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Core i9 9900KS: performance analysis

Crysis 3, Kingdom Come Deliverance, Metro Exodus, The Witcher 3.

We continue our 9900KS testing with four more popular games, all of which come from live gameplay rather than a canned benchmark. Let's quickly run through each of our game choices and why we've selected each scene for this CPU workout.

Crysis 3 remains a standout choice for performance analysis, with the section we've selected proving particularly hard on the CPU with non-player characters, particle effects and vegetation. Metro Exodus is a more modern title, having been released in 2019, and includes a number of challenging scenes. We've chosen the opening moments of the Volga level from the campaign, with detailed characters conversing on a train before things get a little more exciting.

Kingdom Come Deliverance is another recent and future-looking title, with a very high preset intended for future hardware. That makes even a casual run through a medieval town centre extremely taxing, even at low resolutions. Our final title on this page is The Witcher 3, which sees a similar run through a muddy town with even more characters on-screen - although the simulation isn't quite as intense in this older game. Which is the most challenging test - and how well does the 9900KS justify its premium over the 9900K? We've got the answers.

Crysis 3

Crysis 3 isn't afraid to go ham on your system's resources, with utilisation varying significantly between different scenes and levels. We've selected an early scene, set in the infamous Sector 1 Delta-5, that sees Psycho square up to a missile turret before coming to his senses. The results here are comfortingly regular, with noticeable gaps between every processor on our list and the best Intel processor achieving a ten per cent lead over the best AMD chip.

The 9900KS takes the top position over the 9900K by around three per cent. The 9700K and 3900X are nearly tied here, with the 9900KS maintaining around a 10 per cent advantage over both models. So opting for Intel remains the better choice here, but there's not much in it - and even the lowly 2700X manages to deliver over 150fps at 1080p.

We're still occasionally CPU-limited at 1440p, with a two per cent gap between the 9900K and 9900KS, but the results are much closer than at 1080p, with all but the 2700X fitting into a 4fps spread. At 4K, each result is well within the margin of run-to-run variance, with the RTX 2080 Ti in our rig providing a comfortable 70fps average in basically every pairing.

Crysis 3: Very High, SMAA T2X

Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus is another title where disabling hyper-threading seems to be the secret to unlocking slightly better results. That means the 9700K, with the same number of cores as threads, is the top performer by a small margin. The 9900KS does outperform the 9900K by a lowly two per cent at 1080p. The Ryzen results are a little odd, with the 3700X outdoing the 3900X, but not unprecedented. If we compare each team's best-performing processors, we see a nearly 15 per cent advantage for Intel over AMD.

As expected, processor differences are minimised at higher resolutions, but Core still outperforms Ryzen by around five to ten per cent, depending on which processors you choose to compare. At 4K, processor choice makes little difference, although Intel's processors retain the best worst one per cent performance.

Metro Exodus: Ultra, DX12

Kingdom Come Deliverance

Kingdom Come Deliverance uses a more modern version of the CryEngine that's better able to utilise the multiple cores of modern processors. That makes Ryzen much more competitive, with Intel's Core processors leading Ryzen by around five to twelve per cent. The 9900KS remains the best performer we've tested, with a solid 88fps average at 1080p, and the 2700X the worst at 66fps.

At 1440p and 4K, we're back to margin-of-error differences, with the 9900KS holding onto the overall title, and it's a similar story at 4K despite some surprisingly high results from the Ryzen processors - likely the result of run-to-run variance, as camera positioning can impact graphical load substantially.

Kingdom Come Deliverance: Ultra High, SMAA

The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 rounds up this page, with the venerable RPG showing significant differences between our different processors at 1080p. The 9900KS and 9900K are nearly identical here, at around 180fps, leading the 9700K by around seven per cent. AMD performs worse here, with the 3900X leading at around 154fps average, 17 per cent behind the 9900K/9900KS.

You've probably got the trend by now, so it's not surprising that we see the gaps between the different processors shrink as we move to 1440p and again as we crank things up to 4K. What is surprising is that the 9700K shows stronger results at 1440p, while the 2700X exhibits genuine issues with occasional drops to less than half of the chip's average fps count. Everything is resolved at 4K, which shows only nominal differences between all models tested.

Witcher 3: Ultra, Post-AA, No Hairworks

Intel Core i9 9900KS analysis

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Will Judd avatar

Will Judd

Deputy Editor, 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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