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Intel 10th-gen desktop processor review: Gamers in focus

One may think that Intel engineers have squeezed every single unit of life out of this aging processor to come up with a competitive product. But it all boils down to how competitive is it?

Intel 10th-gen processors
Intel 10th-gen processors (Intel)

Intel launched its 10th-Gen desktop processor at the start of May and while it is a new generation, it is also another 14nm refresh. One may think that Intel engineers have squeezed every single unit of life out of this aging processor to come up with a competitive product. But it all boils down to how competitive is it? Let’s take a look at that in this review.

Here, we look at the flagship i9 10900k and the more affordable i5 10600k processors. We will be comparing them to the AMD’s Ryzen 9 3900X and the Ryzen 7 3700X/Ryzen 5 3600X since they fall in the similar price range along with few other 9th Gen counterparts. It is worth mentioning that the Ryzen 3000 series is a bit old now and we already have 4000 series making inroads in the Indian market.

Before we jump into the benchmarks, we should understand the several kinds of boost frequencies are offered by Intel’s i9 10900k:

-Base Clock: 3.7Ghz

-Turbo boost 2.0: 5.1Ghz (This is single core boost, which means only one core will go up this frequency in single threaded workloads)

-Turbo Boost 3.0: 5.2Ghz (The chip finds the best core and boost that core to this frequency in single threaded workloads)

-All Core Turbo 4.8Ghz (This is the theoretical maximum sustained frequency on all cores)

-Thermal Velocity Boost 5.3Ghz Single Core/ 4.9Ghz All core (This takes the frequencies to the next level but only in very short bursts, it will only be enabled if the temperature is 70-degrees or less).

AutoDesk Maya Load
AutoDesk Maya Load ( HT Tech)

Performance

In the multi-threaded Auto Desk Maya Render, Intel Short duration power limit gives a more relaxed setting hence the chip hits impressive frequencies leading to high temperature. But the long duration power limit sets in and the frequencies fall massively with the processor 10900k settling between 4.1 and 4.2 GHz, all being on an average temperature of about 62-degrees. As you can see in the figures shown above, in our tests, the chip never hit the advertised limit of 4.8Ghz All core turbo.

If you are familiar with how Intel processors work, this shouldn't surprise you since reaching these frequencies is not about temperature but about the package power limit. Hence getting Intel CPUs to hit their advertised frequencies is not possible in real life as they are mostly achieved when in controlled environments.

In the figure below for the Intel i5 10600k, which doesn’t have the Turbo Boost 3.0 or the Thermal velocity boost, the frequencies remained constant throughout the test at 4.5Ghz with temperature averaging at 63-degrees.

AutoDesk Maya Load - 2
AutoDesk Maya Load - 2 (HT Tech)

Now let’s dive into the performance benchmarks and for that we have paired all the CPUs with the top of the line RTX 2080Ti along with 32GB of 3200Mhz RAM from Corsair. In figure below which shows the results of the Cinebench R15 Single Core tests, the Intel i9 10900k and i5 10600k won by a thin margin nailed the single core workloads. It is worth pointing out that the now-dated Ryzen 3000 series processors performed fairly well in comparison to the newer Intel 10th gen processors, which is impressive considering Ryzen is year older than Intel 10th gen.

Cinebench R15 benchmark
Cinebench R15 benchmark (HT Tech)

We have also seen Intel heavily marketing its 10th-gen processors for gaming, so we tested the chipset through its paces and here’s what we found.

These results do help put things into perspective and we can say that yes Intel i9 10900k is one of the best CPUs right now for gaming while i5 10600k is a well performing processor that's more affordable. However, what’s interesting is that across the board the frame rates were similar including 1% lows. But in the end, Intel managed to take a lead. The gap is so narrow that the actual gaming experience would be almost indistinguishable to the human eye since in our testing the frame rate difference between the best and worst CPU at max was only about 10-20 FPS. 

CoD: Modern Warfare performance
CoD: Modern Warfare performance (HT Tech)

While Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was the singular exception since it particularly enjoyed the newer Intel 10th gen CPUs than the older 9th gen ones. This is also worth mentioning that in this game the difference between Ryzen's and Intel's 10th gen performance was slim just like in the other games which just proves the point that the gaming experience was almost the same.

That said, we believe that AMD's Ryzen overshadows Intel in almost all other workloads except for gaming since it is considered good in handling multi-threaded workloads. This is clearly visible in the handbrake Render test results shown in the figure below.

Handbrake test
Handbrake test (HT Tech)

Verdict

Finally if you are looking to just game on the machine and absolutely nothing else then i5 10600k will be on top of our recommendation list. Why? That's because there was no experience altering difference in the gaming performance between the i5 10600K and i9 10900k. So, you can instead save money on the CPU and go big on the graphic card because that would really improve your gaming experience and give you that edge over all your friends in games.

But if you are looking to do some content creation, streaming and or more along with gaming then the Ryzen 3700X or the Ryzen 3600X still provide the best balance and the best value. And frankly you wouldn’t be giving up anything in terms of gaming performance anyway since these chips perform very similarly. We're not saying you don't have to buy the i9 10900K, you can very well do that if you want zero compromises. Same goes for the Ryzen 3900X or the Ryzen 3950X.

We would also recommend all those who can wait to wait and let Intel release other 10th Gen chips in India along with their prices to settle down since these chips are very new but also wait for AMD because they are supposedly working on a Ryzen 3000 series refresh. It would be interesting to see where these new chips settle in Market.

By Arnauv Gilotra.