Yes, Intel has released the fastest gaming CPU ever for $699 and no, you don’t need it

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This announcement has been a long time coming: The Intel Core i9 13900KS is launching today—January 12—for $699. The processor has been teased and talked about plenty over the past few months, but the world’s first-ever 6GHz desktop processor at stock speeds actually launches today.

Yes, a chip formally announced and launched on the same day—you don’t see that much these days. This high-performance processor hopes to be the be-all and end-all of gaming performance and is capable of hitting a 6GHz Max Turbo clock out of the box. Earlier this week Intel showed off the chip in action with a glimpse of the CPU running up to 6GHz (opens in new tab). Granted, it’s not sticking at that lofty clock speed for long, but that’s generally the case for all CPUs nowadays.

A 6GHz processor is absolutely awesome. But even Intel must know how incredibly niche this sort of chip is. With the Core i9 13900K running up to 5.8GHz, and even that processor being mostly overkill for everything but the most intensive professional creation workloads, I do wonder why anyone might feel the need to pay an extra $100 for the 200MHz faster Core i9 13900KS. (Okay, I know the answer: big numbers are fun).

Binned chips that hit these sorts of turbo speeds have been gradually becoming less and less appealing over the years. The so-called golden chips you might have found a decade ago, capable of running whole gigahertz faster than their mundane siblings, are long gone. You’re looking at a couple hundred megahertz out of a near-perfect die nowadays, at least without liquid nitrogen. You can get a lot more out of a CPU by dousing it in the stuff, the Core i9 13900K makes it up to 9GHz (opens in new tab), but we’re very much out of the realms of your everyday user there.

Intel, AMD, they’re all pushing the limits of new chips from the get-go. The rare ‘golden samples’ are skimmed off the top to be sold as more premium offerings, such as this Core i9 13900KS, so the silicon lottery isn’t quite as exciting for hobbyist overclockers. It’s actually for this reason that the binned CPU store, Silicon Lottery, shuttered last year. “Overclocking headroom has been dwindling,” the store said on the day of its closing.

Process node development has also slowed over the years, meaning material gains for clock speed are a matter of pushing for more out of pre-existing nodes, which is what Intel has been doing for a couple of generations now.

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Intel Raptor Lake Core i9 13900KS versus Core i9 13900K
Header Cell – Column 0 Core i9 13900KS Core i9 13900K
Cores (P+E) / threads 8+16 / 32 8+16 / 32
L3 cache 36MB 36MB
L2 cache 32MB 32MB
P-core Turbo clock 6GHz 5.8GHz
Unlocked Yes Yes
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics 770 Intel UHD Graphics 770
Total CPU PCIe lanes 20 20
Max memory speed DDR5 5600, DDR4 3200 DDR5 5600, DDR4 3200
Recommended Customer Pricing (RCP) $699 $589–$599

All of which makes a chip like the Intel Core i9 13900KS tough to recommend. Like I say, it’s genuinely such an awesome milestone to see a CPU at 6GHz out-of-the-box, but no gamer is really going to benefit from its slightly speedier cores. For avid overclockers you could make a case for this being a somewhat ‘cheap’ binned chip, but even then you’re paying for the glory of saying you have one more than anything else. 

Nevertheless, Intel hopes the Core i9 13900KS will be able to stave off any challenge from AMD’s new and much improved 3D V-Cache Ryzen 7000-series processors. From the rough performance figures given by AMD, it would seem like AMD might have the edge—though there’s not much specificity in the graphs offered so far.

We’ll have to wait for a chip-versus-chip showdown to get the whole picture—we had thought AMD’s 3D V-Cache release date (opens in new tab) was set for February 14, but that date turned out to be incorrect. AMD hasn’t offered any replacement date for when we can instead expect its next-gen gaming processors, but it’s likely to be sometime in Q1. Or at least I hope so. 

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