I've always been a bit baffled by Intel's Core F and KF processors. Not in theory, you understand. Making CPUs without integrated graphics makes a lot of sense for gaming PCs, especially when you're almost certainly going to be pairing it with a proper discrete graphics card anyway. Instead, it's the price of them that's been the most perplexing thing about them, as until now they've always cost the same as their integrated graphics (or iGPU) counterparts. I know I'm never going to use the integrated graphics on a new Intel Core i5-9600K, for example, but why would I spend the same amount of money on a technically lesser product? Thankfully, that's all set to change very soon, as Intel have just announced a price drop for their 9th Gen Coffee Lake F and KF CPUs, making these pure processing machines much better value for money.
The price cut should be rolling out over the next couple of weeks, Intel tells me, so you might want to hold fire a bit before you take the plunge. To make sure you're getting a processor at the right price, have a gander at the table below for their specs and new US prices (UK pricing TBC).
|CPU||Cores / Threads||Base Clock Speed||Turbo Boost Speed||TDP||Price|
|Intel Core i9-9900KF||8 / 16||3.6GHz||5.0GHz||95W||$463|
|Intel Core i7-9700KF||8 / 8||3.6GHz||4.9GHz||95W||$349|
|Intel Core i5-9600KF||6 / 6||3.7GHz||4.6GHz||95W||$237|
|Intel Core i3-9350KF||4 / 4||4.0GHz||4.6GHz||91W||$148|
|Intel Core i7-9700F||8 / 8||3.0GHz||4.7GHz||65W||$298|
|Intel Core i5-9500F||6 / 6||3.0GHz||4.4GHz||65W||$167|
|Intel Core i5-9400F||6 / 6||2.9GHz||4.1GHz||65W||$157|
|Intel Core i3-9100F||4 / 4||3.6GHz||4.2GHz||65W||$97|
Personally, I'm surprised they weren't priced this way when they first came out, but at least they should now be more competitive compared to AMD's Ryzen 3000 CPUs. After all, the Ryzen 5 3600X still costs around $240, while the Ryzen 7 3700X costs $330. You'll still have to factor in the cost of a cooler with Intel's KF CPUs, but at least the difference in price won't be as great as it was before.
Intel's F suffix, in case you've forgotten, means the processor doesn't come with any integrated graphics, so you'll need to pair it with a graphics card in order to see anything on your monitor. Most of us do this anyway, but there are plenty of lower-end PCs out there that don't come with discrete graphics at all and instead connect to their accompanying monitors via the display outputs on their motherboard.
The K suffix, on the other hand, means it's unlocked for overclocking, so a KF processor is both overclockable and graphics-free. It's possible you've also seen some Intel Core processors with the letter T on the end of them as well. This means they've been designed with a "power-optimised lifestyle" according to Intel's official processor number crib sheet, but all that really means is that they've just got a very low TDP. The Core i9-9900T, for example, has one that's rated at just 35W, which is a far cry from the 95W TDP rating of its graphics-less sibling.
As I mentioned above, it may be some time before you start seeing these new prices come into effect, but once they do, the race for the best gaming CPU will likely get very hot indeed.