Update 21.10.23: The build description has been updated to be applicable to an i9-14900k CPU as well as an i9-13900KS. The reason for this is that the parts listed below are currently what we would recommend for an i9 build on this platform, regardless of the CPU used.
The following is a build for the currently best desktop PC offering from Intel. The idea is to offer a powerful alternative to AMD’s Ryzen 7950X/7950X3D CPU. Following in the foot steps of the previous 7950X3D build, this build will be using 96GB RAM. 96GB RAM is the current sweet spot between having as much RAM as possible and the fastest RAM possible for desktop builds. The following parts have been selected so as to offer a great out of the box experience, but there is also headroom here to improve performance through further tuning of the system on part of the individual. I.e. overclocking, undervolting etc.
The estimated cost of the following build, at the time of writing, is $2.5k without the optional graphics card. With the optional graphics card, the estimated cost is $3k.
The i9-13900KS is Intel’s latest flagship desktop CPU that was designed to be able to be pushed to it’s limits. It is neither a thermally nor power efficient design, and instead focuses on delivering the most power possible, within the defined thermal limits, to each core, so that it can boost each core to it’s highest allowable frequency. The i9-13900KS has a total of 24 cores and 32 threads. The cores are split between 8 performance cores and 16 efficiency cores. Performance cores boost higher, up to 5.4 GHz, whilst efficiency cores will boost up to 4.3 GHz. Technically, two performance cores can boost up to 5.8 GHz and even up to 6 GHz given the right thermal conditions, however a more advanced cooling solution (custom water loop or better) than the one provided here is likely needed to hit that 6 GHz frequency.
At the time of writing, the i9-13900KS may be hard to find. The i9-13900K is a similarly performing CPU when running stock. It is also an unlocked CPU, meaning that it can be manually overclocked if desired, but runs at slightly lower base frequencies and doesn’t have the technology that allows for performance core boosting up to 6 GHz.
The ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 420 is a powerful AIO water cooling solution. The i9-13900KS requires an advanced cooling solution to hit its performance targets and this is one of the best “off-the-shelf” solutions currently available. Noise levels are also low and comparable to those of the Noctua NH-D15.
Despite being dubbed ‘Lite’, the Asrock Z790 Taichi Lite is a high-end motherboard with all the features you need, whilst cutting out the ones you don’t, such as extra RGB and additional heatsinks. In terms of performance, it should perform the same as the regular Asrock Z790 Taichi, but at a lower cost due to removing optional features.
The G.SKILL Trident Z5 RGB (SKU: F5-6800J3446F48GX2-TZ5RK) is a high-end DDR5 kit. It operates at 6800 MT/s with timings of CL34-46-46-108. This is one of the fastest DDR5 2x48GB kits currently available on the market.
Drive preferences will vary based on individual user needs and there are many viable configurations. However, the Asrock Z790 Taichi Lite has one slot for a PCIe Gen5 SSD and we should take advantage of that and the speed advantages it has over PCIe Gen4. There are currently not a large number of PICe Gen5 SSDs available on the market. I would recommend purchasing a drive with at least 2TB of storage capacity and a heatsink. The Crucial T700 2TB (with heatsink) meets our criteria. For additional PCIe Gen4 storage, I would recommend Samsung 990 or Samsung 980 Pro SSDs, again with at least a 2TB capacity, as these perform better than their 1TB counterparts.
A graphics card is optional in this build, since the i9-13900KS comes with integrated graphics that support up to 4 external displays running at 4k resolution (60Hz). Similarly to my recommendation for SSDs, individual needs will vary for graphical compute. This build focuses on CPU compute, but should you need a GPU, the newly launched Sapphire Nitro+ 7800XT from AMD is a good place to start, as it offers a good price/performance ratio for various needs. If not available in your region, the 6800XT actually performs similarly and can be found for a similar price. Though I would recommend the newer card, if possible, for better long-term support.
The Fractal Torrent E-ATX provides one of the best out of the box thermals on the market due to it’s high airflow design. The large, 180mm case fans help provide strong air throughput whilst keeping noise levels relatively low.
Power Supply (PSU)
The Seasonic PRIME 1000 Titanium is essentially top of the line when it comes to PSUs. It is not often that I would recommend a 1000w PSU, but this system configuration, with the i9-13900KS and 7800XT, can theoretically draw up to 800w, and so an efficient, reliable and sufficiently powered PSU is necessary. Note that if you choose not to go with the 7800XT GPU option here, you could opt for a less powerful and cheaper PSU, such as the Seasonic FOCUS PLUS 850 Gold, but may need to upgrade your PSU to be safe at a later point if a powerful GPU is added back in.
This concludes my current recommendation for a no compromises Intel i9 desktop build. I think it’s competitive with AMD’s 7950X and 7950X3D offerings. The overall pricing of the build is comparable to an AMD 7950X build, especially since a lot of the parts effectively overlap. Hopefully we will see continuing competition from AMD and Intel moving forward and be better off for it.
Please leave a comment below if you liked this build or you have any questions. Also let us know what other builds you might be interested in seeing in the future.
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