Intel Core i9-14900KS Review: The Fastest Desktop CPU Yet

Intel Core i9-14900KS Review: Overclocking Tests And Our Conclusion

core i9 14900ks top
We spent a little time trying to overclock our Core i9-14900KS with limited results, partially due to our cooler and motherboard combination. Upon configuring a new processor in the MSI MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi, users are prompted to select the type of cooler being used. If using a basic 'stock' air cooler, the Core i9-14900KS will be configured with its rated 253W max power level. But when using a larger tower type air cooler the motherboard will set a 288W peak power level. And with and all-in-one liquid cooling solution like the Corsair model we used, the CPU is essentially unleashed with a "4,096W" max power level as reported by the BIOS. That kind of power will obviously never be used by the CPU, and is MSI's way of saying the processor can use as much power as it needs until hitting a thermal wall. Unlocking the Core i9-14900KS in this way meant it was essentially running flat out all the time, which effectively eliminates any potential for thermal headroom with the H100i we have in our test rig. But there are still some ways to tease out a bit of extra performance...

"Overclocking" The Intel Core i9-14900KS

Using the latest version of Intel's Extreme Tuning Utility, we first tried to use the built-in "one click" Speed Optimizer to see if it could wrangle some additional performance out of our setup, but scores in a handful of benchmarks were unchanged.

Without any manual overclocking, and with the power level maxed via the motherboard's BIOS, the Core i9-14900KS' temperatures would quickly ramp up into the high-90°C range and would thermally throttle under sustained, multi-threaded workloads, where the chip would heat up to 98°C - 100°C. With this kind of motherboard and mainstream AIO cooler setup, the Core i9-14900KS behaves like AMD's Ryzen 7000 series chips, which are designed to use every bit of thermal headroom available at a given time. If configured with a 253W max power level, the voltage and frequency curve isn't as aggressive, so power and thermals are more manageable, but performance will be reduced with some workloads.

core i9 1400k2 oc
Intel Core i9-14900KS Undervolted

We experimented with our setup to fine-tune performance and found that we could squeeze a bit more out of the system using a combination of tools available within XTU (or the system BIOS). Users have full control over an array of multipliers and voltages for the P-cores, E-cores, cache, memory, and all of the uncore elements in Intel's latest platform. For our particular setup, we found that under-volting using a -.075 offset, enabling Thermal Velocity Boost, and increasing the E-core multiplier by +1 was stable. The setup was slightly less prone to thermally throttling as well, unless it remained under a sustained multi-threaded workload, like you see pictured above.

oc1 core i9 14900ks benchmarks

oc2 core i9 14900ks benchmarks

While we had the system tweaked, we re-ran Cinebench and nearly hit the 41K mark and we shaved a second off a our multi-threaded audio encoding test. In this tweaked configuration, the Core i9-14900KS' peak frequencies with single or multi-threaded workloads that utilize every core / thread are effectively unchanged, save for some of the E-Cores, but there's more power / thermal headroom available to maintain higher clocks a bit longer, and threaded workloads that don't hammer on every core simultaneously receive a boost.

Intel 14th Gen Core i9-14900KS: The Verdict

To put it simply, the Core i9-14900KS is the fastest, mainstream desktop processor we have tested to date, both in terms of overall performance and frequencies. For heavily multi-threaded workloads, there are HEDT processors out there with many more cores and additional memory channels that can crunch massive workloads faster than the mainstream parts tested here. But those platforms actually trail the Core i9-14900KS (and other high-end mainstream desktop CPUs) when running single- or lightly-threaded workloads, most productivity tasks, or while gaming. As such, it's fair to say that the Core i9-14900KS is the fastest processor currently available for the overwhelming majority of PC users. It's not the fastest CPU across the board, and occasionally trails AMD's Ryzen 9 7950X (and 7950X3D) is some multi-threaded workloads, but the Core i9-14900KS did take the top spot in the vast majority of our tests.
There are some obviously downsides to the Core i9-14900KS, however. This processor is most likely the swan song for Intel's LGA1700 socket. If you want the fastest desktop PC today, the Core i9-14900KS is a killer CPU, but future upgrades will require a full motherboard swap. When unlocked on a enthusiast-class motherboard, the Core i9-14900KS also requires some serious power and cooling. Anyone contemplating the purchase of this processor should consider a high-end liquid cooler a must. The price may also be a sticking point. The MSRP for the Core i9-14900KS is $699, which is about a $150 more than the current street price of the Core i9-14900K, and $100 - $150 more than the Ryzen 9 7950X3D and 7950X, respectively. It's tough to justify that kind of additional cost looking at the benchmarks, but we suspect some enthusiasts will be willing to cough up the additional dough for Intel's fastest, special edition chip. The Core i9-13900KS eventually settled down closer to $640 at retail, so it's possible the Core i9-14900KS falls into a similar position, once availability ramps up.

This might be the end of the line for its socket and platform, and it's not the most power friendly processor, but the Core i9-14900KS still kicks some butt. Its high performance across a wide range of workloads and applications will make it appealing to hardcore enthusiasts that want nothing but top-of-the-line parts. That said, consumers can save quite a bit of cash and sacrifice only a small amount of performance by opting for a lower-speed bin (the 14900K is currently $544 and 14700KF is under $400). If you crave the peak of desktop PC performance though, the Intel Core i9-14900KS is officially the current king of the hill.
hothardware approved

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