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Intel Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K review: a solid stopgap

Intel Core i5-14600K processor inside its socket.
Intel Core i9-14900K
MSRP $590.00
“Intel's new 14th-gen processor bring improvements, but they don't break the mold.”
  • Big improvements in gaming performance
  • Same pricing as previous generation
  • Works with LGA1700 socket
  • AI-assisted overclocking on 14900K
  • Minor productivity improvements
  • Still slower than AMD 3D V-Cache chips
  • Still very power hungry

There aren’t any surprises with the Intel’s new Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K. They’re the best Intel processors you can buy based on raw performance, and they do a lot to close the gap with AMD’s dominating gaming chips. But those hoping to find a major generational leap with Intel’s 14th-gen processors won’t find it.

Depending on the price you can find Intel’s new processors, they might be among the best processors for your next PC build. I suspect that most builders will be able to find a better deal on one of AMD’s 3D V-Cache processors or Intel’s 13th-gen chips, both of which offer most of the performance of 14th-gen chips for a lower price.

Intel Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K specs

The Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K feel like a flashback. Short of a slight bump to the maximum clock speed, the specs are identical to last-gen’s Core i9-13900K and Core i5-13600K. On top of that, Intel is using the same Intel 7 process for these chips, as well as the same LGA1700 socket. It’s been called the “Raptor Lake refresh,” despite carrying the name of an entirely new generation.

Core i9-14900K/KF Core i7-14700K/KF Core i5-14600K/KF
Cores/Threads 24 (8+16) / 32 20 (8+12) / 28 14(6+8) / 20
L3/L2 Cache 36MB / 32MB 33MB / 28MB 24MB / 20MB
Max turbo frequency 6GHz 5.6GHz 5.3GHz
Base/Turbo power 125W / 253W 125W / 253W 125W / 181W
Recommended price $590 $410 $320

There’s no problem with that, but it’s important to set expectations for these chips before getting into the benchmarks. They aren’t, and were never meant to be, an Earth-shattering release. It seems Intel’s biggest goal with the 14th-gen processors is to close the gap with AMD’s 3D V-Cache chips. The previous generation already put up impressive numbers in raw productivity performance.

These processors fit into Intel’s new Process-Architecture-Optimization release cadence, and it represents the optimization step. You’re getting the same Intel 7 node that debuted with 12th-gen chips like the Core i9-12900K but with all of the refinement of 13th-gen. It’s fair to ask what exactly is new here, though.

From what I can tell, Intel has pushed clock speeds slightly higher, but it mainly focused on software optimizations. One of those areas is the new Extreme Tuning Utility with AI. It’s currently only supported on the Core i9-14900K, but it could come to other 14th-gen processors in the future. Intel has explicitly said it won’t come to previous generations, though.

Pins on Core i9-12900K.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Another optimization is Intel Application Optimization. It’s focused on optimizations for games through Intel’s Dynamic Tuning Technology framework. Currently, this is only available in two games, Rainbow Six Siege and Metro Exodus, but Intel says it’s working with more game studios for support. We’re also seeing some platform improvements, such as support for higher DDR5 speeds.

When Intel announced the new chips, though, it didn’t focus much on generational improvements. It’s clear why now. There are some improvements compared to last-gen parts, but there are also areas where the new chips offer identical performance or even slight regressions. I’m glad to see Intel didn’t increase the price on its 14th-gen chips, but shoppers will have to weigh the price between 13th-gen and 14th-gen parts, as there isn’t a clear reason to upgrade to the 14th-gen for most people.

Test configurations

The RTX 4080 in a running test bench.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

I put together two test configurations, one for AMD’s Zen 4 platform and another for Intel’s LGA1700 socket. The BIOS version was current at the time of testing, including explicit support for Intel’s 14th-gen processors. For BIOS settings, I left everything at its default value short of XMP for Intel and EXPO for AMD, as well as Resizeable Bar on both platforms.

As we’ve seen previously, it’s possible that you can see some performance or efficiency benefits by tweaking the settings in the BIOS. We’re focused on the performance most people should expect out of the box, including Intel’s specific thread placement tech, not what you could get with the right amount of tweaking.

  AMD Intel 
GPU Nvidia RTX 4080 Founders Edition Nvidia RTX 4080 Founders Edition
RAM 32GB Gigabyte Aorus DDR5-6000 32GB Corsair Vengeance DDR5-6000
Motherboard Gigabyte X670E Aorus Master MSI MPG Z790 MAG Tomahawk
CPU cooler Corsair H150i Elite Capellix Corsair H150i Elite Capellix
Power supply Gigabyte Aorus P1200W MSI MPG A850GF
Storage Corsair MP400 1TB MSI M450 1TB

Hardware differences between the two platforms are very minor. I used a high-end motherboard for each of AMD and Intel’s flagship chipsets, along with a kit of DDR5-6000 memory with either XMP for Intel or EXPO for AMD. The largest difference is the PSU, but we’re well within the power range for these builds with either PSU.

Productivity performance

I usually start off my CPU reviews with a look at Cinebench R23, but that’s actually the worst showcase for the Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K. In multi-core performance, the Core i9-14900K was slightly slower than last-gen’s Core i9-13900K, while the Core i5-14600K matched its last-gen counterpart. Intel is still ahead of AMD’s Ryzen 9 7950X, but it’s never good to see a generational regression in performance, no matter how minor it is.

Thankfully, that lower performance doesn’t translate into real applications. As you can see in Handbrake, both the Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K managed to shave a few seconds off the encoding time compared to their last-gen counterparts. Intel already held an advantage over AMD in transcoding time, but the new chips push that even further.

Handbrake performance for the Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Rendering is a different story, helping explain that delta I saw in Cinebench. In Blender 3.4, the Core i9-14900K was basically identical to the Core i9-13900K. The cheaper Core i5-14600K showed a slight improvement gen-on-gen, but AMD’s Ryzen 9 7950X still overwhelmingly dominates in this benchmark. Thankfully, you’ll probably rely on GPU acceleration in this application, so it’s not as big of a loss for Intel as the benchmark number suggests.

Intel Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K performance in Blender.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Those are the worst showcases of Intel’s new chips. In raw compute power through calculating 500,000,000 digits of Pi in Y-Cruncher, both the Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K show generational improvements. That clock speed enhancement is doing a lot of work here, allowing the 14th-gen chips to shave anywhere from five seconds to eight seconds off in the single-core compute time.

Intel Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K performance in y-Cruncher.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

In addition, Intel massively improved compression performance in 7-zip. This was previously a benchmark that skewed heavily toward AMD processors, but the Intel Core i5-14600K is now showing a clear advantage over AMD’s Ryzen 5 7600X. And the Core i9-14900K is able to get closer to the Ryzen 9 7950X, while it was massively behind before.

Intel's Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K in 7-Zip.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Finally, in the web-based Jetstream 2 benchmark, the Core i9-14900K posted the highest score I’ve ever recorded. It’s 12% faster than the Ryzen 9 7950X, which was the previous champ. Even the Core i5-14600K is faster than AMD’s fastest chip, showing Intel’s improvements in web-based applications.

Intel Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K performance in Jetstream 2.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

That’s the only clear win for Intel’s 14th-gen chips, though. There are some generational improvements here, as well as cases where Intel is closing the gap with AMD. But the story of the previous generation is mostly the same. Intel is closer to AMD in the tests it was behind in previously, while it pushes slightly ahead in benchmarks where Intel already held the lead.

As mentioned earlier in the review, the decision between the 13th-gen and 14th-gen will largely come down to pricing. If there’s only a $10 to $20 difference, as there is now, you might as well go with a 14th-gen chip. Once retailers start selling off 13th-gen chips for bargain bin prices, though, it’ll be hard to justify a 14th-gen processor, even if there are slight performance improvements.

Gaming performance

Intel held the crown in gaming performance for a few short months, all before AMD’s Ryzen 9 7950X3D and Ryzen 7 7800X3D leapfrogged into the top slot. The new 14th-gen chips seem like a way for Intel to claw back some gaming performance, and although there are clearly improvements, AMD remains the undisputed champ in raw gaming performance.

Intel Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K performance in Time Spy.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

You wouldn’t know that looking at 3DMark Time Spy, though. The CPU score here shows the Core i9-14900K nearly 40% ahead of the Ryzen 9 7950X3D, as well as 20% ahead of its last-gen counterpart. Intel has specific optimizations for 3DMark, so this test is heavily skewed in its favor.

We can immediately see that’s the case when testing a real game, too. In Hitman 3, the Core i9-14900K is providing a 10% jump over the previous generation, but it still falls a hair short of the Ryzen 9 7950X3D. The real win for Intel in this game is the Core i5-14600K, though. Intel finally has a mainstream processor that can go toe-to-toe with the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which has become overwhelmingly popular over the last year among gamers.

Intel Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K performance in Hitman 3.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There are bigger improvements elsewhere, too. In Far Cry 6, the Core i5-14600K is even faster than the Core i9-13900K from the previous generation. For the Core i9-14900K, you’re looking at a gen-on-gen improvement of close to 33%, getting it within spitting distance of the Ryzen 9 7950X3D.

Intel Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K performance in Far Cry 6.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The best showcase is F1 2022, however. This is the only game where the Core i9-14900K actually managed to beat the Ryzen 9 7950X3D. Granted, last-gen’s Core i9-13900K was already close, but it’s a commanding lead for Intel’s latest flagship.

Intel Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K performance in F1 2022.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Raw compute power of the CPU in games definitely favors Intel with its 14th-gen processor. A good way to see that is in LeelaChessZero, where graphics don’t play any role in performance. Once again, the Core i9-14900K posts the highest result, while the Core i5-14600K is close behind the Ryzen 9 7950X3D.

Intel Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K performance in a chess benchmark.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The sobering reality of gaming performance, however, is that your graphics card is going to play a much bigger role in performance, especially as you crank up settings and the resolution. All of my benchmarks were run at 1080p with the High preset, which is not a realistic gaming scenario for a machine packing a Core i9 and an RTX 4080. A good showcase of that is Red Dead Redemption 2 at its Ultra preset. Even at 1080p, all of the chips in my test suite are within a few frames of each other, with the Ryzen 9 7950X3D once again claiming the top spot.

Intel's Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K performance in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Intel has definitely made improvements in gaming performance with its 14th-gen chips, but they aren’t enough to show a commanding lead over AMD’s 3D V-Cache processors. At list price, there’s a good argument to go with a 14th-gen chip, but AMD’s Ryzen 7000X3D processors aren’t selling for list price anymore. The Ryzen 7 7800X3D is commonly available for less than $400, and sometimes close to $300 on sale. For those primarily focused on gaming performance, that’s the processor to buy, and unfortunately Intel’s new 14th-gen chips don’t change that.

Power and thermals

Intel Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K efficiency in gaming.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Intel has improved gaming performance quite a bit and showed some enhancements in productivity, but it comes at a cost: efficiency. I didn’t see much of an improvement in efficiency compared to the previous generation, and AMD was already clearly ahead in that department.

The chart above shows the average frame rate across my test suite of games per 10 watts that the processor reported. The AMD chips are offering a much better bang for your buck in terms of efficiency, while the increase in performance for Intel’s 14th-gen chips scales almost perfectly with the amount of power the chips use.

Intel Core i9-14900K and Core i5-14600K temperatures in gaming benchmarks.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Thankfully, there’s not an increase in temperatures. The Core i9-14900K reported slightly higher temperatures than the Ryzen 9 7950X3D, but none of the chips were too hot until a typical gaming workload. Keep in mind that I’m looking at gaming here as the workload, and temperatures will be higher for more demanding tasks on the CPU.

Tough to justify

Intel's 14900K CPU socketed in a motherboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There are no surprises with Intel’s 14th-gen CPUs. We knew that from a string of leaks and rumors, as well as the official announcement. Now that I’ve had a chance to test the processors myself, that remains true.

To be clear, that doesn’t Intel’s latest processors are bad. They’re just arriving at a time when both AMD’s 3D V-Cache chips and Intel’s 13th-gen processors are dropping in price, and in both cases, you’ll likely get more value for your money. In a world where you’re upgrading from a 12th-gen or older platform, 14th-gen is still the right choice depending on pricing. But there’s very little reason here for someone with the latest from AMD or Intel to jump ship.

In addition, we know that Intel will move to a new process with its next generation of desktop processors. 15th-gen Arrow Lake processors will use the Intel 4 process, and they’re slated to launch next year. That leaves 14th-gen chips in an awkward spot, as you can get better value on last-gen parts now and likely higher peak performance come 2024.

Editors' Recommendations

Jacob Roach
Senior Staff Writer, Computing
Jacob Roach is a writer covering computing and gaming at Digital Trends. After realizing Crysis wouldn't run on a laptop, he…
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