As we wait for Intel to launch its 12th Generation Alder Lake processors, Chinese merchants (via Yuuki_AnS (opens in new tab)) are already selling engineering samples on Taobao (opens in new tab). Since we're approaching the rumored November 4 (previously November 19) launch date, sellers are probably taking the opportunity to offload the illegal samples.
The Taobao seller advertised the Core i9-12900K samples as an ES2 chips, meaning that the specifications for these are not very close to the final retail samples. They likely come with bugs. We already know that the flagship Alder Lake part wields 16 cores in total, consisting of eight Golden Cove cores and eight Gracemont cores. The listing exposes a clock speed between 4 GHz and 5 GHz, which falls in line with the leaked specifications.
The Core i9-12900K has been rumored to arrive with a 3.2 GHz base clock and 5.3 GHz boost clock and a 30MB L3 cache. The chip will obviously slot into the new LGA1700 socket and offer DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 support.
Performance-wise, the Core i9-12900K will bring some surprises to the table, but it remains to be seen whether it can hang with the best CPUs on the market. If early benchmarks are to be trusted, the Core i9-12900K will struggle to beat the Core i9-11900K (Rocket Lake) processor in some workloads. As a matter of fact, the Core i9-12900K doesn't even look very convincing beside AMD's Ryzen 9 5900X, which outperforms the heterogeneous flagship by a significant margin in many workloads.
It's not the first time that we've seen the Core i9-12900K on sale in China. A previous merchant was flipping Core i9-12900K qualification samples for up to $1,250. This Taobao merchant, on the other hand, is only asking $700 for his ES2 processors. Then again, qualification samples are closer to the retail ones than the engineering samples. For reference, one particular U.S. retailer listed the Core i9-12900K for $604.89 so even at $700, that ES2 processor is a bad deal.
It doesn't make sense to pick up any Alder Lake chips right now since there aren't motherboards available to house these hybrid processors. Surprisingly, not even the Chinese black market has any Intel 600-series motherboards on sale.