Intel Core i9-14900K review: a refresh in name and nature

Intel has yet to answer to AMD’s excellent 3D V-Cache processors like the Ryzen 7 7800X3D, but its refreshed 14th Gen processors that go on sale today aren’t quite there yet. AMD is still dominating on the gaming side, and that looks set to continue for the rest of 2023. The flagship Core i9-14900K is still the star of the show, though, with a 6GHz boost at stock speeds, 24 cores, and 32 threads.

Intel hasn’t made any big promises about better single-thread performance over previous generations this time, nor any promises of better multithread performance. There’s no core count increase like we saw from the 12900K to 13900K, but Intel has tweaked the frequencies to squeeze out some more performance from this Raptor Lake Refresh.

Frequencies for the P-core max turbo are up 200Hz to 5.6GHz this time around on the 14900K, alongside a 100MHz bump on the E-core max turbo side. The base frequencies for both the P- and E-cores are up 200MHz.

But these small changes aren’t enough to dramatically change performance in either gaming or creative tasks this time around. And they’re definitely not enough to bring Intel up to AMD’s X3D chips on the gaming side of things.

The Good

  • Impressive creator app performance
  • 6GHz boost speeds out of the box
  • Same price as 13th Gen

The Bad

  • Small performance gains over 13th Gen
  • 105C in heavy workloads
  • No power efficiency improvements over 13th Gen

How we rate and review products

As the 14900K is just a refresh, it means you don’t need to worry about a new motherboard if you’ve already got a 12900K or 13900K. Intel is still using its LGA 1700 socket here, and existing Z690 and Z790 motherboards fully support the latest 14th Gen chips. You’ll need to install a BIOS update on the motherboard, but that’s an easy process on most modern boards.

There’s no new motherboards or chipsets this year, but motherboard makers have been refreshing some of their Z790 offerings to bundle in the Wi-Fi 7 support that the Core i9-14900K provides. For my testing, I installed the chip on MSI’s MAG Z790 Carbon WiFi. It has everything you need to take advantage of the 14900K, including four M.2 slots that all support PCIe Gen 4 speeds and a single M.2 slot for PCIe Gen 5 (or below).

  • CPU cooler: Corsair H150 Elite LCD
  • Motherboard: MSI MAG Z790 Carbon Wi-Fi
  • RAM: 32GB Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR5 6600
  • GPU: Nvidia RTX 4090 Founders Edition
  • Storage: Seagate FireCuda 540 Gen 5
  • Case: Corsair Crystal 570X
  • PSU: Corsair HX1000W
  • The 14900K is still built on Intel’s 7 process and its x86 performance hybrid architecture. That means there are performance cores (P-cores) and efficiency cores (E-cores) that split workloads using Intel’s Thread Director, an embedded microcontroller inside the CPU that monitors threads and ensures they’re running on the correct cores.

    The core counts haven’t changed this year, but Intel is now supporting DDR5 5600 and DDR4 3200 memory speeds. Unlike AMD and its switch to AM5, Intel continues to maintain DDR4 compatibility for motherboard makers that ship with DDR4 support instead of DDR5.

    I have tested a variety of workloads, synthetic benchmarks, and games across both Intel’s Core i9-14900K, comparing it against the previous generation chips and AMD’s competitors. All tests were run on the latest Windows 11 updates with VBS security off, Resizable BAR enabled, and MSI’s game boost disabled. All games were tested at 1080p with high or ultra settings.

    Intel’s new Core i9-14900K comfortably beats AMD’s Ryzen 9 7950X and 7950X3D in every creator task that I tested. The 13900K from last year was already beating AMD in most of these creator tasks anyway, but the 14900K extends that lead slightly. I say slightly because all of the improvements are under 5 percent here, and even the gaming gains are only slight, too.

    Geekbench 5 single-thread and Cinebench 2024 single-thread performance both show the 14900K beating the 13900K by 4 percent, with the Pugetbench Premiere Pro and Photoshop tests are up just 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively. If you’re looking for the best chip for creator tasks, then the 14900K delivers here, but there’s little reason to upgrade from a 13th Gen model. If you’re on a 12th Gen chip, then you’ll get the huge performance benefits of moving to a 13th Gen one and a little bit on top with the 14th Gen, but if you can find a 13900K for less than the cost of the 14th Gen, there’s little reason to spend more.

  • CPU cooler: Corsair H150 Elite LCD
  • Motherboard: MSI Meg X670E Ace
  • RAM: 32GB G.Skill DDR5 6000
  • GPU: Nvidia RTX 4090 Founders Edition
  • Storage: Samsung 980 Pro 1TB
  • Case: Corsair Crystal 570X
  • PSU: Corsair HX1000W
  • We also perform a standard video test at The Verge, where we export a five-minute 4K video using Adobe Premiere Pro. I used the latest Premiere Pro 2023 release for this alongside the RTX 4090, and it exported in two minutes and 31 seconds. That’s just a few seconds of improvement over the two minutes and 39 seconds that I recorded when I tested the 13900K last year, further reflecting the small performance increase you’re getting with the flagship 14th Gen chip.

    I used Nvidia’s RTX 4090 for game testing across all Intel and AMD chips. Surprisingly, the 14900K lost out to AMD’s 7800X3D in every single gaming test that I ran. We saw the same with the 13900K losing every gaming benchmark earlier this year, and Intel’s 14900K still doesn’t answer the superior performance that AMD’s 3D V-Cache delivers.

    The gap between the 14900K and the 7800X3D is around 4 percent in most games, with some managing to perform surprisingly well on the 7800X3D thanks to the 3D V-Cache boosts. Much like the creator benchmarks, the performance boost that the 14900K delivers over the 13900K is minimal. In most games, it’s less than 5 percent better, with the exception of Assassin’s Creed Mirage, where the 14900K manages to deliver scores that are far more competitive with the 7800X3D.

    While there’s a small performance gain generation over generation with the 14900K, there’s no efficiency or thermal gains. The 14900K still runs just as hot and power-hungry as the 13900K. During a Cinebench R23 multithread benchmark, I recorded temperatures of 105C. That’s the same temperature that I saw on the 13900K and 2C more than the standard 13900K.

    AMD’s 7950X managed to reach 96C during the same test, with the 7900X maxing out at 92C during the Cinebench test. The 7950X3D managed to max out at 88C during the same test. While the 14900K still beats the 7950X3D by nearly 9 percent during this Cinebench R23 multithread test, the fact AMD manages to come close at nearly 20C cooler shows just how much Intel is pushing the limits here.

    Those limits extend to power usage, too. In the same Cinebench test, the 14900K maxes out at 324 watts, but the 7950X3D only hits 147 watts. That’s a huge difference in power draw, with Intel drawing 120 percent more power for a nearly 9 percent performance improvement. And when you look at the gaming side of things, the 7800X3D and 7950X3D simply run a lot cooler most of the time and use far less energy than the 14900K.

    It’s hard to recommend the 14900K this year unless you really want the best creator performance out there and you don’t care about your energy bills or the sheer heat it produces. AMD’s 7800X3D is simply a better choice for gaming, particularly as it’s easy to find for under $400 compared to the $589 (and likely above) pricing for the 14900K.

    Intel still needs an answer to AMD’s 3D V-Cache, and it’s not clear when that’s going to arrive. Rumors point to an Intel Arrow Lake desktop CPU launch next year, with a socket swap to LGA 1851. The 14th Gen feels like the end of LGA 1700 and, with it, a whimper of performance improvements.

    Meanwhile, Intel is losing out on the gaming side of performance but still dominating for creative tasks. That will make the choice difficult for those who need both gaming and creative app performance. But for those just looking to game, the choice is obvious.

    Photography by Tom Warren / The Verge



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