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Intel offers desktop chip that can hit 6GHz if everything goes right, you can keep it cool, stars align, pigs fly

It'll do 8GHz when overclocked, if Chipzilla is to be believed

Intel delivered on its promise of a 6GHz Raptor Lake chip this week with the launch of its Core i9 13900KS.

The Silicon Valley chip giant has teased the part since mid-2022, when it claimed the chip would run at 6GHz on default (stick) settings and reach 8GHz when overclocked — albeit only with the help of exotic coolants like liquid nitrogen.

Beyond the higher clock speeds there's not much new to talk about here. The 13900KS boasts the same eight performance cores and 16 efficiency cores in a big-little arrangement just like the previously announced 13900K. The only differences appear to be that Intel juiced the chip's speeds by 200MHz across the board, bumping its max turbo to 6GHz, and boosted its thermal design power (TDP).

Intel's docs report a maximum turbo power of 253W — the same TDP as the 13900K — however, several outlets are reporting that the chip can actually pull as much as 320W under load. This lines up with figures gleaned from a demo shared by Intel on YouTube (3:01) earlier this week that showed the chip set to a turbo-boost power limit of 300W. We've reached out to Intel for clarification and will let you know if we hear anything back.

At $699 the CPU isn't cheap, but it's $40 less expensive than last year's 12th-gen KS SKU and priced to match AMD's flagship 7950X. In a comparison, AMD's part has a 300MHz frequency deficit, though it does technically have twice the performance cores. As we've noted in the past, frequency is only one measure of performance and instructions per clock (IPC) and thermal headroom can often play a more important role in real-world performance.

Speaking of which, this is especially true when it comes to the 13900KS's 6GHz turbo frequency. Customers who shell out for the KS will discover that despite Intel's claims, it rarely hits those clock speeds, except under ideal circumstances. This is because that magical 6GHz frequency is only possible during a phase called Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB).

According to Intel's documentation, TVB refers to its opportunistic boost algorithm that allows for higher clock speeds based on the amount of thermal headroom and the available power budget. Basically, as long as the chip stays cool and can access power to feed it, it'll keep boosting up to its maximum rated speed.

During an video demo teasing the part, Jason Xie, gaming technical marketing lead at Intel, said "hitting 6GHz really depends on your environment. A lot of factors come into play here, whether it's power budget, thermals, or in this case, the software itself — Windows — may not be allocating the right cores."

In other words, the chip may never hit the advertised clock speeds. And finding a cooler that can tame the 13900KS's 300-plus watt thermal output could be tricky without the help of water cooling.

In Intel's demo, the company showed the chip hitting 6GHz on two cores using a Corsair all-in-one water cooler. However, that test was running the 7zip benchmark, which isn't particularly taxing, especially when limited to just two cores. Intel also didn't show the kinds of temperatures the chip was hitting in those tests.

According to Intel's docs, the TVB frequency isn't locked to a certain number of cores. Given enough an adequate power budget and cooling, you could in theory hit 6GHz on all eight performance cores.

If overclocked, this chip has the potential to go even faster. Intel says 8GHz, but that clearly isn't the limit. Late last year, ASUS' overclocking team pushed Intel's bog-standard 13900K to 9GHz. But unless you happen to have access to ample supply of super-chilled helium laying around, you'll have to make due with a paltry 6GHz. ®

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