Intel Core i7-9700K hands on: setting the bar for high-end CPUs

The Core i9-9900K might Intel’s new flagship processor for its mainstream lineup of CPUs, but we’re far more interested in the new Core i7-9700K. For one thing, the Intel Core i7-9700K might be the company’s most controversial chip in years due to its lack of hyper-threading – otherwise known as Intel’s buzzword for parallel computing for heavy multi-tasking.

Intel has dropped hyper-threading on its lower-end, budget processor before, but this is a high-end processor meant for gamers and creatives. Despite our reservations, this Coffee Lake Refresh processor has surprised as a well-performing CPU so far.

Pricing and availability

The Intel Core i7-9700K sadly comes doesn’t come in at the same $359 (£389, AU$524) price the Intel Core i7-8700K did. Instead, this new high-end Coffee Lake processor runs for a noticeably higher $374 (about £290, AU$530) price.

Users will be able to find the AMD Ryzen 7 2700X at a slightly lower $329 (£299, AU$469) price, and this CPU comes with a premium RGB CPU cooler bundled in too.

Features and chipset

Equipped with 8-cores and 8-threads, the Intel Core i7-9700K is a bit of an oddity compared to its predecessor. Next to last year’s Intel Core i7-8700K, this new chip has two more cores but four fewer threads.

The Intel Core i7-9700K is also rated with a base clock of 3.6GHz and can boost one its processor cores all the way to 4.9GHz. Comparatively, the Intel Core i7-8700K starts at a tick higher 3.7GHz base frequency but can’t go nearly as fast with its maximum 4.9GHz boost clock.

For its latest 9th Generation chips Intel is going with a soldered integrated heat spreader (IHS) – which we haven’t seen since Sandy Bridge – to support greater overclocking capabilities.

For the last few generations of chips, Intel has gone with a Thermal Interface Material (TIM – aka thermal paste) to transfer heat between the processor dies and the IHS. Unfortunately, this change in manufacturing process seemingly resulted in hotter running processors, which infuriated many enthusiast users and overclockers.

In theory, this purported gold-plated solder replacing the TIM and be a much more efficient heat transfer medium. Intel has even gone as far to claim its new processors will run TK% cooler than its previous 8th Generation chips.

Intel Core i7-9700K review

Performance

Although we haven’t gotten the chance to full benchmark this new processor thoroughly we did get a little sneak peek at the performance this new Core i7 chip can deliver.

In terms of gaming, we were able to run a few gaming benchmarks including World of Tanks Encore, where the Intel Core i7-9700K delivered a score of 30,339 points. Impressively that's roughly only 3,000 points behind the Intel Core i9-9900K, which has double the threads and actually supports hyper-threading.

We also saw Hitman 2 benchmark running around a middling 65fps at the same settings. This could suggest that AI-heavy games may be a weak point for this non-hyper-threading processor. However, the PC was running a pre-beta build version of the game, so performance may improve as the it gets closer to its final release build.

Early verdict

The Intel Core i7-9700K looks like the right step forward so far. The boost in core count finally puts Team Blue’s processors on par with AMD’s Ryzen 2nd Generation lineup. However, without fully testing the CPU we’re not entirely convinced dropping hyper-threading was the right decision.

Rest assured, we’ll be getting to all our intensive testing with this processor soon, so stay tuned for our full review of the Intel Core i7-9700K.

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