Intel’s 13th-gen “Raptor Lake” CPUs are official, launch October 20

An overview of the improvements coming to Intel's 13th generation desktop chips.
Enlarge / An overview of the improvements coming to Intel’s 13th generation desktop chips.

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If there’s one thing Intel has gotten good at in recent years, it’s refining a CPU architecture. Between 2015 and 2020, manufacturing issues pushed Intel to release not one, not two, but five Processor generations based on iterations of the sixth-gen Skylake core while still managing to increase clock speeds and core counts enough to remain competitive for most of that span.

It’s an approach Intel is returning to for its 13th Gen Core CPUs, the first of which will be officially announced today. Codenamed Raptor Lake, Intel says it’s made some improvements to the Intel 7’s CPU architecture and manufacturing process, but the strategy for improving its performance is both proven and easy to understand: add more cores and leave them higher clock speeds run.

Intel is announcing three new CPUs today, each with and without integrated graphics (usually the models without GPUs have an “F” at the end): the Core i9-13900K, the Core i7-13700K and the Core i5-13600K will launch on October 20th along with new Z790 chipsets and motherboards. They will also work in all current generation 600 series motherboards as long as your motherboard manufacturer has provided a BIOS update and will continue to support both DDR4 and DDR5 memory.

Raptor Lake uses the hybrid architecture Intel introduced last year in its Alder Lake chips (12th E cores), which consume less power – although in our tests with laptops and desktops it’s clear that “efficiency” is more about the Number of cores that fit in a given range on a CPU chip and fewer comes down to lower overall system consumption.

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There were a handful of other additions as well. The amount of L2 cache per core has nearly doubled, from 1.25MB to 2MB per P-core and from 2MB to 4MB per E-core cluster (E-cores always come in clusters of four). The CPUs will officially support DDR5-5600 RAM, up from a current maximum of DDR5-4800, although this DDR5-4800 maximum can easily be surpassed with XMP memory kits in 12th Gen motherboards.

The maximum officially supported DDR4 RAM speed remains DDR4-3200, although the limitation regarding XMP also applies there.

Additional cache, faster memory speeds, and an increased clock speed account for the i9-13900K's single-threaded performance gains.  Additional E-Cores make the multi-core improvements much more meaningful.
Enlarge / Additional cache, faster memory speeds, and an increased clock speed account for the i9-13900K’s single-threaded performance gains. Additional E-Cores make the multi-core improvements much more significant.

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In terms of core counts and frequencies, the Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs each pick up an additional E-Core cluster, ranging from four to eight E-Cores. The Core i9 gets two new E-Core clusters that increase the number of cores from eight to 16. All E-Cores have maximum boost clocks that are 400MHz higher than before. P-Core count remains the same across the lineup, but maximum boost clocks have been increased by 600MHz, 400MHz, and 200MHz for Core i9, i7, and i5, respectively. As K-series chips, these are all unlocked for overclocking when used with Z690 or Z790 motherboards.

The introductory prices increase by $30 for the Core i5 models, but remain the same for the other two. As usual, Intel does not include a CPU cooler with chips of the K or KF series. Here’s how each CPU compares to its predecessor:

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CPU Start RRP P/E cores Clocks (base/boost) Total cache (L2+L3) Base/Max Power
Core i9-13900K $589
$564 (F)
8P/16E 3.0/5.8GHz (P)
2.2/4.3GHz (E)
68MB (32 + 36) 125/253W
Core i9-12900K $589
$564 (F)
8P/8E 3.2/5.2GHz (P)
2.4/3.9GHz (E)
34MB (14 + 30) 125/241W
Core i7-13700K $409
$384 (F)
8P/8E 3.4/5.4GHz (P)
2.5/4.2GHz (E)
54MB (24 + 30) 125/253W
Core i7-12700K $490
$384 (F)
8P/4E 3.6/5.0GHz (P)
2.7/3.8GHz (E)
37MB (12 + 25) 125/190W
Core i5-13600K $319
$294 (F)
6P/8E 3.5/5.1GHz (P)
2.6/3.9GHz (E)
44MB (24 + 20) 125/181W
Core i5-12600K $289
$264 (F)
6P/4E 3.7/4.9GHz (P)
2.8/3.6GHz (E)
29.5MB (9.5 + 20) 125/150W

According to Intel, all of the changes combined will boost the i9-13900K’s single-threaded performance by about 15 percent, with most of the improvement coming from the increase in P-Core clock speed. That’s less than the 29 percent AMD achieved with its Zen 4 chips across the lineup, and it’ll be lower for the i7 and i5. But it’s reasonably respectable for an annual increase. Multi-threaded performance is where you’ll see the biggest gains, with the additional cache, increased clock speeds, and increased E-Core counts coming together to improve the i9-13900K’s performance by 41 percent compared to the i9-12900K (although, again, that number might be less impressive for the i7 and i5).

Since the manufacturing process improvement is only marginal at best, you’re paying more power consumption for the extra clock speed and core count. Intel is leaving the base power of these 13th Gen CPUs unchanged at 125W, but the values ​​for the maximum turbo power have increased quite a bit – the Core i9-13900K’s maximum of 253W is the maximum power officially supported by the LGA1700 socket, although it’s possible that some high-end motherboards could take it even higher.

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The i9-13900K can be quite power efficient compared to the i9-12900K, although its standard configuration allows for higher power consumption overall.
Enlarge / The i9-13900K can be quite power efficient compared to the i9-12900K, although its standard configuration allows for higher power consumption overall.

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But that doesn’t mean Intel is throwing energy efficiency out the window entirely, either. Capped at a base power of 65W, Intel says the improvements to Raptor Lake will allow the chips to run multi-threaded workloads just as fast as a 241W Core i9-12900K, as is the norm for these types of processors has become high-end parts, they default to fast, high-drain performance, but users can rein them in if they wish.

The included Z790 chipset has some improvements over the previous generation Z690, but probably isn’t worth the upgrade if you’re already using a 600-series motherboard that you like. The chipset now has a total of 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes for SSDs and other accessories, as well as eight PCIe 8.0 lanes – Z690 has 12 PCIe 4.0 lanes and 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, so Intel is clearly shifting the balance towards the faster connection. The Z790 also supports an additional 20Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port for a total of five, removing support for basic USB 2.0 ports entirely. The platform’s PCIe 5.0 lanes for next-gen GPUs and SSDs are still integrated into the processor, not the chipset itself.

The Z790 chipset has more PCIe 4.0 lanes and 20Gbps USB ports than the Z690.  But if you have a 600-series motherboard that you already like, it will likely receive a BIOS update that will allow it to support 13th-gen CPUs, and none of the improvements to the Z790 are worth an additional purchase.
Enlarge / The Z790 chipset has more PCIe 4.0 lanes and 20Gbps USB ports than the Z690. But if you have a 600-series motherboard that you already like, it will likely receive a BIOS update that will allow it to support 13th-gen CPUs, and none of the improvements to the Z790 are worth an additional purchase.

intel

Intel didn’t announce any other 13th-gen CPU models today, but did say the standard range of chips would follow in the coming months — lower-powered, lower-cost desktop bits, as well as laptop CPUs designed for all thin-and-light ultrabooks to chunky gaming laptops with LED adornments. Intel says we can expect other desktop CPUs in the lineup to get more E-Cores as well, as previous rumors had suggested. We’d expect to hear more about these chips at CES in January.