What is the Fastest i9? Exploring High-Performance Intel Core Processors

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Written By Dominic Howard

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The Intel Core i9 processor is the flagship processor line from Intel aimed at enthusiasts and high-end users. Since its introduction in 2017, there have been several generations of Core i9 processors, each bringing impressive performance improvements through architectural enhancements and manufacturing process advancements. But which one is the fastest i9 processor available today?

Let’s take a look at the different i9 generations and models to find out.

Fastest i9 Processor Series?

The i9 processors are the cream of the crop in Intel’s lineup. Built on advanced microarchitectures, these processors are designed to deliver exceptional performance, multitasking capabilities, and enhanced efficiency. They cater to users who demand the utmost from their systems, whether for intensive gaming, content creation, or heavy-duty workloads.

First Generation i9 (Coffee Lake):

The first generation of Core i9 processors was launched in 2017 on the 14nm Coffee Lake architecture. The flagship of this generation was the Intel Core i9-7980XE, an 18-core, 36-thread beast with a base clock of 2.6GHz and turbo boost up to 4.4GHz. With an unprecedented core count for a mainstream desktop processor, the 7980XE took the multi-threaded performance crown. However, its single-core performance was similar to the previous high-end Core i7 processors. The 7980XE retailed for $1999 at launch.

Other key i9 CPUs from this generation include:

  • Intel Core i9-7960X: 16 cores, 32 threads, 2.8 GHz base, 4.2 GHz boost.
  • Intel Core i9-7940X: 14 cores, 28 threads, 3.1 GHz base, 4.3 GHz boost.
  • Intel Core i9-7920X: 12 cores, 24 threads, 2.9 GHz base, 4.3 GHz boost.
  • Intel Core i9-7900X: 10 cores, 20 threads, 3.3 GHz base, 4.3 GHz boost.

Second Generation Core i9 (Skylake-X Refresh):

In 2018, Intel refreshed its high-end desktop lineup with the 2nd generation Core X series, based on refinements to the Skylake-X architecture. The new i9 flagship was the Core i9-9980XE, replacing the 7980XE with the same 18 cores and 36 threads configuration. However, the base clock received a healthy bump up to 3.0 GHz while the boost clock hit 4.5 GHz. This iteration also brought soldered thermal interface material instead of thermal paste, enabling better heat dissipation and overclocking headroom. The 9980XE launched at the same $1999 MSRP as its predecessor.

Other key 2nd gen Core i9 CPUs include:

  • Core i9-9960X: 16 cores, 32 threads, 3.1 GHz base, 4.5 GHz boost.
  • Core i9-9940X: 14 cores, 28 threads, 3.3 GHz base, 4.5 GHz boost.
  • Core i9-9920X: 12 cores, 24 threads, 3.5 GHz base, 4.5 GHz boost.
  • Core i9-9900X: 10 cores, 20 threads, 3.5 GHz base, 4.5 GHz boost.

Third Generation i9 (Cascade Lake-X):

In late 2019, Intel launched their 3rd generation Core X series based on the Cascade Lake architecture and further refined the 14nm process. This generation reduced the maximum core count to 18 cores but delivered noticeable gains in per-core performance. The new flagship i9-10980XE offered 18 cores, 36 threads with a base clock of 3.0 GHz and a boost clock of 4.8 GHz. With higher boost clocks and improved IPC (instructions per cycle), the 10980XE took the performance lead despite similar core counts to the previous generation. It launched at a slightly lower $979 MSRP.

Other key 3rd gen i9 CPUs:

  • Core i9-10940X: 14 cores, 28 threads, 3.3 GHz base, 4.8 GHz boost.
  • Core i9-10920X: 12 cores, 24 threads, 3.5 GHz base, 4.8 GHz boost.
  • Core i9-10900X: 10 cores, 20 threads, 3.7 GHz base, 4.7 GHz boost.

Fourth Generation i9 (Comet Lake-X):

In mid-2020, Intel introduced the 4th gen Core X series based on the Comet Lake architecture, representing the last iteration of 14nm high-end desktop processors before the move to 10nm. The new Core i9-10900X offered 10 cores and 20 threads with a base clock of 3.7 GHz and a boost clock of 5.2 GHz – the highest boost frequency ever for a Core i9 part. Other models were largely similar to the 3rd gen lineup, albeit with 100-200 MHz higher boost clocks. The 10900X retailed for $590, making it the most affordable flagship i9 yet.

Key 4th gen Comet Lake-X processors:

  • Core i9-10980XE: 18 cores, 36 threads, 3.0 GHz base, 4.8 GHz boost.
  • Core i9-10940X: 14 cores, 28 threads, 3.3 GHz base, 4.9 GHz boost.
  • Core i9-10920X: 12 cores, 24 threads, 3.5 GHz base, 4.9 GHz boost.

Fifth Generation i9 (Rocket Lake-X):

In Q2 2021, Intel debuted its 5th generation Core i9 lineup based on the new Rocket Lake architecture and leveraging Intel’s refined 14nm process. While still limited to 8 cores due to 14nm process constraints, Rocket Lake delivered a significant IPC boost along with fast clock speeds. The new Core i9-11900X offered 8 cores, 16 threads and sported a base clock of 3.5 GHz and an incredible max turbo boost of 5.3 GHz. With high clocks and strong IPC, the 11900X claimed the title of fastest gaming CPU despite lower core counts versus prior generations. It launched at $589 MSRP.

Other key Rocket Lake-X processors include:

  • Core i9-11900X: 8 cores, 16 threads, 3.5 GHz base, 5.3 GHz boost.
  • Core i9-11900: 8 cores, 16 threads, 2.5 GHz base, 5.3 GHz boost.

Sixth Generation i9 (Alder Lake):

In late 2021, Intel made the leap to 10nm for desktop processors with the launch of the Alder Lake 12th generation Core series. Alder Lake also introduced Intel’s Hybrid Technology with a mix of Performance-cores (P-cores) and Efficient-cores (E-cores). The new flagship i9-12900K combines 8 P-cores and 8 E-cores for a total of 16 cores and 24 threads. With the P-cores hitting 5.2 GHz boost clocks and the IPC gains from the new architecture, the 12900K delivers tremendous gaming and single-threaded performance in addition to excellent multi-threaded performance. It launched at $599 MSRP and quickly became the fastest desktop CPU for gaming and most workloads.

Other key 12th gen Alder Lake processors include:

  • Core i9-12900KS: 8 P-cores, 8 E-cores, 16 cores, 24 threads, 3.4 GHz base, 5.5 GHz boost.
  • Core i9-12900K: 8 P-cores, 8 E-cores, 16 cores, 24 threads, 3.2 GHz base, 5.2 GHz boost.
  • Core i9-12900: 8 P-cores, 8 E-cores, 16 cores, 24 threads, 2.4 GHz base, 5.1 GHz boost.
  • Core i9-12900F: 8 P-cores, 8 E-cores, 16 cores, 24 threads, 2.4 GHz base, 5.1 GHz boost. (No integrated graphics).

Seventh Generation Core i9 (Raptor Lake):

The latest generation in the Core i9 family comes with Intel’s new 13th generation Core processors codenamed Raptor Lake, launching in Q4 2022. Raptor Lake continues leveraging Intel 7 (refined 10nm process) and retains the hybrid core design from Alder Lake. The new flagship i9-13900K increases P-cores from 8 to 24 while retaining 8 E-cores. This takes the total 24-core, 32-thread count to new heights for a mainstream desktop processor. Clock speeds also see a bump – Raptor Lake i9 processors will boost beyond 6 GHz. Early benchmarks show around a 15% performance improvement over Alder Lake at the same power levels, cementing the 13900K as the fastest desktop CPU yet. It is expected to retail between $589 to $639.

Other 13th gen Raptor Lake processors include:

  • Core i9-13900KF: 24 P-cores, 8 E-cores, 32 threads, 3.0 GHz (5.8 GHz boost)
  • Core i9-13900: 24 P-cores, 8 E-cores, 32 threads, 2.0 GHz (5.6 GHz boost)
  • Core i9-13900F: 24 P-cores, 8 E-cores, 32 threads, 2.0 GHz (5.6 GHz boost)

Frequently Asked Questions

1: What is the fastest i9 processor available?

1: As of my last update in September 2021, the fastest i9 processor is the Intel Core i9-11900K. Please note that there might have been new releases since then.

2: What are the key features of the Intel Core i9-11900K?

2: The Intel Core i9-11900K is based on the 11th generation “Rocket Lake” architecture. It features 8 cores and 16 threads, with a base clock speed of 3.5 GHz and a turbo boost frequency of up to 5.3 GHz.

3: How does the Intel Core i9-11900K compare to its predecessors?

3: The i9-11900K offers improved performance over its predecessors due to its architectural enhancements, but its performance gains might vary depending on the specific tasks being performed. It’s recommended to check benchmarks for accurate performance comparisons.

4: Is the Intel Core i9-11900K suitable for gaming?

4: Yes, the i9-11900K is well-suited for gaming due to its high clock speeds and multiple cores. It can handle demanding games and tasks that require substantial processing power.

5: What is the TDP (Thermal Design Power) of the i9-11900K?

5: The i9-11900K has a TDP of 125 watts. This power rating provides an indication of the heat dissipation and cooling requirements for the processor.

6: Does the i9-11900K support overclocking?

6: Yes, the i9-11900K is unlocked, which means it can be overclocked to achieve higher clock speeds than its default settings. However, overclocking requires adequate cooling and a compatible motherboard.

7: What is the socket compatibility for the Intel Core i9-11900K?

7: The i9-11900K uses the LGA 1200 socket, which is compatible with Intel 400-series and 500-series chipsets.

8: Are there alternatives to the Intel Core i9-11900K for high-performance computing?

8: Yes, alternatives include AMD’s Ryzen 9 processors, which offer strong multi-core performance. The specific choice depends on your preferences and the tasks you intend to perform.

9: Can the i9-11900K handle content creation and video editing?

9: Yes, the i9-11900K is capable of handling content creation tasks and video editing due to its multiple cores and high clock speeds. It can significantly reduce rendering times for multimedia projects.

10: How can I ensure proper cooling for the Intel Core i9-11900K?

10: To ensure optimal cooling, consider using a high-quality aftermarket CPU cooler with adequate heat dissipation capabilities. Additionally, proper case ventilation is important to maintain stable temperatures during heavy workloads.


So in summary, the Intel Core i9-13900K is shaping up to be the fastest i9 processor yet. With Raptor Lake boosting P-cores to 24 and delivering both architectural improvements and clock speed bumps over Alder Lake, it takes over the high-end desktop CPU performance crown. The 13900K’s combination of high core counts, fast clock speeds, and excellent gaming performance makes it the undisputed leader among i9 processors. And with competition from AMD’s upcoming Ryzen 7000 X3D series, Intel will continue pushing the boundaries of desktop CPU performance with its i9 lineup. The next few generations promise to bring even more cores, higher clocks, and IPC gains as Intel maintains its dominance in the high-end desktop segment.

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