CPU, New Tech, Packaging, and Test Setup
Here is what the retail package looks like, and I was hoping that Intel would send one of these over so we could show this unique packaging.
This is the package we received from Intel, along with an ASUS Maximus XII Extreme motherboard.
Opening the box exposes a space scene with, of course, a comet with full tail in view on the inner lid. I will say as far as wordplay applied visually; the pun is real. The CPUs are covered by a blue plastic or acrylic plate which covers the two CPUs.
Pulling the blue plate, we now find the two small CPU packages.
Now we have the CPUs out of the package, and we see we have the two clamshells which hold the CPU inside.
Intel Marketing Points
Here we give space to the manufacturer to talk about their marketing points, and we assess them and provide our point of view on the claims.
Intel has been touting the "fastest gaming processor" moniker for a fair bit now, or at least since Ryzen 3000 launched. This is due based on assumption and market conditions that Intel knew that Ryzen was fiercely competitive, but they still had a lead in gaming. This lead, however, has been nibbled away by Ryzen, so this is a sign that Intel knows it needs to act, so let's get to the next slides and see what they want to show off.
Here we have the explanation from Intel's point of view as to why frequency matters. These are some fair points, but one part omitted is that while frequency helps keep things moving more swiftly, the benefit of an optimized core at a slightly or in some cases a significantly slower optimized core can make up a lot of the proposed detriment.
New OC enhancements are always something I welcome; however, showing XTU in this image hurts me in ways many cannot understand. I have a long history with XTU, and well, I will say its not the best app I have used by any means. However, let's not get lost in the weeds here.
The ability to adjust the VF curve is quite cool and beneficial for scaled overclocks. The ability to enable hyperthreading per core can be helpful if you have a weaker core that cannot clock well with HT enabled. It may give you better overall performance disabling the extra thread on that core. This should also appease the XOC crowd as some benchmarks have a hard thread limit, which can cause scores to be inhibited, and now you can scale the hyperthreading to match the benchmark capabilities.
Intel also is releasing an updated performance maximizer app that automatically assesses your system and tunes in an overclock for you based on the thermal, power, and boosting results it observes.
One point of contention for most of the community and myself included was that when Intel released the refresh chips, including the 9900K, we instantly noticed it was hot. Hot running is fine as long as kept within spec, but it did limit the vertical headroom to just above the boost clock for most users, even on liquid cooling.
Intel stepped things up a bit, as they have physically thinned the die, likely by reducing the diffusion barrier's thickness. This pays dividends as silicon is not the best for thermal transfer, and therefore less of it to go through should result in better temps. This is likely how Intel was able to squeeze more clock speed from these new chips. This also explains why the new TVB, which originated in notebooks, is used for its highest boost clock as it relies heavily on thermals to achieve the clock.
Here we see the inclusion of Turbo boost max 3.0, which is something we saw introduced on the X299 platform but now makes it to Z490, well sort of. The only CPUs on Z490 supporting the Turbo boost 3.0 are the i9 and i7 variants, while the i5, i3, and lower models get only the turbo boost 2.0 tech.
Intel's claims on this one are pretty accurate with their halo chip likely increasing the lead the 9900K had in gaming. However, it is a big grain of salt or a block at this point to continue to claim this without at least admitting that once you get up to resolutions, many gamers are now migrating towards, that lead diminishes. This is since to test CPU influence on a game, we usually run at a lower resolution and detail setting to take the load from the GPU and create a CPU bottleneck.
We do this as well; however, we also include the same detail setting at higher resolutions to provide an accurate picture to gamers who may look at CPU options and want to know how they may play at their chosen resolution.
This slide I am adding more as informational or FYI data. This is Intel comparing their newest chips to both last-gen (9900K) and a 3 yr. old PC (7700K) is quite an appropriate comparison as the 7700K is genuinely an iconic CPU, which still holds relevance today.
Here we get a summary of what the latest and greatest has to offer for users. There is a lot here; keep in mind that the CPUs are essentially a refreshing of the existing tech, so it will be another iterative step above the 9000 series we have now.
Here we have the entire stack of CPUs which are or will be available as you read this review. There are tons of models as most models on the upper end have a K model, a KF model which is unlocked sans iGPU, a non-K model which is not unlocked and a non-K, F model which is not unlocked and is sans iGPU.
Intel has roughly 32 models of CPU, including the low power T models. Therefore, it is safe to say that Intel has a CPU for pretty much any price point in this stack.
Lastly, before we get into our test system, we wanted to look at the block diagram for the new Z490 platform. The block diagram is very similar to Z390 but with the addition of 2.5G support added along with integrated CNVi support for Wi-Fi 6/AX.
I want to be clear here, it may come across as being overly critical, but there are benefits to a mature process and platform. However, being this is Intel, and we hold a certain standard and expectation for feature innovation. When there is a visible crack in the armor, it is the job of those who report on new tech such as I do to bring them up.
With a reasonably good understanding of what we are getting into, let us look at the test system used to benchmark both of these new 10th gen parts.
My testbench is strictly controlled with a fresh OS for any platform or component change. The system uses all the same components whenever possible to maintain comparable results between platforms. The ambient in the test lab is rigorously controlled at 22C +/- 1C. All tests are run a minimum of three times, and any outliers are tossed, and another replacement test run will be completed to achieve our average results. The use of a TITAN RTX for the CPU testing ensures that the GPU is not the bottleneck for performance results and will best represent the scaling across CPU and platforms.
- Motherboard: ASRock Z490 Taichi(buy from Amazon)
- CPU: Intel Core i9 10900K & Core i5 10600K
- Thermal Interface: Arctic Cooling MX-4 Thermal Compound(buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: Alphacool Eisbaer LT 360mm(buy from Amazon)
- Memory: Corsair Dominator RGB 3600MHz 16GBx2(buy from Amazon)
- Video Card: NVIDIA TITAN RTX(buy from Amazon)
- Storage - Boot Drive: Corsair MP600 (PCIe 4) 2TB(buy from Amazon)
- Testbench: DimasTech Easy XL(buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: Thermaltake 1200W(buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10(buy from Amazon)
- Monitor: ASUS XG438 43" 4K(buy from Amazon)
- Keyboard: Logitech G910 Orion Spectrum(buy from Amazon)
- Mouse: Corsair Logitech G502(buy from Amazon)
- Page 1 [Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing]
- Page 2 [CPU, New Tech, Packaging, and Test Setup]
- Page 3 [WPrime, SuperPi, Cinebench, and AIDA64]
- Page 4 [Handbrake, Blender, POV-Ray, CoronaRender, 7-Zip, and WebXPRT]
- Page 5 [Unigine and UL Benchmarks]
- Page 6 [Gaming Benchmarks]
- Page 7 [Storage Performance]
- Page 8 [Clocks, Overclocking, Thermals, and Power Consumption]
- Page 9 [Final Thoughts]