Intel Core i9-10940X Review

Written by Antony Leather

February 7, 2020 | 10:00

Tags: #14nm #cascade-lake-x #coffee-lake #lga2066 #x299

Companies: #intel


The Core i9-10980XE managed 4.7GHz across all cores with 1.165V, which transformed its performance across the board. Thankfully, we saw even better gains with the Core i9-10940X. However, we needed a fair bit more voltage, with 1.3V required to reach our maximum of 4.9GHz - yes, that's across all 14 cores. That's an enormous overclock, for sure, and a few more hours tweaking we might have been able to hit the magic 5, but even so, an 800MHz increase to the all-core boost and 100MHz to the Turbo Boost Max 3.0 frequency is going to have sizeable benefits across the board.

Performance Analysis

As always, though, no CPU is perfect - there are too many in the market these days. However, the Core i9-10940X did perform excellently in a number of areas. Adobe Premiere Pro saw it better the Ryzen 9 3950X at stock speed and was a huge amount quicker once overclocked, outstripping the Threadripper 2950X here, too. The only CPUs that were faster were Intel's 18-cores and AMD's 3rd Gen Ryzen Threadrippers, so here at least, the Core i9-10940X justifies its price tag if you spend a lot of time in Premiere and have around £800 to spend.

At stock speed, it wasn't particularly competitive, with the Ryzen 9 3950X proving to be a lot faster. Once overclocked, the two CPUs were pretty much equal. We'd have to conclude that, so far, the Intel CPU is perhaps a slightly better buy overall if you do a lot of video editing and encoding and are willing and able to overclock. If not, it's AMD all day. The single-threaded score in Cinebench left a lot to be desired. even once overclocked - we have yet to see an Intel HEDT CPU breach the 500-point mark while AMD does this regularly across its 3rd Gen Ryzen stack. In the multi-threaded test, the stock speed performance was roughly equal to the Ryzen 9 3900X, which has two fewer cores. Thankfully, once again, it was overclocking to the rescue, with a score of 8,628 adding 1,000 points to that of the AMD CPU, but it was still outgunned by the Ryzen 9 3950X. Blender and POV-Ray were similar stories, with speed comparable to the 16-core Ryzen CPU once overclocked, but far slower at stock speed.

In Dota 2, the lack of high multi-core boost frequency did hurt the Core i9-10940X, which offered similar frame-rates to AMD's faster CPUs, including the Ryzen 9 3950X. Once overclocked, though, it was quicker than anything AMD could offer. Far Cry 5 still sees better average frame rates with Intel, but the Ryzen 9 3950X was still faster here at stock speed. Once overclocked, Intel had a noticeably quicker average frame-rate, but the 99th percentile minimum was slower than with the overclocked Ryzen 9 3950X. In Civ VI, it was even at stock speed, with the Intel CPU leading once overclocked, but was behind in both in Time Spy. Swings and roundabouts.

So, what does that monstrous overclock do for power consumption? Well, at this end of the scale, power bills are not likely to be much of a concern. Yes, AMD is more efficient, but if time is money or you just need a monstrously powerful PC, it's not going to be much of a consideration - that's just a fact. At stock speed, the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X system drew 242W while it was 378W for the Intel system. This gap widened to 340W and 576W once overclocked - again, given the AMD CPU was quicker in a number of tests, it's not great news for Intel here, but again, it depends on whether you care about your PC drawing another couple of hundred watts under full load or not. If you output GBs of 4K projects in Adobe Premiere Pro every day, you almost certainly won't.  


With such massive swings in performance moving between AMD and Intel in our tests, it can be easy to lose sight of what's good and what's bad. Yes, Intel's ageing 14nm manufacturing process and architecture used here are in dire need of upgrades. There's been nothing significantly new since the Core i9-7980XE arrived on the scene two generations ago. Since then, core counts haven't moved, there have been no major architectural tweaks and we're still on 14nm. Thankfully, the price cuts have certainly helped, as have higher overclocks, although the latter is certainly niche appeal.

The trouble for Intel is that areas where you might opt for the Core i9-10940X are also becoming more niche with each generation. It's now the case that you'd consider an AMD mainstream CPU - the Ryzen 9 3950X - for an awful lot of tasks. Thankfully for Intel, AMD doesn't beat it everywhere. The Core i9-10940X can still offer great performance for the price in Adobe Premiere Pro, where it justifies the extra outlay over the AMD 16-core, and also in games once overclocked to some extent. It also matched the AMD CPU in many others. In this light, if you're up for some overclocking, we do feel it just about deserves an award, but for this very specific niche, given that pricing seems to be reasonable at some retailers, albeit on pre-order. However, we're not letting Intel off the hook entirely - you'll need to pay careful attention to our benchmarks as there are plenty of alternatives above and below that are potentially much better options depending on your specific needs.

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