The Intel 10th Gen CPUs are finally here. The 1st one in the series we’ll be taking a look at is the top-end Intel Core i9-10900k. This CPU has a base clock of 3.7 GHz and can boost in some cases to 5.3 GHz with the stock all core boost of 4.9GHz. The core count goes up too compared to the previous generation i9 as this puppy also packs hyper-threaded cores under the IHS.  The supported memory speed jumps from DDR4-2666 to DDR4-2933. The new 10th gen CPUs from Intel add some new features for enthusiasts that really like to tweak and tune their systems to get the absolute maximum performance.  However, the new Intel CPUs will require a new socket which is the Intel LGA1200 as well as beefier VRM to handle a 10 core CPU so, Intel launched a new chipset for the 10th Gen; the Z490. The CPU wars were hot before, and Intel just added more fuel to the fire with their 10th Gen CPUs.

Aside from the core count, the most notable feature on the new Core i9 and Core i7 series of CPUs is Thermal Velocity Boost. Sounds cool right? Well, it is with some caveats. First off, Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB) is an opportunistic boost feature that will automatically increase clock speeds of single or multiple cores above the Turbo Boost frequencies. This feature allows the i9-10900k to hit 5.3 GHz which is above the Turbo boost frequency of 5.2 GHz. However, there is a set of requirements that must fall in line for TVB to activate. Temperature and power budget needs a bit of headroom. According to Intel, TVB needs a temperature of 70°C or lower AND when there is a bit of headroom left in the power budget.

In conjunction with TVB, Intel has implemented Turbo Boost Max 3.0. This was first seen on Core-X CPUs. This allows the CPU to identify the best performing cores and increase the frequency of them. The two best cores are selected for improved single and dual-core performance. Keep in mind that Turbo Boost 3.0 AND TVB work together to hit that magical 5.3 GHz on the i9-10900K

The Intel 10th Gen line up is flush with CPUs. They brought back Hyper-Threading on all of the 10th gen desktop CPUs except for the Celerons. This means the i9 series is 10 cores/20 threads, the i7 series is 8 cores/16 threads, the i5 series is 6 cores/12 threads, and the i3 series is 4 cores/8 threads. The Pentium CPUs are 2 cores/4 threads.

At launch, the i9-9900k ran hot. Most reviewers mentioned the higher temperatures as well as the lack of a stock cooler. Let’s be honest, Intel’s stock coolers are barely able to do the job on a 6-core CPU let alone an 8-core. The i9-10900k has a thinner die. This should equate to better heat transfer to the IHS (integrated heat spreader) on top of the CPU and allow the cooler to do an overall better job of cooling the processor.

While not a brand new architecture, the 10th gen Intel CPUs, at least on paper, should bring more performance to the table. Keep in mind, that Intel is still using a Skylake derived architecture. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as they can continue to increase performance and keep moving the ball forward.

The Intel Core i9-10900K CPU

Intel sent us the new 10th Gen Core CPUs in a special media kit. The retail packaging will look very different.


The box opens up revealing a translucent blue plastic sheet with Intel’s logo right in the center. Under the blue plastic insert is the CPUs in this case, we were sent the i9-10900k and the i5-10600 K CPUs. This review focuses on the i9-10900k.

The 10th gen i9 is contained inside a small box. Inside, the CPU is encased in a standard CPU blister pack.

Physically, there’s virtually no difference in the IHS between the 10th gen and older gen CPUs.


Test System and Benchmarks

Intel Core i9-10900K Test Bench
Product Name Provided By
Processor Intel Core i9-10900K Intel
Motherboard Aorus Z490 Master Gigabyte
Memory G.Skill Trident Royal F4-3600C16D-16GTRG 16-16-16-36 (XMP) G.Skill
Drive Samsung 240 EVO 256GB SSD, Crucial MX500 1 TB SATA III SSD Samsung/Crucial
Video Cards  Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Founders Edition Nvidia
Monitor BenQ EL2870U 28 inch 4K HDR Gaming Monitor 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz
Case DimasTech EasyXL DimasTech
Power Supply Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 1500W Cooler Master
Operating System Windows 10 1909 x64 Pro with latest patches and updates
AMD Ryzen 9 3900x/Ryzen 7 3700x Test Bench
Product Name Provided By
Processor AMD Ryzen 9 3900x/ AMD Ryzen 7 3700x AMD
Motherboard Aorus X570 Master Gigabyte
Memory G.Skill Trident Royal F4-3600C16D-16GTRG 16-16-16-36 (XMP) G.Skill
Drive Samsung 240 EVO 256GB SSD, Crucial MX500 1 TB SATA III SSD Samsung/Crucial
Video Cards Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Founders Edition Nvidia
Monitor BenQ EL2870U 28 inch 4K HDR Gaming Monitor 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz
Case DimasTech EasyXL DimasTech
Power Supply Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 1500W Cooler Master
Operating System Windows 10 1909 x64 Pro with latest patches and updates


Intel Core i7-8700k/Core i9-9900k Test Bench
Product Name Provided By
Processor Intel Core i7-8700K (Retail)/Intel Core i9-9900K (Retail) Intel
Motherboard Aorus Z390 Pro Gigabyte
Memory G.Skill Trident Royal F4-3600C16D-16GTRG 16-16-16-36 (XMP) G.Skill
Drive Samsung 240 EVO 256GB SSD, Crucial MX500 1 TB SATA III SSD Samsung/Crucial
Video Cards  Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Founders Edition Nvidia
Monitor BenQ EL2870U 28 inch 4K HDR Gaming Monitor 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz
Case DimasTech EasyXL DimasTech
Power Supply Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 1500W Cooler Master
Operating System Windows 10 1909 x64 Pro with latest patches and updates

System settings –

Windows was set to High Performance in power management settings. Motherboard settings for the non-overclocked tests were reset to factory defaults and only the XMP for the G.Skill RAM was enabled. Everything else in the BIOS was left at the factory defaults for the stock tests.


All the test benches are fitted with a custom loop featuring an EKWB Coolstream PE 360 mm radiator, EKWB Vardar fans x3, EKWB Velocity waterblock for both Intel and AMD, as well as an EKWB XRES 140 REVO D5 filled with distilled water. The motherboard settings were left to their stock configurations.

Testing and Performance


AIDA64 has a set of several 64-bit benchmarks to measure how fast the computer performs various data processing tasks and mathematical calculations. Multi-threaded memory and cache benchmarks are available to analyze system RAM bandwidth and latency. Benchmark pages of AIDA64 Extreme provide several methods to measure system performance. These benchmarks are synthetic, so their results show only the theoretical maximum performance of the system. The AIDA64 suite has various benchmarks for CPU, FPU, GPU, storage, and memory testing.

At completely stock settings, the Intel Core i9-10900k is 200 MHz faster than the stock Intel i9-9900k all core turbo (4.9 GHz vs 4.7 GHz). The additional cores help the i9-10900K stretch the lead over the 9900k however, with even more cores, the AMD Ryzen 9 3900x still leads the pack in the AIDA64 CPU and FPU tests.


Memory bandwidth landed right where I expected. A slight increase over the 9900k due to speed and core count. While officially the i9-10900k supports up to DDR4 2933, Intel’s XMP profiles push memory speeds even further.

Intel Core i9-10900k Benchmarks Continued

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.

Cinebench R20 shows and increase in performance over the previous generation i9 with a decent performance jump when all 10 cores are working. The single-core test shows an increase in performance as well thanks to the bump in clock frequency. The single-core performance does take the lead, even over the AMD Ryzen 9 3900x CPU.

POV-Ray 3.7

The Persistence of Vision Ray Tracer, or POV-Ray, is a ray-tracing program that generates images from a text-based scene description and is available for a variety of computer platforms. It was originally based on DKBTrace, written by David Kirk Buck and Aaron A. Collins for the Amiga computers. There are also influences from the earlier Polyray[6] raytracer contributed by its author Alexander Enzmann. POV-Ray is free and open-source software with the source code available under the AGPLv3.

Much like Cinebench R20, POV-Ray 3.7 shows a similar performance gap between the 10th and 9th gen Intel CPUs. The AMD Ryzen 9 3900x still edges out the Core i9-10900k in the multi-core tests due to a higher core count (AMD – 12 cores/Intel – 10 cores) but the single-core test once again shows the strength of Intel’s single-core performance and further extends the 9900k’s lead over the AMD Ryzen 9 3900x.

Multimedia, Compression, Synthetic, and Gaming


HandBrake is a free and open-source video transcoder, originally developed in 2003 by Eric Petit to make ripping a film from a DVD to a data storage device easier. Essentially, it can convert video to almost any modern format. HandBrake is available for Linux, macOS, and Windows. The workload video file is a file that I’ve used for years called Sintel. It is a 1.09-gigabyte file that is full HD. I used the Apple 240p preset for this test.

The Core i9-10900k shaves 4 seconds off the 9900k’s completion time at 61 seconds and gains 20 FPS average frame rate. Thanks to the extra cores, the AMD Ryzen 9 3900x still sits atop the leaderboard in Handbrake.


The 7-zip benchmark shows a rating in MIPS (million instructions per second). The rating value is calculated from the measured speed, and it is normalized with the results of Intel Core 2 CPU with multi-threading option switched off. So, if you have a 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 LZMA method. Once the total passes reach 100, the score is taken. 7-Zip gives the resulting score for decompressing, compressing, and an overall score.

The Intel i9-10900k compressing benchmark while still beating out the 9900k, couldn’t really match the performance of even the Ryzen 7 3700x CPU. I thought this may be a mistake at but, each benchmark I run, I run it a total of 3 times and average the results. It would seem that 10 cores aren’t quite a match for AMD’s performance in compression. However, when it comes to decompression, the i9-10900k sits right where you’d expect, between the 9900/3700x and the Ryzen 9 3900x.


PCMark 10 is a system benchmark for Windows PCs that focuses on common tasks performed in the office. PCMark 10 offers a variety of workloads categorized into four groups. The Essentials group includes web browsing, video conferencing, and app start-up time. The Productivity group includes tests based on spreadsheets and writing. The Digital Content Creation group includes photo editing, video editing, and a rendering and visualization test. The final group, Gaming, includes tests for real-time graphics and physics. It has three different benchmarks, PCMark 10, PCMark 10 Express, and PCMark 10 Extended.

In PCMark 10, we see the Intel i9-10900k trading blows in a very close battle with the Ryzen 9 3900x. Every test is very close to each other in terms of performance.

IPC testing. I started looking at IPC performance at a given clock speed in my AMD Ryzen 9 review. I think this helps give a good indication of performance gains over a given generation of CPUs. Setting all the CPUs at 4.2 GHz. I think this gives an apples to apples comparison across generations as well as vendors and gives us better visibility when looking at a clock for clock comparison. In the next two tests, all turbo and boosting were disabled and the CPUs were locked in at 4.2 GHz.

Let’s start with Cinebench R20. You can see here that the difference between the Intel i9-10900k and the Intel i9-9900k when clocked at 4.2 GHz is minor at best. AMD’s IPC at 4.2 GHz is still a bit better than Intel’s. Keep in mind that Intel is still using a Skylake derived core architecture.

POV-Ray shows the same situation as Cinenbench in terms of single-core performance at 4.2 GHz. Intel’s architecture is showing its age.


3DMark is a computer benchmarking tool created and developed by Futuremark used to determine the performance of a computer’s 3D graphic rendering and CPU workload processing capabilities. It does this through a series of graphics and physics and or CPU tests.

As we dive into our 1st gaming tests, you can see that compared to some of the other tests, the Intel i9-10900k is extremely close in performance to AMD’s top contender and exceeds the performance levels of the 9th gen i9-9900k. While the overall score is a good indicator of the performance of the PC overall, since this is a CPU review, I tend to focus on the CPU score. Intel’s clock speed advantage over the Ryzen 9 3900x nearly erases the 3900x’s advantage in core count.


For gaming, I chose to mix it up a little bit from what we’ve done in the past. Most games we test are first-person shooters, so I chose to throw a flight simulator in the mix. Xplane 11 depends heavily on single-thread performance, even more so than newer modern games.

Intel’s claim of the i9-10900k being the world’s fastest gaming processor rings true. In every game I tested, the 10th Gen Core i9-10900k beat all other competitors.

Opportunistic Turbo Boost and Overclocking

The newest boost feature on the i9-10900k is Thermal Velocity Boost or TVB. This allows the i9-10900k to exceed the published specification and boost to 5.3 single-core frequency if the conditions are right. Those conditions are CPU temperature under 70°C and some available headroom in the power budget. There are two favored cores as well. This means the system will boost these two cores higher than the rest in single-core/dual-core usage scenarios. In my case, my favored cores are Core #6 and Core #7.

To gather this information, I used the licensed version of HWMonitor Pro and captured the logs during a run of the single-core test in POV-Ray 3.7.

In its stock settings, the Z490 and i9-10900k kept the core temps between 52 °C and 55 ° C utilizing the custom loop described above. Do note, that as I stated earlier the favored cores are in use the most, Core #6 is the orange lines on the graph and Core #7 is the grey lines on the graph.

Now, let’s take a look at the clock speeds and see how they averaged over the same amount of time.

Note that in this chart Core #6 is purple and Core #7 is orange. As you can see, we did boost over 5.3 GHz for short periods and the load switches between the two cores.


Overclocking the Intel Core i9-10900 is pretty easy, even for a novice overclocker like myself. To get a quick boost, you can simply disable the All Core Enhancement in the motherboard BIOS. While it sounds counterintuitive, this cranked the all-core boost up from 4.9 GHz to a steady 5.1 GHz. At 5.1 temperatures are still in check and the hottest core hit 86°C. Keep in mind, did not tweak the BIOS voltage settings.

The frequency in this mode stayed steady at 5.1 GHz. At the end when the test ended, there was a short single-core load that allowed the CPU to still boost to 5.3 GHz.


With the voltage kept at the stock settings, you can see that the temperatures rose quite a bit. However, they are still under Intel’s recommended 100°C.

For all core overclocking, I tried 5.3 GHz and while I could boot into Windows and stable, I didn’t like the temperatures I was seeing. Core temperatures did reach 100°C. And backing down the clock to 5.2 GHz kept the temperatures in the 90’s.

I still didn’t like this set up so I decided to look at utilizing the individual boost clocks based on active cores to overclock the i9-10900k. I played with turbo frequencies only and finally settled on 2-active cores at 5.5 GHz with an all-core clock of 5.2 GHz.

The next set charts will show a POV-RAY single-core test where the i9-10900k is running at 5.5 GHz. Without TVB, all the cores take turns at 5.5 GHz.

Intel i9-10900k Clock Speed
Intel i9-10900k Core Temps

As the test ran along at 5.5 GHz, temperatures hit in the upwards of 60°C degrees.

The final set of graphs is the all-core test at 5.2. After a bit of tweaking, I have the fans and pump ramp up to 100% rather aggressively.

i9-10900 @ 5.2 GHz all core
i9-10900k 5.2 GHz Temperature

5.2 GHz is fine and all for all cores however, temperatures are considerably close to the maximum temperature that Intel recommends. I had one core hit 98°C and the rest stayed pretty much under 96° C.

My final overclock settings were 2 active cores at 5.5 GHz, 4 active cores at 5.2 GHz, and an all-core at 5.1 GHz. I was able to reset the fan curves to stock.  Temperatures are still in the mid-70s but I still get a nice boost when less than 4 cores are being utilized. I ran a few more benchmarks compared to stock settings. I’m sure with some voltage tweaks, we may be able to get the temperatures down even lower.


As you can see, there’s a nice jump in performance for the trade-off in temperatures.

Cinebench R20

Game wise, I re-benchmarked Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Xplane. Both limit core usage and I was able to keep the CPU in the 5.5 GHz range during the benchmark.


Xplane (non-Vulkan version) favors fast single cores and saw the biggest gain out of the two tests.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Before we head into this, let’s look back at the Core i9 9900k launch. Reviewers complained that it ran hot, was expensive, and didn’t come with a CPU cooler but they were thrilled at the CPU performance. That part of the story is much the same here. Keep in mind that CPU architecture takes a long time to develop. Intel is still basing its new CPUs off of a core design that was laid out back in 2015. Does that make it bad? Not necessarily. If they can keep revising the CPUs to eek every bit of performance out of them, why not? However, it wouldn’t be smart for Intel to sit on their hind end and continue to milk the same architecture. At some point, Intel is going to have to come out with a new CPU architecture to remain competitive. AMD isn’t resting and is pushing Ryzen further and further along. and I am waiting with bated breath for Intel’s new CPU designs.

With that, let’s dive in, shall we. The Intel Core i9-10900k is their latest top-end desktop CPU. The i9-10900 is a 10-core CPU using the 14nm process. The CPU in its stock form boasts an all-core clock speed of 4.9 GHz with single-core clocks reaching 5.3 GHz when conditions permit. Intel’s TVB is a nice feature and does work when the conditions are right.  A new motherboard is needed as the 10th gen CPUs use a Socket 1200.

Performance from the i9-10900k is right where you’d expect when it comes to office type and multi-threaded applications. The new CPU pulls ahead on every benchmark as far as the i9-9900k is concerned and lags slightly behind the AMD Ryzen 9 3900x in multi-threaded applications as the Ryzen 9 3900X has two more cores and four more threads. This didn’t really come as a surprise as the Ryzen 9 3900x was able to give the 9900k a run for the money when it launched.

When it comes to gaming, Intel retains the crown. Games tend to like fast cores and Intel’s cores are simply faster than AMD’s. Currently, Intel is enjoying a frequency lead over AMD’s CPUs and the benchmarks show it. If you want the absolute best gaming performance from a CPU, Intel is where it’s at.

In the stock settings, temperatures were quite manageable. Keep in mind, this CPU does NOT come with a stock cooler and my test benches all use custom loops with 360mm radiators. With all 10 cores working at 4.9 GHz core temperatures stayed within the 65° to 71°C range.

Overclocking pushed the temperatures up even further. My initial all-core overclock of 5.3 GHz pushed the i9-10900 right to 100°C. It is a bit too hot for my liking. 5.2 GHz yielded lower temperatures but still, they resided in the 90° C range. I settled on a 5.1 GHz all-core overclock with a 2-active core boost of 5.5 GHz. Temperatures at this overclock with all 10 cores blazing away stays under the 80° C range.  I still need to dive into the voltage settings a bit more and see if I can push it further. Even then, I was still pleased with the overclocking results.

Overall, I’m really impressed with the revisions Intel has done with its architecture. I was pleased with the 8700k and the 9900k and I’m just as pleased with the 10900k. As far as competition, is it leaps and bounds above AMD’s Ryzen 9 3900x? No. It isn’t. In most cases, the 10900 can come close to the 3900x performance levels however, the 10900k has a two-core disadvantage when it comes to threaded applications. Gaming is where the Core i9-10900 surpasses both the 3900x and the 9900k. At the time of this review, Newegg has the Core i9-10900k listed at $529.99 whereas the Ryzen 9 3900x is listed at $419. However, I am not sure pricing has been finalized just yet but if that’s the launch price, how much is a bit of gaming performance worth to you? If this price holds true it is going to be really hard to justify the price difference between the two. I feel that Intel is reaching the end of the line with the revised Skylake architecture. There’s definitely a battle going on in the CPU market and both Intel and AMD are clawing their way through the trenches. If you’re looking for the highest performing gaming CPU, the Core i9-10900 has you covered. With all that, the i9-10900k is a good CPU and will serve you well.


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