It seems that for the past few months, the main thing any of us in the tech industry have been doing is checking our inbox for the latest embargoed data and feature releases from the biggest players in PC hardware. If you have avoided the leaks and only taken notice of official reveals, you are probably still feeling a little on the fence. Every single commentary on the Intel 13th-Gen Raptor Lake processors, and AMD's Ryzen 7000 Zen 4 CPUs has been footnoted with the usual caveats and warnings. However, the AMD benchmarks we've seen mean we can begin to infer and estimate against the datasheets we've seen from Intel. Or can we?
In this guide
Overview - Raptor Lake vs Zen 4
When you watch a YouTube video that is supposed to offer some insight into the PR events from Intel and AMD, you are hoping to feel excited at the potential gains in the new technologies. Most of the time, it seems, there's a caveat that states you shouldn't trust what the manufacturers are saying in their own product reveals and launches. "We'll wait for our own benchmarks," and "...take this data with a grain of salt," are familiar phrases to us all.
As devil's advocate, I will concede that we don't always put a lot of weight in the specification of the test rigs AMD and Intel use, as they are usually specced to fit... so we don't have any impartiality or parity when it comes to the data. With that said, can't we at least get a little excited that there are actually some significant gains in the new technology?
What's new with Raptor Lake?
With the release of Alder Lake 12th-Gen and all of the improvements it offers still ringing in our ears, the launch of Raptor Lake was inevitably going to cause a stir online. With the performance and efficiency increases in the 12th-Gen chips, it was hard to comprehend how Intel could have made any advances with 13th-Gen in such a short launch timeline. And yet, they did.
|Model ||i9-13900K ||i9-13900KF ||i7-13700K ||i7-13700KF ||i5-13600K ||i5-13600KF |
|Cores (performance / efficiency) ||24 (8P / 16E) ||24 (8P / 16E) ||16 (8P / 8E) ||16 (8P / 8E) ||14 (6P / 8E) ||14 (6P / 8E) |
|Threads ||32 ||32 ||24 ||24 ||20 ||20 |
|Base clock speed, P-core / E-core (GHz) ||3.0 / 2.2 ||3.0 / 2.2 ||3.4 / 2.5 ||3.4 / 2.5 ||3.5 / 2.6 ||3.5 / 2.6 |
|Max turbo clock speed, P-core / E-core (GHz) ||up to 5.8 / up to 4.3 ||up to 5.8 / up to 4.3 ||up to 5.4 / up to 4.2 ||up to 5.4 / up to 4.2 ||up to 5.1 / up to 3.9 ||up to 5.1 / up to 3.9 |
|Smart cache (L3) ||36MB ||36MB ||30MB ||30MB ||24MB ||24MB |
|Processor base power ||125W ||125W ||125W ||125W ||125W ||125W |
|Maximum turbo power ||253W ||253W ||253W ||253W ||181W ||181W |
|Graphics ||Intel UHD Graphics 770 ||N/A ||Intel UHD Graphics 770 ||N/A ||Intel UHD Graphics 770 ||N/A |
Increased efficiency cores (E-Cores)
Raptor Lake chips are fabricated using the Intel 7 process, which is the same process as Alder Lake. Raptor Lake CPUs also have the same number of P-Cores as Alder Lake comparisons, but will include more E-cores than 12th-Gen - 4x more E-cores for Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, and 8x extra E-cores for the Core i9. For instance, the Intel Core i9-12900K has 16 cores, 8P and 8E, and the 13th-Gen Intel Core i9-13900K has 24 cores, 8P and 16E.
According to Intel, the new CPUs can deliver up to 15 percent improvement in single-threaded performance as well as 41 percent in multi-threaded performance. Judging by how well the new hybrid chips are performing in benchmarks, distributing active and passive tasks under constant workloads, this will mean significant gains in productivity and creative scenarios. For gamers, it has taken updates and patches to start seeing significant gains with E-Cores, which initially confused the DRM in some games (and outright broke them) when it saw P-cores (Golden Cove) and E-cores (Gracemont) working in the same system.
Alder Lake now plays well with all games, and these initial bugs were ironed out very quickly by Intel in Jan 2022 - clearly understanding their place in the gaming market. Obviously, it's no good claiming you have the fastest gaming processors when they are breaking games. Raptor Lake should not feel this kind of pinch, and it should be smooth sailing for the new CPUs and their increased E-Core count.
L2 and L3 Smart Cache increases
The important of L2 and L3 cache is not to be ignored. The significant increase in gaming performance alone that we've seen with AMD's 3D V-Cache is testament to the benefits of making data readily accessible to the CPU cores, and shortening the time & distance of the payload. With less power dedicated to pulling data for processing in the Raptor Lake CPUs, this has resulted in higher clock speeds.
For the Raptor Lake family, all of the caches get a boost of 2MB per P-Core and 4MB per E-Core cluster in L2 cache over Alder Lake. L3 cache has been bumped up, too; the flagship Intel Core i9-13900K has 36MB of L3 cache to play with, the Core i7-13700K with 30MB, and the i5-13600K an improved 24MB.
With added L2 and L3 cache and higher clock speeds, this translates to faster performance in gaming and creative pursuits, and all without the damning power consumption we expected. Intel have managed to do all of this and still have a TDP that matches Alder Lake for base power, at 125W across the range. The power requirement has increased for turbo, and for those who want to overclock Raptor Lake chips, a hefty power supply and extreme motherboard is going to be on the cards.
What's new with Zen 4?
AMD have not pulled any punches on the run up to the busiest time for the component market. Though somewhat on the back foot with Intel revealing pricing and specifications without hesitation, it has left them with just the raw specifications to do their selling. For the most part, it's very impressive, too.
| ||Price ||Cores / Threads (P+E) ||Base / Boost Clock (GHz) ||Cache (L2+L3) ||TDP / Max ||Memory |
|Ryzen 9 7950X ||$699 ||16 / 32 ||4.5 / 5.7 ||80MB ||170W / 230W ||DDR5-5200 |
|Ryzen 9 7900X ||$549 ||12 / 24 ||4.7 / 5.6 ||76MB ||170W / 230W ||DDR5-5200 |
|Ryzen 7 7700X ||$399 ||8 / 16 ||4.5 / 5.4 ||40MB ||105W / 142W ||DDR5-5200 |
|Ryzen 5 7600X ||$299 ||6 / 12 ||4.7 / 5.3 ||38MB ||105W / 142W ||DDR5-5200 |
Gaming gains for AMD fans
In a selection of modern games, AMD's Zen 4 CPUs are really more than capable of thumbing their nose at Alder Lake and previous generation Zen 3 chips (with the exception of the monstrous Ryzen 5 5800X3D).
Linus Tech Tips and several others managed to get their hands on test processors quickly, and we've seen everything from F1 2022 to Flight Simulator benchmarked, with some closer results from Alder Lake in games like CS:GO and Hitman 3.
All screenshots credit: Linus Tech Tips
Overall, the new Zen 4 processors offer a measurable improvement in gaming performance, with as much as a 5% increase with the Ryzen 9 7950X. As Linus pointed out in a recent video, the most surprising factor is the price vs performance - which it usually is whenever we pit AMD against Intel. The Ryzen 5 7600X is only 3% slower that the Intel i9-12900KS - a processor that is more than twice the price of the new AMD chip.
Although these benchmarks are interesting, it really is just Zen 4 vs Alder Lake data. Except we can actually infer from what Intel is claiming in their own datasheets, and say that with the claimed 5% - 15% increase in Raptor Lake gaming performance, there will be a fight on for Zen 4 Ryzen 7000 chips to match Intel.
Multi threaded madness
For creators, multi thread performance benchmarks are always critical. What we're seeing is that AMD's Zen 4 chips are decimating last-gen rivals by as much as 40% in Cinebench workloads, and Blender renders, but this is at the high end of the scale. More affordable CPUs in the Zen 4 stack such as the Ryzen 7 7700X and Ryzen 5 7600X are just behind Alder Lake's Core i7-12700K and Core i5-12600K in Blender workloads, so if you're a creator who isn't going to upgrade to the very best, it might not make a difference making the move just yet.
Image credit: Linus tech Tips
It has to be said, when you are putting together a specification for a creator PC, you are rarely looking to scrimp on the hardware to ensure you have the fastest possible workflows. So, those who are waiting for Zen 4 chips on the high end of the stack, will not be disappointed by the performance.
Raptor Lake vs Zen 4: Frame consistency
Intel's ace in the sleeve is that they are no longer focusing on FPS as a determining factor when it comes to processors at this level. Let's face it, all of the CPUs that we are seeing benchmarked above are more than capable of dealing with any new game at triple digit framerates, and there's not a soul alive who can claim to be able to tell the difference between 557 FPS and 577 FPS.
So, Intel have shifted focus to frame consistency. In essence, when you see the "1% Low" FPS in any benchmark, this is where Intel are aiming to excel. That means you will see more consistent frame transitions, and increased smoothness in visuals and gameplay. And this, dear reader, is actually what gamers crave. A game can have an average framerate of 450 FPS if we take a broad look at performance, but will fail to impress when every 5 seconds there is a drop to 40 FPS. Frame consistency, it seems, is the new FPS.
We don't talk about DDR5
If you don't already know, AMD AM5 and Zen 4 will not support DDR4 compatibility at launch, which has left the door wide open for Intel, enabling Team Blue to pitch even the latest generation processors as "budget" and "mid-range" builds. Worse still for AMD, if you're upgrading, the move from a five year old AMD or Intel system will cost significantly less if you are choosing sensible 12th-Gen motherboards like the mid-range champ, the B660 chipset - or now very affordable Z690 chipset, and whacking an Intel Core i5 in there with some DDR4.
AMD made the decision to go full DDR5 for Zen 4, unlike Intel, who have extended support for DDR4 with the Raptor Lake stack and the current socket LGA 1700. Industry experts are predicting DDR5 pricing to come in line with DDR4 some time in the next three years, so if you are upgrading to AM5, you're going to be paying an early adopter tax. Naturally, for future-proofing and extreme performance requirements, DDR5's high MT/s and AMD's incredible multi thread performance, the whole line of high end Ryzen 7000s are a perfect choice, so far as we can tell.
Zen 4 vs Raptor Lake - Affordability
The real test for any new product launch is affordability. NVIDIA's current backlash, for example, stems from extraordinary pricing that most gamers weren't expecting. Intel have tried to ensure they don't make the same mistake, and have close pricing with last-gen chips. Furthermore, with their toe in the GPU waters, their ARC Alchemist GPUs are designed to be affordable at any level of gaming (even if their driver issues aren't 100% sorted yet).
Current pricing suggests Intel will enable entry level, mid-range and high-end users to get their hands on 12th-Gen and 13th-Gen processors without breaking the bank, albeit with smaller margins for retailers. Savings for upgraders, then, may come from other components and using DDR4 as we speculated above. In the prebuilt market, Raptor Lake can be paired with a variety of components, so will remain affordable across the board.
AMD, however, have higher pricing but look to be offering a preferable margin for retailers, which could see steady component sales and decent custom built Zen 4 gaming PCs being attractively priced. Instead of making money on the singular CPU component, the margin can be built into the whole specification.
With all that taken into consideration, AMD RX 7000 GPUs with RDNA3 could well be the lynchpin in this price war, especially if they observe the current economic climate and consumer spending ability. The RX 7000 series will launch amid NVIDIA's RTX 40-Series on 3rd of November 2022, so we won't have long to wait to make any guesses.
This article marks the end of the "Last Word" that this author usually offers, and is replaced with a much more palatable Summary for readers. Why? In a word: progress. That natural segue brings me to a short summary of Zen 4 and Intel's Raptor Lake processors.
What is absolutely clear is that both manufacturers have made astounding progress with their own architectures, and the final battle is going to be the same as we've always seen in the past. There are two main enthusiasts who will be clawing at the checkout for Zen 4 and Raptor Lake - gamers and creators. From what we can tell, Intel will likely have taken the gamer and streamer market with their new chips, and AMD have probably taken a share of the gamer slash creator market, thanks to the top end performance in single and multi threaded workloads. Yes, this really is familiar ground for AMD vs Intel.