When Intel declared its new 9th gen Core i9-9900K the “world’s best gaming CPU,” it lied. After poking and prodding the CPU, we can say without a doubt that it is actually the fastest mainstream CPU around and—wait for it—the fastest gaming CPU too.

For those who watch every nuance of CPU movements like a degenerate gambler following the ponies, this news won’t exactly come as a shock. After all, take a 14nm++ (+?) CPU, throw on two more cores and crank the clock speed up to 5GHz almost all of the time, and it’s easy to see how the Core i9-9900K would top the charts.

The shocker to us wasn’t that it was fast, but just how fast, and how easy it was to make even faster.

9th gen LGA1151 lineup Intel

Intel has three new 9th-gen CPUs in the stable and now offers an 8-core option.

Just what does 9th-gen even mean?

With this launch, Intel has decided to notch up its processor series to the 9th generation. We actually asked the company what the generation denomination meant years ago when it clicked over to 6th gen. Back then, Intel said it was related to the graphics core generations on the CPUs. With the 7th generation, Intel said even though the graphics cores were exactly the same, the changes to the media processing engine (technically part of the graphics core) was enough to count. Umm, OK.

With the 8th generation of CPUs, we didn’t even bother to ask, because it was clear it didn’t really mean anything except maybe newer and faster.

So if you want the short answer, 9th gen doesn’t mean anything except that it’s better than trying to call it New CPU Number 42. As far as we can tell, the x86 cores are the same as on the 8th gen CPU, and the graphics core, too.

intel 9th gen core 4 Intel

STIM and More Cores!

There is one key change with this generation, though: more cores. Obviously stung by AMD’s wildly successful 8-core Ryzen CPUs, Intel has decided to match AMD on core counts. The top-end CPU reviewed here, the Core i9-9900K, features eight cores with Hyper-Threading. Intel didn’t just glue on two more cores and call it a day, either. It also brought back a soldered thermal interface material, or STIM. 

In the picture below, you’re not seeing the silicon chip itself, you’re seeing a metal heat spreader, which helps protect the delicate die from damage by, you guessed it, spreading the heat.

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