Review of the Intel Core i9-13900K: Is The 13900K Worth it?

Photo by david latorre romero on Unsplash

When Intel first unveiled its Raptor Lake-S series processors, a limited-edition model with a 6GHz boost clock right out of the box was teased. The chip will be sold in limited quantities and bear the “KS” branding, just like a few special edition processors from previous generations. More specifically, Intel describes the launch of the new Core i9-13900KS last week as a “milestone moment for the PC industry.” The Core i9-13900KS and the Core i9-13900K both have the same core and cache configuration, making them fundamentally similar. The Core i9-13900KS, on the other hand, is binned more aggressively and has the ability to reach the maximum turbo frequency of 6 GHz on either one or both of its P-cores, depending on the workload and temperature at the time. It is true that this is the first time a mainstream desktop CPU has reached 6 GHz.

We recently acquired a Core i9-13900KS and immediately installed it into our test rig to conduct some tests. Check out our coverage of the initial launch of the 13th Gen Core lineup and the video below for an overview of Raptor Lake-S with Intel’s Marcus Kennedy before we get into the numbers. The Core i9-13900KS ships in a “Special Edition” box similar to that of the previous-generation Core i9-12900KS; however, it has been slightly slimmed down and the wafer-inspired enclosure is chrome rather than gold, as explained in the video and previous coverage. The Core i9-13900KS can be uncovered by slicing the security label, unfolding the box, and popping open the “wafer.”

Intel is increasing core counts generationally with the 13th Generation “Raptor Lake” desktop processors, but only with the E-core counts. The number of P-cores has not changed; despite the fact that Intel has improved the IPC of the P-cores themselves. The 13th Gen Core i7 chips, such as the i7-13700K, will have an 8P+8E loadout, an uplift from the 8P+4E one of the i7-12700K and matching that of the i9-12900K. The Core i5 K-series also receives an upgrade, and it is now 6P+8E, as opposed to the 6P+4E configuration of the previous generation. The 13th Gen Core i9 SKUs

Eight “Raptor Cove” performance cores, which operate at significantly higher clock speeds and offer a higher IPC than the “Golden Cove” cores on “Alder Lake,” make up the “Raptor Lake” silicon. These cores’ dedicated L2 caches now have a size of 2 MB, up from 1.25 MB in the previous generation. Although Intel has increased their clock speeds and increased the size of their L2 caches from 2 MB per 4-core cluster to 4 MB, the architecture of the “Gracemont” E-cores has not changed from the previous generation. The L3 cache that is shared by P-core and E-core clusters has been increased by generation, reaching 36 MB on Core i9 chips, 30 MB on Core i7 chips, and 24 MB on Core i5 K-series chips.

The 13th Generation Core desktop processors are compatible with Intel 600-series chipset motherboards with BIOS updates and share the same Socket LGA1700 package as the 12th Generation “Alder Lake.” despite the fact that they come with improved 700-series chipset boards, which allow you to use older processors from the 12th generation with them. In addition to DDR5, the PCI-Express configuration of the new processors remains unchanged, with 16 PCIe Gen 5 lanes for the graphics card, an M.2 Gen 4 slot for CPU-attached NVMe SSD, and a DMI 4.0 x8 chipset bus. The processors also offer platform flexibility. There are motherboards with the 700-series chipset that have Gen 5 NVMe slots. However, these slots reduce the x16 PEG lanes that are intended for the graphics card to x8 bandwidth (while the Gen 5 M.2 slot is active).

With its 8P+16E core configuration, 36 MB L3 cache, highest clock speeds, and unlocked multipliers, the Core i9-13900K leads the raptor pack by using the full “Raptor Lake-S” silicon. The P-cores have a frequency of 3.00 GHz and can reach a massive 5.80 GHz, whereas the E-cores have a frequency of 2.20 GHz and can reach 4.30 GHz. The processor’s maximum turbo power (MTP) has been raised from the 12900k’s 241 W to 253 W, but the processor’s processor base power (PBP) remains the same at 125 W. If you can live without integrated graphics, the Core i9-13900KF is for you; it is virtually identical to this chip, but it does not have integrated graphics and is $25 cheaper. Intel is pricing the Core i9-13900K aggressively at USD $590, which would place it right in the middle of the AMD Ryzen 9 7000-series “Zen 4” lineup, which is led by the $700 7950X.

The Intel Core i9-13900K is without a doubt the fastest consumer-oriented CPU available, earning our Editors’ Choice award thanks to its highest CPU test scores. Is that a sign that it would work for you? It depends on other options you’re thinking about.

In many tests, the chips performed similarly to the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X, but the Core i9-13900K is clearly the superior option. Why? because it costs $589 rather than $699 like the Ryzen 9 7950X.

The Core i9-13900K doesn’t really offer a lot of extra performance over, say, the Ryzen 7 7700X, Ryzen 7 5700X, or even the Ryzen 7 5700X. If you’re on a budget, it’s probably best to choose one of these more affordable CPUs and put the money you save toward a better graphics card. If you’re looking for something primarily for gaming, there are a lot of other options you can think about. If you own a mini-ITX PC with a small form factor, this is also our recommendation.

Last but not least, if you’re considering the Core i9-13900K as an upgrade option, it all depends on what operating system you’re using. If you have a PC that is running an 11th Gen or older processor or a lower-end Alder Lake CPU, the Core i9-13900K could make for an excellent upgrade. In reality, the Core i9-13900K has a lot more performance than even the Core i5-12600K or the Core i9-11900K.