Core i9-13900K & Ryzen 9 7950X Scaling Performance: Peak Power/Temps & Gaming

In our gaming performance testing, we're using two very different titles to measure any gains (if any) when dropping the power on the Core i9-13900K and Ryzen 9 7950X. The first title is Total War: Warhammer 3, which is notoriously hungry in terms of processor performance. We felt this would be a good measuring stick to see how performance stands as we restrict power to the processor. The second title is Borderlands 3, which albeit more graphically intensive than TW: Warhammer 3, still benefits from processing power as many other titles do.

We'll first go over the peak package power and core temperatures.

Peak Power and Core Temperature: Feat yCruncher and AIDA64

One of the main benefits of reducing power consumption and electrical load on a component is temperature; less power means less heat. As we reduce the TDP and test with power restrictions, we should also see a noticeable reduction in heat and CPU core temperatures. To measure the peak package power load from the CPU and to determine the peak core temperatures, we are using AIDA64 to record both variables. Putting full load on the CPU is yCruncher, which we use to measure peak processor package power in our CPU reviews.

Peak Power: yCruncher

Starting with the peak power figures, it's worth noting that AMD's figures can be wide off the mark even when restricting the Package Power Tracking (PPT) in the firmware. For example, restricting the socket and 7950X to 125 W yielded a measured power consumption that was still a whopping 33% higher. By comparison, the 13900K exceeded its set limits by around 14% under full load. In all cases though, this is still a significant power reduction versus their stock settings, especially in the case of the power-hungry i9-13900K.

Peak Core Temperature (Full Load): AIDA64

Following on from the temperatures, despite pulling a figure of 330.3 W under full load, the peak core temperature of the i9-1300K was 8°C lower than the Ryzen 9 7950X, which hit 94°C under full load. Given that the power figures given aligned more with the settings on the 13900K than they did on the 7950X, the drop in temperatures on the Intel processor was much better received, with 53°C at 125 W and just 39°C at 65 W.

There's certainly more performance at 65 W from our compute testing on the Ryzen 9 7950X, but it's drawing more power than it should be. It's also running hotter despite using a premium 360mm AIO CPU cooler, which is more than enough even at full load. As a reference, the room that all the testing was done at ranged between 22 and 24°C, so this shouldn't impact any of our thermal results too much.

Total War: Warhammer 3: 1080p Ultra and 4K Medium Settings

Total War Warhammer 3 - 1080p Ultra - Average FPS

Total War Warhammer 3 - 1080p Ultra - 95th Percentile

Total War Warhammer 3 - 4K Medium - Average FPS

Total War Warhammer 3 - 4K Medium - 95th Percentile

In Total War: Warhammer 3, we saw something very interesting. Dropping the power on the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X, even down to just 35 W, didn't seem to impact performance at either 1080p Ultra or 4K Medium settings. In both cases we're performance-bound by other factors, be it single-threaded performance or GPU performance. This is a good precedent being set here by AMD, as even at such a low power, it's not enough to warrant noticeable drops in framerates, which is partly down to utilization with our AMD Radeon RX 6960 XT graphics card.

Touching on the Intel Core i9-13900K, although average frame rates and 5% lows at 1080p remained stable and similar, the 5% lows were much less desirable when testing at 4K. Average frame rates seem stable, but having much lower 95th percentile frames could become troublesome depending on the title, visual settings, and utilization of both CPU and GPU at lower power. Though, like many benchmarks relating to games, this phenomena is going to vary on a game-by-game basis.

Borderlands 3: 1080p and 4K Ultra Settings

Borderlands 3 - 1080p Ultra - Average FPS

Borderlands 3 - 1080p Ultra - 95th Percentile

Borderlands 3 - 4K Ultra - Average FPS

Borderlands 3 - 4K Ultra - 95th Percentile

Looking at performance in Borderlands 3, we can see that both the Core i9-13900K and Ryzen 9 7950X perform well even at just 35 W. This shows how powerful both these chips are for gaming, with high core counts which, despite operating at much lower power than stock, that it doesn't affect performance too much.

The only real notable result in Borderlands 3 was the Intel Core i9-13900K at 1080p, with lower 5% low framerates than the Ryzen 9 7950X. Although this could be an anomaly, we tested this three times, and all the results were similar. Even so, at just 35 W, the performance in gaming was typically unaffected, which shows that the game is more often waiting on our Radeon RX 6950XT video card.

Of course, gaming performance isn't going to be too much of a war of attrition to seek benefits even at lower power envelopes on the processor at resolutions such as 1440p and 4K, where performance is primarily GPU-limited. Even at 1080p, where there's a cross-over between CPU and GPU utilization, performance is still good.

There will certainly be a big difference at lower resolutions, such as 720p and lower. Still, users looking at a $500-600 processor, a $300-500 motherboard, and $150+ for memory are highly unlikely to be gaming at these resolutions, so we focused more on the realistic scenarios in gaming as opposed to purely synthetic ones.

Core i9-13900K & Ryzen 9 7950X Scaling Performance: CPU Short Form CPU Power Scaling Conclusion, Watts the Point?
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  • allenb - Sunday, January 8, 2023 - link

    Just adding to what others have said, but this is great data. One of the more interesting articles I've seen here in some time. Keep it up!
  • alanritchie - Sunday, January 8, 2023 - link

    Would be really useful to see a total joules reading from a power meter for a selection of the gaming results that show no performance gains (so the GPU isn't doing any more work). Does the CPU use 200W and but not achieve any more than the 65W, or does it use less than 65W to reach peak performance (35W in Borderlands) on whichever thread is limiting the FPS?

    The weird one is the TW 4k 95th percentile test, 35W and 125W are within touching distance of each other, but full power suddenly unlocks another 20FPS.

    Essentially, if I power limit the CPU and only play games, am I actually saving any power in most games, or does the CPU just not use the available power because it is GPU limited, so both the performance and the electricity bill are the same with a 65W limit, 125W limit or no limit?

    Also would be nice to see total J for the other benchmarks, but I think its a lot more obvious that the extra power is going into extra performance in most of them, even if they get less efficient
  • Jase76 - Sunday, January 8, 2023 - link

    Great work Anand, Love this article!

    As a SFF PC owner, it's a struggle to balance performance and power budgets so this sort of analysis is a godsend.
    Power usage is not just about power bills for me, default CPU settings will max out the cooling solutions turning the PC into a very noisy hair dryer! It's not desirable to say the least.
    I'll second other's suggestions about measuring actual power usage for Performance per watt metrics. The AMD CPU is still very hot at 105W which seems suspect.
  • ricebunny - Monday, January 9, 2023 - link

    I found it confusing how the term “scaling” was used in the article. Clearly, the Intel CPU was more responsive to power while the AMD CPU had near saturated performance from 105W upwards. If I had to write the report myself, I would’ve said that the Intel CPU scaled better with power based on the data points.
  • leavenfish - Wednesday, January 11, 2023 - link

    I actually think the most useful thing for the average person would be - what is the 'W' at which each processor can run WITHOUT a watercooler - 65W? 105W? Just with a good case and fans. These people are not interested in the upkeep and fear associated with water-cooling so it would be very useful information.
  • ABR - Thursday, January 12, 2023 - link

    Wow. I know server chips are tuned further down the curve, but I don't think as far down as that 65W, relatively speaking. This could have massive implications at the data center level.
  • Jp7188 - Monday, January 16, 2023 - link

    @Gavin great investigation. I love stuff like this.

    It would be nice to include actual power usage of the cinebench runs instead of assuming they used the same as the ycruncher runs in your calculations. I think that's a pretty big assumption. Could you perhaps do a couple of quick sanity checks of that assumption?
  • Jp7188 - Monday, January 16, 2023 - link

    I'd be interested to hear how each CPU reacts to different coolers. I can see someone using these in a HTPC config with a low profile cooler and limited fan speeds.
  • sorintt - Wednesday, January 18, 2023 - link

    You do not need power consumption measurement to see that AMD does not lower the consumption according to the setting. Just look at temperature.
  • Gastec - Friday, January 20, 2023 - link

    Oh, and you know that 100 W CPU that you've bought from us? That "W" actually doesn't stand for Watts anymore and it consumes 500 W-h when you fire up your favourite, exciting P2W video game.

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