Intel Core i9-9900K

  • Fastest CPU for Gaming Hands Down
  • Little Overclocking Headroom
  • Requires Purchase of Aftermakret Cooler
  • Plenty of Cores for Tasks Outside of Gaming

If you’re someone that’s into pure gaming without all of the bells and whistles, you’ll probably find that the Intel i9-9900K is overkill in terms of what you actually need. Then again, if you’re building a high-end machine with an extreme graphics card, the i9-9900K will definitely be your go-to. The truth is that this processor offers the kind of performance for those that do more than just game, so it serves a dual purpose, really. It’s perfect for you if you’re someone that works during the day and games at night. It is the fastest CPU you can get from a mainstream brand for the LGA1151 platform hands down. It only has 8 cores, so it doesn’t compare with other high-end CPUs out there in terms of core count, but it does offer the highest clockspeed of any processor on the market at the moment. With the right motherboard, you’ll get out-of-the-box clocks that range from 4.7Ghz up to as much as 5.0GHZ, without overclocking, on light loads. L3 cache is pegged at 16MB but, like all of Intel’s K-series processors, you’ll need to supply your own cooling system. As far as cooling is concerned, even the best air-cooling system is a little sketchy, so for the i9-9900K you’ll need to go all out and dive into the liquid-cooling if you want to avoid disaster down the road. The Intel Core i9-9900K starts out at $524.99 as of the time of this writing.

CoresThreadsBase ClockTurbo ClockOverclockingL3 CacheTDPPCIeLanes
8163.6Ghz5.0GhzYes; 4.9-5.0Ghz16MB95W3.016

Intel Core i7-9700K

  • Top Notch Gaming Performance
  • No Hyper-Threading
  • Limited Overclocking Capability
  • Eight High-Speed Cores
  • Cheaper Price with Comparable Performance

The Intel Core i7-9700K might seem like a step down from the i9-9900K and, it technically is in terms of price and what you can do with it, but as far as sheer gaming performance is concerned, it’s essentially tied with the i9. It runs at about $100 less that the range-topping i9, but thanks to its high-speed cores and lack of hyperthreading, you really get equal performance. Without hyper-threading, the i7 actually runs quite a bit cooler compared to the i9, so you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to invest in an expensive liquid cooler if you don’t want to. A nice air-cooling system should keep things from getting too toasty inside the box. You can overclock it to as high as 5.1GHZ with the right setup, but be warned – this is the kind of CPU that is only good for gaming. If you’re into live streaming or other extensive content creation outside of gaming then you’ll probably want to avoid the i7 and go for the i9 instead. If you avoid the live streaming and don’t do a lot of video editing the i7 will satisfy your every need when it comes to gaming. Intel currently lists the Intel Core i7-9700K at a starting price of $409.99.

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Intel Core i7-8700K

  • Incredibly Fast For Gaming
  • Requires Aftermarket Cooling System
  • Little Overclock Headroom
  • 6 Cores Means you Can Handle Some Extra Tasks
  • Decent Performance for a Good Price

The Intel i7-8700K might be a little outdated as it’s been replaced by Intel’s new, 9th-gen processors, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant in 2019. It’s still one of the fastest CPUs for gaming with great performance and, with a decent air cooler, you can overclock it up to 5.0GHZ without torching your system. Being an 8th-gen processor, it comes with a cheaper price tag, and it’ll work with the same high-end motherboards you might choose if you were considering a new-gen processor. It’s not all gravy with the i7-8700K, though, as it does depend on software and firmware to mitigate side-channel attacks like Spectre, Foreshadow, and Meltdown. The one place it really shines over Intel’s newest CPUs is that it doesn’t have solder as a thermal management material (TIM). It might not offer exactly the same performance as the 9th-gen i7 and i9 CPUs, but you’ll only notice the difference on high-end builds that include the GTX 1080 Ti or similar graphics card. The Intel Core i7-8700K can be yours for as little as $359.99 as of the time of this writing.

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Intel Core i5-8400

  • Perfect For A Mid-Level Build
  • You Can’t Overclock It
  • Air Cooler Provided In The Box
  • Acts As A Bottleneck With Some Graphics Cards
  • Affordable

The 8th-gen Intel Core i5-8400 isn’t the best processor that money can buy, but it is good for the price and it does have six cores at its disposal. In short, it’s a pretty good CPU for general gaming and even handling other mid-level tasks, but you should look further up the chain if you’re someone who does live streaming, video or photo editing, or other resource-hogging tasks. On that note, it does match the i7-7700K in speed and performance and, with a cooler included in the box, it’s a good value-for-your-money proposition. The i5-8400 is good for 3.8GHZ out of the box and turbo clocks to as much as 4.0GHZ, but you can’t overclock it so that’s your ceiling. You could go for the i5-8600K if you’re looking to overclock but it’s not really necessary at this performance level and the included cooler kind of sweetens the deal. As with the i7-8700K and other 8th-gen CPUs, you’ll have to deal with firmware and software mitigations to handle side-channel attacks, but it’s a fair tradeoff. Some outlets report that there is some bottlenecking with higher-end graphics cards like the RTX 2080 Ti, for example, but with a compatible motherboard and intention for pure gaming purposes, you’re set with the i5-8400. You can get your hands on an Intel Core i5-8400 for around $200 if you shop around.

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Intel Core i9-7900X

  • A Massive, Top-End Cooling System is a Must
  • Expensive Compared to the i7-8700K
  • Nearly As Fast As the i7-8700K For Gaming
  • Amazing Multi-Thread Performance

The Intel Core i9-7900X offers extreme multi-thread performance but it comes at a high cost and you can have nearly the same performance if you opt for the Intel Core i9-9900K instead. With 10 cores and 44 lanes, overclocking is a must, even for SLI and CrossFire graphics setups, but the good news is that the i9-7900K is actually very close to the 8700K in terms of speed when it comes to gaming when overclocked, and it’s 50-percent faster during limited workloads. If you’re on a budget, you’re probably better going with the i9-9900K since it’s actually much cheaper, but if you’re heart is set on Intel’s LGA2066 you should probably just go for the i9-7980XE that we discuss below. On that note, if you’re someone who does a lot of video and photo editing, the i9-7900X will be more than sufficient and is much faster than the previously discussed Intel Core i7-8700K. Pricing for the Intel Core i9-7900X starts out at $939 as of the time of this writing.

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Intel Core i9-7980XE

  • Perfect For Those “Budget-Less” Builds
  • Needs Lots Of Cooling
  • Fastest Processor on the Consumer Market
  • Completely Unnecessary For a Dedicated Gaming Rig

The Intel Core i9-7980XE is the most extreme processor you can buy on the consumer market with 18 cores, 36 threads, and a turbo clock of 4.4GHZ. It’s about as expensive as a new high-end PC, though, so it’s hard to justify purchasing it unless you’ve got money to burn, just hit the lottery, or do A LOT of multitasking. With that in mind, heavy video or photo editing is gut-wrenching quick with the i9-7980XE, but with so many cores, it’s actually slower in gaming that the 7900X. So, you’re generally better off opting for a Core i9 and saving some cheddar while you enjoy better gaming performance but, you’ll certainly get some bragging rights with this monster of a CPU among your Intel-loving buddies. It’s not as good as AMD’s 32-core Threadripper 2990WX, of course, so that one guy in the group that rocks AMD will still get you every time, but if money is no object or you genuinely do a lot of demanding multitasking or video processing, then accept no substitutes. As of the time of this writing, the Intel Core i9-7980XE is listed with a starting price of $1,899.99 and you’ll most certainly have to spend a decent chunk of extra cheddar for the best aftermarket liquid cooler you can get your hands on.

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