Intel 10th Gen Core i9-10900K Review: Should You Upgrade Or Buy AMD? (2022)

Today Intel has finally allowed me to talk about the performance of it's new 10th Generation processors and specifically in this review, I'll be looking at the Core i9-10900K - the new 10-core 20-thread flagship and just how fast it is compared to AMD's 3rd Gen Ryzen offerings, but you can also read my Core i5-10600K review.

Some essential reading on the new features of Intel's 10th generation CPUs is my original launch article which you can find here.

However, there are some take-home points to remember if you're new to Intel's 10th generation CPUs. Firstly, it's introducing hyper-threading across it's product stack. This meant that while the Core i5-9600K had six cores and six threads, the Core i5-10600K has six cores and 12 threads. This should mean that Intel sees a big improvement in multi-threaded performance, especially in the lower echelons of its product stack where CPUs such as the Core i5-9400 and Core i5-9600K were sorely lacking compared to similar AMD CPUs.

Sadly, you will not be able to use the new CPUs in older motherboards. For now, you'll need to invest in a Z490 motherboard, but the cooler mounting holes and memory used are still the same so everything else can be transplanted from an older system within reason.

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As well as more performance, clock speeds are increased across the board too, peaking at 5.3GHz across two cores with the Core i9-10900K. However, there was admittedly a bit of trouble hitting this frequency regularly thanks to some teething problems - the CPU did reach it, but only on very rare occasions and even having a simple monitoring software open in the background could affect it.

Finally, there's the pricing. Intel has kept things roughly in line with current generation CPUs, but we're yet to see confirmed in-stock pricing. However, the launch price of the Core i9-10900K is the same as the Core i9-9900K at just under $500, which means that for much of the product stack, you're getting more performance for your cash. The example here sees you gain two cores and four threads for that same $500 price tag, albeit the usual USD 1K unit price, which will end up being a bit higher on etailer's shelves.

Pricing is key for Intel because AMD has just dropped pricing of many of its 3rd Gen Ryzen processors with today's launch in mind. The Ryzen 9 3900X, for example, costs just $409, down from $499 just a few days ago. It has two more cores and four more threads, so really, Intel can't afford to see on-the-shelf pricing much more than the figures above if it's to square up to AMD.

Test systems

I have brand new test systems that use the latest Windows 10 1909 update plus the latest drivers, Windows updates, security fixes and BIOS versions as of 16th May 2020. This is all essential as they include the latest security fixes and performance enhancements so I'd be very wary of any benchmarks out there that do not specify this aspects of their test systems. In short, their results maybe invalid. I've re-tested every single processor in the graphs so all the results are comparable and what you can expect from a new system.

I'd like to thank Watercooling UK, Barrow and Corsair for supplying the water-cooled parts of my test systems, Corsair for also supplying the memory and power supplies, MSI for supplying the motherboards, Nvidia the graphics cards, AMD and Intel the CPUs with the latter also supplying the M.2 SSDs.

AMD test system:

Motherboards: MSI MEG X570 Unify and MPG X470 Gaming Pro Carbon WiFi

Intel test system:

Motherboard: MSI MEG Z390 Ace, MSI MEG Z490 Ace

Common components


I overclock each processor where possible so enthusiasts can see how much extra performance they can gain from doing this and you can see these results in the graphs.

Both Intel 10th Gen CPUs hit 5.1GHz on all cores quite easily, however, while I could boot and run most tests at 5.2GHz, the Blender benchmark saw stability issues so I decided to leave things at 5.1GHz. I have to say that temperatures were much lower than I expected too, with 5.1GHz on the Core i9-10900K easily tamable on my test bench using liquid cooling, perhaps thanks to the new thinner die and thicker heatspreader that Intel claims boosts cooling.

Intel Core i9-10900K: 5.1GHz using 1.3V

Intel Core i5-10600K: 5.1GHz using 1.32V

The overclocks for the CPUs I've listed are:

AMD Ryzen 3 3100: 4.6GHz, AMD Ryzen 3 3300X: 4.6GHz, AMD Ryzen 5 1600X - 3.95GHz, AMD Ryzen 5 2600 - 4.1GHz, Intel Core i3-9350K - 5GHz, Ryzen 9 3950X - 4.35GHz,Ryzen 7 3800X: 4.4GHz,Ryzen 5 3600: 4.25GHz,Ryzen 5 3600X: 4.25GHz,AMD Ryzen 9 3900X: 4.3GHz,AMDRyzen 7 3700X: 4.3GHz,Intel Core i9-9900K: 5GHz,Intel Core i7-9700K: 5.1GHz,Intel Core i5-9600K:5GHz, Intel Core i7-8700K: 5GHz.

Gaming benchmarks

Borderlands 3

At 1080p Borderlands 3 isn't particularly taxing and even with an Nvidia RTX 2070 Super graphics card, there's a degree of stress put on the CPU so low latency and high frequencies come into play. Unsurprisingly, Intel wins here with the core i9-10900K managing a minimum 99th percentile minimum frame rate of 80fps. However, even at these high frame rates, AMD really isn't far behind at all, with most CPUs sitting at a minimum 99th percentile of up to 74fps. With a less powerful GPU or higher resolution, that difference would vanish.

Far Cry New Dawn

Far Cry New Dawn is another fairly easy title to play at 1080p and just as I saw with Far Cry 5, the game does like non-hyper-threaded CPUs as well as high frequencies and lots of cores. The Core i7-9700K does well here, but the Core i9-10900K was the second best at stock speed and took the top spot once overclocked. AMD sits a little further back here - the Core i9-10900K managed a 99th percentile minimum frame rate of 98fps while the next best AMD CPUs at stock speed were the Ryzen 9 3950X and 3900X at 85fps and 84fps.

Metro Exodus

At stock speed Metro Exodus saw Intel win again, but by slim margins at these relatively low frame rates. The Core i9-10900K managed a minimum 99th percentile of 43fps compared to between 40-41fps for most 3rd Gen Ryzen CPUs. Once overclocked, the Intel CPU was by far the quickest though, sitting more than 10 percent above the best AMD result.

Dota 2

If you game at ultra high frame rates on high refresh rate monitors then Intel is usually king and Dota 2 at 1920 x 1080 is a prime example of this. The stock speed Core i9-10900K sat at a minimum 99th percentile of 143fps with AMD's best result coming from the Ryzen 9 3950X at 103fps in this highly CPU-bound test. Sure, with a less powerful graphics card this gap would be smaller, but the RTX 2070 Super is far from the king of the hill, so the gap would likely be the same or wider with an RTX 2080 Ti.

Content Creation

Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2020

The really juicy part of this review is the content creation tests because this is where Intel will sink or swim with 10th Gen. Premiere Pro is certainly Intel-optimized but still hugely popular and here, the Core i9-10900K gets awfully close to matching the Ryzen 9 3950X despite a six-core, 12-thread deficit and matches the Ryzen 9 3900X too. Intel scales much better here as well, with a huge leap in performance from the Core i9-9900K to the new 10-core CPU.

Blender 2.82

Blender's new test suite includes the tough BMW27 render benchmark and here, more cores are better, which unsurprisingly saw the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X and 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X sit at the top of the graph. The Core i9-10900K was roughly where you'd expect it to be with a two-core deficit to the 3900X, but given AMD will almost certainly have the cheaper of the two CPUs, it's looking like a loss for Intel here and even overclocking can't help it.

HandBrake v1.3.2

HandBrake doesn't scale well above 10 cores so you see limited gains here moving from the 10 to 16 cores. The Core i9-10900K sat nearly equal to the Ryzen 9-3900X, which is an impressive feat given it has fewer cores and threads, but again, this is likely the scaling here coming into play.If you do a lot of video encoding then the Core i9-10900K is a huge step up from the Core i9-9900K as well and is generally worth considering compared to any other eight-core CPU.

PC Mark 10 image editing

The image editing test is multi-threaded so it wasn't surprising to see eight, 12 and 16 core CPUs dominate the top of the graph. At stock speed the Core i9-10900K was a fair way short of the Ryzen 9 3900X, but did better it once overclocked.

Cinebench R20.

The multi-threaded test has long been an AMD darling and usually sees Intel sit level in terms of cores and threads for the most part. The same was true here with the Core i9-10900K with 10 cores offering significant gains over the eight-core Ryzen 7 3800X, but sat a way behind the 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X.

Single-threaded performance was a bit of a sticking point for the 10900K as this was where teething issues with boosting crept in. A fresh install and new BIOS helped it reach the top spot, but pre-release materials from Intel suggested this should have been a bit higher than 532 points. A win is a win, though, but there was one CPU to better it - AMD's Ryzen 3 3300X, which I managed to overclock to 4.6GHz.

Power consumption

From the wall my Core i9-10900K system drew 300W under full load at stock speed with both Ryzen 9 CPUs drawing around 240W. That's a rather telling story, but ultimately that's not as bad as I'd been expecting. In games or content creation, a 500W power supply will be enough for most people so the people I've seen stating you'll need monster power supplies to deal with the Core i9-10900K are flat out wrong. Even if you want to overclock it, something in the region of 600W would provide ample power. It's not a great result and is a clear indication that Intel needs a manufacturing process shrink, but honestly, I'm more concerned by performance with my own PC than I am power efficiency - within reason anyway.


Ultimately, Intel has a new performance king in a number of tests in the Core i9-10900K and both lightly-threaded and multi-threaded tasks benefit from the extra grunt. A lack of innovation is certainly one criticism many will be making today and to a large extent that's true. We haven't witnessed a new architecture launch, significantly higher core counts or manufacturing process shrinkage today. However, adding hyper-threading to the entire stack will mean lower down the range things will be very interesting - certainly more interesting that what we're looking at here.

The Core i9-10900K is certainly a gaming beast and has the measure of AMD in every single test, but often by very little, even at modest resolutions with a powerful graphics card. A lot will depend on how much this CPU retails for when it's actually on shelves, as it will for the rest of the stack.

In content creation things are less favorable in terms of value. At best it can match the Ryzen 9 3900X, but in most tests it's slower. In terms of cores and threads, that might not seem bad - Intel has fewer. But price-wise, AMD's recent price cuts mean its 12-core CPU now costs just $400. I can't see the Intel CPU sitting less than $500 on Amazon so it's clear that AMD is better value across the board. If you must have the best gaming CPU, though, and want to pair it with an RTX 2080 Ti and high refresh rate monitor, then as niche as that might be, you can't argue that Intel has a new king of the hill.

I'll be back with full reviews of Intel and AMD's new CPU launches over the next few weeks so follow me onYouTube,Twitter,Facebook,InstagramorRedditfor more PC hardware news and reviews.

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