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Intel’s 24-core laptop CPU might outclass desktop i9 processors

Intel is pushing laptop CPU core counts to places they’ve never been before. The company announced its 13th-gen Raptor Lake mobile processors at CES 2023, including the flagship Core i9-13980HX which includes a massive 24 cores that could top the list of the best Intel processors.

That sounds insane considering even AMD’s desktop Ryzen 9 7950X only comes with 16 cores. But Intel’s cores aren’t all built equally. Like the previous generation, 13th-gen mobile Raptor Lake processors include a combination of performance (P) cores and efficient (E) cores. The most powerful chips in the range come with 24 cores, but they’re split across eight P-cores and 16 E-cores.

A render of Intel's H-series mobile processors.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Although we don’t have the chips to test yet, Intel is making big performance claims. Leaked benchmarks leading up to the launch showed the Core i9-13900HX beating out the Core i9-12900KS. And that’s a high-end desktop processor.

Intel is sticking with its H, P, and U-series branding for its processors, noting 45-watt, 28W, and 15W processors, respectively. The company is also sticking with the 55W HX-series range it introduced last year in laptops like the MSI GT77 Titan, and Intel says to expect a lot more HX-equipped laptops this year.

Intel says we’ll see more than 60 HX designs throughout 2023, including laptops from HP, Dell, Razer, Asus, MSI, Lenovo, and Acer. There were about 10 HX designs in the previous generation. Along with the boosted number of machines comes a boosted number of processors, with Intel introducing nine HX chips this year.

Cores/Threads Max Turbo Frequency Base Frequency Base/Max Power L3 Cache Integrated graphics
i9-13980HX 24 (8P, 16E)/32 5.6GHz (P), 4GHz (E) 2.2GHz (P), 1.6GHz (E) 55W/157W 36MB 32 EU
i9-13950HX 24 (8P, 16E)/32 5.5GHz (P), 4GHz (E) 2.2GHz (P), 1.6GHz (E) 55W/157W 36MB 32 EU
i9-13900HX 24 (8P, 16E)/32 5.4GHz (P), 3.9GHz (E) 2.2GHz (P), 1.6GHz (E) 55W/157W 36MB 32 EU
i7-13850HX 20 (8P/12E)/28 5.3GHz (P), 3.8GHz (E) 2.1GHz (P), 1.5GHz (E) 55W/157W 30MB 32 EU
i7-13700HX 16(8P, 8E)/24 5GHz (P), 3.7GHz (E) 2.1GHz (P), 1.5GHz (E) 55W/157W 30MB 32 EU
i7-13650HX 14(6P, 8E)/20 4.9GHz (P), 3.6GHz (E) 2.6GHz (P), 1.9GHz (E) 55W/157W 24MB 16 EU
i5-13600HX 14(6P, 8E)/20 4.8GHz (P), 3.6GHz (E) 2.6GHz (P), 1.9GHz (E) 55W/157W 24MB 32 EU
i5-13500HX 14(6P, 8E)/20 4.7GHz (P), 3.5GHz (E) 2.5GHz (P), 1.8GHz (E) 55W/157W 24MB 16 EU
i5-13450HX 10(6P, 4E)/16 4.6GHz (P), 3.4GHz (E) 2.4GHz (P), 1.8GHz (E) 55W/157W 20MB 16 EU

The performance improvements compared to the previous generation largely depend on what you’re doing. In some tasks like Unreal Engine and its MetaHuman feature, Intel shows the Core i9-13950HX outperforming last-gen’s Core i9-12900HX by about 10%. But in Autodesk Inventor and ReCap, that same chip shows a 29% improvement.

You’ll see the largest performance gains in apps that can scale with high thread counts, which Intel showcased with Blender. This rendering application can take advantage of the extra cores in Intel’s Core i9-13950HX, leading to upwards of a 79% improvement over the previous generation. And compared to Apple’s M1 Max in the MacBook Pro, Intel says the Core i9-13950HX is twice as fast or more in many applications.

Intel 13th-gen HX processor performance comparison.

Gaming doesn’t see as large of a jump. Intel says its HX processors are up to 12% faster than the previous generation, particularly in games like Horizon Zero Dawn and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy that can leverage higher core counts. Some titles, like F1 22 and Forza Horizon 5 don’t see much of a boost at all.

If you’re not running intense CAD applications, developing games, or doing intensive work on your laptop, you can get away with a lower-powered CPU. Intel is introducing 23 designs in its H-, P-, and U-series laptops for thinner and lighter notebooks.

These processors top out at six P-cores and eight E-cores, and they’re mostly a refresh of the previous generation. Overall, Intel says you can expect around a 10% improvement over the previous generation. However, Intel says many designs that previously used P-series are moving to H-series, which means some machines could see a larger jump in performance.

Intel 13th-gen H-series performance comparison.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The bigger improvements come in connectivity. Intel’s 13th-gen processors support up to four Thunderbolt 4 connections, including DisplayPort 2.1, as well as DDR5-5200, Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth LT audio. Intel is also focused on its “enhanced” Thread Director. Intel’s Dan Rogers tells us this upgraded version provides visibility into the type of task for the processor, which helps allocate resources more efficiently.

Intel is bringing several other features to its 13th-gen Raptor Lake mobile range, including XeSS supersampling and Arc Control software for controlling the integrated graphics. Some designs will come with Intel’s Movidius VPU, as well. This is a dedicated AI accelerator, but Intel says it will only be available in select designs for AI developers.

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Jacob Roach
Senior Staff Writer, Computing
Jacob Roach is a writer covering computing and gaming at Digital Trends. After realizing Crysis wouldn't run on a laptop, he…
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