On 8th October, at it’s ‘Fall Desktop Launch Event‘, Intel unveiled the 9th-generation Core i9-9900K, i7-9700K, and i5-9600K processors for desktops. With an aim to deliver ‘the best gaming performance’ in the word, the processors also come with fixes for the much controversial Specter, Meltdown, and L1TF vulnerabilities.
Major features of this launch include,
#1 Security fixes for Specter, Meltdown, and LITF Faults
In March 2018, Intel announced that they would be adding hardware protection to forthcoming CPUs protecting users against some of the processor’s security flaws. These ‘protective walls’ added in the hardware would keep malicious code in a physically different location from areas of the CPU were speculative execution is taking place.
Intel kept its word by announcing hardware mitigations in the 9th Gen CPU’s for Spectre/Meltdown. Former Intel CEO Brian Krzanich stated in a press release, “We have redesigned parts of the processor to introduce new levels of protection through partitioning that will protect against both Variants 2 and 3. Think of this partitioning as additional “protective walls” between applications and user privilege levels to create an obstacle for bad actors.”
It has not been detailed what specific hardware changes were made to add protection.
It was noted that the previous software and microcode protections added would cause a performance hit on older CPUs. These new CPUs are powerful enough that any performance hit caused by these protections should not be noticeable.
#2 Forgoing HyperThreading
Intel is forgoing HyperThreading on some of the Core i9 parts. This will partly help make the product stack more linear. This could also possibly help mitigate one of the side-channel attacks that can occur when HyperThreading is in action. Disabling HyperThreading on the volume production chips, ensures that every thread on that chip is not competing for per-core resources.
#3 Hardware Specifications
The Core i9-9900K processor is designed to deliver the best gaming performance in the world. Users can enable up to 220 FPS on Rainbow Six: Siege, Fortnite, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds. It comes with8 cores, 16 threads and a base frequency of 3.6GHz which can be boosted up to 5.0GHz. This processor is aimed at desktop-based enthusiasts and with a dual-channel DDR4 and up to 40 PCIe lanes. The i9-9900K is based off Intel’s 14nm process. Hyperthreading is an added bonus in this processor.
The i7-9700K comes with 8 cores and 8 threads. With a base clock speed is of 3.6 GHz (which can be boosted to 4.9 GHz on all cores), the processor comes without hyperthreading. It can turbo up to 4.9 GHz only on a single core. The i7-9700K is meant to be the direct upgrade over the Core i7-8700K. While both chips have the same Coffee Lake microarchitecture, the 9700K has two more cores and slightly better turbo performance. That being said, it has less L3 cache per core at only 1.5MB per core.
The i5-9600K is clocked at a base frequency of 3.7 GHz and can be boosted up to 4.6 GHz. With 6 cores and 6 threads, it comes without Hyperthreading. This processor is really similar to the Core i5 of the previous generation, but with an added frequency for better performance.
It would be interesting to see how these new processors will help in mitigating security flaws without impacting their performance.