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Is It Worth Upgrading To The i9 in 2023?

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By Matt Smith

Intel has remained a big player in the processors’ space for a long time now, and with each generation of new processors hitting the market, the question that comes to mind is should I upgrade or hold on to what I already have?

To answer this question, we have to consider a variety of factors like your current hardware, the nature of your workflow, and your budget. This guide will help you decide whether upgrading to a Core i9 laptop is worth it and how the new CPU can transform your computing experience.

Not All i9 CPUs Are the Same

Unless you’re a computer geek like me, you can easily get overwhelmed by the different iterations of Core i9 CPUs you can get today. Once you understand Intel’s naming scheme for its different chips, everything will make more sense.

Each new generation of chips comes with more cores and higher clock speeds across the board. But as the older generations tend to stick around, you can find a Core i9 CPU and Core i7 sharing similar specs. In other words, you can’t just grab the first laptop with an i9 label and call it a day; you have to do some more digging beneath the surface.

For example, let’s break down a CPU that goes by the name Core i9-8950HK. The first number that comes after the i9 brand modifier is the generation indicator, so in our case, we have an 8th Gen Core i9 processor.

Furthermore, the remaining digits signify the SKU number. This serves as an internal code within Intel to determine the order by which minor revisions are applied to the same processor lineup. So, it would be best if you chose the CPU with the higher SKU number among two otherwise identical processors, as it sometimes packs more features and comes with better thermal architecture.

What i9 CPUs Bring to the Table


One of the main reasons why professionals opt for the Core i9 processors is their Hyper-Threading capability. This feature entitles each physical CPU core to be split into two virtual ones, allowing two sets of commands to be executed simultaneously on a single physical core.

Intel has been inconsistent, to say the least, on how Hyper-Threading applies to its lineup. For the most part, it’s only limited to the Core i7 and i9 processors. However, 9th Gen Core i7 processors dropped Hyper-Threading support, making such a feature niche only for the i9 chips.

Intel took a step in the right direction with its latest 10th Gen chips, where Hyper-Threading is applied to the entire lineup. Even the Quad-Core i3 processor makes use of Hyper-Threading to provide you with 8 threads to work with. The top of the line 10th Gen i9 CPU is on a whole different tier of its own. It comes with a whopping 10 cores and 20 threads.

You now have a better grasp of how different Intel CPUs compare to one another, so let’s trackback to who can get the most value out of the powerful i9 chips. 

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If your workflow leans heavily on multi-threaded performance and you’re looking for the most cores you can get out of a portable workstation, go for an i9 processor. Video editing, 3D modeling, and multitasking, in general, can benefit from the extra cores and threads at your disposal.

Cache Memory

Generally speaking, Core i9 CPUs always come with more cache memory. This superfast memory acts as a messenger between the CPU and the laptop’s RAM. It keeps all the frequently used data and makes it readily available to the CPU in no time.

Core i9 chips come with three of these memory modules for better communication between the CPU and RAM. This means that more data chunks can be channeled in the CPU’s direction, making your laptop feel more responsive and snappy.

The overall system performance benefits (of the i9 cpu) from the extra cache memory. Still, if your current laptop feels responsive enough and doesn’t come with significant lags that break your experience, there’s no need to upgrade.

On the other hand, you can justify dropping the extra cash on an i9 if you do tons of rendering on the go. You can get even more out of your portable workstation when your rendering time is cut, and you’re ready to wrap up one project and seamlessly move to the next.

Clock Speed

Finally, high clock speeds are the third killer feature that i9 chips bring to the table. Workstations with such chips require robust thermal architecture to effectively disperse the heat produced and allow the CPU to run at higher base speeds without throttling.

This comes with the caveat of a bulkier form factor to accommodate the extra fans and more effective ventilation channels. Even with all the advanced cooling techniques, you might not be able to realize your laptop’s full potential if you’re working in a hot environment.

Furthermore, Intel CPUs are capable of overclocking way over their base speeds. Let’s keep rolling with the 10th Gen Core i9 processor example that popped up earlier. Such a processor is capable of achieving clock speeds up to 5.3GHz. The processor kicks in at full speed whenever you have an intensive task at hand, and then it clocks back to its base levels.

This extra boost of performance goes at the level of the motherboard itself, punishing your graphics, RAM, and processor an extra mile. You can expect even more heat to be produced from such brief boosts; that’s why Intel calibrates its chips to run at variable speeds for the best balance between heat produced and performance.

If you’re looking for a desktop-class performance on the go and willing to put up with the bulkier form factor of the powerful workstations, a Core i9 can push your productivity up a notch while you’re away from your desk. Just remember to keep an eye on how effective the laptop’s cooling system is before finalizing your purchase decision.

Who Needs the Power of Intel Core i9 Processors

Most users will do just fine with less powerful laptops to get them through their daily computing needs. If you use your laptop mostly to browse the web and check your emails, you can get away with an affordable, entry-level notebook.

On the other hand, creators use more demanding software and can make the most out of the extra horsepower. Engineers using CAD-based apps, animators, coders, video editors, and 3D designers can all push their i9’s to their absolute limits and get the best value out of their upgrade.

Furthermore, gaming can also benefit from the higher processor clock speeds, but still, GPUs have the upper hand in determining the fidelity of your gaming experience. If you have to choose one over the other, you should always prioritize the GPU over the CPU when purchasing a gaming laptop. 

Nevertheless, Core i9 CPUs with Hyper-Threading can make a huge difference for gamers who stream their gameplay. So, unless you’re planning on creating gaming content, you can do just fine with a Core i7 gaming laptop with a dedicated, high-performance graphics card.

Final Words & Recommendations

Core i9 chips come with some drawbacks that only power users will have enough incentive to overlook. The chips produce more heat, requiring a sophisticated thermal architecture to be put in place. They also use more power, which explains why battery performance on portable workstations isn’t that impressive.

Nevertheless, you can easily look past such drawbacks for the unmatched performance you get out of these laptops. Professional-grade software can run with no hiccups, allowing you to get serious work done on the go. If you’re freelancing or love the flexibility of being productive no matter where you are, upgrading to an i9 will make a huge difference.