As of mid 2018 you can buy performance laptops with an Intel Core i9 processor, namely the Core i9-8950HK, part of the Intel Coffee Lake platform.
In this article we’ll tell you what to expect from the mobile Core i9 CPU, how it compares to the mainstream Core i7s available in most multimedia and gaming notebooks these days, and whether (or rather when) this processor is 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 updated it in the months to come with new SKUs as they’re announced.
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 mobile processor
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)|
|Litography||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 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. In others having the i9 offers a performance boost, but not what you can get from this processor in a thicker laptosp 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.
|Apple MacBook Pro 15||15.4-inch retina||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||Radeon 555X/560X||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 GB, 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|
|ASUS Zenbook Pro UX580GE||15.6-inch FHD or UHD||up to i9-8950HK / max 16 GB RAM||1050 Ti||Yes||4.4 lbs / 2.00 kg|
|similar to the UX550, but with a 5.5-inch screen integrated within the trackpad|
|Price: from ~$1999|
|Dell Precision 15 5530||15.6-inch UHD||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||up to Quadro P2000||Yes||4.0 lbs / 1.8 kg|
|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 $2199|
|Dell XPS 15 9570||15.6-inch FHD or UHD||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||GTX 1050 Ti MaxQ||Yes||4.0 lbs / 1.8 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|
|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|
|Lenovo ThinkPad P1||15.6-inch FHD or UHD IPS touch||up to i9-8950HK / max 64 GB RAM||up to Quadro P2000||Yes||3.8 lbs / 1.8 kg|
|2018 model; workstation; classic ThinkPad design and build, compact form factor; FHD or UHD with 100% aRGB screen options; up to Core i9 and Xeon processors and Nvidia Quadro P2000 graphics, 4x RAM slots, 2xM.2 PCIe with Raid 0/1; ECC RAM on Xeon models; 80 Wh battery|
|Price: from 1949|
|Origin EON-15S||15.6-inch FHD IPS||up to i9-8950HK / max 32 GB RAM||GTX 1060||Yes||3.4 lbs / 1.54 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 storage slots, 62 Wh battery, customizable|
|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|
|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|
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 should squeeze the most out of the hardware inside and allow for tweaking and overclocking. At the same time most of these laptops are extremely noisy with gaming, to the point 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 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|
|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|
|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 G703GI Chimera||17.3-inch FHD IPS 144 Hz with GSync||up to i9-8950HK / max 64 GB RAM||GTX 1080||Yes||10.4 lbs / 4.7 kg|
|massive and heavy, GSync 144 screen, RGB keyboard, 4x RAM slots, 2xM.2 PCIe and 1x 2.5″ storage, 71 Wh battery|
|Price: ~$3699 – more details|
|MSI GT75 Titan||17.3-inch FHD TN 120 Hz with GSync||up to i9-8950HK / max 64 GB RAM||GTX 1080||Yes||10.0 lbs / 4.56 kg|
|massive and heavy, GSync 120Hz TN screen, mechanical RGB Steelseries keyboard, 4x RAM slots, 2xM.2 PCIe and 1x 2.5″ storage, 2.1 speakers, very noisy fans, 75 Wh battery, requires two power supplies for the i9 model|
|Price: ~$3299 – more details|
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.