SAN FRANCISCO — Intel officially unveiled its ninth-generation Core desktop processors, clearly targeted at smaller rival AMD’s Ryzen devices with a focus on PC gaming and creative professionals.

At a New York City event that was webcasted globally, Intel also provided more details on its new Core X-series high-performance processors for content creators such as animators and provided updates on its 28-core Xeon workstation chip for compute-intensive workloads.

The success of Ryzen — combined with Intel’s stumbles in moving to 10 nm into production — has enabled AMD to grow its processor market share from less than 10% to what some analysts say could be 25% to 30% over the next few years.

According to Kevin Krewell, principal analyst with Tirias Research, Monday’s 9th Generation Intel Core launch was a direct response to pressure being applied by AMD. “Intel came out fighting, and it’s game on between AMD and Intel again,” said Krewell in an email exchange with EE Times late Monday.

The flagship product in the 9th Gen Core lineup is the i9-9900K, which is priced at $488, similar to AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X. Krewell said that the processor was “clearly priced to be competitive with AMD.” He added, “Without AMD, Intel could have priced the part over $1,000.”

The i9-9900K processor, features eight cores and 16 threads and can run at a frequency of up to 5 GHz. The comparable Ryzen 7 2700X also boasts eight cores and 16 threads, but its top clock speed is only 4.3 GHz. However, Krewell said that the base clock speeds are very similar: 3.6 GHz for the i9-9900K to 3.7 GHz for the Ryzen 7 2700X.

Nevertheless, Intel claims that the i9-9900K bests Ryzen on in-game performance benchmarks.

Anand Srivatsa, vice president and general manager for desktop, systems, and channel within Intel’s Client Computing Group, said during a keynote address at the New York event that Intel tested the i9-9900K against previous Intel products and competing processors across 19 of today’s most popular games spanning all major game genres and showed it to be “the best gaming processor in the world, period.”

Anand Srivatsa, vice president and general manager for desktop, systems, and channel within Intel's Client Computing Group, delivering a keynote address at Intel's launch event on Monday. (Source: Intel)
Anand Srivatsa, vice president and general manager for desktop, systems, and channel within Intel’s Client Computing Group, delivering a keynote address at Intel’s launch event on Monday. (Source: Intel)

Srivatsa added that “serious gaming requires serious performance” and said that Intel is “taking performance to new levels.”

Not only did this mark the first time in a while that Intel has done a head-to-head benchmark against AMD, according to Krewell, Intel’s gaming benchmarks were distributed in a third-party report — an unusual move for the company.

“A third party provides additional respectability to the results,” said Krewell. “But the report is clearly labeled that it was sponsored by Intel, so Intel could have set the testing criteria to make AMD’s perform at its worst and Intel at its best. The testing focused on games, where single-core performance is still very important, and Intel has an instruction-level parallelism advantage and a clock speed advantage.”

Highlighting the focus on gaming, Intel trotted out a representative from high-end gaming PC vendor Alienware, a representative of the e-sports NBA 2K league, and a professional gamer, Stephanie Harvey, to offer testimonies at the New York event.

Professional esports gamer Stephanie Harvey demonstrates on a laptop with a 9th Gen Intel Core at Monday's launch event. (Source: Intel)
Professional esports gamer Stephanie Harvey demonstrates on a laptop with a 9th Gen Intel Core at Monday’s launch event. (Source: Intel)

Krewell said that the 28-core, 56-thread Intel Xeon W-3175X — which will ship in December — aims to compete with AMD’s 32-core 2990WX Ryzen Threadripper, which has been shipping since August. While the Xeon trails Threadripper in number of cores, Krewell said that Intel’s part has a monolithic die, which will improve overall cache and memory access.

The Ryzen 2990WX Threadripper has a base frequency of 3.0 GHz and a top turbo frequency of 4.2 GHz, while the Xeon W-3175X processor has a base clock speed of 3.1 GHz and can be boosted to 4.3 GHz, extremely similar to the AMD part, added Krewell.

The seven Intel Core X-series processors detailed on Monday feature a variety of core counts and I/O capabilities, highlighted by the 18-core, 36-thread i9-9980XE, priced at $1,979 per unit in 1,000-unit quantities.