Intel Core i9-13900K Review

Introducing Intel’s new multi-core monster this is it, then. Intel’s reply to AMD’s 5nm beast, the Ryzen 9 7950X. We give you the new Intel Core i9-13900K, all 24 cores of it. Yes, you read that right. For the new Raptor Lake 13th-generation family of CPUs, the most obvious upgrade is a doubling of efficiency cores from eight to 16. With eight high-performance cores retained, that takes the total core count to 24 and the threads to 32. Read our Intel Core i9-13900K Review.

JEREMY LAIRD

That makes for an uneasy comparison between AMD and its 16-core rival. Hold that thought while we consider the rest of the Raptor Lake upgrades. You get more L2 cache per core on those powerful P cores and more shared L2 cache across the low-power E-cores. As for the cores themselves, the P cores get minor tweaks to improve IPC or performance per clock, while the E cores are carried over. There are also optimizations to Raptor Lake’s Compute Fabric, caching policy, memory subsystem, and ring frequency to support the beefed-up core counts.

Intel Core i9-13900K Review
The new 13900K beast packs a total of 24 cores and 32 threads.

The other major upgrade involves clock speed. The old Core i9-12900K Alder Lake chip topped out at 5.2GHz on its P cores. The new 13900K ups that to fully 5.8GHz. The E cores are faster, too, increasing from 3.9GHz to 4.3GHz. If you’re a fan of high clock speeds, the upcoming 13900KS model will dump Intel’s integrated graphics early next year and up the ante to fully 6GHz. Impressive.

BENCHMARKS

 

AMD Ryxen 7 7950X

Intel Core i5-12900K

Intel Core i5-13900K

Blender 3.3.0 Junkshop (samples/min)

175

115

169

X264 5.0 video encoding (FPS)

94

79

109

PCMark 10 (points)

6,831

6,909

7,310

Far Cry 6 1080p (FPS)

152

171

175

Metro Exodus 1080p (FPS)

126

133

134

F1 2021 1080p (FPS)

176

196

192

Shadow of the Tomb Radier 1080p(FPS)

216

217

214

CPU peak package power (watts)

191

212

252

Max CPU temp (degrees C)

96

87

94

Best scores in bold. Intel test bed consists of an Asus ROG Strix Z690-F Gaming WiFi motherboard, 2TB Sabrent Rocket 4.0 Plus M.2 SSD, Asus ROG Ryujin II cooler, and Gigabyte Aorus P1200W PSU. AMD test bed features an ASRock X670E Taichi motherboard, 1TB WD Black SN850 M.2 SSD, Corsair H100i RGB cooler, and NZXT 850W PSU. Both systems used an Nvidia RTX 3080 10GB and G.Skill Trident Z5 Neo DDR5-6000 CL30 2x 16GB RAM.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the 10nm process node used to manufacture Raptor Lake chips, otherwise known as Intel 7nm. Intel says it has been refined, calling it 3rd-gen Intel SuperFin for this outing. However, as we’ll see when we ponder the power consumption of the 13900K, manufacturing tech remains Intel’s greatest weakness.

But first, performance. And what a performance there is. Those E cores might be physically puny but they pack around two-thirds of the per-clock, single-thread performance of a P core. And there are now 16 of them. For pure multi-threaded throughput, the 13900K is as good as it gets. It’s a massive 38 percent faster at video encoding versus the old 12900K, for instance, and 15 percent quicker than AMD’s 7950X flagship CPU. It also comfortably outpoints the 7950X in terms of overall productivity in the PCMark 10 test suite. Not bad considering the AMD option is more expensive.

That’s not to say the AMD CPU is trash. It has a slight edge in Blender 3D rendering. AMD’s architecture still has plenty to offer. But the combination of high clock speeds and lots of cores makes the 13900K awfully compelling for getting serious work done.

As for gaming, the new Raptor Lake architecture isn’t quite as dominant. To be clear, this is a stellar CPU for gaming. But it barely moves the needle compared with the old 12900K. In fact, it’s actually a hair slower in some games, such as F1 2021 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Arguably the bottleneck in such games isn’t the CPU, but the 13900K still fails to dominate. Of course, the 13900K will give you every bit as good a gaming experience as any other top chip. But if it’s mainly for gaming, the cheaper Core i5-13600K, also reviewed in this issue, will deliver the same experience for less cash.

So, the 13900K combines unbeatable productivity performance with highly competitive gaming grunt. On balance, that makes it the best CPU you can buy, right? There is one catch, namely power consumption. If the old 12900K was a gas guzzler, the 13900K is flirting with the dumpster. In our testing, the old 12900K hit 212W under the load and the 7950X 191W. The 13900K? Make that 252W.

How much that truly matters is debatable. But it does reveal the shortcomings of Intel’s 10nm process node. And it implies a CPU running right at the ragged edge. As good as the 13900K undoubtedly is, Intel’s upgrade to 7nm silicon can’t come soon enough.

SPECIFICATIONS

Socket

LGA1700

Production node

10nm (Intel 7)

Cores (P+E)

6+8

Threads

20

L3 Cache

36MB

L2 Cache

32MB

Max P-core Turbo frequency

5.8GHz

Max E-core Turbo frequency

4.3GHz

Graphics

UHD Graphics 770

Memory support (up to)

DDR5 5600MT/s, DDR4 3200MT/s

Processor base power

125W

Maximum Turbo power

253W

Verdict

8 Total Score
Intel Core i9-13900K Review

PROS
  • A serious gas guzzler
  • poor value for gamers
CONS
  • A multithreading monster
  • super-high clock speeds
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