Intel Core i9-12900K

MSRP $619.00

“The Intel Core i9-12900K undercuts the competition on price and overdelivers on performance.”

Pros

  • Outpaces the Ryzen 9 5950X in most workloads
  • Significantly cheaper than the Ryzen 9 5950X
  • DDR5 help
  • Solid overclocking headroom
  • PCIe 5.0 on supported motherboards

Cons

  • High energy calls for
  • Runs slightly scorching

“Intel is back.” It’s a phrase you’ve heard muttered advert nauseam if you happen to’ve been being attentive to CPUs over the previous few years, even properly earlier than Intel fell behind AMD. It was solely when AMD began to take over the desktop market with the launch of Ryzen 5000 that Intel began to place these phrases into motion — and the result’s Alder Lake.

The Core i9-12900K is Intel’s flagship Alder Lake chip, and after completely testing it, it has earned a spot on our record of the perfect processors you should buy. It represents not solely a brand new processor technology, but in addition the primary launch beneath a brand new CEO, the primary time Intel has used its 10nm manufacturing course of on desktop, and the primary time we’ve seen a hybrid CPU structure in a slot-in processor.

It additionally represents an organization that has rested on its laurels for lengthy sufficient to lose its thunder. AMD has surpassed Intel within the desktop and server market, and Apple ditched its longtime partnership with Intel to design its personal chips which can be sooner and extra environment friendly. Alder Lake, nevertheless, reveals that Intel is certainly again.

Specs: What makes Alder Lake completely different

Intel Core i9-12900K box.

The Core i9-12900K is the flagship Alder Lake chip, sitting above the Core i5 and Core i7 fashions. There are two variations obtainable, each of that are unlocked for overclocking.

The KF-series chip lacks built-in graphics, however it’s barely cheaper, too. In phrases of efficiency, the 2 chips are equivalent.

Cores Base frequency Max increase frequency Intel Smart Cache (L3) Integrated graphics Base energy Max turbo energy Suggested worth
Core i9-12900K 16 (8P + 8E) 3.2GHz (P-core), 2.4GHz (E-core) Up to five.2GHz 30MB Intel UHD 770 125W 241W $589
Core i9-12900KF 16 (8P + 8E) 3.2GHz (P-core), 2.4GHz (E-core) Up to five.2GHz 30MB N/A 125W 241W $564
Core i7-12700K 12 (8P + 4E) 3.6GHz (P-core), 2.7GHz (E-core Up to five.0GHz 25MB Intel UHD 770 125W 190W $409
Core i7-12700KF 12 (8P + 4E) 3.6GHz (P-core), 2.7GHz (E-core) Up to five.0GHz 25MB N/A 125W 190W $384
Core i5-12600K 10 (6P + 4E) 3.7GHz (P-core), 2.8GHz (E-core) Up to 4.9GHz 20MB Intel UHD 770 125W 150W $289
Core i5-12600KF 10 (6P + 4E) 3.7GHz (P-core), 2.8GHz (E-core) Up to 4.9GHz 20MB N/A 125W 150W $264

Comparing the specs to AMD does successfully nothing. Not solely are AMD and Intel utilizing completely different architectures, however AMD’s most up-to-date chips don’t use a hybrid structure like Intel’s do. Both the Core i9-12900K and AMD’s Ryzen 9 5950X are 16-core processors, however these cores couldn’t be extra completely different.

That’s as a result of the Core i9-12900K makes use of two sorts of cores. Instead of 16 huge cores, it makes use of eight performant (P) cores and eight environment friendly (E) cores. The P-cores deal with the massive, essential duties, whereas the E-cores clear up every part within the background. The Core i9-12900K is technically a 16-core processor, however solely eight of these cores are akin to AMD.

The two specs I can evaluate are worth and energy. For energy, the Intel chip attracts much more — as much as 241 watts at max turbo. The 5950X has a rated wattage of solely 105W, although it could possibly draw nearer to 200W when overclocked. Still, that’s properly under the Core i9-12900K. The 5950X solely requires a single 8-pin CPU connector, whereas the Core i9-12900K requires two.

Power draw is greater on the Core i9-12900K, however the worth is decrease. At the urged worth, the Core i9-12900K is $210 cheaper than the 5950X, although costs are nearer at most retailers. The Core i9-12900K really sells for nearer to $650, whereas the Ryzen 9 5950X is round $750. Still, a $100 worth distinction is a big hole.

Test configurations

Intel Core i9-12900K in a motherboard.

Before stepping into the outcomes, listed below are the 4 rigs I used for testing:

  Alder Lake DDR5 Alder Lake DDR4 AMD Zen 3 Intel Tenth-gen
CPU Intel Core i9-12900K Intel Core i9-12900K AMD Ryzen 9 5950X Intel Core i9-10900K
GPU Nvidia RTX 3090 Founders Edition Nvidia RTX 3090 Founders Edition Nvidia RTX 3090 Founders Edition Nvidia RTX 3090 Founders Edition
RAM 32GB SK Hynix DDR5-4800 32GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 32GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 32GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200
Motherboard MSI Z690 Carbon Wi-Fi MSI Pro Z690-A DDR4 Gigabyte Aorus B550 Elite Asus Tuf Gaming Z490-Plus
CPU cooler Corsair H115i Elite Capellix Corsair H115i Elite Capellix Corsair H115i Elite Capellix Corsair H115i Elite Capellix
Power provide bequiet! 850W 80 Plus Platinum bequiet! 850W 80 Plus Platinum bequiet! 850W 80 Plus Platinum EVGA G6 1000W 80 Plus Gold
Storage Corsair MP400 1TB SSD Corsair MP400 1TB SSD Corsair MP400 1TB SSD Crucial MX500 2TB SSD

For my essential CPU and gaming exams, I ran the Alder Lake bench with DDR5. DDR5 is a bonus of the platform, in spite of everything, so it ought to sit alongside the processor to point out what Alder Lake and Z690 are able to. Similarly, I ran my exams on the most recent construct of Windows 11, ensuring to obtain the patches for the latest bugs attributable to AMD chips.

Naturally, DDR5 and Windows 11 paint Alder Lake in probably the most constructive mild. Still, I went again and retested DDR4 and Windows 10 to identify the variations, and though there are some clear disparities, they don’t apply throughout workloads.

Performance

Intel promised a large leap ahead with Alder Lake, and based mostly on my outcomes, the Core i9-12900K delivers. Throughout my exams, one factor turned clear: Intel is ready to ship the identical 16-core efficiency because the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, not solely at a lower cost, but in addition with half of its cores operating at full energy.

Intel Core i9-12900K AMD Ryzen 9 5950X Intel Core i9-10900K
Cinebench R23 single-core 1,989 1,531 1,291
Cinebench R23 multi-core 27,344 27,328 13,614
Geekbench 5 single-core 2,036 1,726 1,362
Geekbench 5 multi-core 18,259 14,239 10,715
PC Mark 10 9,092 8,254 7,593
Handbrake (seconds, decrease is healthier) 47 58 72
Pugetbench for Premiere Pro 1,066 992 855
Pugetbench for Photoshop 1,315 1,009 1,023
7-Zip  126,215 139,074 86,172

Cinebench R23 completely illustrates that. This demanding benchmark duties the CPU with rendering a picture, so it’s a good way to isolate the processor from different elements. When all of the cores are working, the Core i9-12900K and Ryzen 9 5950X produce nearly equivalent outcomes.

That doesn’t look nice, however it’s essential to maintain Alder Lake’s hybrid structure in thoughts — and the truth that it’s $200 lower than the Ryzen 9 5950X. The single-core rating makes the disparity clear, the place the Core i9-12900K is almost 30% sooner. Over the Core i9-10900K, the brand new chip is sort of 62% sooner within the single-core Cinebench R23 take a look at.

The Core i9-12900K competes with the Ryzen 9 5900X on worth and the 5950X on efficiency.

Geekbench 5 is slightly tighter, with the Core i9-12900K outpacing the AMD chip by round 28% within the multi-core take a look at. That’s a large enchancment, however it’s nearly solely on the again of DDR5. With DDR4, the Core i9-12900K is definitely slower than the Ryzen 9 5950X within the multi-core take a look at, although it maintains a lead within the single-core take a look at.

PC Mark 10 gives a superb take a look at how these chips stack up general, although. There, the Core i9-12900K is about 10% sooner than the Ryzen 9 5950X and about 20% sooner than the Tenth-gen chip.

In artistic apps, each Intel chips maintain the lead. Although the Core i9-10900K scored under the Ryzen 9 5950X within the Premiere Pro benchmark, it shouldn’t be practically as shut as it’s. The greatest distinction comes from Photoshop, the place the Core i9-12900K enjoys a 30% lead over the Ryzen 9 5950X — probably on the again of DDR5.

Pins on Intel Core i9-12900K.

Out of the seven benchmarks I ran, the Ryzen 9 5950X solely took first place in a single: 7-Zip. In this take a look at, the Ryzen 9 5950X is about 10% sooner than the Core i9-12900K. This end result explains the tighter Geekbench outcomes, as Geekbench takes under consideration file compression and decompression.

Intel delivered. The Core i9-12900K competes with the Ryzen 9 5900X on worth, however competes with the Ryzen 9 5950X on efficiency — and is popping out with a big lead at that.

Gaming

Intel has touted the Core i9-12900K as the perfect gaming CPU available on the market, and my outcomes again that up. It reveals some clear benefits over the Core i9-10900K whereas principally matching the Ryzen 9 5950X. Still, there are a few points with Alder Lake and explicit video games.

All of the exams under have been run at 1080p with High to Ultra graphics presets. I ran exams at 1440p and 4K as properly, although there isn’t a lot to report. The variations are constant throughout resolutions, and at 4K the place video games grow to be certain by the GPU, the three chips present no distinction in efficiency.

Intel Core i9-12900K AMD Ryzen 9 5950X Intel Core i9-10900K
3D Mark Time Spy  19396 17922 18341
Red Dead Redemption 2 137 fps 135 fps 129 fps
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla 118 fps 121 fps 122 fps
Forza Horizon 4 234 fps 201 fps 200 fps
Civilization VI (flip time, decrease is healthier) 7.3 seconds 7.5 seconds 6.5 seconds

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the perfect place to start out, because it’s one instance of a recreation that struggles with Alder Lake. It trails each the Ryzen 9 5950X and Core i9-10900K. Worse than that, I couldn’t get the benchmark to work constantly. The recreation would crash instantly, inflicting hours of complications as I troubleshooted an issue with no clear reply.

Ubisoft and Intel confirmed that Valhalla has some concern with the Core i9-12900K, although wouldn’t present extra particulars past that. Regardless, when the sport labored, it carried out barely under the Ryzen 9 5950X and the Core i9-10900K. I didn’t encounter points with different video games, suggesting that this concern is on Ubisoft’s finish.

3D Mark reveals clearer scaling between the three chips, with the Ryzen 9 5950X and Core i9-10900K in a good grouping whereas the Core i9-12900K shoots forward. The remaining rating is about 8% sooner than the Ryzen 9 5950X, probably aided by the improved bandwidth of DDR5. As I’ll get into within the subsequent part, DDR5 confirmed a transparent profit on this benchmark.

For the primary time shortly, Intel is displaying a transparent lead in gaming.

My Ryzen 5950X end result was nearly equivalent to the one I bought with the identical chip contained in the Origin Neuron. That stated, the common end result from the 3D Mark leaderboards is barely greater. This is probably going a reminiscence concern; even with XMP enabled, the Ryzen 9 5950X produced subpar outcomes. You’d have to tighten timings to attain the next rating, which is an issue the Core i9-12900K doesn’t have.

Forza Horizon 4 produced the most important distinction in uncooked body fee, with the Core i9-12900K displaying a 16% lead over the opposite two chips. Forza additionally gives body charges particularly from the CPU, and the Core i9-12900K has some huge benefits. At 1080p, it outpaced the Ryzen 9 5950X by 21% within the CPU render body fee and 10% in CPU simulation.

This recreation additionally confirmed a distinction at 1440p, with Core i9-12900K sustaining a stable 22 fps lead over the opposite two chips. Although some video games received’t profit a lot from Alder Lake — take my Red Dead Redemption 2 outcomes for example — others will, with huge beneficial properties.

For the primary time shortly, Intel is displaying a transparent lead in gaming. The Core i9-12900K could also be overkill for many video games — it’s nonetheless certain by the GPU at 4K, in spite of everything — however it nonetheless appears leaps past last-gen elements and the competitors.

DDR4 vs. DDR5

Intel Alder Lake box with DDR5 memory.

I ran my essential exams with DDR5. There’s no method round it: DDR5 gives benefits over DDR4. There isn’t a world the place I might evaluate the Core i9-12900K to the Ryzen 9 5950X with out handicapping Intel’s more moderen launch.

DDR5 is a bonus of Alder Lake, so it’s as related to efficiency because the processor itself. Still, I retested a restricted suite of benchmarks with DDR4 to gauge how a lot of a distinction you’ll be able to count on with the brand new reminiscence commonplace.

DDR4 DDR5
PC Mark 10 8794  9092
3D Mark Time Spy (general) 18175  19396
Red Dead Redemption 2 (1080p Ultra) 114 fps 115 fps
Geekbench 5 single-core 1902 2036
Geekbench 5 multi-core 12969  18259
Pugetbench for Premiere Pro  1019 1066

Overall, the variations are minor — outdoors of an oddly massive hole in my multi-core Geekbench 5 outcomes. For gaming, DDR5 didn’t make any distinction in Red Dead Redemption 2, and in 3D Mark Time Spy, it represented simply shy of a 7% enhance. That’s nothing to sneeze at, however keep in mind variations between runs, and the distinction doesn’t look that giant.

Similarly, PC Mark 10 confirmed solely a 3% enhance with DDR5, and PugetBench for Premiere Pro confirmed nearly no distinction in any respect. The oddball is Geekbench’s multi-core take a look at, which confirmed practically a 41% enhance with DDR5. This illustrates the principle efficiency level with DDR5: it actually is determined by the appliance.

DDR5 has much more bandwidth, however that comes at the price of latency. Clearly, fashionable purposes favor bandwidth extra, however some do far more so than others. Overall, you’re a slight bump with DDR5, with some purposes taking significantly properly to the brand new reminiscence commonplace.

I wish to use this part to clear up some confusion, although. Although Alder Lake helps DDR4 and DDR5, they aren’t interchangeable. You can’t slot a DDR4 stick right into a DDR5 motherboard, or vice versa. Make positive to concentrate to what sort of reminiscence your Z690 motherboard helps earlier than choosing it up.

Windows 11 vs. Windows 10

Windows 11 start deck.

Alder Lake not solely represents the launch of DDR5, but in addition the launch of Windows 11. AMD chips have some points with the brand new working system, so I ran the identical suite of restricted exams on the Core i9-12900K and Ryzen 9 5950X throughout Windows 11 and Windows 10 to see the variations. There’s not quite a bit to report.

Intel Core i9-12900K Windows 11 Intel Core i9-12900K Windows 10
PC Mark 10 9092 7919
3D Mark Time Spy 19396 19511
Red Dead Redemption 2 115 fps 112 fps
Geekbench 5 single-core 2036 1962
Geekbench 5 multi-core 18259 18282
Pugetbench for Premiere Pro 1066 1283

For the Core i9-12900K, the variations are negligible for probably the most half. The most important enhance got here from PC Mark 10, the place my Windows 11 rig was practically 15% sooner. That’s on the again of a excessive Creation rating in PC Mark 10, which Alder Lake appears significantly well-suited for.

Premiere Pro confirmed a giant distinction, too: About a 20% enhance in favor of Windows 10. I used an older model of Premiere for my exams, although — v15.4, in case you have been questioning — which can not have the identical optimizations for Windows 11.

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X Windows 11 AMD Ryzen 9 5950X Windows 10
PC Mark 10 8254 8041
3D Mark Time Spy 17922 17572
Red Dead Redemption 2 135 fps 133 fps
Geekbench 5 single-core 1726 1710
Geekbench 5 multi-core 14239 14084
Pugetbench for Premiere Pro 992 994

There wasn’t a distinction with the Ryzen 9 5950X, both. Although 3D Mark Time Spy and Red Dead Redemption 2 confirmed some minor modifications, neither of them are consequential. It’s true that AMD chips had points with Windows 11 earlier than, however the newest Windows and AMD updates appeared to have clear up them — no less than within the exams I ran.

Overclocking, clock speeds, and thermals

The Core i9-12900K boasts a single-core increase of 5.2GHz, which I hit repeatedly throughout testing. All-core frequencies are naturally decrease. In a 30-minute AIDA64 stress take a look at, the chip managed an all-core frequency of 4.8GHz, reaching a peak of 84 levels Celsius whereas drawing 210W of energy.

84 levels is scorching, however the Core i9-12900K didn’t keep there lengthy. AIDA64 is a stress take a look at, too, and that is nonetheless 16 levels under the utmost working temperature of 100 levels. Under a reasonable load, the chip principally stayed round 50 to 60 levels Celsius, solely climbing greater when all cores have been pushed to the restrict.

Performant as it’s, the Core i9-12900K has excessive energy calls for.

I briefly dug into Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) to get an reasonable overclock working. Using Speed Booster, I used to be in a position to increase the frequency to 5GHz by urgent a single button. Originally, this produced a a lot greater temperature, however after reseating my cooler, every part ran easily.

Alder Lake chips are rectangular, so the tried and true pea technique of making use of thermal paste didn’t cowl the chip. I unfold out the paste just a bit bit — to not the perimeters — whereas reseating to cowl it utterly. Temperatures returned to regular.

Although the Speed Booster offers you an overclock with none of the work, you’ll be able to obtain greater clock speeds by tweaking the cores manually. I utilized a 300MHz increase to all cores with Intel’s Thermal Velocity Boost turned on, and I used to be in a position to hit 5.4GHz whereas consuming 300W of energy. That’s quite a bit. Performant as it’s, the Core i9-12900K follows within the footsteps of earlier Intel generations with excessive energy calls for.

Pins on Core i9-12900K.

Although there’s nonetheless quite a bit to discover with how the P-core and E-core react to overclocking, I observed a number of common traits whereas testing. Boosting the E-core frequency didn’t influence energy draw, thermals, or efficiency a lot. The distinction is workload particular, so overclocking your E-cores will do nothing for purposes that primarily use the P-cores. On the flip facet, the P-cores made up the majority of energy and thermal will increase whereas overclocking, so it’s greatest to be conservative along with your P-core overclocks.

Our take

The Core i9-12900K represents a variety of issues for Intel, however greater than something, it represents an organization that’s able to get aggressive once more. Even at its worst, the Core i9-12900K matches the Ryzen 9 5950X — and for a considerably lower cost. At its greatest, it blows previous each the perfect AMD has to supply and every part else available on the market.

Power is a priority, because it has been for the previous a number of Intel generations. High energy calls for are a lot simpler to swallow when there’s additional efficiency on the desk, although, and that’s what the Core i9-12900K gives.

Are there any options?

There isn’t something just like the Core i9-12900K on desktop proper now. The closest competitor is the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, although it’s not practically as quick because the Core i9-12900K.

How lengthy will it final?

The Core i9-12900K will final for the following a number of years no less than. If you’re shopping for a processor as high-end because the Core i9-12900K, you’ll probably improve earlier than efficiency turns into a serious concern.

Should you purchase it?

Yes. Right now, there isn’t something that performs in addition to the Core i9-12900K. That stated, it consumes a variety of energy, so ensure to purchase a beefy energy provide and cooler alongside it.

Editors’ Recommendations



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