With the introduction of its 13th generation Core processors, Intel has once again upped the ante at its innovation event this week: “More performance is better”. With a Thermal Design Power (TDP) of 253W for the latest i9 and i7 desktop processors, water cooling could also be a requirement.
Even Intel’s consumer-focused i5 now has a TDP of 180W. That’s 10W more than AMD’s flagship Ryzen 9 7950X, which was announced late last month.
Despite all that power and heat, however, Intel has seemingly managed to maintain its frequency lead and claim a core-count victory over the House of Zen. With this generation, Intel has given its enthusiast-class desktop chips a healthy clock boost while significantly increasing core counts across the board.
The company’s flagship i9 13900K has 24 cores and 32 threads, at least one of which can reach 5.8 GHz. With the extra wattage, extra cores, and architectural improvements introduced in this generation, the i9 delivers a 15 percent single-core and 41 percent multi-core performance boost over last year’s 12900K, according to Intel.
To that end, Intel released a spate of hand-picked internal benchmarks showing its new chips outperforming the two-year-old 5950X and going toe-to-toe with AMD’s SRAM-stacked 5800X-3D in a selection of games and productivity apps. Thanks to its proximity to the Ryzen 7000 refresh, Intel conveniently avoided a direct comparison with AMD’s next-gen chips.
According to Intel, the performance and efficiency gains are driven by architectural improvements to the Raptor Cove cores and refinements to the 10nm SuperFIN manufacturing process. This mainly boils down to large L2 and L3 caches and a lower voltage-frequency curve, which Intel says allows for higher clock speeds.
These architectural improvements also extend to Intel’s 16-core i7-13700K and 14-core i5-13600K parts, where in addition to increasing the maximum frequency from 200-400MHz, the number of efficiency cores has been doubled to eight. In many ways, Intel has moved its lineup down, with the 13700K bearing more similarities to last year’s i9 than the previous i7.
Here’s a full breakdown of the SKUs:
- Core i9 13900K: 8P/16E cores, 32 threads, with a maximum boost clock of 5.8 GHz, a TDP of 253 W, 68 MB total cache and UHD 770 graphics. $589
- Core i7 13700K: 8P/8E cores, 24 threads, with a maximum boost clock of 5.4 GHz, a TDP of 253 W, 54 MB total cache and UHD 770 graphics. $409
- Core i5 13600K: 6P/8E cores, 20 threads, with a maximum boost clock of 5.1 GHz, a TDP of 181 W, 44 MB total cache and UHD 770 graphics. $319
Intel also offers all three SKUs as KF variants without onboard graphics for $564 for the i9, $384 for the i7, and $294 for the i5.
A role reversal between AMD and Intel
The launch marks a sort of role reversal for Intel and AMD. For many generations, AMD offered more cores, albeit often at lower frequencies, while Intel claimed the clock-speed crown. This time around, Intel not only offers more cores across the board, but also does so at slightly higher frequencies. Intel’s 24-core flagship beats AMD’s 16-core Ryzen 9 7950X by 100MHz at single-core boost clocks.
However, that is not the whole story. AMD’s chips still have more performance cores that can reach high clock speeds of 5 GHz than Intel’s.
As a quick refresher, Intel’s 12th-gen parts saw the chipmaker adopt a big-little-core architecture, with efficiency cores responsible for running the operating system and background tasks, while hyperthreaded performance cores are responsible for running users -Workloads or games are intended. The architecture has long been popular in smartphones and Arm-based computers that need to balance high performance and long battery life, but it’s only recently made its way into the x86 arena.
Intel’s 13900K does have 24 cores, but only eight of those are performance cores. In comparison, AMD’s 7950X has 16 cores, all capable of hitting 5.7GHz, although probably not simultaneously.
Frequency and core count are just two metrics, and it remains to be seen how Intel’s architecture and process refinements will hold up against AMD’s 7000-series parts, which will also benefit from a process shrink to 5nm from TSMC and a variety of architecture and cache -Improvements benefit .
Where is my 6GHz chip?
While Intel didn’t say if the company would release a successor to its enthusiast 12900KS SKU, the lack of a previously teased 6GHz Raptor Lake part seems to indicate one could be in the works.
With that in mind, Intel claimed during a press conference that its Raptor Lake parts could exceed 8GHz – if drowned in an operational supply of liquid nitrogen.
And unlike AMD, which was unusually quiet on the overclocking issue during last month’s Ryzen 7000 desktop launch, Intel appears to be leaning on its enthusiastic customer base. These include new overclocking functionality built into the chipmaker’s Extreme Tuning Utility, which was designed to enable “one-click” overclocking for those new to the hobby.
This is by no means a new phenomenon. Many motherboard manufacturers have been bundling similar features as added value in their UEFI BIOS for years. But it’s interesting that Intel is so enthusiastic.
AMD has also been offering a similar functionality in its Ryzen Master software for some time. However, the feature doesn’t overclock the chip in the traditional sense, but instead tweaks the parameters of AMD’s boost algorithm to achieve up to 200MHz higher clock speeds in exchange for higher temperatures and higher power consumption.
While it’s difficult to tell which switches and knobs actually optimize Intel’s auto-overclocking capabilities, in demos it appears to optimize the voltage-frequency curve, allowing customers to increase voltages to reach higher frequencies.
However, given the already high TDPs of these chips, we recommend investing in a 280mm or 360mm closed-loop liquid cooler or a custom water-loop if you plan to push Intel’s 13th Gen chips beyond the default settings.
If there’s one area where Intel has already beaten AMD, it’s in price. The company’s 13900K retails for $589, or $564 if you forgo the onboard graphics. That makes Intel’s high-end flagship 15 to 20 percent cheaper than AMD’s $699 7950X hardware.
The cost delta is even larger considering that Intel maintains backwards compatibility with its 600-series motherboard chipsets and DDR4 memory support for this generation.
The chips will be available in mid-October and will launch alongside a bevy of Z790 chipset motherboards. ®
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