Intel Raptor Lake landed late last year, and while the LGA1700 socket probably doesn’t have a long lifespan ahead of it anymore, the power in single-threaded and multi-threaded applications on offer with Intel’s 13th-gen CPUs is still excellent, so you won’t be needing an upgrade for quite a while anyway. There’s also one particular star of the show – the Intel Core i5-13600K, with its six P-Cores and eight E-Cores.
A Core i5 chip should offer decent bang for your buck. It’s where you’ll end up pointing your wallet if you’re stepping up from a low-end CPU and want more grunt in all departments, but without spending a fortune. Intel’s K-series Core i5 chips have historically been overclockable too, although Intel and AMD’s recent CPUs haven’t seen much potential here and that’s been a bit sad.
Thankfully, however, you can overclock Core i5-13600K CPUs rather well. This CPU’s voltages were regularly above 1.4V when running at stock speed, so this seemed a good place to start. Its usual boost frequencies peak at 5.1GHz for all-core and single-core boosts, but I hit 5.7GHz across all of our sample’s P-Cores quite easily. That’s a massive 600MHz higher than the single or all-core boost stock frequencies, and there were tangible performance boosts in games and content creation.
Unlike the Intel Core i9-13900K, it wasn’t a particularly tricky CPU to cool either, although once overclocked you’re looking at temperatures in the high 80-90°C range, even with decent cooling. I just love the fact that overclocking is actually possible and worthwhile again with this CPU. It’s a factor that’s been missing for a while, at least to this degree, and I’ve not seen worthwhile overclocking available for a couple of generations with Intel and AMD processors.
This CPU also offers good value compared to the competition and, thanks to its E-Cores, it’s no slouch when it comes to heavily multi-threaded work too. The Core i5-11600K and Core i5-12600K were pretty good examples of what a Core i5 chip should offer, but the Core i5-13600K is the best one I’ve seen since Intel made Core i5 chips with more than four cores.
As an added bonus, the Core i5-13600K works in older (and cheaper) motherboards than AMD Ryzen 7000-series CPUs, such as the Ryzen 7800X3D, and with DDR4 memory to boot. As we’ve seen in our Intel 13th-gen memory tests, there’s little benefit to using DDR5 memory with a Core i5-13600K, so you might as well save yourself some money. If you want to know which memory to buy, make sure you read our guide to the best gaming memory, where we take you through the best options at several prices.
It’s not an expensive CPU either- the Core i5-13600K price is just $320 (£299), which is a great deal for the performance on offer, especially if you overclock it.
If you’re looking to spend a bit more money on your CPU, or if you can’t quite run to the cost of the Core i5-13600K, make sure you check out our full guide to the best gaming CPU. If you’re thinking of building a new Intel 13th-gen system, you’ll also want to read our guide to the best Intel Z790 motherboard, and our full guide on how to build a gaming PC, where we take you through the whole process from start to finish.