The upcoming Core i9-9900KS will require serious cooling to maximize performance

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel's upcoming Core i9-9900KS was first revealed just before Computex. It's not on sale yet, but it's coming in October, and it aims to be the new king of gaming CPUs—price still unknown. Various other specs were also unknown, like the TDP, but Tom's Hardware discovered updated Asus BIOS information that indicates the base TDP (Thermal Design Power) will be 127W. If correct, that's the highest TDP for a mainstream consumer CPU from Intel since the days of the Pentium D (which hit 130W for some models).

There are all sorts of disclaimers, of course. For example, just because a BIOS lists a TDP target of 127W doesn't mean that's Intel's official spec. It also doesn't mean the 9900KS will be limited to 127W—under heavy workloads, it's clear that the "95W" Core i9-9900K already exceeds that mark, depending on the motherboard BIOS. That's because even though the official guaranteed clockspeed for the 9900K is only 3.6GHz, many Z390 enthusiast boards will happily run all eight cores at 4.7GHz, TDP be damned.

Given the Core i9-9900KS is basically the same chip, binned and tailored for higher all-core clockspeeds, I expect heavy workloads like Cinebench or video encoding will need a substantial cooler to stay within acceptable temperatures at 5.0GHz. 4.0GHz is supposed to be guaranteed, but I doubt most Z390 boards are going to respect the TDP unless the CPU gets so hot that it starts to throttle.

If we're being critical, this now makes for the third round of Coffee Lake refreshes—it's a refresh of a refresh. That's the result of Intel's 10nm node being horribly delayed, and while 10th Gen 10nm Ice Lake CPUs are now shipping in laptops, they're 4-core and 2-core parts and aren't coming to desktop yet. As far as performance goes, at best the 9900KS should be 6 percent faster than the 9900K (5.0GHz vs. 4.7GHz), and I've seen a lot of 9900K CPUs overclock to 5.0GHz as well with a good cooler.

The only real question is pricing. With increased competition from AMD, and the Ryzen 9 3950X on the horizon, Intel is trying to maintain its position as the king of CPUs. A slightly higher clocked variant of the 9900K won't give Intel the win, and I doubt Intel is going to sell it at the same price as the 9900K. Still, stranger things have happened.

Jarred Walton

Jarred's love of computers dates back to the dark ages when his dad brought home a DOS 2.3 PC and he left his C-64 behind. He eventually built his first custom PC in 1990 with a 286 12MHz, only to discover it was already woefully outdated when Wing Commander was released a few months later. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Brigham Young University and has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.