Itís remarkable that, despite two very different designs and on-paper performance metrics, both Intel and AMD have created a flagship that can be so nip and tuck in determining the lead in different applications. But letís start by comparing the 13th Gen. to its predecessor.
In almost all respects the new Core i9-13900K and i5-13600K pull out a resounding lead over their 12th Gen. counterparts. Whether it be single-threaded or multi-threaded performance, the 13th Gen. CPUs either leap ahead or wipe the floor with last yearís offering, and would clearly utterly dominate AMDís own Ryzen 5000-series (non-X3D) were that todayís competition. If we were just talking generational improvement the 13th Gen would get an A* and go to the top of the class.
The close proximity of the Ryzen 9 7950X in almost all the test, sometimes besting the i9 and other times ceding a little ground to it,
Some aspects of the platform however remain a little more controversial, chiefly power draw and heat generation. The i9-13900K system practically guzzles 400 Watts when going full-bore with a heavy synthetic CPU load, and isnít particularly restrained at idle as it is the most thirsty of those its arrayed against. The i5-13600K is similarly unrestrained, and significantly more demanding than its 12th Gen adversary under load. Thatís reflective of benchmark results, but may give pause to ITX system owners and those restricted in PSU power output.
Furthermore, if youíre pairing any of the latest CPUs with NVIDIAís new gargantuan GeForce RTX 4090 we advise that you overspec your PSU significantly beyond the 850W minimum advised by the green team.
Temperatures similarly are high across the board for each of the new CPUs. Weíre not hitting Raptor Lakeís 100C TJMax at this point but both processors are pushing the limits hard. While this is a safe operating temperature, investing a little more into your cooling solution (both CPU cooler and case) may yield dividends if you can push the processor into a higher dynamic boost band.
In this respect Intel are able to take advantage of a design oversight in the Ryzen 7000-series that has left it with a thicker IHS than it strictly needs, which in turn meaningfully slows the rate of heat transfer to the CPU coolerís coldplate. Itís something of an own-goal from AMD that is currently being discussed in professional overclocking circles, leading to debates over lapping and delidding the red teamís new flagship for optimal performance. But thatís not really a concern for most users, even those at the enthusiast price tier.
Weíd also love to see the impact of undervolting all of these new processors. Their performance is outstanding even compared to the landscape just a few years ago and itís debatable that software demands have as-yet caught up. Itís not unfeasible that undervolting would lead to significantly less power consumption (and heat generation) with little or no impact on the end-user experience.
So with performance results so tight, how can we split the two flagships? Perhaps the biggest aspect is totalís platform adoption costs. Thereís no beating around the bush here, AMDís X670 motherboards are expensive and you have no option but to opt for DDR5 memory, whereas Intelís option are a little bit more broad and encompass lower price tiers. Intelís is also the more mature chipset and processor architecture, and so users may expect fewer teething problems investing in Raptor Lake over Zen 4. On the other hand Intel are expected to refresh their socket again in the next generation, whereas AM5 should be around for a couple more Ryzen generations yet (with X670 this being forwards-compatible to future processors). Itís all very muddy.
The argument is far more clear-cut for Intelís Core i5-13600K. Power draw and thermals aside, this is an astounding CPU for the mid-tier predominantly gaming user, and can be paired with an affordable B660 or low-end Z690 and DDR4 RAM from the get-to. Thatís a significant benefit over AMDís competitor given that their B650 boards are at least £50 more expensive and only compatible with DDR5 memory; if Intel released an official B660/B670 board with overclocking support itís difficult to see how AMD could compete. Furthermore, at only £20 more than the already very tempting 12600K, the 13600K makes the older chip almost entirely obsolete at a stroke.
So to conclude, Intelís Core i9-13900K offers exceptional performance for gamers and prosumer content creators at a premium price while demanding high performance cooling and ample power delivery. Itís a solution that is unlikely to disappoint as it more than matches AMDís best in a host of practical applications. The Core i5-13600K meanwhile is a gamers dream, with leading performance in its tier and a host of configuration options that can allow potential owners the opportunity to flaunt or protect their wallet in a way that the competition cannot offer.
Thirteen is a number that is unlucky for some, but it may be AMD who receives a dose of bad fortune with this round of releases. Intelís flagship performance is brutal with a large generational improvement, and savvy gamers in need of an upgrade would do well to take a long look at the options presented by Intelís mid-tier powerhouse. Just donít skimp on cooling and PSU or the 13th generation might live up to its name.
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