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Core i9 9900KS: performance analysis

Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Battlefield 5, Far Cry 5

As with our recent Ryzen third-gen reviews, we opted for a limited number of games here that still provided a wide range of requirements, from relatively naive games that do the vast majority of their processing within a single thread to more modern games and engines that do scale better to use all of the cores and threads available.

Amongst these titles, we've selected gameplay segments that often force lesser CPUs below the 60fps standard when running at high graphical settings, even when paired with the best consumer graphics card on the market, an RTX 2080 Ti. These sections come from both older games like The Witcher 3 and newer ones like Assassin's Creed Odyssey, and often involve a lot of on-screen action, AI and other challenges. Let's get right into the results.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

Assassin's Creed Odyssey plays fairly well on modest hardware, but once you start to turn up the graphical settings it proves a stern challenge for even high-end setups with the latest processors and graphics cards. It's particularly hard on the processor at lower resolutions, with even Intel's ninth-generation models remaining CPU-bound at 1080p.

The 9900KS at 5GHz is a little faster than the 9900K at 4.7GHz, but turning off hyper-threading can actually result in higher frame-rates - hence the success of the 9700K, which lacks this feature. AMD's processors are at a deficit here, by about five per cent, but the 3900X sports lowest one per cent frame-rates are about the same as Intel's offerings. At 4K, the graphics card becomes the bottleneck, with all CPUs we tested apart from the older Ryzen 7 2700X offering largely the same experience.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey: Ultra High, TAA

Battlefield 5

Battlefield 5 comes next. We originally used this scene from one of the single-player levels for testing ray tracing performance, but after noticing that we were CPU-bound on the 8700K it made sense to test processors here too - with ray tracing disabled.

The 9900KS takes its rightful place at the top of the stack, albeit barely ahead of the 9900K. The 9700K offers nearly the same average performance, making it the obvious value-for-money gaming choice, but does drop lower than the 9900K and 9900KS. Meanwhile, AMD's representatives some distance behind, with both the 3900X and 3700X recording average frame-rates about ten per cent behind those of Intel. There's still a noticeable gap between Intel and AMD at 1440p, although the worst one per cent measurements are much closer together. At 4K, average and worst one per cent frame-rates have coalesced to just one or two fps gaps amongst the entire field, even the older Ryzen 2700X.

Battlefield 5: Ultra, RTX off

Far Cry 5

Far Cry 5 is another modern title that puts some pressure on the CPU, especially at 1080p. The tranquil lake scene here shows the clearest hierarchy yet between different processors, with the 9900KS leading the 9900K by five per cent and the 9900K besting the 9700K by nearly the same margin. Meanwhile, AMD's Ryzen 3900X is nearly 30 per cent behind the flagship 9900KS, leading the mid-range 3700X by about three per cent

It's a similar story at 1440p, with the Intel pack averaging around 130fps and AMD in the region of 118fps - a gap of around 10 per cent, depending on which two Intel and AMD processors you're comparing. Third-gen Ryzen does do much better than second-gen Ryzen, with the former flagship part falling nearly 20 per cent behind its successor at 1440p. At 4K, all processors are within the margin of error, although the 9700K and 2700X occasionally fall behind the pack.

Far Cry 5: Ultra, TAA

Intel Core i9 9900KS analysis

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Will Judd avatar

Will Judd

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry

A bizarre British-American hybrid, Will turns caffeine into technology articles through a little-known process called 'writing'. His favourite games are Counter-Strike, StarCraft and Fallout 2. Will also tweets the latest tech deals at @DealsFoundry.


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