relevant benchmark tests around common end-user scenarios. A Test Group is a collection of workloads that share a common theme or purpose. There are four test groups in PCMark 10, we use three of them.

Essentials: covers the common, everyday ways that people use a PC. The workloads include Web Browsing, Video Conferencing, and App Start-up time.

Productivity: measures system performance with everyday office applications. This test group includes the Spreadsheets and Writing workloads.

Digital Content Creation: This test group’s workload reflects the demands of working with digital content and media. The tests include Photo Editing, Video Editing, and Rendering and Visualization.

Intel’s 9900KS packs some serious heat in the productivity scene with it taking first place overall, and in the essentials and digital content creation categories.

 

WebXPRT 2015

WebXPRT 2013 uses scenarios created to mirror the tasks you do every day to compare the performance of almost any Web-enabled device. It contains four HTML5- and JavaScript-based workloads: Photo Effects, Face Detect, Stocks Dashboard, and Offline Notes.  WebXPRT is run with the latest stable release version of Google Chrome browser, in this case, Version 77.

On our browser-based test, the 9900KS again leaps right to the top of the chart, holding a small but noticeable lead over the 9900K.

CPU Performance Testing

Super PI Modded 1.5

“In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi in collaboration with Dr.Y.Kanada at the computer center. This record should be the current world record. (Details are shown in the windows help.) This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environments such as Windows NT and Windows 95. In order to calculate 33.55 million digits, it takes within 3 days with a Pentium 90 MHz, 40 MB main memory and 340 MB available storage.”

Our first CPU only test pits a single-core against 32 million digits of pi. The 9900KS surprisingly beats out the 8086K and 9900K which can both Turbo Boost a single core to 5.0 GHz.

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Y-Cruncher

Written by Alexander J. Lee “From a high-school project that went a little too far…” y-cruncher, (y for gamma) is a number-crunching program that can compute various mathematical constants.

It was originally a small program specialized for computing the Euler-Mascheroni Constant. (Which uses gamma as its symbol, hence the name). It has since gained the ability to compute other constants.

It is the first of its kind that is multi-threaded and scalable to multi-core systems. Ever since its launch in 2009, it has become a common benchmarking and stress-testing application for overclockers and hardware enthusiasts.

We tested using the built-in benchmarks to compute Pi to 1 Billion Digits in both single and multi-threaded mode and recorded the Total Computation time at the end of the run. Y-Cruncher is also able to take advantage of AVX512 instructions in compatible CPU’s. Due to the thermal load of running Intense AVX workloads, Intel has implemented and AVX offset clock that may scale the CPU’s clock speed back, even below stock speeds when running intense AVX loads. For this reason, we note the CPU’s clock speed in both single and multi-threaded test modes.

In y-cruncher, the 9900KS shaves about 20 seconds off the multi-threaded run, and a fraction of a second off the single-threaded run.

 

SiSoft Sandra – Cryptographic Bandwidth

“SiSoftware Sandra provides a robust package of diagnostic tools for testing your system and teasing out its problems–or potential headaches.”

Sisoft’s cryptographic bandwidth test comes in about 0.5GB/s slower than the 9900K. This is likely one of our first glimpses at the impact the new stepping has due to the hardware vulnerability updates Intel has made.

 

CINEBENCH R15

“CINEBENCH is a real-world cross-platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Iron Man 3, Oblivion, Life of Pi or Prometheus and much more.

CINEBENCH is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms (Windows and OS X). And best of all: It’s completely free.”

Cinebench R15 gets a nice uptick in score over the 9900K thanks to the sustained 5.0GHz clock speeds for the duration of the test.

CINEBENCH R20

Cinebench is a real-world cross-platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s hardware capabilities. Improvements to Cinebench Release 20 reflect the overall advancements to CPU and rendering technology in recent years, providing a more accurate measurement of Cinema 4D’s ability to take advantage of multiple CPU cores and modern processor features available to the average user. Best of all: It’s free.

Cinebench R20 is built to take advantage of today’s highly-threaded processors and the 9900KS gets a noticeable uptick in score over the 9900K on both single and multi-threaded tests.

 

7-Zip

The benchmark shows a rating in MIPS (million instructions per second). The rating value is calculated from the measured speed, and it is normalized with results of Intel Core 2 CPU with multi-threading option switched off. So if you have modern CPU from Intel or AMD, rating values in single-thread mode must be close to real CPU frequency. There are two tests, compression with LZMA method and decompression with the LZMA method. Once the total passes reach 100, the score is taken

In 7zip, the 9900KS easily holds the leads against any other 8-core CPU we’ve tested.

 

Black Hole 4.2

Let the beast run and benchmark your system in three different tests (Multithreaded, Single-threaded & 4-Threaded) that will test your CPU to the very limit, and score you among hundreds of other systems that have tested.

Multithreaded will test your CPU’s efficiency of running more than one thread without major system lag. The higher you score on this one, the more threads your CPU can handle with a comfortable speed. High multithreaded scores generally mean you can render things faster.

4-Threaded tests your CPU’s performance in games since most games currently run on 4 threads.

Single-threaded evaluates how fast the CPU can handle a single, dedicated thread for processing.

The 9900KS easily beats out the 9900K overall here, but can’t quite catch up the 8-core Ryzen 7 3700X on this test.

 

Memory Performance Testing

AIDA64 Engineer Edition

“FinalWire Ltd. today announced the immediate availability of AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.50 software, a streamlined diagnostic and benchmarking tool for home users; and the immediate availability of AIDA64 Business Edition 1.50 software, an essential network management solution for small and medium scale enterprises. The new AIDA64 update implements AVX-optimized benchmarks for the upcoming Intel Sandy Bridge processors, adds a brand-new video encoding benchmark, and supports the latest AMD and NVIDIA graphics processors.”

For the most part, there is not a significant difference between memory performance on most Intel 9th generation chips.

Latency comes in at a low 46.3ns. not bad for 3200MHz C16 memory.

Internal L1 cache bandwidth is quite impressive with read and copy functions hitting nearly 2.5TB/s.

L2 cache comes in at just under 1TB/s on copy functions.

The 9900KS’ L3 cache still holds a lead on the 9900K’s bandwidth.

 

Passmark Performance Test – Memory Mark – Threaded

“Fast, easy to use, PC speed testing and benchmarking. PassMark Performance Test ™ allows you to objectively benchmark a PC using a variety of different speed tests and compare the results to other computers.”

Here again the 9900KS is able hold the lead on its non-special-edition twin.

SiSoft Sandra – Memory Bandwidth.

“SiSoftware Sandra provides a robust package of diagnostic tools for testing your system and teasing out its problems–or potential headaches.”

Sisoft shows the 9900KS trailing the 9900K but about within margin of error.

 

Game Testing

3DMark – Fire Strike

“Fire Strike is a showcase DirectX 11 benchmark designed for today’s high-performance gaming PCs. It is our most ambitious and technical benchmark ever, featuring real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today”

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Interestingly, the new “World’s Best Gaming Processor” does indeed top the charts overall. As we are looking at CPU Physics score overall here, the 12-core Ryzen 9-3900X leads by just the smallest margin, with 50% more cores.

3DMark – Time Spy

“3Dmark Time Spy is a new DirectX 12 benchmark test for Windows 10 gaming PCs. Time Spay is one of the first DirectX 12 apps to be built “the right way” from the ground up to fully realize the performance gains that the new API offers. With DirectX 12 engine, which supports new API features like asynchronous compute, explicit multi-adapter, and multi-threading, Time Spy is the ideal test for benchmarking the latest graphics cards.”

Again, the 9900KS leads its slightly slower counterpart with a CPU physics score that rivals HEDT offerings.

Far Cry 5

Anything can happen. Everything will.

Welcome to Hope County, Montana, land of the free and the brave, but also home to a fanatical doomsday cult—known as The Project at Eden’s Gate—that is threatening the community’s freedom. Stand up to the cult’s leaders, Joseph Seed, and the Heralds, as you spark the fires of resistance that will liberate the besieged community.

On our first real game, the i9-9900KS holds a commanding lead over the former champ, and everything else thrown at it.

Ashes of the Singularity

Planet by planet, a war is raging across the galaxy. The technological singularity has given humanity the power to expand further than they ever have before. Now, they compete with each other and their sentient artificial intelligence adversaries for control of newfound worlds.

Ashes of the Singularity gives the 9900KS a smaller lead, but still offers commanding gaming performance.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Experience Lara Croft’s defining moment as she becomes the Tomb Raider. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara must master a deadly jungle, overcome terrifying tombs, and persevere through her darkest hour. As she races to save the world from a Maya apocalypse, Lara will ultimately be forged into the Tomb Raider she is destined to be.

The latest Tomb Raider installment doesn’t scale quite as well, even at 1080P with a powerful GPU, the extra clock speed doesn’t offer much of a gain.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

Originally created by legendary game designer Sid Meier, Civilization is a turn-based strategy game in which you attempt to build an empire to stand the test of time. Become Ruler of the World by establishing and leading a civilization from the Stone Age to the Information Age. Wage war, conduct diplomacy, advance your culture, and go head-to-head with history’s greatest leaders as you attempt to build the greatest civilization the world has ever known.

Civilization VI offers new ways to engage with your world: cities now physically expand across the map, active research in technology and culture unlocks new potential, and competing leaders will pursue their own agendas based on their historical traits as you race for one of five ways to achieve victory in the game.

The Ai test in Civilization VI shows a very good improvement with the extra clock speeds with our best score to date.

Overclocking, Thermals & Power

For the last few generations, overclocks have been flirting with the 5GHz mark. Since Intel’s Core i9-9900KS already comes out of the box able to maintain all cores at 5GHz, it almost seems like your job is already done here. We know better though, so let’s give it a little kick and see what else is left under the hood.

We are easily able to boot at 5.1GHz on all cores.

We see a small bump in the Cinebench score.

Temps are pretty manageable at this point with the hottest cores only peaking at 84C.

We push on to 5.2GHz and boot right up first try.

We again get a good jump in the score. Temps are creeping up to the mid 90C range at peak, with an average around 90C.  Voltages are still a very manageable 1.32V at this point.

1.34V gets us a stable 5.3GHz on all cores for non-AVX loads, but won’t quite handle AVX based workloads. We could use this as a daily driver with an AVX offset of 100-200MHz if we wanted to, pending we keep it under a water cooler or very good air cooler.

So far, we’ve seen some really impressive performance from the highly clocked Intel Core i9-9900KS but that raw speed comes at the cost of increased power usage. While overclockers are quite used to this, the average gamer that just wants ultimate gaming performance will need to keep an eye on total system power consumption against their power supply. We are seeing stock full system power usage from a CPU only load hitting 285W from the wall, about 85W more than a stock i9-9900K. Overclocking to 5.2GHz bumps this up about 25W more.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

Intel’s first Special Edition mainstream CPU, the Core i7-8086K was a lot of fun. Fast forward a short spurt of several months and the next Special Edition CPU, today’s Core i9-9900KS is even more of a blast. Much of the coverage the last several months has been about rapidly expanding core counts, but the majority of the programs the average Joe uses, like most games, can only take advantage of a handful of threads. What they do benefit from is raw clock speed, and the i9-9900KS has that in spades. Sure, plenty of people have been able to push the i9-9900K to 5.0GHz on all cores, but most users just want to drop it in and go with no worry about killing something while “operating outside of Intel’s published specifications”. The $513 MSRP really isn’t a huge jump in price for the highly binned CPU when you compare to aftermarket CPU binning services. If you have an Intel Core i9-9900K already, this probably isn’t worth the cost to update, but if you are in the market for a new build or an upgrade to your existing system, you can’t get much better right out of the box than you can right here.

Incredible job Intel!

ProClockers was founded way back in 2004, with a goal to provide unbiased PC hardware and tech reviews. Whilst the first products we reviewed are long gone, we're continuing to review the latest and greatest every month.

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ProClockers was founded in 2004, and since then we have reviewed thousands of tech products, including motherboards, CPUs, graphics cards, PC cases, cooling solutions and more. Whilst many of the original products we reviewed back then have long bit the dust, we continue working hard to provide unbiased PC hardware and tech reviews.

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