The past few months have been quite eventful in the PC space, with the release of Zen 4 and Raptor Lake. We’ve also seen the RTX 4090 hitting shelves–or, more realistically, being snatched up by scalpers and sold on eBay at exorbitant prices. RDNA 3 isn’t too far away either with a release date of 13 December. Things are heating up and it’s going to be interesting to see how the rest of the year plays out.
In my previous article I discussed the steep entry cost of AM5 and how it should become more affordable over time, so let’s see where Raptor Lake fits into the picture. Raptor Lake is basically an enhanced version of the Intel 7 manufacturing process used in Alder Lake. Still running on the LGA 1700 socket, the hybrid architecture now utilises Raptor Cove performance cores and improved Gracemont efficiency cores, offering higher clock speeds, higher cache, and higher core counts. On the other hand, Ryzen 7000 heralds the brand new AM5 platform that utilises TSMC’s 5nm process node.
Vying for performance supremacy, we’re seeing both companies pursue higher clock speeds at the expense of power consumption and thermals. The i9 13900K supports a boost speed of 5.8GHz and the Ryzen 9 7950X can reach 5.7GHz.
Fast as they are, AMD and Intel’s latest processors are power-hungry, which is especially true for Team Blue, who have increased E-core counts across the board, for example the flagship 13900K now has 8 P-cores and 16 E-cores for a total of 24 cores and 32 threads. This bodes well for multi-threaded performance, but the Raptor Lake processors are more power-hungry than ever. The i7 and i9 chips have an increased PL2 power limit of 253W, and with no power limit the 13900K will exceed 300W in Cinebench R23–scary numbers. It becomes even scarier when you throw an RTX 4090 or 3090 Ti into the mix. We’re facing a global energy crisis and consumers are becoming more mindful of their monthly electricity bill.
While the 13900K offers stronger single core performance than the 7950X, multi-threaded performance is fairly even, with the chips trading blows in most benchmarks. You could make a case that the 7950X is stronger in rendering and decompression, but then the 13900K has an edge in simulation. In most workloads the difference is less than 10% either way. Whichever chip you decide to buy, you will get unprecedented productivity performance.
The 7950X has an advantage in terms of power draw and efficiency, which is to be expected on the 5nm node. It also offers better performance than the 13900K when both chips are limited to 125W. Take nothing away from the 13900K, as it achieves 12900K performance with a power cap of 80W–impressive to say the least. But Zen 4 has better multi-threaded efficiency across the stack.
The Raptor Lake chips are power hogs, with the 13900K averaging 170W with a peak of 285W in application tests; the 7950X came in at a more modest 125W and 235W respectively. Intel’s flagship will happily exceed 300W in Cinebench R23 and you’re going to need a beefy liquid cooler to minimise thermal throttling. Thermals are more manageable at the stock 253W PL2 power limit.
The 13900K and 7950X offer strong gaming performance, with the 13900K taking the lead in most benchmarks. But you shouldn’t be buying these chips for gaming alone, as there are more cost-effective options like the 13600K and 7600X. The AM4-powered 5800X3D is also very competitive with Intel and AMD’s latest chips in gaming.
Intel Raptor Lake vs AMD Zen 4 Ryzen 7000
–Intel i9 13900K: $664
–Ryzen 9 7950X:
–Ryzen 9 7900X:
–Intel i7 13700K: $440
–Ryzen 7 7700X:
–Intel i5 13600K: $320
–Ryzen 5 7600X:
*Amazon prices valid on 2022/11/25
Raptor Lake had a significant pricing advantage initially, with the i5 and i7 chips undercutting their Ryzen 7000 competitors by over $100, but AMD has responded with big markdowns across the board. The 13900K vs 7950X matchup is now AMD-favoured. Considering these CPUs are neck and neck in terms of overall performance, the 7950X is a much better buy at $550. But also take into account the overall platform cost. The 13900K can slot into existing Z690 boards with a BIOS update and is compatible with DDR4 and DDR5, whereas the 7950X requires a new AM5 motherboard and can only be paired with DDR5 memory.
The new pricing also makes the 13700K vs 7900X matchup more competitive, as these chips now have the same price at $440. Intel’s 13600K remains the value champ, undercutting the 7700X by $30 while offering better performance.
The Ryzen 5 7600X is much more viable at $249 where it doesn’t have to compete with the 13600K. At $299 it made no sense as you could get the 13600K for $20 more, but at $249 it slots into a lower price bracket, where there aren’t any Raptor Lake competitors–for now at least. The 7600X, and 7700X for that matter, offer excellent gaming performance as they have a single CCD design.
Intel’s upcoming i5 13400 could burst AMD’s bubble, as it should outperform the 7600X at a comparable price, almost like the 12400 vs 5600X matchup. Intel are of course adding four E-cores on the upcoming 13400, a chip that traditionally only had 6 P-cores. And don’t forget the i3 13100, successor of the popular i3 12100. The 13100 doesn’t receive any E-core upgrades and will have to rely on architectural improvements. But Intel won’t have it all their own way, as AMD still have the non-X Ryzen 7000 chips up their sleeve. Things are going to get interesting in the budget segment.
AMD does make a strong case as far as longevity. Their AM5 platform will be supported until at least 2025, whereas Intel’s LGA 1700 socket will most likely be replaced in 2023. This means no drop-in upgrades for Raptor Lake users. Conversely, AM5 should support two to three new Ryzen releases, which will significantly include the 7000X3D series, a very exciting prospect given the superb 5800X3D. Zen 4 looks much more appealing from a long-term perspective.
Mid-End AM5 combo: $789
Ryzen 7 7700X ($349) + Gigabyte B650 Aorus Elite AX ($230) + G.SKILL Trident Z5 Neo Series 32GB DDR5 6000MHz C30 ($210)
*Amazon and Newegg prices valid on 2022/11/25
If you were to build an entirely new Intel and AMD system, it’s fairly even in terms of overall platform cost, but the backward compatibility of Raptor Lake gives you a few more options. You can shave off $200 by going for a B660 chipset with DDR4 memory. Then there is also the possibility of a drop-in upgrade on existing Alder Lake systems, in which case the only expense is the CPU.
AMD has somewhat leveled the playing field with significant price cuts across the stack. Whether or not these are permanent markdowns or holiday specials remains to be seen. The flagship 7950X and 7900X are now actually very competitive, although Intel’s 13600K is still the undisputed value king.
Raptor Lake’s trump card is the backward compatibility with DDR4 and Z690, but that won’t last forever as the AM5 platform will become more affordable over time. It’s not such an overwhelming Intel victory anymore, and Ryzen 7000 will be very appealing in 2023.