Q: An opportunity came up to buy a 9900K for $300. Right now, I own a PC with an 8700K, which I use with an RTX 3080 on an ultrawide 3440x1440p monitor. If I buy the 9900K, I could pass down the 8700K to my kid, who has an i3 chip. Is it worth making this upgrade?
A: Even though it’s not the newest processor on the block, a 9900K for $300 is still an excellent deal. But of course, spending money you weren’t planning to requires justification, especially when it’s several hundred dollars.
Looking at it from the perspective of just your own benefit, you won’t see that much of a difference in gaming. Moving up to a 9900K will net you higher clock speeds plus extra cores and threads, but for gaming on an ultrawide 1440p monitor, you won’t get any advantage from a more powerful CPU, as you’re GPU-bound. The 9900K might have helped with bottlenecks at standard 1440p, though.
But factor your kid into the equation, and the upgrade actually may make sense. Let’s say her machine already has a 300-series chipset motherboard, and you can drop the 8700K right in. Going from a processor with four cores and four threads to one with six cores, 12 threads, and higher clock speeds will extend the life of that PC considerably, especially if she plays games on it. So now you’ve spent $300 on two systems that extends their lives by years. Not a bad investment, especially if you don’t often buy new parts. If you can resell that i3 chip, the value increases further.
Continuing this reasoning, the upgrade can still make sense even if it involves buying a new motherboard for either the 8700K or the 9900K. Perhaps you’d anticipated a bigger outlay in a year or two to completely replace your kid’s machine—$450 to improve her experience and boost your own system’s longevity could be worth it. Add in another family member (perhaps a younger child?) who could make use of the i3 processor, and you may still get good value out of purchasing the 9900K.
Some folks will joke that this decision boils down to how much you love your kid, but in the end, you are the best judge of your family’s needs—and your kid’s habits and interests. As with any tempting deal, throwing down money only makes sense if you’ll get use out of the item.
Welcome to Ask an Expert, where we tackle your questions about PC building. Have your own burning concern? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.