Admittedly, I've you'd ask me what processor you should get as a gamer with a more limited budget, the 13900K or the 13600K?, I really would steer you toward the latter one. The 6+8 cores processor reveals excellent running temperatures and offers tremendous single-threaded performance. Combined with the increased caches, premium graphics card-based gaming performance will hit a sweet spot here also, and I mean that as in value for money versus proper CPU-bound framerates. At roughly 320 USD, you can purchase the K model, but for roughly 290 USD, you can get the KF model (no integrated graphics). And for that money, you're receiving some compelling performance. Compared to that flagship performance, single-threaded performance is of course lower, yes, but you can easily tweak that out of this processor. When we look at multi-threaded performance, all eight energy-saving cores kick in next to the six performance cores, and as it turns out at these clock frequencies, that really makes a difference. We're looking at performance passing the Ryzen 7 7700X .. and offering levels close to or sometimes passing the last-gen 12900K, for a six-core (+8 E cores) part; this really is significant performance. Now we can argue the relatively high power consumption, but for this level of perf, I think that most people will be okay with that. We tested on a Z790 motherboard that allows the multi-core configuration to be set at reference specification, and we did that. So you're seeing as close to reference performance as possible. That means on a lot of platforms, this CPU will perform even better. We also noticed when we loaded up motherboard-optimized defaults (and we did test with the ROG Extreme of course), this greatly increases the heat levels of the CPU as well. The processor can take that; it will, however, require decent cooling. The total cost of ownership is steep, especially since you now need to convert to a new motherboard and DDR5 memory; however, if you pick an affordable Z690 motherboard and reuse your DDR4 memory, that's where a difference is made. In an all-core configuration, we noticed 5300~5500 MHz mostly. If you purchase a motherboard that optimizes PL2 states even further and harder, a 360 mm AIO will likely be necessary to keep temperatures below the thermal threshold for more demanding tasks that necessitate pushing the CPU to its maximum when you desire optimal turbo frequencies.
Price and value
The 13th Core series processors get Intel entirely back in the gaming saddle. If we look at CPU-bottlenecked resolutions, then Intel is the fastest everywhere. It trades performance with the 5800X3D here and there, but overall it's a victory for Intel. Now we can't blow this out of proportion either as these are performance differentials that remain trivial; not everybody has a premium 1000 USD+ graphics card, contrary most of you will have an RTX 3060 or RX 6600 XT, here the CPU performance is not an issue as the GPU is the bottleneck. But apples for apples, the morevalue gaming procs to purchase this year will be either AMD's 5800X3D or the 13600KF, and the latter one offers more multi-threaded performance. In short, the win goes to Intel this round. With a mighty graphics card, this processor, on average, can feed frames slightly faster than AMD's equivalent.
If you decide to go for a entirely new platform, the elephant in the room is the cost of ownership. DDR5 memory is expected to become cheaper next year, you'll likely pay a price premium right now. For Intel, we recommend at least 5200 MHz, however much like AMD, 6000 MHz might be a nice sweet spot. Stability-wise, we had no issues, we took a random 6000 MHZ kit, and it worked beautifully.
Whereas the Core i9-13900K has that staggering max 253 Watts TDP (PL2) state. The 13600K is more energy friendly and, as such, runs cooler. It's, however, still 125W at default with the option to run to 181W for a short burst of time. As mentioned already, that's on the high side, whether or not that's important to you, we doubt that. That 181W does not mean the processor runs that all the time, however for short bursts of time when needed, it can pull that wattage. Overall, the temperatures can peak, but only for a short time. At a load average of 60 to 70 Degrees C under LCS cooling, we're very happy. Mind you that once you start to overclock, the proc runs much hotter and faster.
As with all processors, you still have a bit of leash to overclock. With proper liquid cooling (an LCS kit with enough capacity), the easiest way to overclock is to select all cores toward your maximum multiplier. We have been able to hit 6.0 GHz on the performance cores. However, it was borderline stable, and we'd hit the Tjmax of 100 Degrees C. With proper liquid cooling and fine-tuning, this proc can be a diamond in the rough. Look at that single-threaded score! The result varies per CPU and motherboard. But the potential is there, alright.
Truthfully, I cherish the Core i5 13600K. This is what a gamer needs, appropriately fast and reasonably affordable. The new processor will undoubtedly deliver on many fronts and then has some extra reserve. It'll be fun to tweak with, and offers great gaming performance. This is everything we gurus seek in a processor. Thanks to the additional 8 E cores, it does quite well in multi-threading also, so all your bases are covered as with the added cache levels, gaming works out incredibly well also. With a 1% differential, our IPC test proves that the basis of the architecture is still Alder lake, but with added L2 cache and higher clock frequencies and a reshift in E cores. That means much like AMD, Intel pulled open all available registers, the trade-off being thermal- and energy efficiency. Combined with the new Z790 platforms, you'll now also get access to PCIe Gen 5. Very lovely, however at the time of writing, remains a bit useless, as no graphics card is even compatible, let alone needs 16x PCIe gen 5 lanes. For SSDs it can make a difference, but I am not overly confident that PCIe Gen 5 SSD will make a big real-world difference; yes, sustained speeds will pass 10GB/s however you'll presumably get the very same 4K read/write performance as really the most significant thing going is bandwidth. We also think that cooling will be an issue for Gen5-compatible NVMe SSDs. As a generic platform, however the new motherboards are loaded with their latest features running from USB 3.2 2x2, 2.5 G LAN, and WIFI6E. Please do keep in mind that the CPU offers 16 PCIe 5.0 lanes, if you ever own a PCIe Gen 5.0 graphics card that utilizes 16 lanes, then there are no lanes left for a Gen 5.0 SSD. Either you'll have to run it at PCIe gen 4.0 or split the 5.0 lanes in x8/x8. Intel's Series 13000 Core processor offers ginormous threaded performance and very fast single-threaded performance. For the 13900K review, looking at energy efficiency and cool temps, if your aim is PC gaming the better proc to get is the Ryzen 7 5800X3D. It'll save you the cost of ownership for the total platform and the heat issues you'll need to fight. However, after testing the 13600K, we're not so sure that applies here as well. Yes; the Core i5 13600K might just be the product to get. You'll gain heaps of multi-threaded and single-threaded performance at 294 USD (KF) or 319 USD for the K model. To summarise, although we appreciate the substantially higher performance (which is an outstanding perf improvement), the cost of ownership (of the complete platform) will be an intricate problem for Intel to deal with. However, the picture changes rapidly with an upgrade route through Z690 /DDR4. We can argue the energy consumption of this processor, but the benefits outweigh everything. If you're on a tighter budget, this is the processor to get. Highly recommended.