A short introduction to Intel Core i9 990k

If we are being brutally honest, the cold hard truth of the matter is that most modern processors that are unveiled today are anything but exciting or intriguing.

Tiny little speed increases just aren’t enough to move the needle any longer, and we seem to have hit the threshold where adding even more cores to the party just really doesn’t do all that much (at least from a marketing or excitement side of things).

At the same time, however, new processors like the Intel Core i9 990K are incredibly exciting for a certain subset of the PC population – gamers that are looking to squeeze every single drop of power and performance out of their system as humanly possible.

Most people following the PC hardware industry would say that Intel has been sitting on their hands for a little while as AMD chipped away at their market, and really didn’t start to push the envelope as far as speed and performance are concerned until AMD started ramping things up in just the last two or three years.

Well, while Intel remains the 800-pound gorilla in the computer processing world AMD has been carving them up left and right – and the Intel Core i9 990K is a knockout punch designed to set the upstart AMD back where Intel believes they belong.

Find out in this quick Intel Core i9 990K review whether or not that’s what happened or if that punch was slipped.

Features

One of only two Intel processors (mainstream processors, anyway) to be made leveraging octa-core technology, the thread count of this new Intel Core i9 990K is absolutely off the charts for Intel chipsets.

Featuring 16 threads, this Coffee Lake Refresh is a real game-changer for those serious about PC gaming and is designed to at last outpace what AMD has been doing with their second-generation Ryzen processors for quite a while now.

It’s clear right from the jump that Intel sees the Intel Core i9 990K as the answer to that second-generation AMD chipset, particularly when you look at the rest of the features it brings to the table.

This new chip is rated at a base frequency of 3.6 GHz but has the ability to be cranked all the way up to 5.0 GHz on single core operation, or all the way up to 4.7 GHz when you’re running between six and eight cores at the same time.

Combine that with the fact that the Intel Core i9 990K runs 400 MHz higher clock speeds right out of the gate but that it also has the opportunity to tightly integrate each of these individual cores and these hyper threads with blazing fast speed all without adding a tremendous amount of extra heat to your PC at the same time.

Unbelievably, the Intel Core i9 990K continues to run in the same 95 W thermal package as the previous iteration of the original Coffee Lake CPUs that Intel put out just a short while ago.

To help better control thermal operation Intel also made sure to feature 100% soldered and tightly integrated heat spreader technology throughout the entirety of the Intel Core i9 990K. This guarantees that it is going to run a lot cooler than the previous iteration, with a lot of popular benchmarks out there showing the Intel Core i9 990K running 10°C cooler than both previous versions of this same chipset.

That’s a huge deal, particularly for PC gamers that are looking to stick this new processor into gaming rigs that have all kinds of other hardware – especially oversized GPUs – that are going to be cranking quite a bit of heat as it is. By controlling temperatures through the processor and still offering top-flight speeds you get something really special here.

Best of all, you aren’t going to have to go with an entirely new motherboard when you make the upgrade to the Intel Core i9 990K, either.

100% compatible with all Z370 motherboards (just like the previous version of this chipset) you are going to be able to drag and drop this new processor right into your existing rig without any headache or hassle.

To be completely honest, this chipset running at “standard” speeds is not exactly the world’s most impressive gaming processor quite the way that Intel claims it to be in a lot of their Intel Core i9 990K reviews.

As soon as you start to overclock things, however, the clause really come out and this monster starts to tear things apart.

You’re going to want to push this at least a little bit harder than its 3.7 GHz setting that it comes clocked with initially, but whether or not you bump it all the way up to 5.0 GHz or 4.7 GHz (depending on the cores you are running) is really all going to come down to your comfort level and your overall thermal property control inside your box.

Pros

  • Generation Intel hyperthreading performance is on par (and even a little bit better) than AMD chipsets
  • Thermal control shouldn’t be an issue with the new features this chipset includes straight out of the box
  • Super energy efficient as well as highly durable
  • Stable build with updated drivers and legendary Intel support
  • Designed specifically with PC gaming in mind and really lets you take advantage of incredible processing power when under heavy load

Cons

This chipset – the Intel Core i9 990K – is brand-new technology and a little bit on the expensive side of things

Pricing

At the end of the day, we are talking about a brand-new processor from the folks at Intel and that means that you are going to see a pretty hefty price tag attached.

When you get right down to it, however, if you want to squeeze every single drop of power and performance out of your gaming PC you expect to pony up a little bit for key hardware – and it doesn’t get any more important than the processor calling all the shots on your set up.

The overwhelming majority of the Intel Core i9 990K reviews out there are glowingly positive about this chipset and most feel that the price is right in line with what you get for the money. This is a premium option with a premium price tag.

Reviews

“Upgrading to the brand-new Intel Core i9 990K was super simple, considering the fact that I already had a motherboard set up for Z370 chipsets. The whole process took about five minutes from start to finish (and a good chunk of that was looking for my thermal paste) and now my computer really flies”

“Intel has a homerun chipset on their hands with this little gem. While the price tag was a little steep it has exceeded all of my expectations. I couldn’t be happier!”

“The beautiful thing about running a PC is that you can upgrade parts and components on a needed basis. I had the previous version Coffee Lake processor and was skeptical about whether or not this refresh was going to make all that much difference. Boy did I have nothing to worry about! This thing is lightning fast, has cleared up some pretty serious bottlenecks from my previous gaming rig, and has me pushing the boundaries of my gaming more than I would’ve thought possible with this generation”

Final Verdict

Though Intel was certainly a little late to the party when it came to introducing a new mainstream octa-core processor in the Intel Core i9 990K, the time that they took definitely allowed them to get everything “just right”.

This is a top-flight processor through and through, one that people serious about PC gaming are really going to appreciate but also a processor that folks in the video and photo editing world (as well as other creators using resource-intensive and processor-heavy applications) are going to fall head over heels in love with as well.

The drivers powering this processor are still pretty new (which is to be expected) but most of the Intel Core i9 990K reviews out there right now have already talked about the stability and the sheer performance these baseline drivers make possible. Intel is obviously going to collect as much data about this new chipset as they can and push out updated drivers every so often (like they always do), which means this chipset is only going to get better and better from here on out.

At the price tag, you’re looking at one of the true top end processors on the market today. Anytime you are looking at a flagship Intel product you’re looking to pay a premium, and that’s true here with the Intel Core i9 990K for sure.

Of course, that premium price tag means you get a very premium processor as well. Intel is not a name that coasts on their previous reputation, and certainly isn’t dropping the ball when it comes to technological advances or investments in their hardware.

AMD is pushing Intel harder than ever before with some pretty incredible advances of late and that only makes the Intel Core i9 990K shine even brighter. This is a top-flight processor worth a top-flight price tag, and the kind of processor that you can use to power your system for years and years to come.