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We have concerns about the 9th gen Intel Core i9-9880H and i9-9980HK

MSI GT75 equipped with a Core i9-8950HK (Source: MSI)
MSI GT75 equipped with a Core i9-8950HK (Source: MSI)
What was once just one Core i9 option (i9-8950HK) will now be split into two (i9-9880H and i9-9980HK) for this latest mobile Core ix generation. Based on the performance history of the i9-8950HK, however, we're not expecting the i9-9980HK to perform that much faster than the i9-9880H to warrant two different SKUs.

Intel 9th gen CPUs are finally here for gaming laptops to succeed the 8th gen Coffee Lake-H series. Whereas the last generation included just a single unlocked Core i9-8950HK option, this latest generation splits the mobile Core i9 series to include the locked Core i9-9880H and unlocked Core i9-9980HK.

The problem with this approach isn't the gen-to-gen performance upgrade over Coffee Lake-H as these 9th gen Core i9 CPUs will have eight physical cores compared to "only" six on the i9-8950HK. We're expecting a reasonable multi-thread performance boost when compared to Coffee Lake-H as a result. Instead, we're concerned about the inevitably narrow performance delta between the i9-9880H and i9-9980HK. The base/boost clock rates for these two CPUs sit at 2.3/4.8 GHz and 2.4/5.0 GHz, respectively, to suggest a raw performance benefit of just a few percentage points on average. The unlocked i9-9980HK can potentially run faster after end-user tinkering, but we find this to be very unlikely based on our experience with 8th gen Coffee Lake-H Core i9 laptops. These processors were already running at well over 90 C when under heavy utilization and so the unlocked multiplier had almost no headroom for squeezing out additional performance.

Since the 9th gen Core i9 series will operate under the same 45 W TDP envelope and at the same 14 nm manufacturing node as its Coffee Lake-H Core i9 predecessor, offering two 9th gen Core i9 options seems unnecessary and ultimately confusing for consumers especially when current trends suggest a very narrow performance gap between them.

Of course, we hope we'll be wrong and perhaps the Core i9-9980HK can surprise us with a very large performance benefit over the i9-9880H. We'll be putting this to the test on a variety of flagship laptops with 9th gen Core i9 CPUs in the coming months before formulating a fair conclusion. The large Asus ROG G703, for example, will be one of the first laptops shipping with the unlocked Core i9-9980HK.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 04 > We have concerns about the 9th gen Intel Core i9-9880H and i9-9980HK
Allen Ngo, 2019-04-24 (Update: 2019-04-24)
Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - US Editor in Chief
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.