Not that long ago, 350 days to be precise, Intel pulled a Rocky III. Like Rocky, the ageing and once great champion was starting to get beaten at their own game by a leaner, meaner… seemingly downright hangry AMD. One could argue AMD’s Ryzen’s (continuing) success was due in no small part to Intel’s inability to get 10nm process up to mass production standards; but one could easily also argue that AMD simply had a more agile and cutting-edge CPU design. One which offered higher thread counts (up to 32 vs Intel’s 20) with as good to better single core performance. With the introduction of big.LITTLE to the masses Intel pulled off a split-decision win. One that was, and still is, not without controversy due to equal parts only managing to gain core count but not thread parity with AMD… and Windows 11 requirements. With the release of Intel’s 13th generation Core-I series Intel intends to offer a much more cohesive argument for opting for Team Blue over Team Red.

intro - Intel Core i9 13900K and i5 13600K Review

Make no mistake. The Core-I 13th generation is not a revolutionary series. It is an evolutionary one. One that marks a return of Intel’s vaunted Tick/Tock juggernaut design philosophy. On the P-core side, not “much” has changed on the overall design front. Buyers can expect to get up to eight “Raptor Cove” ‘p-cores’ that may boast of having much more cache on tap (up to 16MB L2 and access to a shared 36MB L3 vs. 12/30MB)… but they are based on the same architecture as the 12th generation’s “Golden Cove”. Albeit with some impressive tweaks/improvements baked in. The largest of which is the speeds you can expect to get from them. With 1 or 2 cores active they will peak at 5.8Ghz (i9-13900K, or 5.1GHz with the Core i5-13600K). With more than 2 active they will all run at a blistering 5.4GHz (i9-13900K or 5.1GHz with the Core i5-13600K). Compared to the last gen’s (12900KS) 5.5Ghz / 5.2GHz that is a noticeable frequency boost… with more than just hints of a 6GHz “KS” becoming a mainstream reality soon.

The same holds true on the ‘e-core’ front. Much like the Intel 12th generation, the 13th generation makes use of ‘Gracemont’ e-core architecture with some tweaking done here and there. However, unlike the p-cores it is not the frequency boost that is the most noticeable change(4.3Ghz for the i9 and 3.9GHz for the i5 vs. 3.9/3.6 for the last gen). Instead, it is the number of them Intel has baked into the 13th generation. With the last generation buyers got up to eight (i9) of them… but most got only 4 e-cores (i7 and i5). For this generation, Intel has doubled those numbers with the Core i9-13900K boasting sixteen of those bad boys and even the core i7 and core i5’s getting eight of them. For a grand total of (up to) 24 ‘real’ cores and 32 threads of processing power. Neatly eliminating one of the largest weakness of big.Little compared to AMD’s Zen 4 (up to 16 cores / 32 threads) or even older Zen 3 (also 16 cores / 32 threads).

Mix in improvements on the memory front (DDR5-5600 vs DDR5-4800), their continued commitment to DDR4, major overclocking enhancements, and various improvements baked into Z790 chipset (like swapping out 8 PCIe 3.0 lanes for 8 PCIe 4.0 lanes) and the end result is a rather pontent package. One that should indeed take a lot of the wind out or Ryzen 7000’s sails. In theory. Let’s see if theory and reality actually are interchangeable this generation.