Intel’s 9th-gen Core i7-9700K abandons Hyper-Threading: What it could mean for performance

Core i7, the boss wants to talk to you.

The good news: you got a promotion and a bump from six cores up to eight cores in Intel’s 9th generation CPU lineup. Woo-hoo! The bad news: Turn in your Hyper-Threading, because the cool feature that gave you virtualized CPU cores and about 30 percent more performance is gone.

Yup. If you’re freaked out about the Core i7 losing a premier performance-boosting feature that it’s offered since, well, there was a Core i7, you may well be right to be concerned. But you may not be, too, depending on how you use your computer.

Intel first introduced Hyper-Threading on consumer CPUs with the Northwood-based Pentium 4 in 2002. It works by splitting a single physical core into a two logical cores. Since most compute threads don’t consume 100 percent of a CPU’s resources, Hyper-Threading lets the unused resources do work as well. Hyper-Threading, of course, is Intel’s fancy pants name for simultaneous multi-threading, which AMD also began employing with its Ryzen chips.

Although Hyper-Threading’s performance boost has been around for 16 years, it hasn’t always been tapped into. No Core 2 CPUs ever used the feature, for example, and Intel’s Atom CPUs have had it off and on.

intel 9th gen core 4 Intel

It’s all about the thread count

The real tension with Intel’s 9th-generation mainstream lineup isn’t necessarily whether or not Hyper-Threading gets deleted—it’s the overall thread count.

When Intel removed Hyper-Threading on the 8th-gen Core i3, few raised a fuss because they ended up with a true quad-core CPU (four cores, four threads), an improvement over the 7th-gen Core i3, which was a dual-core with Hyper-Threading (two cores, four threads.)

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The 9th-gen’s Core i7 shift doesn’t look as good at first glance, though. The 8th-gen Core i7-8700K ($380 on Amazon) features six cores with Hyper-Threading for a total of six cores and 12 threads. The new Core i7-9700K gets eight cores and eight threads. On paper, that looks like while Intel charged $359 for 12 threads on the Core i7-8700K, its replacement will cost $374 for eight threads. 

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