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Intel releases new 9th Gen processors without integrated graphics

Yesterday Intel announced that it had new 9th Gen CPUs on the way. I assumed—wrongly, it seems—that these would be the usual slate of non-K SKUs to accompany the existing Core i9-9900K, Core i7-9700K, and Core i5-9600K. Instead, Intel has pulled a fast one and most of the new 9th Gen CPUs that show up on its ARK database come with an "F" suffix. A quick look shows that these are effectively the same CPUs as the non-F parts, but without Intel's integrated graphics.

Here's the current list of Intel's 9th Gen processors (with existing parts greyed out). And a shout out to Tom's Hardware and AnandTech for tipping me off on how to dig these up on ARK. (They don't show up with the rest of the Coffee Lake parts yet.)

You can see the 9900KF, 9700KF, and 9600KF are identical to the non-F parts in all specs other than the graphics. Most of these new CPUs don't have prices listed, which typically means they're only for OEM customers (eg, Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc.) Of the seven newly listed parts, only one has a price, the i5-9400F. There are also two 8th Gen CPUs, though the differences between Coffee Lake and the Coffee Lake refresh are relatively minor, especially for consumer use. Keep in mind that no Intel graphics means features like Quick Sync and Clear Video are also missing.

If disabling the graphics seems odd, it's just another way of harvesting a usable product from a potentially defective die. All the current Coffee Lake refresh parts use the same basic die, which has eight CPU cores and integrated graphics. Sometimes a die is partially defective, and shutting off a couple of cores allows it to work properly. (Incidentally, this is why parts like the i5-9600K often won't clock as high as i9-9900K—the CPU comes from 'less desirable' silicon and so may not clock as high without having errors.) And sometimes it's the graphics portion that fails to pass testing and validation, which potentially leaves Intel with a bunch of 'useless' chips. Until now.

The harvesting of dies is nothing new, but the timing of these F-suffix parts is interesting. Intel's much-delayed 10nm process meant that as plans were in place to slow down production of 14nm parts in anticipation of 10nm replacements arriving, Intel ended up with a bit of a shortage on its 14nm CPUs. (I think potentially upgrades thanks to Meltdown/Spectre might have also played a role.) If you have a chip shortage and a bunch of 'duds' sitting around that don't have functional graphics, there are certainly customers that don't need the graphics, and so we get these new CPUs.

These certainly won't be the last of Intel's 9th Gen CPU lineup. At some point we'll likely see Celeron and Pentium chips, T-suffix (lower power) parts, and more multiplier locked SKUs. There are 28 7th Gen Kaby Lake desktop SKUs for example, and 27 8th Gen desktop SKUs, compared to only eight (that I can find) 9th Gen SKUs. Mobile 9th Gen CPUs are also due out next quarter, and that's when we're likely to get another chunk of desktop parts.

Jarred doesn't play games, he runs benchmarks. If you want to know about the inner workings of CPUs, GPUs, or SSDs, he's your man. He subsists off a steady diet of crunchy silicon chips and may actually be a robot.