First we should point out that we've updated the BIOS on our MSI MEG X299 Creation motherboard to get the latest microcode updates and supposedly better overclocking performance with Cascade Lake-X CPUs too so bear this in mind. In our experience Intel's recent HEDT CPUs have been quite varied when it comes to overclocking and retail samples have occasionally overclocked much further than our engineering samples. We hope that's the case with the Core i9-10900X because getting much above 4.7GHz with an all-core overclock was tricky and given that the Core i9-10980XE managed that, it's clearly a tad disappointing even though the two CPUs are quite different under the hood. In the end, we had to lower the mesh ratio a little, rather than going with auto as we usually do, but this did allow us to hit 4.8GHz across all cores using a rather toasty 1.325V. This was at the ragged edge cooling-wise, but a few more hours tweaking may have yielded a little higher frequency or a slightly lower voltage.
HandBrake was rather more disappointing with four CPUs with fewer cores actually bettering the Core i9-10900X at stock speed. Once overclocked it was more competitive but still not great value with the Ryzen 9 3900X being a better choice if video encoding is your thing. Intel never does particularly well in our multi-threaded PC Mark 10 image editing test so it wasn't surprising to see the Core i9-10900X mixing it up with CPUs with fewer cores and the higher boosting frequencies of Intel's mainstream CPUs help them to a lead.
Cinebench's single-threaded test was quite telling and a score of 443 at stock speed has the CPU sitting among Zen+ CPUs. Only Intel's eight-core mainstream CPUs can compete with AMD here. With an additional two cores, the Core i9-10900X offered a little extra performance in the multi-threaded test compared to the Core i9-9900KS, which boosts all cores to 5GHz don't forget, but again the Ryzen 9 3900X was far more powerful and even overclocking didn't help it here. We should point out that the Blender and POV tests we only do with CPUs with 10 cores and above so the Core i9-10900X is at a bit of a disadvantage here as it's essentially got the fewest number of cores. That said, the Ryzen 9 3900X was still much faster and it was a similar situation in POV-Ray too.
Dota 2's high frame rates revealed an advantage for Intel, even using an RTX 2070 Super and here the Core i9-10900X finally had the measure of similar AMD CPUs and even managed to top the Ryzen 9 3950X, but if you much have the highest performance, Intel's 8-core CPUs are the ones to get. It's not the case everywhere, though, as Far Cry 5 saw better 99th percentile minimums from plenty of other CPUs, although the Intel CPU did manage a decent average frame rate that was only matched by the bet-performing CPUs on test. Once overclocked, it was one of the better performers too. Finally, Civ VI's AI benchmark saw the Core i9-10900X sit level with the Ryzen 9 3950X, but ultimately you need to drop down to eight cores or much older CPUs to see much worse performance. Power consumption wasn't a strong point for the Core i9-10900X, perhaps thanks to the new BIOS. Idle draw was similar to the 18-core, but under load it draw around 80W more at stock speed than the Ryzen 9 3900X. It's overclock did offer some decent performance but also saw that increase to a delta of over 150W.
In summary, then, there are various better options and multiple price points for specific tasks than the Core i9-10900X. It's a reasonable all-rounder if you also need the perks of Intel's HEDT platform, but otherwise there's a selection of mainstream CPUs that are cheaper and offer similar performance in most tests. Had overclocking been a bit more fruitful, say 5GHz or 5.2GHz all-core, then things may have turned out differently, but at this price, it's tricky to recommend.
September 23 2021 | 09:05