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Should you buy a Core i9 laptop?

If you’re asking yourself: “Should I buy a Core i9 laptop?” don’t worry. We can help you cut through the hype, innuendo, and specs so you can make the right decision.

Frankly, the name itself is enough to confuse casual observers. In desktops, the Core i9 brand indicates the processor packs a ton more CPU cores (10 to 18) than the other “Core” brands (4 to 8). But today, Core i9 in laptops mostly just signifies higher clock speeds—not more CPU cores. The 6-core, 12-thread Core i9-8950HK laptop chip has a base clock of 2.9GHz with a boost speed of 4.8GHz, for example. Intel’s new 8th-gen Core i7-8850H laptop chip also packs 6 cores and 12 threads, but slower speeds at 2.6GHz base and 4.3GHz boost.

So the correct question, really, should be “Should I buy a laptop with a 6-core, 8th-gen Intel CPU?” Our official answer: it depends. To find out what it depends on, read on.

asus rog g703 Asus

The Asus ROG G703

The Core i9 laptops you can buy

Only a handful of Core i9 laptops were revealed when Intel announced the Core i9-8950HK. They’re all high-performing beasts, as you’d expect from notebooks carrying Intel’s first 6-core mobile gaming chips, and come with monstrous price tags to match.

  • Alienware 17: Core i9, GTX 1080, 16GB RAM, 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD with a 1TB 7200RPM HDD, 1440p 120Hz G-Sync display – $3,699 on
  • Asus ROG G703: Core i9, GTX 1080, 32GB RAM, 512GB PCIe SSD with a 2TB hybrid drive, 1080p 144Hz G-Sync display – $3,699 on
  • Gigabyte Aorus X9: Core i9, GTX 1080, 32GB RAM, 1TB NVMe SSD with a 1TB HDD, 1080p 144Hz G-Sync display – $3,899 on
  • MSI G75 Titan: Core i9, GTX 1080, 32GB RAM, 512GB SSD with a 1TB HDD – $3,999 on with a 1080p 120Hz G-Sync display, or $4,499 on with a 4K 60Hz display

If you need multi-threaded performance: Yes

If you lean hard on your processor, the short answer is yes! Buy a 6-core laptop.

The longer answer is yes, but only if you truly use those CPU threads. If you edit video, render 3D scenes, or do any task that’s typically multi-threaded, you will see a huge performance boost by going with a 6-core chip over a 4-core chip.

Adding cores will also generally improve performance if you also tend to do a many things simultaneously. And while the vast majority of games won’t really use all six cores, the extra hardware will be a blessing if you stream to Twitch or Mixer while you game, or if you edit video of your adventures to post on YouTube. Upgrading to a 6-core Core i9 or Core i7 is a worthwhile investment for gamers who also create content.

intel core i9 logos Intel

If you need single-threaded performance: Maybe 

Like I said, the vast majority of games and applications aren’t heavily multi-threaded. They generally benefit more from fewer cores running at higher clock speeds than they would from a six-core chip.

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