It’s no secret that Intel struggled to match AMD’s 16-core mainstream desktop CPUs with its previous mainstream offerings and had to completely rethink its approach to CPU design to beat the likes of the Ryzen 9 5950X. The answer was to mix different types of cores to boost lightly threaded and multi-threaded performance. By combining this approach with a move from 14nm to a smaller 10nm manufacturing process, plus a new architecture, Intel finally regained its performance lead with the Core i9-12900K.
It has eight performance-orientated P-Cores and eight power-efficient E-Cores, with the latter being four more than the Core i7-12700K. These four extra cores also give it four more threads than the Core i7, at 24 versus20, plus it has an extra 5MB of L3 cache and 2MB more L2 cache. This monster CPU is capable of matching or bettering the most powerful high-end desktop CPUs Intel has made for its aging LGA2066 socket too.
This comes at a price, though, and at around $550, the 12900K is pricier than any AMD CPU on test this month. This means it needs to match or better the Ryzen 7 5800X3D in games, which costs $100 less, and do the same with the mighty Ryzen 9 5950X, but in content creation, with that CPU costing a little under $500.
You’ll need some potent cooling for this CPU, plus a decent power supply. We saw our system draw over 300W when the CPU was under load, which is nearly 100W more than our AMD system with the Ryzen 9 5950X and nearly 50W more than with the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, and the 12900K runs hot as well.
It didn’t disappoint, though, beating the Ryzen 9 5950X in every test except when the latter was overclocked, where it was slightly better in Cinebench’s multi-threaded test. Meanwhile, its RealBench system score was second only to the Core i9-12900KS. In games it was a mixed bag, though, with Far Cry 6 seeing the Ryzen 9 5950X offer an extra one or two frames per second on the 99th percentile frame rate, but the Intel chip was nearly 10fps faster on the average frame rate. The Ryzen 7 5800X3D was much faster in this game, however, adding 12fps to the 99th percentile frame rate. Even overclocking the P-Cores to 5GHz and the E-Cores to 4GHz didn’t see it beat the AMD CPU. Watch Dogs: Legion favored the Intel chip, though, and here the Core i9-12900K was a little faster than the Ryzen 7 5800X3D.
The Ryzen 7 5800X3D was much faster in this game, however, adding 12fps to the 99th percentile frame rate. Even overclocking the P-Cores to 5GHz and the E-Cores to 4GHz didn’t see it beat the AMD CPU. Watch Dogs: Legion favored the Intel chip, though, and here the Core i9-12900K was a little faster than the Ryzen 7 5800X3D.
Base frequency P-Core 3.4GHz, E-Core 2.5GHz Max boost frequency P-Core 5.5GHz, E-Core 4GHz Core Alder Lake Manufacturing process 10nm Number of cores 8 x P-Cores, 8 x E-Cores (24 threads) IGP Intel UHD Graphics 770 Hyper-Threading Yes Cache 30MB L3, 14MB L2 Memory controller Dual-channel DDR4 and DDR5 Packaging LGA1700 Thermal design power (TDP) 150W Features Thermal Velocity Boost, Turbo Boost Max Technology 3, Turbo Boost 2, FMA3, F16C, SHA, BMI / BMI1 + BMI2, AVX-512, AVX2, AVX, AES, SSE4a, SSE4, SSSE3, SSE3, SSE2, SSE, MMX
As we mentioned in the Core i7-12700K review, the Core i9-12900K is geared towards those who have plenty of cash to burn and want both top-notch gaming and content creation performance. However, the Core i9-12900K doesn’t bag you any noticeable improvements in most games; it’s only in content creation that its additional E-Cores help it edge out a lead.
The Ryzen 7 5800X3D is certainly a worthy alternative for gaming, being faster in Far Cry 6, and it can slot into old AM4 boards too, but it was much slower in heavily multi-threaded content creation work. The Core i9-12900K isn’t a CPU that many of us need, or can even afford, but it’s never far from the top of the performance graphs. If you have the money fora super-fast CPU, it delivers the goods.
+ Pros + Good gaming performance + Much faster than Ryzen 7 5800X3D in content creation + Better than Ryzen 9 5950X overall -Cons - Power-hungry - Needs substantial cooling - Expensive