Intel Core i9-13900K review: Cheaper and often faster, Intel is now ahead of AMD's best

Turns out, just adding more cores and increasing the power draw is all you need to be the fastest desktop CPU.

Intel Core i9-13900K
(Image: © Daniel Rubino)

Windows Central Verdict

Despite being on an older node and less efficient than AMD, Intel's 13th Gen top-tier Core i9 processor is, in many cases, the fastest CPU on the market. But it's the $100 price difference that favors Intel over AMD, making the Core i9-13900K a better dollar-to-dollar value (so long as you don't count your electric bill). In short, it's incredible.

Pros

  • +

    Often beats AMD Ryzen 9 7950X

  • +

    $100 cheaper than AMD's best

  • +

    Doesn't require DDR5 or a new chipset

  • +

    Special 6.0GHz edition in early '23

Cons

  • -

    Draws even more power

  • -

    AMD is still faster for encoding

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When it comes to top-tier processors, few can touch the heights of Intel’s Core i9 K-series, which are not only clocked the highest but are incredibly overclockable. In fact, in a recent trip to Israel to see Intel’s fabrication process, the company demonstrated how its new Core i9-13900K could hit a whopping 8.0GHz.

Granted, pouring liquid nitrogen on the processor was required, but it’s an impressive feat!

Putting aside extreme hypothermic conditions, how does the new 13th Generation Core i9-13900K compare to last year’s Core i9-12900K, and what about AMD’s new flagship Ryzen 9 7900 X and 7950X? We have the data to show you who comes out ahead and which is the better value.

While the title of this review may be a giveaway, the devil is in the details. Let’s get to it to see who comes out on top: Team Blue or Team Red.

Intel Core i9-13900K: Prices & Specs

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

Like 12th Gen Intel processors, Intel's 13th Gen processors feature new performance cores (‘P-core’), which do the bulk of the work as they are the most powerful, and efficiency cores (‘E-core’), which handle background operations. This architectural shift makes these newer CPUs very potent for heavy multitaskers, especially if you like to game, stream, and record simultaneously. 

The new Core i9-13900K features 24 cores in the form of sixteen E-cores and eight P-cores with 32 threads.

The Core i9-13900K peaks at 5.8GHz turbo while the base speed is 3.0GHz. L3 cache tops at 36MB with 32MB of L2, and the base TDP is 125 watts with an eye-watering 253-watt max TDP.

Being a K-series chip, Intel lets users easily overclock the processor using Intel Speed Optimizer software.

Intel also has the Core i9-13900KF variant, the same as the 13900K minus built-in Intel UHD 770 Graphics.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CPUCores (P-E)ThreadsP/E Core Max TurboP/E Core BaseGPUUnlockedPrice (USD)
i9-13900K24 (8-16)325.8GHz3.0GHzIntel UHD 770$589
i9-13900KF24 (8-16)325.8GHz3.0GHzn/a$564
i7-13700K16 (8-8)245.4GHz3.4GHzIntel UHD 770$409
i7-13700KF16 (8-8)245.4GHz3.4GHzn/a$384
i5-13600K14 (6-8)205.1GHz3.5GHzIntel UHD 770$319
i5-13600KF14 (6-8)205.1GHz3.5GHzn/a$294

While the new 13th Gen processors can utilize the updated Z790 chipset, the CPU is also compatible with current-gen Z690 chipsets with a mandatory microcode BIOS update to recognize the new processor.

Like all 12th and 13th Gen Intel chips, you can use either more affordable DDR4 RAM or the newer, faster, and pricier DDR5.

Pricing remains the same this year as the top-tier Core i9-13900K with a retail price of $589. The chip goes on sale today, October 20th. The GPU-less Core i9-13900KF is more affordable at $564.

Early next year, the 6.0GHz "Special Edition" Core i9-13900KS will be available in "limited volumes." (Image credit: Intel)

Intel is also launching a “Special Edition” of the Core i9 called the Core i9-13900KS that can hit 6.0GHz out of the box. That chip won’t be available until early 2023. While pricing hasn’t been announced, historically, Intel charges $150 more for its “KS” variants, which would put the Core i9-13900KS around the $739 mark. Presumably, the KS chip can be overclocked even higher due to the superior quality and pre-binning used in selecting the chip.

Intel Core i9-13900K: What’s new

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

Compared to last year’s Core i9-12900K, which was also reviewed, the new Core i9-13900K adds eight more cores increasing the total count from 16 to 24. Those extra cores come in E-cores, while the P-count of eight remains the same. There are also now 32 threads instead of 24.

Max turbo frequency jumps to 5.8GHz from 5.2GHz, with the L3 and L2 cache going from 30MB to 36MB and 14MB to 32MB, respectively.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CPUCoresThreadsTurbo Boost Max 3.0P / E Core Max TurboL3 / L2 CacheBase / Max TDP
Core i9-13900K24 (8P + 16E)32Up to 5.7GHz (5.8Ghz ceiling)Up to 5.4GHz / 4.3GHz36MB / 32MB125W / 253W
Core i9-12900K16 (8P + 8E)24Up to 5.2GHzUp to 5.1GHz / 3.9GHz30MB / 14MB125W / 241W

Base TDP is the same between both generations at 125 watts, but the new Core i9-13900K is thirstier, hitting 253 watts versus 241 watts.

Pricing and RAM requirements remain the same between Intel 12th and 13th Gen Core i9s at $589 and DDR4 or DDR5 support.

Both chip generations (Intel 12 and Intel 13) can utilize the new Z790 chipset or stick with last year’s Z690. Regarding the difference between the chipsets, the Z790 is more progressive as it adds one extra USB 3.2 (Gen 2x2) connection, up to 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes (compared to 12 with Intel’s 600-series chipset), fewer PCIe 3.0 lanes (up to 8 compared to 16), and the same 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0. However, there are no “speed” advantages with the Z790 over the existing Z690.

Intel Core i9-13900K: Performance

Intel Core i9-13900K

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

For this review, we relied on last year’s MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi chipset for this review, as there are no performance differences between it and the newer Z790 boards.

Cooling was handled with the Corsair H150i Elite Capellix AIO with three 360mm fans placed in the Corsair iCUE 4000X RGB Mid-Tower ATX PC case. For RAM, we relied on the new Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR5, which was clocked to 6600MHz via Intel XMP. 

The GPU is a GeForce RTX 3080, although it shouldn’t be a factor in our selected benchmarks, which are CPU-dependent.

The results are fascinating.

Compared to AMD’s flagship Ryzen 9 7950X, the new Intel Core i9-13900K is the fastest processor to date when benching Cinebench, Geekbench, CPU-Z, and Blender (Monster, Classroom). Indeed, in Cinebench 23, the Core i9-13900K came just under 40,000, which is absurd. In our previous review, the Ryzen 9 7950X hit around 36,000, although some online results put it closer to 37,000.

Nonetheless, that’s a massive Intel lead over AMD.

Corona was nearly dead even between AMD and Intel, with the latter taking only 36 seconds compared to 37 seconds with the Ryzen 9 7950X. The same goes for Geekbench, where Intel edges out AMD (23,507 to 23,334 in multicore for Intel; 2,193 to 2,198 for AMD), but let's call it even.

AMD comes ahead with a HandBrake 4K video encode, where the Ryzen 9 7950X took 15 minutes and 24 seconds to complete the task, and the Core i9-13900K took 15 minutes and 57 seconds. Intel was close, but AMD clearly won that one.

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino)

AMD also came out on top in Blender (Junkshop) (172 vs. 168 samples per minute) and the 7-Zip compression benchmark.

Turning to last year’s notable Core i9-12900K, the newer Core i9-13900K beats it by a massive margin on all benchmarks, especially Cineben