Intel 9th Generation Coffee Lake Refresh CPUs

Another year has come and gone and with it comes the new Intel CPU lineup, these are the 9th generation Coffee Lake Refresh processors and they are the latest chips in the mainstream CPU series.

What Are The New Chips?

For the past few years Intel’s new mainstream processors have gradually bumped up performance levels with every release, some years it is by a decent margin (like last year’s Coffee Lake release) whereas in other years there is little ‘real-world’ performance differences between the old and the new.

This year the ‘new’ chips are a refresh of the 8th generation Coffee Lake series, i.e. Intel have managed to squeeze enhanced performance levels out of the same technology platform.

This is something Intel have done before and it tends to mean that there is little in the way of performance differences between the two series.

This time it is a little different though, despite replacing the high end i5 and i7 processors, they have also added in an i9 which now sits at the top of the tree in terms of price.

The three new chips are:

  • i5 9600K – 3.7GHz Base Frequency / 4.6GHz Turbo – 6 Cores / 6 Threads – No HyperThreading
  • i7 9700K – 3.6GHz Base Frequency / 4.9GHz Turbo – 8 Cores / 8 Threads – No HyperThreading
  • i9 9900K – 3.6GHz Base Frequency / 5Ghz Turbo – 8 Cores / 16 Threads – HyperThreading

What’s The Difference Over The 8th Generation Series?

As mentioned, the main difference between the 9th and 8th generation is the addition of the i9 9900K CPU.

The i5 9600K is a replacement for the i5 8600K, and the i7 9700K is the new version of the i7 8700K, there was no i9 8900K CPU previously.

Looking at the i5 option, it is very similar, it is a 6 core CPU with no HyperThreading, exactly as the prior 8600K chip was, the base and turbo frequencies have been pushed a bit higher, which when paired with other optimisations will result in slightly improved performance levels, nothing major though.

Initial tests show that it has a real-world performance improvement of around 5 – 6% over the 8th gen 8600K.

Moving on to the i7 9700K, it now comes with 8 processor cores, 2 more than the 6 on the 8700K, but it does not have the HyperThreading technology.

HyperThreading is a tech which basically allows software to process 2 instructions simultaneously with each core, these are named processor threads. So last years i7 8700K had 6 cores, but had the HyperThreading which resulted in 12 threads. This year there is 8 cores but only 8 threads due to the lack of HyperThreading.

Still with me?

What does this actually mean for performance levels though? Does having less threads impact multi-threaded workloads?

The answer is that it depends… (Helpful I know!)

Due to how HyperThreading works, the threads can sometimes be limited as they have to share some of the CPU resources with the other thread operating on the same core, so a non HyperThreaded thread can sometimes perform better than a thread offered to your system via HyperThreading technology.

So, depending on exactly what the computer is doing with the threads performance can be better or worse, it really comes down to how the software is developed and optimised for use.

To be fair that has always been the case, most software still will not use more than 1 or 2 threads so having a CPU with 8 cores or 12 threads is a moot point in those terms.

The initial test results show us that the new i7 9700K offers around a 4 – 5% performance improvement in raw speed, i.e. single thread performance.

For multi-threaded workloads it varies, some tests show a 12% improvement whereas others show something closer to 3%.

I guess the key thing is that the new chip is faster in all areas, not by a lot in some workloads but it is not worse which some may have thought with the exclusion of HyperThreading.

Finally let’s look at the new i9 9900K to see what it offers.

It is also an 8 core chip but it has the HyperThreading technology, it also features a tiny 0.1GHz speed boost on it’s turbo frequency over the i7 9700K.

What does this all mean for performance?

Basically it is king of the hill in virtually any multi-threaded test you put it through, the 8 fast cores and HyperThreading combine to power through any workload which can utilise all these extra cores and threads.

In single-threaded workloads, it is also very strong, often pipping the new i7 9700K to a top result.

Should You Buy One? And If So Which One?

Straight after the launch of the 9th generation chips the prices were sky-high, the 9700K was over £100 more than the i7 8700K, prices have settled down a touch though, currently, when taking into account motherboard pricing, the 9th gen i5 and i7 chips sit around £30 higher than the 8th gen series.

Based on that, if you were thinking about going for an 8th gen i5 or i7 then it might be worth opting for the 9th gen series instead, a small amount extra is going to get you better performance.

Saying that though, if you already have an 8th gen i5 or i7 then is it worth replacing this with an 9th generation version? For me I don’t think you will see enough of a difference in performance to make it worthwhile.

Moving from a 7th generation or earlier series will give you a bigger performance jump though.

The key question is whether the new i9 is worth the £130 premium over the new i7?

I would personally say that if you know that a lot of your software is multi-threaded then it could be worth it.

If you are running mainly none multi-threaded workloads though (which still accounts for most desktop type software and many trading platforms) then the i7 will still offer ‘almost’ as fast performance levels.

We have added the three new 9th generation processors as options on both the Ultra and Trader PC’s, the 8th generation series also remains an option on both those systems for the time being.

Intel are yet to release the chips lower down the line, i.e. there are no 9th generation i3’s at the minute, so for customers looking for a lower priced option or with reduced processing requirements the 8th generation i3’s are still the best option for you at this time.

When it changes we will update our reviews and specifications accordingly.

Written by Darren @ Multiple Monitors

Last Updated: November, 2018