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Intel i7 vs i9 Processors for Gaming: Which Should You Choose?

Intel‘s 13th generation Raptor Lake desktop processors offer exceptional performance for gaming and other demanding tasks. The Core i7 13700K and Core i9 13900K represent the pinnacle of what these chips can achieve. But which one should you pick if gaming is your main concern? Let‘s compare some key differences between the i7 and i9 to help decide.

Architectural Improvements in Raptor Lake

The 13700K and 13900K are built on Intel‘s Raptor Lake microarchitecture, succeeding the 12th Gen Alder Lake design. Raptor Lake further refines Intel‘s hybrid technology combining both performance (P) cores and efficient (E) cores.

P-cores are optimized for high burst speeds in lightly threaded workloads. The E-cores focus more on throughput for heavily parallelized tasks. Raptor Lake makes significant improvements in how workloads are distributed across these heterogeneous cores.

The Windows 11 scheduler and Intel‘s Thread Director software have both been updated to dynamically detect whether a thread will benefit from higher frequencies or greater parallelism and schedule execution appropriately. This smarter thread targeting enhances real-world performance.

Raptor Lake also increases cache sizes, memory data rates, AI acceleration capabilities and clock speeds over Alder Lake. All contributing to strong generational gains in both gaming and content creation workloads.

Overview of the Core i7 13700K and i9 13900K

The 13700K and 13900K share similarities but also differ in significant ways:

  • Cores/Threads: i7 13700K has 16 cores (8 P-cores + 8 E-cores) / 24 threads while the i9 13900K has 24 cores (8 P-cores + 16 E-cores) / 32 threads
  • Base/Boost Clocks: Both have a 3.0 GHz base clock. The 13700K boosts up to 5.4 GHz while the 13900K goes up to 5.8 GHz.
  • Cache: 13700K has 30MB L3 cache versus 36MB on the 13900K.
  • Power Draw: 13700K has a 125W TDP versus the 13900K‘s whopping 252W.
  • Pricing: The i7 typically costs around $420 while the i9 goes for around $680. That‘s a 60% price premium.

In a nutshell, the i9 13900K has more cores, cache, and higher clock speeds but also draws far more power and costs quite a bit extra over the already speedy i7.

Gaming Benchmarks: i7 vs i9

But do those impressive specs on paper translate into a significant real-world gaming performance advantage? Let‘s see some gaming benchmarks from reliable sources like Tom‘s Hardware and Gamers Nexus testing over half a dozen popular titles at 1080p, 1440p and 4K resolutions.

Gaming benchmarks showing similar FPS rates between the 13700K and 13900K

These benchmarks paint a clear picture – while the i9 13900K mostly maintains a slight lead in average FPS over the 13700K, we are talking only a few percentage points difference across the board.

Looking at 99th percentile and 99.9th percentile framerates representing the 1% and 0.1% flow minimums respectively, the margins are even closer. This indicates both processors deliver an equally smooth overall gaming experience.

They also hit well over the refresh rates of high performance 360Hz/240Hz gaming monitors. At 4K resolution, the differences vanish completely with the graphics card hitting its limits first.

We see this across a diverse testing suite ranging from esports titles like CS:GO to single player games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin‘s Creed Valhalla. Both average and low framerate metrics are aligned in their findings – the i7 13700K and i9 13900K are equivalently matched gaming processors.

Performance vs Value Considerations

Given their nearly identical gaming prowess, it makes sense to choose the cheaper i7 13700K and invest the savings into a better graphics card or system memory.

You‘ll also have an easier time sufficiently cooling the 13700K compared to the thermal monster that is the 13900K. Liquid cooling is almost mandatory for the i9 to prevent throttling under heavy loads. The i7 runs at least 20°C cooler with just high-end air cooling.

Speaking of thermals, here is a temperature test with a 240mm AIO cooler showing the i9 hitting 106°C and throttling its speed while the i7 peaks 18% lower at just 87°C:

Thermal test showing 13900K hitting 106C and throttling vs 13700K peaking below 90C

The i7 also draws over 30% less power under gaming loads compared to the 13900K. So cooling and power costs are lower as well.

Gamers won‘t benefit much from the i9‘s faster DDR5 system memory or higher PCIe lane count either. Games depend much more heavily on graphics card power, not bandwidth or capacity from system RAM or PCIe buses.

That savings of around $250+ from going with the 13700K could push you into a higher tier RTX 4080 graphics card for example, which will make a more substantial impact on gaming speeds than a hotter, pricier CPU.

Productivity Performance

For professional creative workloads like 3D rendering, video editing, code compilation etc, the i9 13900K does stretch its legs more courtesy of those extra E-cores and higher clocks. Applications that take full advantage of the 13900K‘s higher core counts can finish intensive tasks 25% or more quicker on the i9.

But for mainstream home users, the 13700K is still extremely capable in creative workloads. It strikes a more sensible balance between performance and value for serious amateur use cases like gaming live streaming, YouTube content creation etc. You have to truly push limits professionally before needing to step up to the i9.

Overclocking Comparison

Both the 13700K and 13900K have unlocked multipliers to support overclocking for enthusiasts after more speed. However, overclocking also greatly exacerbates the thermal and power consumption issues already plaguing the 13900K.

Most retail 13900K chips hit limits around 5.5 GHz across all P-cores even with premium cooling and top-binned chips stretching to 5.7 GHz in lucky cases. E-cores typically peak around 4.3 GHz max for stability.

The 13700K meanwhile manages 5.1 to 5.4 GHz on P-cores and 4.0 to 4.2 GHz on E-cores depending on your luck and cooling capacity.

Overclocking either processor requires high-end liquid cooling at a minimum. For example, the 13900K can hit 400W power consumption overclocked versus the 13700K maxing out around 320W. This impacts PSU needs as well.

Gaming performance lifts by low single digit percentages when overclocked on the 13900K but you take a massive noise, heat and platform cost hit getting there. Overclocking the 13700K offers the best balance and easiest path to 5GHz+ while retaining saner thermals.


For pure gaming usage, the Intel Core i7 13700K represents the overall best value choice. It delivers essentially identical peak and sustained real-world gaming speeds compared to the much pricier i9 13900K across a vast range of game genres and resolutions.

The $250+ savings can be better allocated to a higher tier graphics card for maximizing gaming performance per dollar. Cooling needs and platform costs are also lower with the 13700K. Intel still retains the high-end mobile compute crown with the Core i9 13950HX.

For professional content creators and workstation users that can utilize the extra multicore performance, the 13900K does pull notably ahead. But in thermally constrained environments, the 13700K runs comfortably while the i9 struggles even on premium cooling.

So if building a dedicated high-end gaming rig, I wholeheartedly recommend the Core i7 13700K over the 13900K for most gamers and even streamers. Let me know if you have any other questions!