There’s no denying that the Intel Core i9 chipset is among the most capable processing units on the mainstream market. It’s a spirited performer that will accomplish any task you throw at it with grace and finesse, no matter the intensity of the task. However, the chipset is far from nonpareil, as formidable challengers like the AMD Ryzen 9 continue to garner a lot of momentum.
Even if you disregard chief like-priced competitors, the Core i7 is still a highly capable and super popular chipset, which begs the question of whether or not upgrading to an i9 is worth the hefty price tag. The question becomes even more pertinent upon knowing that i9 CPUs offer the same number of cores as their predecessors (4-8 cores), but with higher clock speeds.
The benefits of buying an i9 laptop have less to do with the number of cores or threads that the CPU offers and more to do with the technologies that set the Core i9 CPU apart from the rest of the competition. This post attempts to highlight the few benefits you get to enjoy after upgrading, and whether or not these benefits should be of any value to you, so stick around.
Virtually all modern processing chipsets feature a multi-core configuration that enables them to tackle multiple tasks simultaneously. This implies that CPUs with a greater number of cores are superior, which isn’t far from the truth, but the effect of multi-core configurations isn’t always as apparent as we’d expect it to be. This is where single-threading and multi-threading come in.
Before we explain why Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology is such a significant innovation, we’re required to shed light on multi-threading. Simply put, it’s a means of dividing up tasks for parallel or simultaneous processing. Put differently, it’s a form of parallelization that divides the workload into several software threads rather than having a single core handling the entire workload.
After splitting the workload into numerous threads, the threads are processed simultaneously by the different CPU cores, which helps save time and ensure stream-lined performance. Today, all game engines rely heavily on multi-threading or the utilization of multiple cores. Single-threading is now a thing of the past, as it’s only associated with older game engines that are now extinct.
Okay, so what is the exalted Hyper-Threading technology that Intel is bragging about? It’s a very specific technology that allows a single core within a processor to interleave several threads at a faster, more efficient pace. The technology is present solely in Core i9 CPUs. When it’s enabled, it exposes each physical core to two execution contexts. But what does that mean, exactly?
It essentially means that each physical core will be viewed as two “logical” cores that can handle spare software threads, which equates to more work getting done in parallel. Let’s take the Core i9-10900K, for example. This is a processing chipset that’s equipped with 10 physical cores, but with Hyper-Threading activated, it displays 20 threads rather than 10, enabling it to do more.
To put things into perspective, CPUs endowed with Hyper-Threading technology tend to have higher throughput than other CPUs by up to 30%. The cores of a non-i9 CPU are forced to wait until other tasks are complete, whereas the cores of an i9 CPU make use of the idle time by getting additional tasks done, which is the most paramount advantage of having an i9 processor.
With the aid of Hyper-Threading technology, your laptop will be able to process a ton of info and run numerous background tasks without any hindrance. If you deal with heavily threaded software regularly as a serious gamer, streamer, or multitasker, you’d definitely benefit from having one. If you’re still unsure, read our article on which is best between the AMD Ryzen or Intel i9.
Turbo Boost Technology
Another speed-related enhancement that i9 processors have over other CPUs is the Intel Turbo Boost technology. But wait a minute, isn’t Turbo Boost technology available on most Intel CPUs newer than 2nd Gen? This is true, but as with all technologies, newer is always better. Okay, so what is Turbo Boost technology, exactly, and how does it improve a laptop’s performance?
To understand the significance of Turbo Boost technology, you must first understand that there’s a form of imbalance that a processing unit prompts when trying to distribute its resources evenly on both CPU-intensive and memory-intensive programs, which causes the processor to operate at maximum frequency. Turbo Boost technology is intended to address this imbalance.
Turbo Boost technology enables the processor to run at its base clock speed when it’s tackling a light workload and to tap into its maximum frequency only when required. CPUs use less power when running at low clock rates, which results in a better battery lifespan. And if more speed is needed, Turbo Boost will provide within safe power and temperature limits.
The effect of Turbo Boost technology is notable enough to be perceived when dealing with both single-threaded and multi-threaded applications. How do you activate Turbo Boost on a laptop? You don’t. The functionality is activated by default and kicks in when required, so you don’t have to configure anything. It’s important to note that there are two versions of Turbo Boost tech.
Turbo Boost 2.0 is available for most Intel Core CPUs above 2nd Gen, including i5, i7, i9, and Xeon CPUs, whereas Turbo Boost Max 3.0 is only available in X-series CPUs. Basically, it’s an enhanced version of Turbo Boost 2.0 that increases the fastest cores’ speed within a CPU individually while simultaneously having these boosted cores handle critical workloads.
Ultra High-Definition Graphics
Like we always say, there are other constituents of high performance than just a powerful CPU. Even if you integrate the latest speed enhancements and technology, it would all be pointless if the computer isn’t backed by a powerful graphics card. Propitiously, they feature Intel’s UHD Graphics, capable of handling 4K applications, from gaming to photo/video editing.
Granted, UHD Graphics isn’t the most powerful offering by Intel, but when used in conjunction with a Core i9 CPU, it displays remarkable graphics handling capabilities that allow it to tackle intensive open-world video games fairly well. Not only that, but it also offers VR capabilities. If you’re looking to take things up a notch, opt for an i9 system that features a dedicated GPU.
Optane Memory Caching
Intel Optane Memory is another innovation that’s often associated with i9 processors. It basically accelerates the responsiveness of your hard drive. Wait a minute, hard drive? Sadly, yes. This was the main problem with Optane Memory, as most people wanted to use it within a system that’s running on SSD storage.
To grant people their wish, Intel has provided support for Optane Memory on new 8th-Gen units. Not only that, but Intel has also integrated a mode that enables you to use Optane Memory with a secondary drive. With these updates intact, you now possess the ability to boot the system to an SSD and then use Optane Memory for caching your saturated hard drive. Pretty neat, huh?
Virtually all Core i9’s use Optane Memory technology, but it’s not really exclusive to Core i9 chipsets. Laptops and desktops that are housing Core i5 and Core i7 processors can also use this new caching technology. When paired with a powerful CPU like an i9 chip, however, the effect of Optane Memory becomes even more visible.
All things considered, laptops equipped with Core i9 chipsets seem to enjoy an array of speed enhancements that other laptops lack, making them the ultimate performers. Is an i9 worth the hefty investment? Yes, but only if you want to overclock and employ superior multi-threading. Aside from that, you’d be fine using an i7 or even an i5 laptop.