Intel Core i9-13900K CPU Review

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Intel Core i9-13900K CPU
Company: Intel
Type: CPU
MSRP: $589
CGM Editors Choice

Hot off the heels of the AMD Ryzen 7000 release, Intel is here with their newest range of processors, the 13th Gen, and the new i9 flagship, the Intel Core i9 13900K CPU. Built from the same DNA as Alder Lake, the Intel 13th Gen is a step forward and continues to improve on the platform, further innovating on the two-core type design, making for an improved overall CPU that is made for the modern world of computing. While not as major a leap as 11th to 12th, the 13th Gen and the 13900K give a better picture of the future of Intel and how the platform can take on the latest in gaming and creative tasks. 

Let’s make it clear that Intel’s new Core i9-13900K CPU is a beast, packing 24 cores, 32 threads, and clock speeds of up to 5.8GHz. Built on Intel’s 7 nm process and its x86 performance hybrid architecture, the 13th Gen processors offer best-in-class performance thanks to their combination of P-cores and E-cores. But that’s not all—the Thread Director inside the CPU ensures that all your threads run on the correct cores for optimal performance.

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Last year, Intel used a similar approach for its 12th Gen chips, and it’s not dissimilar to what we see in the ARM mobile SoC space from Qualcomm and Apple. Rather than stuffing new chips full of power-hungry cores, this P-core / E-core split is more efficient. Having said that, these 13th Gen chips now consume more power in max turbo mode than their Alder Lake predecessors.

While Intel hasn’t increased the number of P-cores available on its 13th Gen processors, the Core i5, i7, and i9 chips all have more E-cores. That’s like having eight extra E-cores on the Core i9, and four additional E-cores on the Core i7 and Core i5 chips. The extra cores will come in handy for multitasking and running multithreaded apps.

Intel’s decision to stick with a hybrid core for their new line of processors means that they are continuing what they started with Alder Lake. The new generation, Raptor Lake, features a mix of P performance cores and E efficiency cores. The E cores have stayed mostly the same, but the P cores have been given a boost and are now referred to as “Raptor Cove”.

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The frequencies for both types of cores have decreased significantly across the Core i5, i7, and i9 chips. However, the boost frequencies have increased, which can take the Core i9 up to 5.8GHz. That’s 600MHz more than the 12900K, and on the latest Core i7, it’s 400MHz more, with the Core i5 at 200MHz more.

The newest generation of Intel processors comes with many exciting features like the support for PCIe Gen 5.0. This allows for up to 16 lanes to be utilized off the processor, which is a huge step up from previous generations. Additionally, there is support for DDR5-5600 and DDR5-5200, which again is a huge leap forward. And for those who want to stick with DDR4 for now, Intel has you covered there as well— compatibility for DDR4 is still maintained. Finally, L3 and L2 cache have both been increased, giving you even more speed and power.

This year, power requirements are up for the full range of CPUs. The Intel Core i5, i7, and i9 all need 125 watts just to get started. But if you want max turbo power, you’ll need 253 watts for the Core i7 and i9—that’s a 5 percent jump from last year. And the Intel Core i5-13600K CPU now needs 181 watts for max turbo, up 20 percent from the 150 watts on the Alder Lake version. So if you’re looking to save some power, you might want to go with the Intel Core i5. 

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Intel is targeting all types of PC builders with its pricing for the 13th Gen range of processors, from enthusiasts to those just looking for an upgrade. Things are a bit pricier compared to 12th Gen, with everything under the 13900K getting a slight increase compared to their 12th Gen counterparts. The top-of-the-line Intel Core i9-13900K CPU has an MSRP of $589 USD, while the mid-range Intel Core i5-13600K costs $319 USD.

Even though this is not cheap by any stretch, Intel has managed to be slightly cheaper than the flagship Ryzen 9 7950X at $699, and with the performance boost Intel has brought to this generation, it is an exciting time to be a PC gamer or content creator. The 13th Gen also can use the same motherboards as Alder Lake, so they are an easy upgrade path should you want to get extra frames in your games or creative software of choice. 

“Intel has managed to convince me that Raptor Lake continues Intel’s push to deliver noticeable improvements with each subsequent release.”

The i9-13900K seems to be a very powerful CPU based on its design and the numbers that are boasted. I was skeptical at first about its ability to compete with the Ryzen 9 7950X, but after running in-house benchmarks, Intel has managed to convince me that Raptor Lake continues Intel’s push to deliver noticeable improvements with each subsequent release.

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With the new features out of the way, it is time to dive into what makes the new Intel Core i9-13900K so exciting and a noticeable release for people that demand performance. For testing, CGMagazine is keeping with the build we used for both the Intel 12th Gen range, and Ryzen 7000 CPUs, save for parts that are platform specific.

The build features an ASUS ROG Maximus Hero Z690 mainboard, 850 Watt Gigabyte PSU, 64GB DDR5 SK hynix 4800 RAM for stability and speed, Seagate FireCuda 530 1TB SSD, and the ASUS ROG Strix AMD Radeon RX 6700 GPU. The system is running Windows 11 with all the latest patches in all tests, and all games and software are updated to the latest version before any benchmarks are run. 

The main focus of this CGMagazine CPU review is on how the new i9-13900K would perform for gaming and content creation. To get an accurate idea of this, we put it through a series of tests with the latest titles and Adobe software. By doing this, we were able to get an idea of how well it would do without going into too much detail or providing a bunch of numbers in a spreadsheet.

Starting things off with a CPU-Z benchmark, the Intel flagship is strong with scores that are incredibly impressive with the Intel Core i9-13900K (896/16820) compared to the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X (785/15872). That said, the CPU-Z benchmark is just one way to measure a CPU’s performance and should not be the only metric considered. Even with this in mind, Raptor Lake is coming out strong, and showing the efforts Intel has put into advancing the desktop CPU. 

Jumping over to Cinebench r23, and the real power of the Intel 13th Gen CPUs are starting to show. Even at a quick glance, the Intel Core i9-13900K is noticeably faster than the flagship AMD Ryzen 9 7950X CPU, showing over a five percent advantage in the test in a similar system. Things look even more interesting when you look at the 13600K compared to the AMD Ryzen 7 7700X, showing over 15 percent performance boost at a similar price point. Intel has done a lot of work, and even in just the early synthetic benchmarks, the Intel 13th Gen is proving to be a powerhouse. 

“Starting things off with a CPU-Z benchmark, the Intel flagship is strong with scores that are incredibly impressive with the Intel Core i9-13900K (896/16820) compared to the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X (785/15872).”

Finally moving on from synthetic testing, we move onto gaming, with a strong showing for both the i9-13900K and the i5-13600K. Both games show a notable improvement from the Alder Lake, delivering more FPS in almost every game we tested. Both are also showing some major increases in performance compared to the flagship AMD Ryzen 9 7950X, delivering better performance on comparable hardware, with even the 13600K outperforming my expectations.

Fortnite, Ashes of Singularity, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Civilization VI, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Hitman 3 were across the board better on the i9-13900K compared to the flagship 7950X, with games like Hitman 3 showing almost double-digit percentage performance increases on the same system. Games like Watch Dogs: Legion, and Cyberpunk 2077 were held back due to the RX 6700 XT we used for testing, but even still saw a few FPS increases compared to the AMD Ryzen 7000 range, even with the i5-13600K.

With the pure performance under the hood, it is no wonder the 13th Gen range is dealing with the benchmarks so handily. The boost clock of up to 5.8GHz makes the Intel Core i9-13900K CPU the fastest consumer CPU ever released, and that raw power shows. This is a CPU built to take on any task you can think to throw at it, and handle it with ease.

Jumping over to creative software, the i9-13900K performed well in our blender tests, scoring well ahead of last year’s i9-12900K and the 7950X. In all our Adobe tests, the i9-13900K delivered the best experience with all software, surpassing what we expected from an iterative year for Intel. Raptor Lake is, without a doubt, a great move forward and a powerful offering for everyone looking to upgrade. 

With such a major improvement in power, you must be wondering what the trade-offs are, and how Intel can deliver such a powerful CPU, even compared to the mysteriously impressive 7950X, and that is the power consumption. While the Ryzen 7000 range was power-hungry, I was not expecting to see just how hungry and hot the Intel Core i9-13900K CPU could be. Using a bequiet! AIO cooler, the Intel hit 100 degrees in many of our tests. This is with the fans with a very aggressive fan curve. 

“The Intel Core i9-13900K is the most powerful consumer grade CPU you can buy.”

Power wise, while the Ryzen 9 7950X tops out at 230W of power, the Intel Core i9-13900K can go past 240W, making this a very power-hungry CPU when you start to push close to the top 5.8GHz or beyond. With the Unlimited power mode, this can go even further, with it going well past 378W, meaning you will need a very good PSU and some form of water cooling to keep things manageable, especially if you look to pair this CPU with an NVIDIA 40 series GPU.

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Power aside, the Intel Core i9-13900K is the most powerful consumer-grade CPU you can buy. It delivers unparalleled performance across the board, with it delivering the best performance in gaming, creative software and synthetic tests. This is a CPU that is made for the enthusiast, and the fact intel has managed to price it less than the flagship AMD Ryzen 9 7950X, means it is an easy recommendation for people looking to upgrade. Better yet, since the 13th Gen CPUs run on the same boards your 12th Gen Alder Lake processors did, it is an easy upgrade to deliver noticeably better performance. 

I am incredibly impressed with what Intel brought to the table with the i9-13900K. The CPU is a monster, with plenty of untapped potential should you have the cooling and power to truly unleash what it can do. As it stands, out of the box, the Intel Core i9-13900K CPU is the most powerful gaming and creative CPU you can buy, and one that should make AMD very worried.

Final Thoughts

REVIEW SCORE

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