As of mid-2019, you can buy performance laptops with Intel Core i9 processors, mostly the Core i9-8950HK, part of the Intel Coffee Lake platform, but also the Core i9-9980HK (9th gen Coffee Lake-R platform) and the Core i9-9900K 9th gen desktop processor, which we’ll cover in a separate article.
In this article we’ll tell you what to expect from the mobile Core i9 CPUs, how they compare to the mainstream Core i7s available in most multimedia and gaming notebooks these days, and whether (or rather when) these processors are worth your money, considering you’ll have to pay a significant premium for it.
This aside, we’ve also compiled a complete list of the notebooks motorized by Core i9 processors that are available in stores, and we’ll update it in the months to come with new SKUs as they’re announced.
Update: We’re updating the article with details on the Core i9-9980HK CPU and laptops built on the 9th gen Coffee Lake-R platform. Until that happens, in very few words, you should know that Coffee Lake-R is just a minor refinement of the existing Coffee Lake generation, with CPUs able to reach slightly higher Turbo Boost clock speeds, if allowed by the thermal implementation.
Of course, it comes to no surprise that most of these computers are hefty full-size desktop replacements, but there are also a few portable options to consider. Just make sure to read proper reviews before taking the plunge on any of those, so you’ll find out if their cooling implementations are actually capable of keeping the i9 at bay. If not, it would make much more sense to just go with the more affordable i7 configurations.
The Core i9-8950HK and i9-9980HK mobile processors
The i9-8950HK is the top-tier CPU in Intel’s Coffee Lake H line of performance processors for mobile computers. It gets 6 cores, 12 threads, 12 MB of cache memory, a standard frequency of 2.9 GHz and a maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 4.8 GHz (we’ll get to that in a bit), and supports up to 64 GB of DDR4 2666 MHz of dual-channel RAM.
The K at the end of the name means this processor gets an unlocked multiplier and is thus, overclockable, which means that if the cooling implementation allows, it can run at higher than stock speeds.
The table below shows how it compares to the mainstream Coffee Lake i7-8750H, as well as the Kaby Lake i7-7820K that it supposedly succeeds.
|i9-8950HK (Ark)||i7-8750H (Ark)||i7-7820HK (Ark)|
|Lithography||14++ nm||14++ nm||14+ nm|
|CPU Base Frequency||2.9 GHz||2.8 GHz||2.9 GHz|
|Turbo – All Cores||–||3.9 GHz||3.5 GHz|
|Turbo – 1 Core||4.8* GHz||4.1 GHz||3.9 GHz|
|L3 Cache||12 MB||9 MB||8 MB|
|Memory||DDR4 – 2666 Mhz||DDR4 – 2666 Mhz||DDR4 – 2400 Mhz|
Aside for the increased amount of cache compared to the i7s, the i9 also gets Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB), which in Intel’s words “opportunistically and automatically increases clock frequency up to 200 MHz if the processor temperature is low enough and turbo power budget is available”. Hence the 4.8 GHz maximum Turbo Boost (*).
According to Intel’s slides though, the “low enough temperature” is of only 50 C, which means the i9 most likely would only clock to 4.6 GHz sporadically and for very short bursts at the beginning of complex loads, otherwise maxing out at 4.6 GHz. Even so, that’s higher than the 6-core i7-8750H can reach, and as long as the implementation keeps temperatures and throttling at bay, we can expect the i9-8950HK to offer a significant boost in performance over the more mainstream option, even without overclocking.
Speaking of performance, Intel advertises the i9-8950HK in comparison to the older i7-7820HK, claiming up to 29% better overall performance, as you can see in the picture below.
I find it far more interesting how the i9-8950HK fares against the i7-8750H though, but the performance greatly varies base on each SKU, as it’s highly dependent on the cooling implementation.
Still, the table below gives you a ballpark idea of what to expect (the results are based on our tests of the 8750H and these scores of the 8950HK).
|3DMark 11 – Physics||~10800||~14800|
|3DMark – Fire Strike Physics||~14500||~18500|
|Cinebench R15 CPU||1087 cb||1388 cb|
|Cinebench R15 CPU – Single Core||175 cb||203 cb|
|Geekbench 4.1 64-bit – Single Core||5138 pts||5464 pts|
|Geekbench 4.1 64-bit – Multi Core||20041 pts||24898 pts|
|x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 – Pass 1||205.69 fps||233.8 fps|
|x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 – Pass 2||66.53 fps||86.7 fps|
Portable Core i9 laptops
This section includes a list of the portable notebooks that can be configured with a Core i9-8950HK processor.
There’s a lot of hype around the i9 not performing as well as expected inside these thin and light laptops, and for the most part that’s true and should come to no surprise.
If you’ll look into the MacBook Pro, XPS 15 or the Zenbook UX580 reviews, you’ll see that the i9 cannot maintain its high Turbo Speed frequencies with continuous demanding loads in these computers, and in some cases performs even worse than a regular i7 Coffee Lake build. For the most part, though, the i9 offers only a slight performance boost over the i7, but not what you can get from this processor in a thicker laptop with a more complex cooling system.
So while it would be a mistake to draw any general conclusions on this matter, I would suggest carefully considering if the i9 configurations are worth the significant premium OEMs ask for in these ultraportables, as well as carefully looking into detailed reviews that take a close look at the performance in the scenarios you’re planning to use the notebooks yourselves. There’s a good chance you’ll get similar or nearly similar results with the i7s, for a fraction of the cost.
|Alienware m15||15.6-inch FHD 144 Hz / UHD 60 Hz matte with gSync||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||RTX 2080 Max-Q||Yes||4.8 lbs / 2.2 kg|
|fairly portable and slim (23 mm), but larger than other options; zone-backlit keyboard; several screen options, including FHD 144 Hz or UHD 60 Hz panels; 2x memory slots, M.2 NVME storage and optional 2.5″ bay; configurations with RTX 2060 and 2070 Max-Q also available; 60 or 90 Wh battery, for the M.2 only storage variant; highly configurable; expensive when specced up|
|Price: from ~$4000 – configurations and updated prices|
|Alienware m17||17.3-inch matte, various options||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||RTX 2080 Max-Q||Yes||5.8 lbs / 2.63 kg|
|new 2019 model; fairly portable and slim (23 mm), but larger than other options; zone-backlit keyboard; several screen options, including UHD, QHD and FHD panels with various refresh rates; 2x memory slots, 2x M.2 NVME storage and optional 2.5″ bay; configurations with RTX 2070 Max-Q also available; 60 or 90 Wh battery, for the M.2 only storage variant; highly configurable; expensive when specced up|
|Price: from ~$4000 – configurations and updated prices|
|Apple MacBook Pro 15||15.4-inch retina||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||Radeon 560X or Vega 16/20||Yes||4.03 lbs / 1.83 kg|
|thin and light, aluminum unibody construction, 2880 x 1800 px glossy screen with TrueTone, RAM soldered on the motherboard, 1xM.2 PCIe storage – up to 4 TB, 4x Thunderbolt 3 ports, 87 Wh battery, base models start with i7 8th gen CPUs|
|Price: from $3099 – more details|
|ASUS Zenbook Pro UX550GD / GE||15.6-inch FHD or UHD||up to i9-8950HK / max 16 GB RAM||GTX 1050/ 1050 Ti||Yes||4.08 lbs / 1.85 kg|
|thin and light, aluminum outer case, available with FHD matte/touch or a wide-gamut UHD matte screen, RAM soldered on the motherboard, 1xM.2 PCIe storage, 71 Wh battery, expect it to be more affordable than the competition|
|Price: from ~$2000|
|ASUS Zenbook Pro UX580GE||15.6-inch FHD or UHD||up to i9-8950HK / max 16 GB RAM||GTX 1050 Ti||Yes||4.4 lbs / 2 kg|
|similar to the UX550, but with a 5.5-inch screen integrated within the trackpad|
|Price: from ~$2000|
|Dell Precision 15 5530||15.6-inch UHD||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||up to Quadro P2000||Yes||4.4 lbs / 2 kg|
|compact workstation version of the XPS 15 9570; thin, light and well built; available with wide-gamut IGZO UHD touch screen, 2x RAM slots, 1xM.2 PCIe and 1×2.5″ storage, 56 Wh battery, customizable, higher-end configurations get expensive|
|Price: from ~$1800 on Dell’s website|
|Dell Precision 15 7530||15.6-inch matte FHD/UHD IPS||Coffee Lake Core HK / max 128 GB RAM||up to Quadro P3200||Yes||5.7 lbs /2.6 kg|
|workstation; bulkier and larger than the 5530, but still compact and light for what it is; multiple screen options, including 4K with 100% Adobe RGB; up to Core i9 processors, 128 GB of ECC memory and multiple storage options, Quadro graphics; 64 or 97 Wh battery|
|Starting price: from ~$2000 on Dell’s website|
|Dell XPS 15 9570||15.6-inch FHD or UHD||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q||Yes||4.4 lbs / 2 kg|
|thin and light, sturdy construction, available with FHD matte or a wide-gamut UHD touch screen, 2x RAM slots, 1xM.2 PCIe storage, 97 Wh battery, i9 configuration available only with 32 GB RAM and 1 TB PCIe storage|
|Price: from $2499 – more details|
|Eurocom Q8||17.3-inch – various options||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||GTX 1070||Yes||6.6 lbs / 2.99 kg|
|barebone laptop based on Clevo PA71 chassis; slim and light for a 17-incher, up to GSync 144Hz screen, QHD and UHD options as well, 2x RAM slots, CPU performance could be better, 2xM.2 PCIe and 1x 2.5″ storage, 66 Wh battery, customizable|
|Price: from $2299 – more details|
|Gigabyte Aero 15||15.6-inch IPS FHD 144 Hz/ UHD 60 Hz matte with Optimus||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||RTX 2070/2080 Max-Q||No||5.5 lbs / 2.5 kg|
|reviewed here; compact design with thin bezels, thin (0.69″) and light for a 15-incher; solid build quality and simple design; RGB keyboard with NumPad; IPS FHD 144 Hz screen; up to Core i9 CPU, 2x memory DIMMs, 2x M.2 NVME storage; fairly simple to upgrade; runs hot; 94 Wh battery, 230 Wh adapter|
|Price: from $2399 – configurations and updated prices|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme||15.6-inch IPS FHD matte or UHD touch||Coffee Lake Core HK / max 64 GB RAM||GTX 1050 Ti MQ 4 GB||Yes||3.75 lbs / 1.7 kg|
|review here (of an i7 configuration); classic ThinkPad design and build, compact form factor; thin, light and very compact; backlit keyboard; FHD matte or UHD IPS screen with 100% aRGB and HDR; 2x RAM slots and 2xPCIe storage with RAID; 2xTB3 ports; 80 Wh battery|
|Price: not available – configurations and updated prices|
|Origin EVO-17S||17.3-inch FHD IPS 144 Hz with GSync or UHD IPS||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||GTX 1070||Yes||6.6 lbs / 2.99 kg|
|thin and light, compact form factor with narrow bezels, no GSync screen option at this point, hybrid mechanical RGB keyboard, 2x RAM slots, 2xM.2 PCIe + 1×2.5″ storage bays, 62 Wh battery, customizable|
|Price: from $2500|
|MSI WS65||15.6-inch FHD IPS||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||up to Quadro P4200||Yes||3.9 lbs / 1.9 kg|
|2018 model; workstation version of the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin; FHD screen with 72% NTSC; up to Core i9 CPUs and Nvidia Quadro P4200 graphics, 2x RAM slots, 2xM.2 PCIe; 82 Wh battery|
|Price: from $3250 – configurations and updated prices|
Full-size Core i9 notebooks
This section includes the full-size Core i9 notebooks.
Expect most of these to be hefty and heavy, with very few exceptions, but at the same time, they will squeeze the most out of the hardware inside and allow for tweaking and overclocking. Most of these laptops are also extremely noisy with gaming and demanding loads, to the point where you’ll need headphones for comfortable use, which is somewhat understandable on the few thinner models, but hard to accept on the chunkier ones.
|Acer Predator Helios 500||17.3-inch FHD IPS 144 Hz with GSync||up to i9-8950HK / max 64 GB RAM||GTX 1070||Yes||8.8 lbs / 4.00 kg|
|reviewed here; massive and heavy, FHD GSync 144Hz screen or UHD 4K option, RGB keyboard, 4x RAM slots, 2xM.2 PCIe and 1x 2.5″ storage, 2.1 speakers, 74 Wh battery, 330W power brick; one of the most affordable i9 laptops|
|Price: from $2499 – more details|
|Alienware 15||15.6-inch FHD IPS – various options||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||GTX 1070 OC/ 1080||Yes||7.75 lbs / 3.5 kg|
|massive and heavy, various screen options, including FHD 120 Hz and UHD IPS, with or without GSync, RGB Alienware TactX keyboard, not the best performance with the i9 configurations, 2x RAM slots, 1xM.2 PCIe and 1x 2.5″ storage, 99 Wh battery, highly customizable|
|Price: from $2249 – more details|
|Alienware 17||17.3-inch QHD IPS 120 Hz with GSync||up to i9-8950HK / max 64 GB RAM||GTX 1080 OC||Yes||9.75 lbs / 4.42 kg|
|massive and heavy, GSync 120Hz screen with 2560 x 1440 px resolution, RGB Alienware TactX keyboard, 4x RAM slots, 2xM.2 PCIe and 1x 2.5″ storage, 2.1 speakers, 68 or 99 Wh battery, highly customizable|
|Price: ~$3099 – more details|
|Aorus X9||17.3-inch FHD IPS 144 Hz with GSync||up to i9-8950HK / max 64 GB RAM||GTX 1080||Yes||8.1 lbs / 3.7 kg|
|fairly thin and compact for what it is, GSync 144 screen, mechanical RGB keyboard, 4x RAM slots, 2xM.2 PCIe and 1x 2.5″ storage, 2.2 speakers, very noisy fans, 94 Wh battery|
|Price: ~$3899 – more details|
|Asus ROG G703 Series||17.3-inch matte FHD IPS 144 HZ with GSync||up to i9-8950HK / max 128 GB RAM||RTX 2080 OC||Yes||10.5 lbs / 4.55 kg|
|chunky, large and heavy; sturdy build quality; RGB keyboard with per-key lightning; 144 Hz FHD screen with G-Sync; up to Core i9 CPU, 4x RAM slots, 2x M.2 storage with Raid + 2.5″ bay; overclocked RTX 1080 or 2080 GPU; 96 Wh battery; 2x 280 W power-supplies; 2.2 sound system|
|Starting price: $2999 – configurations and updated prices|
|Asus ROG Mothership GZ700||17.3-inch FHD IPS 144 Hz with GSync||up to i9-8950HK / max 64 GB RAM||RTX 2080||Yes||10.4 lbs / 4.7 kg|
|new 2019 model; completely unusual detachable form-factor, entirely made out of machined milled aluminum; chunky and heavy; detachable keyboard with 2.5 mm stroke and per-key lit keys; up to Core i9 processor, 4x RAM slots and 3x M.2 NVMe storage with Raid; quad front-firing speakers; 2.5 Gbps Ethernet and Wireless AX; 2x 280 W adapters|
|Starting price: – not yet available in stores|
|MSI GT75 Titan||17.3-inch matte FHD IPS 144 Hz||Coffee Lake Core HK / max 128 GB RAM||RTX 2080||Yes||10 lbs/4.6 kg|
|bulky and heavy; 144 HZ IPS screen with GSync; mechanical backlit RGB keyboard; up to Core i9 processors and multiple storage options, available with RTX 1080 or 2080 graphics; 2.1 speakers; 75 Wh battery, 2x 230W adapters|
|Starting price: from $3399 – configurations and updated prices|
That’s about it for now, but we’re constantly updating this list of Core i9 performance laptops, so make sure to check back from time to time for the latest additions. And get in touch in the comments section if you have any questions, or if you spotted a notebook that should be in here and we haven’t yet added.