Intel has now started sales of its 9th Gen Core unlocked processors for mainstream desktop platforms featuring the company’s Socket H4 v2 for 1151-pin CPUs. The new products feature up to eight cores, up to 5 GHz turbo frequency, and an improved thermal interface. The new chips are more expensive than their direct predecessors, which will make PCs based on the new unlocked CPUs more expensive than before, especially after profit margin of retailers and PC makers is added. Perhaps a bigger problem is the fact that stock seems to be surprisingly thin, and fluctuating daily.

Table of Contents:

Unlocked Intel 9th Gen Core Processors: A Family Portrait

For many years Intel offered two unlocked CPUs for its mainstream platform within each generation of products. There of course were exceptions (e.g., unlocked Pentium in 2014), but as a general rule the company strictly offered an unlocked Core i5 and an unlocked Core i7. Last year the chip giant added an unlocked Core i3 to the mix in a bid to meet demands of enthusiasts in budget. This time Intel is changing the rules of the game once again. Instead of expanding its lineup of unlocked chips for mainstream platforms with a yet another reasonably-priced offering, the company decided to raise the bar and offer a Core i9-branded CPU instead (at least for now).

Intel's Unlocked 8th & 9th Gen Core Processors for LGA1151 v2
AnandTech Cores TDP Freq L3 L3 Per
Core
DRAM
DDR4
iGPU iGPU
Turbo
Core i9-9900K $488 8 / 16 95 W 3.6 / 5.0 16 MB 2.0 MB 2666 GT2 1200
Core i7-9700K $374 8 / 8 95 W 3.6 / 4.9 12 MB 1.5 MB 2666 GT2 1200
Core i5-9600K $262 6 / 6 95 W 3.7 / 4.6 9 MB 1.5 MB 2666 GT2 1150
8th Gen
Core i7-8086K $425 6 / 12 95 W 4.0 / 5.0 12 MB 2 MB 2666 24 EUs 1200
Core i7-8700K $359 6 / 12 95 W 3.7 / 4.7 12 MB 2 MB 2666 24 EUs 1200
Core i5-8600K $258 6 / 6 95 W 3.6 / 4.3 9 MB 1.5 MB 2666 24 EUs 1150
Core i3-8350K $179 4 / 4 91 W 4.0 8 MB 2 MB 2400 24 EUs 1150
Pentium G5600 $93 2 / 4 54 W 3.9 4 MB 2 MB 2400 24 EUs 1100
*9th Gen Prices are 1k unit prices - no individual MSRP has been set yet.

The current lineup of Intel’s unlocked 9th Gen Core processors consists of three offerings: the eight-core hyperthreaded Core i9-9900K with 16 MB of cache, the eight-core Core i7-9700K with 12 MB of cache, and the six-core Core i5-9600K with 9 MB of cache. Besides more cores on the higher-end models, all the new CPUs feature hardware mitigations for Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, and use soldered bonded metal interface between the silicon die and the heat spreader. Soldered thermal interface material (STIM) provides a better thermal conductivity than paste, which Intel used in the recent years, so it is reasonable to expect the new processors to be fairly good overclockers.

REVIEW: The Intel 9th Gen Review: Core i9-9900K, Core i7-9700K and Core i5-9600K Tested

More Cores = Larger Dies = Higher Prices

Since Intel has used various versions of its 14 nm manufacturing technology to make its chips since 2014/2015, adding more cores and cache to CPUs, or altering fabrication process for higher clocks, inevitably means adjusting the die size and ultimately the cost of its products.

Intel’s Core i7-7700K was estimated to have a die size of around 125 mm2, the Core i7-8700K increased its die size to around 151 mm2, and the Core i9-9900K is estimated to feature a die size of at least 177 mm2. While historically 177 mm2 die was not a problem for Intel’s mainstream CPUs (this is the size of the Core i7-4770K made at 22 nm node), keep in mind that production cycles tend to get longer and therefore every square millimeter of a CPU real estate tends to get more expensive at more advanced nodes.

Die Sizes of Intel's Recent Unlocked CPUs
  Core i7 7700K
Kaby Lake
Core i7-8700K
Coffee Lake
Core i7-9700K/i9-9900K
Coffee Lake Refresh
Die Size ~125 mm² ~151 mm² ~177 mm²
CPU Config 4 cores
8 MB cache
GT2 iGPU
6 cores
12 MB cache
GT2 iGPU
8 cores
16 MB cache
GT2 iGPU
Process 14+ 14++ 14++

As a result, Intel has risen its RCPs (recommended customer prices for tray CPUs in 1000-unit quantities) - the unlocked Coffee Lake CPUs rose by $15 – $20 last year. This year the company not only further increases pricing of unlocked 9th Gen Core i5/i7 by $5 – $15, but also introduces a Core i9-branded offering at rather whopping $488, commanding a $114 premium for a tray CPU.

When it comes to pricing of unlocked 9th Gen Core i5/i7, a $5-$15 increase of RCP when compared to direct predecessors does not sound too bad for two extra cores (i7), higher clocks (i5) and STIM. Evidently, the prices are still $20 – $35 higher than Intel’s “usual” prices of unlocked quad-core i7 mainstream CPUs, but let’s keep in mind inflation too. On the other hand, there is also the Core i9-9900K priced $149 higher compared to the usual RCP of Intel’s top-of-the-range mainstream quad-core Core i7 CPU. Meanwhile, the hyperthreaded eight-core i9-9900K chip sits comfortably below HEDT-aimed Core i7-9800X that is priced at $589.

Per Core Pricing: Going Down

As noted last year, Intel did not change core count of its flagship mainstream desktop CPUs from 2006 to 2017 while slowly increasing core count of its high-end desktop processors. There are many reasons why this happened, but luckily Intel introduced its six-core mainstream chips in 2017 and now it brings eight-core mainstream CPUs to the market. The new Core i7/i9 products are more expensive than previous-gen flagship offerings for LGA115x platforms, but there is one metrics that nearly always goes down with the core count increase: that is pricing per core. Let’s have a quick look.

Prices of Contemporary CPUs from Intel
  Cores/
Threads
Base Freq. Intel
RCP at Launch
Price per Core
Coffee Lake-S Refresh
Core i9-9900K 8/16 3.6 GHz $488 $61
Core i7-9700K 8/8 3.6 GHz $374 $47
Core i5-9600K 6/6 3.7 GHz $262 $43
Coffee Lake-S
i7-8700K 6/12 3.7 GHz $359 $60
i7-8700 6/12 3.2 GHz $303 $51
i5-8600K 6/6 3.6 GHz $257 $43
i5-8400 6/6 2.8 GHz $182 $30
i3-8350K 4/4 4.0 GHz $168 $42
i3-8100 4/4 3.6 GHz $117 $29
Kaby Lake-S
i7-7700K 4/8 4.2 GHz $339 $89
i7-7700 4/8 3.6 GHz $303 $84
i5-7600K 4/4 3.8 GHz $242 $60
i5-7400 4/4 3.0 GHz $182 $47
i3-7350K 2/4 4.2 GHz $168 $92
i3-7100 2/4 3.9 GHz $117 $60

Per-core pricing of the eight-core Core i9-9900K is about the same as per-core pricing of the six-core Core i7-8700K, yet it is considerably lower that the per-core pricing of the quad-core Core i7-7700K. Meanwhile, if this metrics matters at all, the Core i7-9700K brings down per-core pricing to $47, which is the lowest per-core pricing of any Core i7 product ever released.

Actual Pricing and Availability

Without any doubts, the new unlocked 9th Gen Core processors are better than their predecessors both in terms of specs as well as in terms of overclockability promise. Meanwhile, they also carry higher official price tags. Now, time to talk about their actual prices and availability.

One important note. Intel publishes prices as RCP (Recommended Customer Pricing). This is the price it gives for customers buying 1000 CPUs (a 'tray') as an OEM. Retail prices are often $5-15 higher depending on the configuration.

Intel Core i9-9900K

As usually, we start out availability investigation from the flagship offering, which is the Core i9-9900K officially priced at $488. The chip raises the bar for the whole platform in terms of MSRP and performance, though it remains to be seen whether adopters of Intel’s mainstream platforms will be willing to pay such a large sum of money for this CPU.

Intel Core i9-9900K Availability and Pricing
Boxed processors if not mentioned otherwise
RCP: $488
Retailer Country Local Price Equivalent in USD w/o VAT Status
Amazon U.S. $580 - out of stock
B&H Photo Video U.S. $580 - coming soon
Fry's Electronics U.S. - - not listed
Newegg U.S. $580 - out of stock
     
Amazon UK U.K. £920 $995 in stock
Ebuyer Boxed U.K. £773 $836 due on 10/26
Tray U.K. £580 $632 pre order
Overclockers UK Boxed U.K. £620 $675 pre order
Tray U.K. £600 $653 in stock
Scan U.K. £600 $653 due on 10/31
     
Amazon DE Germany - - only sold in bundles
Amazon ES Spain - - not listed
Amazon FR France €669 $642 in stock
Alternate Boxed Austria €999 $958 unknown
Tray Austria €989 $948 in stock
Cybersport Austria €1,341 $1287 due on 11/15
Proshop Austria €699 $671 due on 11/1
Bora Computer Germany - - not listed
CaseKing Boxed Germany €719 $696 unknown
Tray Germany €699 $676 in stock
Kiebel.de Tray Germany €695 $672 due on 10/23
     
Komplett Denmark 4,449 kr. $549 due on 11/2
Proshop Denmark 4,699 kr. $580 due on 11/1
Komplett Finland €595 $552 due on 11/2
Proshop Finland €629 $584 due on 11/1
Proshop Norway 6,199 kr. $603 due on 11/1
Komplett Sweden 6,249 kr. $556 due on 11/2
Proshop Sweden 6,499 kr. $575 due on 11/1

The first thing that strikes about the Core i9-9900K is its actual pricing. In the U.S., the CPU is listed for $580, which is $92 higher than its RCP is. Prices in Western Europe look gargantuan, even when taxes are excluded. As it turns out, even at prices well above those recommended by Intel, the Core i7-9900K is in stock only in select stores in Germany (note that Amazon.de only sells the i9-9900K in bundles), France, and the U.K. It looks like the chip is impossible to get in the U.S., at least not from major retailers.

Intel Core i7-9700K

Moving on to the new unlocked eight-core Core i7-9700K part that carries a $374 RCP. This chip is designed to replace the Core i7-8700K. Based on our review, the lack of Hyper-Threading, smaller per-core L3 cache, and some other factors at times make the newcomer slower than its direct predecessor is, though eight cores and higher clocks generally make it a very compelling product. For anyone on say, a Core i5-6600K, it makes a surprising upgrade.

Intel Core i7-9700K Availability and Pricing
Boxed processors if not mentioned otherwise
As of 2 PM EST October 19, 2018
RCP: $374
Retailer Country Local Price Equivalent in USD w/o VAT Status
Amazon U.S. $410 - out of stock
B&H Photo Video U.S. $420 - preorder
Fry's Electronics U.S. - - not listed
Newegg U.S. $420 - in stock
     
Amazon UK U.K. £511 $557 in stock of 3rd party
Ebuyer U.K. £500 $544 in stock
Overclockers UK Boxed U.K. £500 $544 pre order
Tray U.K. £489 $533 pre order
Scan U.K. £500 $469 in stock
£    
Amazon DE Germany - - only sold in bundles
Amazon ES Spain - - not listed
Amazon FR France €539 $517 in stock
Alternate Boxed Austria €599 $574 unknown
Tray Austria €589 $565 in stock
Cybersport Austria €620 $595 not in stock
Proshop Austria €499 $479 due on 11/1
Bora Computer Germany - - not listed
CaseKing Boxed Germany €569 $550 unknown
Tray Germany €549 $531 in stock
Kiebel.de Tray Germany €600 $581 due on 10/23
     
Komplett Denmark 3,449 kr. $426 due on 11/2
Proshop Denmark 3,699 kr. $457 due on 11/1
Komplett Finland €459 $426 due on 11/2
Proshop Finland €499 $463 due on 11/1
Proshop Norway 4,799 kr. $467 due on 11/1
Komplett Sweden 4,849 kr. $432 due on 11/2
Proshop Sweden 5,199 kr. $462 due on 11/1

Just like its i9-branded brother, the Core i7-9700K is overpriced right now. In the U.S., the overpricing looks more or less reasonably, but in Western Europe the situation is far worse. As far as availability is concerned, we see that there are select stores that have the CPU in stock, but it still is a rare guest on the shelves.

Intel Core i5-9600K

The Core i5-9600K CPU is a direct successor of the Core i5-8600K launched last year. The chip still features six cores, but has an improved thermal interface between the die and the heat spreader, which may enable a better overclocking potential. Officially, the chip is priced at $262, $5 higher than the predecessor is.

Intel Core i5-9600K Availability and Pricing
Boxed processors if not mentioned otherwise
As of 2 PM EST October 19, 2018
RCP: $262
Retailer Country Local Price Equivalent in USD w/o VAT Status
Amazon U.S. $280 - out of stock
B&H Photo Video U.S. $280 - preorder
Fry's Electronics U.S. - - not listed
Newegg U.S. $280 - available
     
Amazon UK U.K. £527 $573 in stock of 3rd party
Ebuyer Retail U.K. £350 $380 in stock
Tray U.K. £300 $327 in stock
Overclockers UK Retail U.K. £330 $359 in stock
Tray U.K. £300 $327 in stock
Scan U.K. £350 $381 in stock
     
Amazon DE Germany €380 $364 due on 10/20
Amazon ES Spain €309
€380
$295
$364
out of stock
in stock
Amazon FR France €380 $364 in stock
Alternate Boxed Austria €369 $354 unknown
Tray Austria €379 $363 in stock
Cybersport Austria €415 $398 in stock
Proshop Austria €350 $336 in stock
Bora Computer Germany - - not listed
CaseKing Boxed Germany €389 $376 in stock
Tray Germany €369 $357 in stock
Kiebel.de Germany €430 $416 avlb in 48 hrs
     
Komplett Denmark 2,349 kr. $290 due on 11/2
Proshop Denmark 2,499 kr. $309 in stock
Komplett Finland €315 $293 due on 11/2
Proshop Finland €350 $325 in stock
Proshop Norway 3,299 kr. $321 in stock
Komplett Sweden 3,290 kr. $293 due on 11/2
Proshop Sweden 3,499 kr. $311 in stock

The six-core unlocked Core i5-9600K is readily available in multiple stores across Europe, but in the U.S. only Newegg had it in stock as of press time. As for pricing, the chip can be obtained for $280 in the USA, but in Europe its prices are sometimes absurdly high.

Some Thoughts

Intel started to roll out its 9th Gen Core processors for desktops from three flagship unlocked offerings aimed at enthusiasts. This is an uncommon tactics for the chip giant as usually Intel introduces a bunch of new processors targeting different market segments and types of systems. For example, not all OEMs are interested in unlocked CPUs as they do not support overclocking in the vast majority of their systems. Meanwhile, two out of three new SKUs offer a unique proposition for Intel’s mainstream platform by eight general-purpose cores - that will inevitably attract DIY enthusiasts as well as PC makers. Furthermore, Intel’s 9th Gen Core chips feature hardware mitigations for Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, a capability that will sell. We do not know Intel’s plans concerning eight-core processors with a locked multiplier (i.e., Core i7-9700), but if they are not released shortly from now, both channel and OEM customers will have to fight for the supply of only two models to meet demand of their clients.

As of today, it is virtually impossible to buy Intel’s Core i9-9900K anywhere in the US, yet it is scarcely available in Europe at prices well above anything reasonable. In fact, given such high prices, it is likely that retailers do not get as many chips as want from Intel, so the supply is tight. In fact, considering that Amazon.com has not listed the product as “In Stock”, it is evident that the company has not even fulfilled pre-orders for these CPUs yet, another evidence that demand is outpacing supply. The situation is somewhat better with the Core i7-9700K: the chip is listed as “In Stock” by numerous leading retailers in the U.S. and Europe, but their prices are high. There are other indicators that supply of this processor is rather tight too. For example, Amazon.DE only sells both i7-9700K and i9-9900K in bundles, whereas retailers in Nordic countries do not expect either products to arrive before early November. As for the Core i5-9600K, it is readily available virtually across the world, but at pricing that seems oddly high, especially when compared to pricing of the Core i5-8600K that is only 100 MHz slower in stock.

As Intel noted multiple times earlier this year, demand for its high-end parts is very high these days and it is struggling to meet demand, which is why it had to expand its 14 nm production capacities. Intel has stated that this is not a production issue - they're still producing as many chips as they have done in the past, it is just that demand is at an all time high. All facts considered, it is evident that retailers are not geting enough Core i7-9700K and Core i9-9900K processors from the chip giant right now. 

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  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - link

    It's a new CPU and the supply chain hasn't caught up with demand yet. OEMs will get first grab at them because of their buying power. It should be no surprise that there's no stock and that the list prices are notably higher than MSRP. I wouldn't even call this price gouging since you can't even make a purchase at the current, inflated prices unless you're willing to preorder. Reply
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - link

    Just a FYI amazon in stock is never right, per amazon it only reflects in stock at time of checking page, they get multiple orders per day delivery unlike traditional places. When the 1080Ti was released, most people who ordered it got it even when said out of stock for example. Reply
  • FastElectrics - Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - link

    In this case the Amazon "Currently unavailable" is right. I preordered on October 13th, and haven't gotten an email yet on when it will be available. I would think they would have the decency to fill preorders before dribbling out 50 or whatever a day to people that order now... Reply
  • npz - Wednesday, October 24, 2018 - link

    That's if you can even order it. When they're really out of stock from their supplier you cannot even place a pre-order, meaning, there is no add-to-cart button.

    That was the situation with the 2080 / 2080ti and the current situation with the 9900k.
    In fact, the 9900k is currently not even searchable. It only shows up if you have the direct link.
    I have mine on pre-order and Amazon have been saying they'll get it in December.
    Reply
  • jhh - Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - link

    After the K version stock stablizes, do we expect cheaper non-K versions like in the past? I don't expect to overclock, but don't want to pay overclocking premiums either. Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - link

    Yes. Not sure if the full lineup's been officially released, but leaks have gotten out. Tom's has a full listing at the bottom of this article:

    https://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-9th-genera...
    Reply
  • IGTrading - Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - link

    I think it is very important to mention the True TDP next to the marketing one. 95W <> 200 W.

    In any other year, Intel would have screamed about this.

    It would have called AMD's CPUs not only "glued" , but "omelet makers" .

    For 100% if the regular customers out there, we (the specialists) have an obligation to clarify that the performance advertised is only achieved when a 200W cooler is installed and that this level of performance is IMPOSSIBLE with a regular 95W cooling system that respects the Thermal Design Power rating of 95W, IMHO.
    Reply
  • Dragonstongue - Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - link

    could not agree more...the cpu makers (and gpu sometimes) need to revise their concept(s) of using TDP naming scheme.
    if in the "real world" the cpu will NEVER go beyond say 95w, then say max TDP of 95w.
    if normal use will allow the cpu to sometimes hit 130w say "TDP up to 130w" etc.

    better the consumer knows what they are buying instead of finding out the "hard way"
    Reply
  • edzieba - Wednesday, October 24, 2018 - link

    What you're looking for is 'steady state TDP' vs 'peak power draw'. For the 'regular customers' steady-state TDP is going to be the important factor (well, that and idle draw) as that's the state it's going to be operating in for 99.999% of the time. Running a CPU with a sustained power virus workload is the exception in normal use, and a cooler that can maintain the rated steady-state TDP can happily tolerate peak high power loading as designed (because heat transfer is nonlinear).

    This isn't an "Intel bad, everyone else good" scenario. This is just how every CPU (and GPU, and mobile SoC) works and has for the last decade. Nobody would build a CPU that does not shape its power envelope to available workload and thermal overhead, because it would be silly to leave that performance on the table.
    Reply
  • npz - Wednesday, October 24, 2018 - link

    AMD rates their TDP close max power draw with turbo clocks, unlike Intel.

    And what steady state entails is completely relative. If you're rendering and the like, 200W+ is what you'd expect. For a workhorse like this, you can expect the 220 W more often and the 95W load would be more the exception than the norm. The 95W only applies to base clocks. The turbo clocks increase it significantly.
    Reply

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