Intel kicked off its 13th-gen Core (“Raptor Lake”) generation today with six new processors that executives claim offer the “world’s best gaming experience” for enthusiasts, with up to 24 percent performance improvement in gaming compared to Intel’s own 12th-gen Core chips.
A large part of that increase derives from the fact that Intel is offering many more cores, more threads, and higher clock speeds than ever before. The Core i9-13900K,for example, offers eight more cores plus eight more threads than the corresponding 12th-gen Core model, with an additional 600MHz of “turbo” speed on top.
The unlocked Core i9-13900K tops out at a boost speed of 5.8GHz, though the other processors operate at slower speeds. “To be clear, we are delivering the world’s fastest desktop processor out of the box,” said Mandy Mock, the vice president and general manager of desktop, workstation, and channel for Intel.
You may have anticipated higher prices for the new chips, perhaps in the wake of the sticker shock surrounding Nvidia’s new GeForce RTX 40-series GPUs and recent shortage pricing. But aside from the Core i5-13600K and -KF (which received a $30 bump), the prices of Intel’s 13th-gen Raptor Lake Core chips are identical to Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake. And now, AMD’s rival Ryzen CPUs aren’t always a cheaper option.
Intel will eventually fill out its processor lineup for the remainder of the desktop space, as well as mobile: U-, P-, H-, and HX-series chips for laptops and 35W and 65W S-series processors for desktops will accompany these new K-series processors in time, Mock said—the 13th-gen family will eventually offer no less than 50 CPUs. For now, though, the new K- and -KF series chips are taking center stage.
Here’s a quick summary of what Intel is announcing:
Core i5-13600K ($319): 14 cores (6 performance cores, 8 efficiency cores)/20 threads at up to 5.1GHz; P-Core: 3.5GHz (base) to 5.1GHz (turbo); E-core: 2.6GHz (base) to 3.9GHz (turbo)
Core i7-13700K ($409): 16 cores (8 performance cores, 8 efficiency cores)/24 threads at up to 5.4GHz; P-Core: 3.4GHz (base) to 5.3GHz (turbo); E-core: 2.5GHz (base) to 4.2GHz (turbo)
Core i9-13900K ($589): 24 cores (8 performance cores, 16 efficiency cores)/32 threads at up to 5.8GHz; P-Core: 3.0GHz (base) to 5.4GHz (turbo); E-Core: 2.2GHz (base) to 4.3GHz (turbo)
Intel also has three “KF” variants that eliminate the integrated GPU to save cost: the $564 Core i9-13900KF, the $384 Core i7-13700KF, and the $294 Core i5-13600KF.
Unfortunately, we’ve moved past the days where we can assign a processor a simple clock speed. Now, even the fastest speeds have to be qualified. While the performance core on the Core i9-13900K can “only” achieve a boost speed of 5.4GHz, one core may be able to achieve the chip’s overall boost speed of 5.8GHz. That’s thanks to the Intel Turbo Max Technology 3.0 Intel debuted in 2019.
Power, too, isn’t as simple as it once was. What’s known as the PL2 value — the power needed to push the 13900K or KF series into its turbo mode — is 253W, Intel executives said, and 181W for a Core i5-13600K.
All three chips integrate Intel’s UHD Graphics 770 graphics, with slight differences in clock speed: 1,550MHz, 1,600MHz, and 1,650MHz for the Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9 parts.
Intel’s new processors are built on the Intel 7 process, which Mock implied was producing better yields than the 12th-gen Alder Lake chip, also on Intel 7. Intel’s ramp of its Alder Lake-K chips was its fastest ever, Mock said, with 1 million units shipped by the end of 2021.
“We are on track to go even faster with 13th-gen, so there will be ample supply in the market to meet our customers’ demand,” Mock said. Intel anticipates that 140 partners across 30 countries will ship 13th-gen “Raptor Lake” chips, with 70 different versions of the Z790 motherboards accompanying it, she said.
And in case you were wondering, yes, Intel held an internal discussion about officially naming these chips the “13th”-generation Core chips. Qualcomm, for example, named a recent chip the Snapdragon 888 to capitalize on a number that’s seen in lucky in Asia. American buildings usually skip the thirteenth floor. But what it boiled down to was a certain smartphone company finding success with version 13 of its own operating system, and Intel deciding to follow suit.
What’s inside 13th-gen Raptor Lake PCs
What’s improved? First, the new 13th-gen Core “Raptor Lake” chips include an updated “Raptor Cove” processor core with improved speed paths , said Daniel Rogers, Intel’s senior director of mobile marketing. Inside Intel’s upgraded Intel 7 process is a 3rd-gen SuperFin transistor. Essentially, Intel is benefiting from an improved design alongside a performance boost from the “maturation” of process technology as well, according to Guy Therien, an Intel fellow.
The number of efficiency cores has also doubled. In addition to the additional cores, Mock said that the cache attached to the efficiency cores had been increased. Intel’s hybrid architecture uses performance cores for foreground tasks that you’re actively working upon, as well as efficiency cores that handle background tasks that would normally steal CPU cycles from the active app.
Intel’s thread scheduler, tightly integrated with Windows 11, can also assign priority tasks to the efficiency cores under extreme workloads. In the new Windows 11 2022 Update, not only has the Thread Director been optimized but the way that background tasks are handled by Windows has been improved, increasing the overall efficiency of a Raptor Lake PC running the latest version of Windows. (Incidentally, Intel has no plans to release a version of Thread Director software that will allow you to manually assign performance cores or efficiency cores, executives said.)
Intel’s debut Raptor Lake volley will be paired with Z790 motherboards, an upgraded chipset that now adds support for DDR5-5600 and -5200 memory, as well as DDR4-3200 memory. Board makers will be able to take advantage of 16 PCI Express 5.0 lanes off of the CPU, plus an additional four PCIe 4.0 lanes. The compute fabric bridging the two has been made 900MHz faster, increasing I/O performance. Finally, Thunderbolt 4 and Intel’s Killer WiFi 6E will continue to make appearances.
Basically, all of Intel’s 600-series and 700-series boards will be backwards-compatible, provided that they have a manufacturer-supplied update that supports the 13th-gen Raptor Lake.
There’s something else that’s rather interesting: additional support for USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 I/O. That’s a bunch of gobbledygook to most people, but the upshot is that USB ports on Z790 systems will be capable of 20Gbps, as opposed to the normal 10Gbps that most USB-A and USB-C ports enable. That will potentially add extra performance headroom for USB-C dongles, provided Intel brings this capability to the mobile space.
Intel 13th-gen Core ‘Raptor Lake’ performance
There are many metrics you can use to compare the performance of a processor, but here’s how Intel breaks it down: the new Core i9-13900K delivers 15 percent more performance in single-threaded applications and 41 percent multi-threaded performance over the Core i9-12900K. Raptor Lake’s single-threaded performance has improved decently over Alder Lake, but thanks to the significant increase in the number of cores and threads, overall performance should increase dramatically. Marcus Kennedy, general manager of Intel’s gaming and esports segment, also showed a suite of gaming tests that indicated that the 13th-gen Core chips were up to 24 percent faster in gaming.
All this should mean fairly minor improvements in most graphics-heavy games, though more substantial performance improvements in more CPU-hungry games like League of Legends and DOTA.
Creatives, though, should see some real benefits. Intel’s claiming that the 13th-gen Raptor Lake cores are 27 percent faster in a workload that involves Adobe Media Encoder and Adobe Photoshop, as well as 34 percent faster in a media creation workload involving Blender and the Unreal Engine for game development. In the demonstration, Intel ran Photoshop in the foreground and the encoder in the background, as it did for the Blender render.
But Intel, and Mock, may have to prove that its Raptor Lake is faster than the Ryzen 7000 in testing. On paper, it’s an interesting comparison: the Ryzen 7950X has “just” 16 cores and 32 threads, but runs at a 4.5GHz base clock and up to 5.7GHz while in turbo mode. They’re all “big” high-performance cores, however. Intel’s Core i9-13900K packs more cores (24) and 32 threads, but has a mixture of performance (8) and efficiency (16) cores that begin at 2.2-3.0GHz, but can boost up to 5.8GHz. AMD’s Ryzen 9 7950X consumes 170W, versus the 165W the Core i9 requires.
Since head-to-head tests aren’t yet officially possible, however, Intel compared its 13th-gen chip to AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series instead. Intel’s own tests showed a whopping 58 percent improvement over the Ryzen 5950X in games like Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered. In content creation, the difference was even more profound: 69 percent in Autodesk Revit’s model creation.
Gamers that choose to water-cool their system should see higher overclocking frequencies with “headroom similar to 12th-gen,” Intel said, with overclocked DDR5 memory pushing up to 6,600 megatransfers per second. Though extreme overclocking is still a niche application, Intel believes that cooling the cores using liquid nitrogen will push performance core frequencies beyond a whopping 8GHz, with overclocked DDR5 memory pushing beyond 10,000 MT/s.
With Intel’s disclosure of Raptor Lake, we now know what AMD’s plans are for at least the majority of its Ryzen 7000 processor lineup, as well as where the performance of those chips falls. Now, we wait for the independent benchmarks that can tell us the same for Intel’s 13th-gen Core chips.
The fall is typically one of the most exciting times of the year for enthusiasts hoping to build their own desktop systems. AMD, Nvidia, and now Intel have all outlined their offerings for the upcoming year. Now, we wait for official testing to confirm whether their claims will play out in the real world.