Intel has been struggling to compete with AMD lately. AMD’s Ryzen Zen 3 CPUs took Intel’s gaming performance crown a year ago, and Intel’s response with its 11th Gen Core i9-11900K earlier this year was lackluster, to say the least. While it did boost game performance a bit, overall, it wasn’t enough to close the gap with AMD’s Ryzen 9 5950X in both performance and power consumption. Some critics even labeled it “pathetic” and a “waste of sand”. Oh.
Intel’s 12th generation arrives today and with it the flagship Core i9-12900K. It’s a new era of x86 processors that are designed similarly to Apple’s ARM silicon by offering cores of performance and efficiency. This enables Windows to offload background tasks and maintain performance cores for the most demanding workloads. Intel promises the usual “best gaming processor in the world” and a 19 percent performance improvement over its widely distributed 11th generation chips.
This new generation of Alder Lake chips is also heavily reliant on Windows 11. Microsoft has optimized its new operating system for Intel’s Thread Director, supposedly allowing it to better manage tasks on these new CPU cores.
Intel promises better performance with Windows 11, but what does that really mean? Little. I spent the past week with the Core i9-12900K running on both Windows 10 and Windows 11, and there is hardly a difference between the two for gaming.
Intel’s new Core i9-12900K has a total of 16 cores, but they are not the cores you are used to. Intel has divided them into eight performance P-cores and eight efficient E-cores. These performance cores are similar to Intel’s Core-class processors, with the efficiency cores more akin to its Atom-class cores. Clock speeds can go up to 5.2GHz using Intel’s Turbo Max 3.0 technology, and there are 24 threads in total based on two threads per P-core and one thread for each E-core.
Intel also offers first-time DDR5 memory support and PCIe 5.0 support. This means that you will need a new motherboard for Intel’s 12th gen chips, as the company has moved to its new LGA 1700 socket and Z690 chipset here. You may even need a new cooler or upgraded standoffs as the 12900K is slightly larger than the 11900K.
DDR5 will usher in an era of performance and power gains and even a new generation of overclocking with XMP 3.0. Intel’s Alder Lake CPUs also include Dynamic Memory Boost, which allows desktop PCs to automatically switch between faster XMP settings and a slower mode with less power consumption. It’s still BIOS-level enabled, but you don’t even need DDR5 for this new memory-boosting feature. That’s good news, as DDR5 modules are likely to be expensive for some time to come.
While you can buy DDR5 memory right now, some Z690 motherboards will also support existing DDR4 modules to ease the transition. The introduction of PCIe 5.0 is mostly future-proof at the moment, as you can’t buy a GPU that supports this standard, and we’re still waiting for the first PCIe 5.0 SSDs to appear.
Still, you will find many Z690 motherboards with multiple M.2 slots. I’ve been testing MSI’s MAG Z690 Carbon Wi-Fi, which has five M.2 slots in total, four at PCIe 4.0 speeds and one at PCIe 3.0. We are now at the stage where it is feasible to use M.2 for your storage needs, even if it is not yet very affordable.
The edge It doesn’t review processors in the traditional sense, which is why we don’t have dedicated hardware test kits or multiple CPUs and systems to offer all the benchmarks and comparisons you’ll typically find in CPU reviews. For them, we will recommend that you visit the great people in Ars Technica, Kitguru, or Eurogamer Digital Foundry.
However, I have been testing Intel’s Core i9-12900K paired with 64GB of SK Hynix DDR5 4800 RAM and Nvidia’s RTX 3080 Ti. I’ve been waiting for the Windows 11 update on my main gaming PC, so I wanted to see if it was really worth it for Intel’s latest Alder Lake chips. Spoiler: it is not.
I’ve tested a variety of workloads, synthetic benchmarks, and games on Windows 10 and Windows 11, and the results are very similar. Performance improved slightly on some multithreaded tasks, but gameplay was pretty much the same. However, Windows 11 seems to favor Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro workloads. I was able to drop a few seconds on 4K renderings overall, and the Puget Labs benchmarks are slightly higher on Windows 11 overall. We ran a standard video export test at The edge, which exports a 5 minute 4K video with Adobe Premiere Pro. This completed in 3 minutes and 14 seconds on Windows 11, which was 8 seconds faster than when I exported with Windows 10.
Intel Core i9-12900K benchmarks
|Benchmark (Core i9-12900K)||Windows 10||Windows 11|
|Benchmark (Core i9-12900K)||Windows 10||Windows 11|
|Geekbench 5 single threaded||1977||1960|
|Geekbench 5 multi-threaded||17971||17812|
|Cinebench R23 Single Thread||26428||26447|
|Cinebench R23 multi-threaded||1969||1975|
|Fishy Cat Blender||00: 13.89||00: 13.83|
|PugetBench for Premiere Pro||1355||1387|
|PugetBench for Photoshop||1384||1420|
|3DMark Time spy CPU||18700||18650|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider||204||204|
|Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla||111||111|
|Watch Dogs: Legion||114||116|
In games, frame rates are largely unchanged between Windows 10 and Windows 11. I tested it Metro Exodus, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Gears 5, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and Watch Dogs: Legion all at 1080p with ultra or high settings. Performance was virtually identical across all of these titles, apart from Gears 5, where it was slightly lowered in Windows 11. A benchmark for the 3DMark Time Spy CPU was also slightly lowered in Windows 11.
There are likely improvements with Intel’s Thread Director in Windows 11 that are more noticeable when running a lot of background tasks or just in normal daily use, but I couldn’t notice them during my tests. .
I also tested a variety of PCIe 4.0 drives with the 12900K, just to see how capable it is to deliver the speeds I would expect to see with the latest M.2 SSDs. Western Digital’s SN850 (1TB) has a 7,000MB / s sequential read speed and 5,000MB / s write speeds. I recorded 6,925MB / s read speeds and 5,362MB / s write speeds. That’s only slightly better (less than 2 percent) than what I saw with Intel’s previous Core i9-11900K. Samsung’s 980 Pro also managed to achieve read speeds of 6,706 MB / s and write speeds of 4,977 MB / s, all using CrystalDiskMark.
These kinds of speeds don’t mean much on paper, but in reality, I was able to do tasks like transferring 100GB of data between two PCIe 4.0 drives, all while exporting 4K video without my PC getting bottlenecks or breaking a sweat. I use my PC to play and work, so it’s great to be able to leave a data transfer running in the background while I load a game instantly.
The Core i9-12900K also offers big improvements in multi-core performance for benchmarks like Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23. Intel’s previous 11900K lowered its core count to eight, compared to 10 cores in the 10900K, and suffered from multi-core performance as a result. On Geekbench 5, the 12900K was nearly 12 percent better than the 11900K in single-threaded performance and a massive 137 percent improvement in multi-core performance. I also noticed that Geekbench 5 performs worse on Windows 11 here. Similarly, the Cinebench R23 scores are a huge improvement over the 11900K and even exceed what you would find on AMD’s Ryzen 9 5950X.
In terms of competition from AMD, Intel finally offers performance that can outperform AMD’s Ryzen 9 5950X. The 12900K is a huge improvement over the 11th Gen 11900K for both gaming and productivity workloads.
The 12900K outperforms AMD’s 5950X in virtually every Eurogamer tests and almost all Complete Gamer Nexus benchmarks. However, CPU reviewers have found that this performance comes at an additional price beyond the label. At full load for certain tasks, the 12900K can draw more than 240 watts of power, compared to 120 W as standard from AMD for the 5950X. according to Gamers Nexus.
Intel has taken a year to respond, with a $ 589 processor that can match AMD’s $ 799 Ryzen 9 5950X. Whether you’ll actually be able to find it for $ 589, however, is another question. Prices at various retailers in the US range from $ 620 to $ 649 right now.
It remains to be seen how long Intel will be able to maintain its performance advantage. AMD is rumored to launch its Ryzen 6000 processors early next year, and they could be an interim solution until the company is ready with its next Zen 4 architecture. For now, Intel is back and ready to usher in the era. DDR5 and PCIe 5.0.