There is a lot to talk about about the 12th generation Intel “Alder Lake” processors. The company says this is its biggest architectural change in a decade, and if anything, it falls short. Honestly, Intel hasn’t had anything new or interesting to talk about for many years (a decade ago the beloved “Sandy Bridge” generation debuted), and it was like clearing the registry. Now, the company can start over after years and years of problems that have piled up, even with only rival company AMD succeeding after success. The 12th Gen Core family makes a leap in performance thanks to the combined power of two different core types, an original design of the 10nm manufacturing process, and a new platform that takes advantage of new high-speed interconnection standards.
Intel begins its 12th generation product roadmap with major desktop CPUs for gamers and enthusiasts, a significant departure from the company’s focus on thin and light laptops over the past few years. All CPUs released so far are unlocked and overclocked, which tells you who to target. More traditional options for day-to-day work will be announced early next year.
We came a long way from quad-core CPUs on the higher end just a few years ago, and it’s all thanks to the competition. With up to 16 cores (and 24 threads), Intel may now look competitive with AMD’s flagship 16-core desktop model, the Ryzen 9 5950X. However, things are not so simple, truly heterogeneous cores cannot be compared. However, Intel promises an impressive 19 percent performance gain over the previous generation, and there are also energy-efficiency benefits to explore.
Here’s an in-depth look at the 12th-generation “Alder Lake” CPU architecture, plus our benchmark test results and analysis of Intel’s new push into the PC market for performance and gamers.
12th Gen Intel Core CPUs are physically larger than their predecessors and require a new LGA1700 socket
The 14nm node saga, spanning from the introduction of Broadwell (5th generation), ended in 2014 and finally ended, at least for Intel desktop CPUs. The 11th generation ‘Rocket Lake’ family had a 10nm design that was increased to 14nm to put it in the hands of customers amidst 10nm production constraints, which have hopefully now been solved for good.
Intel calls the implementation of the current 10nm process “Intel 7“, a very crude attempt to bring it on a technological level with the efforts of the competition’s 7nm. At this scale, the sizes of individual transistors are not necessarily reflected in these names, and with the transition to unit-based CPU designs, they don’t need to all be the same size anyway. However, “Intel 7” tells us that the company has renewed confidence in its own factories and foundries, even as we see news of a delay in the next generation contract.
The biggest news is that Intel has now separated both its architecture and its manufacturing efforts that you can mix and match different parts of the CPU components like cores, integrated GPU, cache, I / O logic, security subsystems, and more. . Different “Alder Lake” applications for different target markets, such as desktop computers, laptops, and ultra-high-speed devices, will have different combinations of these components.
Right now, we have the best Core i9-12900K desktop CPU with eight “Performance” cores (with its codename, “Golden Cove”) and eight “Efficient” cores (“Gracemont”). P-cores, short for Intel, are what we know – Golden Cove is the successor to the ‘Willow Cove’ on which all 11th generation 10nm processors were based. Gracemont is the current derivative of the old Intel Atom CPU line; Although the Atom name has been discontinued, the “-mont” cores have been the basis for many of Intel’s embedded CPU offerings, as well as low-end Pentium Silver and Celeron CPUs on the market. Years. More recently, Intel’s first hybrid offering, “Lakefield,” combined the “-cove” and “-mont” cores from the previous generation.
That’s a lot of code names, and Intel is cautiously eschewing the term “big.LITTLE,” Arm’s rival brand, which dates back at least a decade. Of course, this refers to the exact same concept: dividing the work between a group of high-performance but power-hungry cores, as well as low-power cores depending on which one is best suited, to maximize power and efficiency. Intel itself has rejected the idea of doing this many times in the past, saying that it is possible to design a type of core that can scale adequately in terms of power consumption and performance. However, it is clear that the company has changed its mind.
To let the operating system know which cores to target and when to migrate threads from one type of core to another, Intel says it has developed a more robust and responsive real-time scheduling, called Thread Director. At the moment, this only works with Windows 11, and neither Intel nor Microsoft have plans to bring it to Windows 10. A solution is currently being developed for Linux. According to Intel, you should expect a slight decrease in performance with Windows 10, but the Alder Lake CPUs will still be fully usable.
One of the big changes with the Alder Lake hybrid CPUs is that only the P-cores support Hyper-Threading, which is the ability to run a second synchronous thread when resources allow. So the 16-core Core i9-12900K is capable of running 24 threads, not 32. Interestingly, while the P cores have the highest priority, the electronic cores come next, and only if they are saturated will it be assigned a core. P a second topic. Windows 11 can make use of a thread manager to determine what takes precedence; for example, you can encode media in the background while you perform other tasks.
Users don’t seem to be able to override this and manually decide whether to give preference to a particular program or task for each type of base. It will be interesting to see how 12th gen laptop CPUs add battery life to the list of variants powered by Windows 11. It’s also odd that Intel says multi-threaded workflows like video encoding will favor cores. However, conventional logic suggests that P cores should be able to perform these tasks faster.
Another issue at stake here: some older software doesn’t recognize heterogeneous cores as belonging to the same CPU. You may experience some compatibility issues – Denuvo’s DRM system was recently marked as incompatible, causing people to be banned from at least 50 older games because they believed the system specifications had changed due to piracy. In such cases, you can lock all the electronic cores through the motherboard BIOS (and Intel says you can even set the Scroll Lock key on the keyboard to toggle that).
Intel also confirmed that the AVX-512 instruction set, a highly touted feature from Ice Lake for use in accelerating AI workloads, has been disabled. This was claimed because only P cores could support it and there had to be instruction parity between core types. However, it now appears that disabling the electronic cores in the motherboard BIOS will allow the AVX-512 to be enabled, so there is a trade-off there as well.
While each P-core contains 1.25 MB of L2 cache, the electronic cores are organized into groups of four, each with a shared 2 MB cache. These are fed into the shared L3 cache. Intel also posts different base and turbo speeds for each core type, and higher-end CPU models also support Intel’s Turbo Boost Max feature that allocates “preferred cores” that can be boosted further. This means that clock speed is now very confusing and not necessarily a useful metric when it comes to comparing specifications. We have a base TDP of 125W and for the first time Intel is also publishing target power numbers for continuous load, which can be as low as 241W for the Core i9. If you have enough thermal solution, you’ll be able to run at Turbo speeds indefinitely, not just in bursts.
On the Core i9-12900K, the eight cores run between 2.4GHz and 3.9GHz, while the eight P cores run between 3.2GHz and 5.1GHz (all cores) or 5.2GHz (the preferred core). There is 14 MB of L2 cache and 30 MB of L3 cache.
The Core i7-12700K loses four E cores, so you get eight P cores and four E cores (20 threads total). The maximum power consumption is 190 watts. The Core i5-12600K has six P cores and four E cores, with a maximum power consumption of 150W.
All three CPU models feature integrated Intel UHD Graphics 770 GPUs, based on the Xe-LP architecture. There’s nothing new compared to the 11th generation onboard UHD 750 GPU except for a lower base and higher boost hours. All three CPUs also have suffix -F variants that lack integrated graphics and are a bit lower priced on paper.
Intel 12th Gen Core ‘Alder Lake’ Z690 platform
Given how much has changed with Alder Lake, it’s no wonder a new socket and new motherboards are required. These CPUs are actually larger than most conventional Intel desktop CPUs, and are now rectangular rather than square. The pad count jumped to 1700 (from 1200), so there is a new LGA1700 socket. Hopefully this will continue for at least a generation. Most coolers designed for older generation motherboards should work, but you will likely need an upgrade kit; Most brands will update their offerings or offer a simple adapter kit. It would be best to check with the manufacturer of the coolant, as there may be rare exceptions due to differences in contact surface area.
The biggest news for most users will be the introduction of DDR5 RAM. This promises significant leaps in bandwidth, maximum capacity, and energy efficiency. DDR4 has been around for a long time, but it’s not likely to go away anytime soon either – DDR5 RAM kits are currently hard to find and expensive, especially in India. You will be able to buy Z690 motherboards with DDR4 or DDR5 slots (dual channel in any case); no manufacturer has offered a hybrid board yet. This means that you will have to adhere to one or the other standard in advance.
Intel also managed to be the first to offer PCIe 5.0, which doubles the internal input and output bandwidth compared to PCIe 4.0. There are no components like SSDs that can take advantage of this yet, but you can at least share that bandwidth between devices so more can run at high speed. Motherboards can either have one PCIe 5.0 x16 slot or route that bandwidth to two PCIe 5.0 x8 slots, which are connected directly to the CPU. That is in addition to the four PCIe 4.0 lanes that can now be assigned to an SSD drive, plus the Z690 console itself houses 12 PCIe 4.0 slots and another 16 PCIe 3.0 slots for various components. It also doubled the bandwidth between the CPU and the Z690.
Also on the connectivity front, there is now support for up to four USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (20Gbps) ports; This is not to be confused with USB4 Gen3, which can also go up to 20Gbps with the same Type-C connector. You also get up to 10 USB 3.2 Gen2 (10Gbps) ports, between the back panel and the auxiliary connectors. PCIe and M.2 slot configurations will depend on motherboard manufacturers. Intel implemented the Wi-Fi 6E controller, which is a step forward from Wi-Fi 6, and there is still Gigabit Ethernet built in. Of course, things like Intel Optane are supported, and all Z-series motherboards are overclocked compatible.
Lower platforms will be introduced when Intel releases its 12th non-K CPUs, and we don’t yet know how it will differ and whether some features will be exclusive to the top-tier Z690. Obviously, with the split between DDR4 and DDR5, there will be a variety of Z690 motherboards to choose from. Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, ASRock and a few smaller brands have already introduced a variety to the Indian market.
Components used to review Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K
Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4 motherboard and Strix LC II 360 ARGB AIO cooler
For this review, Asus sent one of its more affordable Z690 motherboards, the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4, as well as an AIO Strix LC II 360 ARGB cooler with LGA1700 adapter. The suffix D4 indicates that this board will only work with DDR4 RAM, which fits its target segment. While it is not as misleading as the flagship models that sell for as much as Rs. 65,000, this motherboard should be able to cover most of the needs of enthusiasts, at a more affordable price of Rs. 25,000.
The design of the board does not contain great surprises. It has four slots with a maximum of 128 GB of RAM with overclocking support up to DDR4-5333. There are thick voltage regulator unit heatsinks around the CPU socket, which can interfere with very large air coolers, and you will need to be careful around some sharp corners.
I noticed the lack of a few conveniences like a diagnostic LED display and surface-mounted power and reset buttons, making it easy to start assembly and work on an open bench. You also don’t get a secondary BIOS for sure. On the bright side, Asus has developed an M.2 latch system that removes the usual little screws, and you will get heat sinks in all four M.2 slots.
The integrated rear entry / exit screen is highly appreciated and will make installation easy. There is one USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (20Gbps) Type-C port, two USB 3.2 Gen2 (10Gbps) Type-A ports, and five USB 3.2 Gen1 (5Gbps) ports, one of which is Type-C and four is Type-A. It also has HDMI 2.1, DisplayPort 1.4, 2.5 Gbps Ethernet video outputs, two built-in Wi-Fi 6 antenna terminals, one S / PDIF optical audio output, and five standard 3.5mm audio ports. Unfortunately, you don’t get Thunderbolt at this price, or the external BIOS update and reset buttons. Bluetooth 5.2 is an invisible advantage.
The internal headers will allow for up to four USB 2.0 ports in addition to the high-speed front panel Type-A and Type-C ports. There are multiple ARGB control headers and four chassis fan connection points, as well as separate CPU fan and AIO pump connectors. You get RGB lighting, but it’s very easy to miss the little touches on one edge of the panel and under the Z690’s heatsink. There are only four SATA ports; Two look up and two look to either side of the edge of the board.
There are four M.2 slots, all but one of which contain heat sinks. The main slot is directly powered by the CPU. Only one slot can work with M.2 SATA SSD; The other three, including the main, are for NVMe only. The first PCIe slot is also connected to the CPU and you get the full 16 paths of PCIe 5.0 bandwidth. The second x16 slot, as well as the x4 and two x1 slots, may have to share bandwidth with the M.2 slots, depending on where you occupy.
The UEFI BIOS is fairly easy to navigate. You can view the overview in Easy Mode or delve into the menus, where you’ll find a variety of options for controlling built-in functions and great manual overclocking controls. Overall, the Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4 lacks some amenities, but it offers a lot given its price. If you’re not hungry for overclocking with an elaborate liquid-cooling setup and plan to stick with DDR4 RAM, this could be a solid foundation to build on.
Asus says the Strix LC II 360 ARGB cooler (Rs 18,950 in India) will work with LGA1700 processors as is. However, the new units will ship with a redesigned chip, so you might want to check if you’re buying a new one. Everything comes neatly packed in the box and it’s easy to put the pieces together. The instruction booklet does not cover things like the push/pull direction of the fans, or the direction in which the cooler should be oriented depending on where you want to place it in the cabinet. Asus could also use resealable bags with more visible labels for all brackets, screws and washers, as many AMD and Intel brackets are included. On the plus side, there’s no separate controller for RGB or fan control, and wiring to the motherboard headers is pretty straightforward.
Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K performance
Both CPUs were tested with the same set of components, starting with the Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4 motherboard and the Strix LC II 360 ARGB AIO cooler. The remaining hardware consists of a combination of 2 x 16GB Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4-3600 DDR4-3600 RAM, a Sapphire Nitro + Radeon RX 590 graphics card (which was removed when testing onboard GPUs for CPUs), and a Kingston SSD. KC3000 2TB PCIe 4.0 NVMe, 1TB Samsung SSD 860 EVO SSD, Corsair RM850 PSU, Asus PB287Q 4K display.
All tests were run with a fresh installation of Windows 11, with all available patches installed and all drivers updated. This, combined with the use of DDR4 RAM and the fact that not all tests can be updated to identify and exploit heterogeneous cores, may be reflected in some test results. We have benchmark scores from the previous generation Core i9-11900K and Core i5-11600K to compare, as well as some previous generation CPUs, Intel and AMD HEDTs (blocking limitations mean we do not have the Ryzen 5000 series scores for compare yet). Click to access our previous reviews to see more benchmarks.
|Intel Core i9-1200K||Intel Core i5-12600K||Intel Core i9-11900K||Intel Core |
|AMD Ryzen 9 |
|Intel Core i9-10980XE||AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X|
|Cinebench R20 CPU single-threaded||760||732||628||595||495||452||515|
|Cinebench R20 CPU multi-threaded||10,324||6,664||5,927||4,292||6,785||8,729||17,069|
|Cinebench R23 CPU single-threaded (10 mins)||1,982||1,909||1,676||1,542||NA||NA||NA|
|Cinebench R23 CPU multi-threaded (10 mins)||26,820||17,395||15,373||11,094||NA||NA||NA|
|PCMark 10 standard||8,174||7,645||7,474||5,036||6,597||6,914||6,637|
|PCMark 10 extended||9,121||8,608||8,466||8,137||6,807||7,967||7,681|
|3DMark Fire Strike Ultra (physics)||40,355||28,824||26,716||22,328||27,471||28,111||22,010|
|3DMark Time Spy (CPU)||13,016||10,329||11,000||8,446||NA||NA||NA|
|Geekbench 5 single-threaded||1,749||1,827||1,777||1,654||NA||NA||NA|
|Geekbench 5 multi-threaded||11,219||10,329||9,536||7,582||NA||NA||NA|
|POVRay*||29 seconds||44 seconds||55 seconds||1 minute, 16 seconds||41 seconds||35 seconds||18 seconds|
|VRAY CPU*||32 seconds||49 seconds||54 seconds||1 minute, 14 seconds||48 seconds||37 seconds||20 seconds|
|Corona Renderer Benchmark*||1 minute, 18 seconds||1 minute, 37 seconds||1 minute, 35 seconds||2 minutes, 11 seconds||1 minute, 19 seconds||57 seconds||29 seconds|
|SiSoft SANDRA CPU arithmetic||520.59GOPS||362.87GOPS||313.18GOPS||224.44GOPS||366GOPS||496GOPS||940.69GOPS|
|SiSoft SANDRA CPU multimedia||1.55GPix/s||1GPix/s||1.3GPix/s||948.64MPix/s||1.26GPix/s||2.13GPix/s||3.31GPix/s|
|SiSoft SANDRA CPU cryptography||18.35GBps||15.74GBps||14GBps||16.88GBps||18.09GBps||25.65GBps||41.42GBps|
|SiSoft SANDRA cache bandwidth||485GBps||332.25GBps||429GBps||351GBps||589.9GBps||701.53GBps||1.73TBps|
|7Zip file compression*||1 minute, 51 seconds||1 minute, 52 seconds||1 minute, 37 seconds||1 minute, 40 seconds||1 minute, 33 seconds||1 minute, 8 seconds||56 seconds|
|Handbrake video encoding*||25 seconds||30 seconds||32 seconds||41 seconds||35 seconds||37 seconds||30 seconds|
|Civilization VI AI benchmark (average)||8.72 seconds||8.76 seconds||8.83 seconds||8.87s||NA||NA||NA|
|Integrated GPU tests|
|Unigine Superposition 1080p Medium||1,445||1,366||1,188||1,207|
|3DMark Time Spy||874||819||698||702|
|3DMark Night Raid||11,778||10,859||9,423||9,448|
|Discrete GPU tests|
|3DMark Fire Strike Ultra||3,789||3,708||3,638||3,746|
|3DMark Time Spy||5,439||5,326||5,290||5,200|
|Far Cry 5 1080p Ultra||81fps||77fps||82fps||81fps|
|Far Cry 5 1440p Ultra||56fps||54fps||58fps||57fps|
|Assassin’s Creed Odyssey 1080p Very High||57fps||62fps||61fps||62fps|
|Assassin’s Creed Odyssey 1440p Very High||41fps||45fps||45fps||44fps|
|*lower is better|
What stands out primarily is how much hop there is in the test that can fit any number of cores and threads. While the previous generation Core i9 hit 8 cores and 16 threads, there’s clearly a lot to gain from simply increasing those numbers to 16 and 24 respectively, regardless of architecture. We see significant scaling in 3D rendering and ray tracing standards, and while Windows 11 Task Manager doesn’t distinguish between major types, it showed all 24 Core i9-12900K threads fully saturated during these tests.
Single-thread performance benefits greatly as well, which means games will get a good boost if your GPU doesn’t jam them. The Core i5-12600K strikes an interesting balance here: lots of cores, plus architectural advantages that benefit light-threaded tasks. It’s pricey, by mid-range CPU standards, but it could be an upgrade over the later generations’ Core i7 and Core i9 models. This model is likely to be successful with gamers.
The only thing to consider is power consumption. Intel’s TDP rating system has changed to realize that power consumption is much higher than the nominal level under stress, and now the CPU can run at turbo speed with virtually no restrictions as long as its cooling solution is adequate. If you stress these CPUs for extended periods of time, they will get a lot of power from your power supply (but they will also do a lot more).
Automatic overclocking with the Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus Wifi D4 motherboard is as easy as selecting a few options in the BIOS and letting the system test its own limits. You can also use Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility or Asus AI Suite 3 through Windows. I was able to push the Core i9-12900K to 5.3GHz on P-cores and 4GHz on E-cores in less than a minute. The system was fairly stable and benchmarks were working fine, although the Strix cooler ran noticeably louder and accelerated faster.
After this simple overclock, the CineBench R20’s single-core score increased from 760 to 791, and the multi-core score from 10,324 to 10,795. POVRay’s render time was reduced from 29 seconds to 27 seconds, and Corona’s rendering benchmark ran in 57 seconds, down from 1 minute 18 seconds. An additional metric, NeroScore, which measures AI-assisted image scores, produced a score of 2,584 before overclocking and 3,284 after. If you do manual tweaks on a top-tier motherboard with DDR5 RAM, there’s definitely more room to exploit.
There’s not much to say about Intel’s integrated UHD 770 GPU – the performance gains over the previous generation are marginal. Even if you don’t use it much, it’s a good idea to have an integrated GPU for troubleshooting and assembly. It could be a lifesaver, given the hostile GPU market we’re dealing with right now. For this reason, I always prefer a CPU with an iGPU to the -F variant, unless there is a big price difference.
When the 11th-generation ‘Rocket Lake’ CPU family was released in March of this year, I called it a placeholder, since we already had a pretty good idea of how Alder Lake would form and when it would be released. Intel strongly refuted this characterization, and the company’s rationale was that those were the best CPUs for certain workloads available at the time, which, to be fair, was correct. In the end, she advised people to put off buying if they could, because a lot of things were about to change.
If you have waited this long, you will be very happy. The 12th generation represents a huge improvement in almost every aspect of performance. This is the version that will convince many people to update their existing settings. It’s a huge success for Intel after years of lackluster updates, first because of a lack of competition and then because of its own internal problems. The advent of DDR5, PCIe 5.0, Windows 11, and heterogeneous CPUs has injected new life into the PC market.
When it comes to content creation and multitasking, you can’t go wrong with the new generation of Alder Lake. The best news for buyers is that these 12th-generation core CPUs haven’t been priced out of the way—performance at mainstream prices in many cases outperforms the 18-core Core i9-10980XE processor, which at one time was considered a bargain around Rs. 70,000, which was also half the price of its predecessor. The Core i9-12900K is knocking Intel’s X-series out of service, and it’s no wonder there hasn’t been a HEDT segment update this year. If you want to do even better, you’ll want to look at something like the Ryzen Threadripper series for massive brute force performance across all cores, but this is an entirely different part of the market and the price reflects that.
However, Intel didn’t win a decisive victory over AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series: there are workloads that will still favor the multi-core Zen architecture, and we’ll soon have a new generation of green team. Also note that you’ll need an expensive Z690 motherboard and DDR5 RAM to take full advantage of the unlocked enthusiast SKUs released so far; When you add up all of these prices, AMD can easily get many more people.
Intel Core i9-12900K
Price (approximate MOP): Rs. 60,000
- Excellent single- and multi-threaded performance
- DDR5, PCIe 5.0, fast platform-level IO
- High platform cost
- Basic integrated graphics
- Potential compatibility issues
Ratings (out of 5)
- Performance: 4.5
- Value for Money: 4
- Overall: 4.5
Intel Core i5-12600K
Price (MOP): Rs. 31,500
- Excellent single- and multi-threaded performance
- DDR5, PCIe 5.0, fast platform-level IO
- Expensive, high platform cost
- Basic integrated graphics
- Potential compatibility issues
Ratings (out of 5)
- Performance: 4
- Value for Money: 3.5
- Overall: 4
Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus Wifi D4
Price (MOP): Rs. 25,000
- Simple design, integrated IO shield, M.2 clamps
- Four M.2 slots, PCIe 5.0 x16 slot, USB 3.2×2 (20Gbps)
- Stable performance, easy auto overclocking
- Well-designed UEFI BIOS
- No BIOS failsafe or diagnostic display
Ratings (out of 5)
- Features: 4
- Performance: 4.5
- Value for Money: 4
- Overall: 4