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Intel Core i7-12700K Review: Flagship i9 Gaming Performance at i7 Pricing

Intel Alder Lake
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Alder Lake's arrival heralded the opening salvo of Intel's brutal price war on AMD's Ryzen 5000 chips, and the Core i7-12700K is the perfect example of Intel's new bare-knuckle approach to pricing. At $409, the 12700K thoroughly beats the $390 Ryzen 7 5800X and even unseats the pricey $550 Ryzen 9 5900X, all while delivering essentially the same gaming performance as the fastest gaming chip on the planet, Intel's own $589 flagship Core i9-12900K — but for $180 less. As a result, the Core i7-12700K  joins our list of the best CPUs for gaming. It's also exceedingly competitive in applications, assuring a top ranking in our CPU Benchmark hierarchy.

The 12700K comes on the heels of Intel's other surprising victories against much pricier chips, like the $589 Core i9-12900K vs $799 Ryzen 9 5950X and the $289 Core i5-12600K vs $390 Ryzen 7 5800X (click the links for the full rundown), proving that Alder Lake truly punches above its pricing weight class.

Surprisingly, the majority of these gains come even without the advantages of Alder Lake's new next-gen connectivity technologies that bring big increases in throughput via DDR5 memory and PCIe 5.0 interfaces. You can use standard DDR4 memory and PCIe devices to unlock superior performance over AMD's aging AM4 platform, but DDR5 will give you an extra performance kicker in some applications. Intel's platform is also prepared for the inevitable transition to PCIe 5.0, but that brings higher motherboard pricing. That reduces (but doesn't eliminate) Intel's chip pricing advantage, at least until B- and H-series boards arrive in the coming months.

Intel is the first to support DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 on the desktop, and the company combines that tech with another first for desktop PCs — Alder's new hybrid x86 design represents the company's most disruptive architectural shift in a decade. Alder Lake combines big and fast Performance cores (P-cores) with clusters of small and powerful Efficiency cores (E-cores) that chew through background processes. The Golden Cove architecture powers the 'big' P-cores while the 'little' E-cores come with the Gracemont architecture, with both providing much-needed IPC improvements to Intel's core designs.

The 'Intel 7' process debuts with Alder Lake, finally ending Intel's misery on the 14nm node after six long years that ultimately cost the company its performance crown to AMD. We previously knew this 'Intel 7' manufacturing tech as 10nm Enhanced SuperFin, but Intel recently renamed its process nodes to match industry nomenclature. Technically, this is the second generation of Intel's 10nm process, but it's a first for desktop PCs.

U.S. PriceCores | ThreadsP-Core Base/BoostE-Core Base/BoostTDP / PBP / MTPDDR4-3200L3 Cache
Core i9-12900K / KF$589 (K) - $564 (KF)8P + 8E | 16 Cores / 24 threads3.2 / 5.2 GHz2.4 / 3.9 GHz125W / 241WDDR4-3200 / DDR5-480030MB
Core i7-12700K / KF$409 (K) - $384 (KF)8P + 4E | 12 Cores / 20 threads3.6 / 5.0 GHz2.7 / 3.8 GHz125W / 190WDDR4-3200 / DDR5-480025MB
Core i5-12600K / KF$289 (K) - $264 (KF)6P + 4E | 10 Cores / 16 threads3.7 / 4.9 GHz2.8 / 3.6 GHz125W / 150WDDR4-3200 / DDR5-480016MB

For now, Alder Lake consists of three high-end overclockable K-series models, along with their graphics-less KF counterparts that are slightly less expensive, with more models to come in the future. The P-cores are hyper-threaded, while the E-cores only have a single thread, leading to what we would normally consider as non-standard thread counts. The Core i7-12700K comes with eight P-cores and 4 E-cores, for a total of 20 threads, slotting in between the 16-core 24-thread Core i9-12900K and the 10-core 16-thread Core i5-12600K.

There is a catch, though. Alder Lake's new heterogeneous design requires special accommodations to unlock the best performance: Performance-sensitive work executes best on the P-cores, while the E-cores are best for background and threaded workloads, but ensuring that the right workloads land on the correct cores requires operating system intervention.

The Alder Lake chips work with both newer and older versions of Windows, but Windows 11 unlocks the best performance because it supports Intel's new Thread Director. The tech provides the operating system with information that assists in assigning work to the correct cores. Alder Lake's performance is still competitive in Windows 10, but you might encounter wayward performance and/or variability, meaning some workloads will be slower at times due to unoptimized thread scheduling. However, you can rectify those issues in Windows 10 with various utilities, like the always-popular Process Lasso.

Conversely, Alder Lake is incredibly impressive in Windows 11 and takes the lead over AMD in gaming and most workloads, and by large margins. In other words, for worry-free class-leading performance, go with Windows 11 and Alder Lake. You'll get similarly impressive performance with Windows 10, but it will require a bit more manual intervention in a few applications.

Intel's previous-gen Rocket Lake chips came with the same number of cores for both the Core i7 and i9 models, leaving little difference between the two models. However, the Core i7 12700K has four fewer E-cores than the Core i9-12900K and a 200 MHz lower boost clock, marking the return of meaningful segmentation between the Core i7 and i9 lineups.

That segmentation is apparent in lightly- and heavily-threaded productivity applications, with the 12900K earning its higher price tag in those areas. But as you'll see in our benchmarks below, the 12700K offers essentially the same performance in gaming, making it the new high-end champion for performance addicts, while the Core i5-12600K remains the best mid-range CPU for gaming. 

Intel Alder Lake-S Core i7-12700K Specifications and Pricing

Intel is only bringing its most expensive chips from the Core i9, i7, and i5 families to the retail market for now, but it is also shipping 28 more models to OEMs for prebuilt systems that arrive early next year. Intel isn't sharing details yet, but those models will eventually come to retail at an unspecified time.

We have deep-dive coverage of the Alder Lake SoC design and core microarchitectures here, along with a broader overview in our Alder Lake all we know article. Additionally, Intel has removed its 'TDP' (Thermal Design Point) nomenclature from the spec sheets, and now assigns a Processor Base Power (PBP) value in its place. The company also added a secondary Maximum Turbo Power (MTP) value to the spec sheets to represent the highest power level during boost activity. You can read more about that change here

U.S. PriceCores | ThreadsP-Core Base/BoostE-Core Base/BoostTDP / PBP / MTPDDR4-3200L3 Cache
Ryzen 9 5950X$79916P | 32 threads3.4 / 4.9 GHz-105WDDR4-320064MB (2x32)
Core i9-12900K / KF$589 (K) - $564 (KF)8P + 8E | 16 Cores / 24 threads3.2 / 5.2 GHz2.4 / 3.9 GHz125W / 241WDDR4-3200 / DDR5-480030MB
Ryzen 9 5900X$54912P | 24 threads3.7 / 4.8 GHz-105WDDR4-320032MB (1x32)
Core i9-11900K$5498P | 16 threads3.5 / 5.3 GHz-125WDDR4-320016MB
Core i7-12700K / KF$409 (K) - $384 (KF)8P + 4E | 12 Cores / 20 threads3.6 / 5.0 GHz2.7 / 3.8 GHz125W / 190WDDR4-3200 / DDR5-480025MB
Core i7-11700K$4098P | 16 threads3.6 / 5.0 GHz-125WDDR4-320016MB
Ryzen 7 5800X$4498P | 16 threads3.8 / 4.7 GHz-105WDDR4-320032MB
Core i5-12600K / KF$289 (K) - $264 (KF)6P + 4E | 10 Cores / 16 threads3.7 / 4.9 GHz2.8 / 3.6 GHz125W / 150WDDR4-3200 / DDR5-480016MB
Core i5-11600K$2726P | 12 threads3.9 / 4.9 GHz-95WDDR4-320012MB
Ryzen 5 5600X$2996P | 12 threads3.7 / 4.6 GHz-65WDDR4-320032MB

All Alder Lake chips support DDR4-3200 or up to DDR5-4800 memory, but caveats apply. Alder Lake chips expose up to 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 (technically for storage and graphics only, no networking devices) and an additional four lanes of PCIe 4.0 from the chip for M.2 storage.

The Core i7-12700K lands with the same $409 pricing as the previous-gen Core i7-11700K, but it comes with 33% more threads. The Core i7-12700K has eight P-cores and four E-cores, for a total of 20 threads. The P-cores run at a 3.6 / 5.0 GHz base/boost, but that isn't too important given the entirely new hybrid architecture — the P-cores process roughly 19% more instructions per cycle and the SoC realizes performance gains from using different core types for different tasks. Meanwhile, the E-cores weigh in at 2.7 / 3.8 GHz. The chip is fed by 25MB of L3 cache and 12MB of L2.

Based on price alone, the 12700K competes with the Ryzen 7 5800X. The 5800X carries a $449 suggested price tag but is commonly found for about $390 at retail. The Ryzen 7 5800X comes with eight cores and 16 threads that are easily outweighed by the 12700K's hybrid architecture with 20 threads. This chip has a 3.8 / 4.7 GHz base/boost clock, but that isn't directly comparable to the 12700K given the different architectures in play.

Based on performance, the Ryzen 9 5900X is more of a natural competitor for the 12700K. The $549 Ryzen 9 5900X comes with 12 cores and 24 threads that run at a 3.7 / 4.8 GHz base/boost clock. Both competing Ryzen chips have a 105W TDP.

In contrast, the 12700K comes with a 125W PBP (base) and 190W MTP (peak) power rating, but be aware that Intel has also changed its default boost duration for all K-series chips from the 56-second duration with Rocket Lake to an unlimited value. This means the chip will effectively always operate at the 190W MTP when it is under load. However, most enthusiast motherboards will effectively lift all of the power limits.

If you're looking to save some coin, the graphics-less $384 Core i7-12700KF comes with a $25 price reduction and has the exact same specs as the 12700K, which is incredibly attractive if you plan on using a discrete graphics card. Notably, you will lose Quick Sync capabilities and the iGPU fallback that you can use for troubleshooting in the event of an issue with a discrete GPU. However, those same conditions exist with all of AMD's competing chips (there is no option for graphics on the 5800X and 5900X), so this is a comparable option. Speaking of which, the standard Core i7-12700K comes with the UHD Graphics 770 with 32 EUs that run at a 300 / 1500 MHz base/boost.

The 12700K is bookended by the Core i9-12900K and the Core i5-12600K. The $589 16-core Core i9-12900K comes with eight P-cores that support hyper-threading, and eight single-threaded E-cores for a total of 24 threads. The P-cores have a 3.2 GHz base, and peak frequencies reach 5.2 GHz. The E-cores have a 2.4 GHz base and stretch up to 3.9 GHz. The chip is equipped with 30MB of L3 cache and 14MB of L2.

The $289 Core i5-12600K comes with six threaded P-cores that operate at 3.7 / 4.9 GHz and four E-cores that run at 2.8 / 3.6 GHz, for a total of 16 threads. That's paired with 20MB of L3 and 9.5MB of L2 cache. 

Intel Alder Lake

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
  • The Alder Lake SoC will span from desktop PCs to ultramobile devices with TDP ratings from 9W to 125W, all built on the Intel 7 process. The desktop PC comes with up to eight Performance (P) cores and eight Efficient (E) cores for a total of 16 cores and 24 threads and up to 30 MB of L3 cache for a single chip.
  • Alder Lake supports either DDR4 or DDR5 (LP4x/LP5, too). Desktop PC supports x16 PCIe Gen 5 and x4 PCIe Gen 4.
  • Intel's new hyper-threaded Performance (P) core, which comes with the Golden Cove microarchitecture designed for low-latency single-threaded performance, comes with an average of 19% more IPC than the Cypress Cove architecture in Rocket Lake
  • Intel's new single-threaded Efficiency (E) core comes with the Gracemont microarchitecture to improve multi-threaded performance and provide exceptional area efficiency (small footprint) and performance-per-watt. Four small cores fit in roughly the same area as a Skylake core and deliver 80% more performance in threaded work (at the same power). A single E core also delivers 40% more performance than a single-threaded Skylake core (at the same power) in single-threaded work (caveats apply to both).
  • Intel's Thread Director is a hardware-based technology that assures threads are assigned to either the P or E cores in an optimized manner. This is the sleeper tech that enables the hybrid architecture. 

Intel Z690 Motherboards for Intel Core i7-12700K

Intel's Alder Lake drops into Socket 1700 motherboards with the Z690 chipset. You can read about the chipset and some of the first 60+ motherboards in our Z690 motherboard roundup here.

The new LGA1700 socket is physically larger and has a lower Z-height than current sockets, so most existing air and water coolers for LGA1200 and LGA115x motherboards won't work with 600-series motherboards. As a result, upgraders will need to acquire a conversion kit or buy a new cooler.

Just like Z590, the Z690 chipset sports 16 lanes of PCIe 3.0, but Intel also added 12 lanes of PCIe 4.0. Intel also doubled the throughput of the DMI connection between the chip and chipset from an x8 DMI 3.0 pipe, which clocks in at 7.88 GBps, to an x8 DMI 4.0 connection that delivers 15.66 GBps. This much-needed bandwidth improvement allows for more throughput from attached RAID arrays. The increased DMI throughput is also beneficial for Z690's bolstered connectivity options, like the new second USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 20 Gbps connection. You can read more about the Z690 chipset here

DDR4 and DDR5 Support with Intel Core i7-12700K

Alder Lake chips support both DDR4 and DDR5 memory, but there are several caveats tied to DDR5. As a default, DDR5 runs in Gear 2 mode, resulting in higher latency. Additionally, standard motherboards only support DDR5-4800 if the motherboard has only two physical slots. Therefore, at stock settings, Alder Lake only supports DDR5-4400 on any motherboard with four slots — even if only two slots are populated. Support drops as low as DDR5-3600 if four slots are filled with dual-rank memory DIMMs. Here are the population rules for DDR5:

(Image credit: Intel)

In contrast, Alder Lake supports DDR4-3200 in Gear 1 mode for all processors. That can yield latency and performance advantages for the tried-and-true memory.

A wide selection of DDR5 motherboards are available in all price bands, but it appears that you'll only find DDR4 support on lower-end Z690 boards. Also, unlike previous generations, no motherboard supports both DDR4 and DDR5, which is probably due to DDR5's much tighter signal integrity requirements and onboard power control circuitry. Additionally, unlike DDR4, DDR5 DIMMs come with PMIC (Power Management ICs) chips that control three on-DIMM voltage rails – VDD, VDDQ, and VPP.

DDR5 supports the new XMP 3.0 standard that supports up to five memory profiles (SPDs) to define unique frequency, voltage, and latency parameters, and XMP 3.0 also lets you write and name two of the profiles.The new XMP profiles can also control the PMICs now present on DDR5 DIMMs. Naturally, there are variances in PMIC designs and quality, adding yet another variable to watch out for when selecting the Best RAM for overclocking.

Intel has also posted a new certification page on its website to help assure that each kit is compatible with certain motherboards and firmware revisions. You can read more about DDR5's new features here. We expect pricing for DDR5 to be substantially higher than DDR4, currently projected to be a 50 to 60% markup, for some time.

Test Setup

Alder Lake's Thread Director technology works best with Windows 11, so we tested with a fresh install. We have updated to newer versions of our benchmarks for Windows 11, where applicable, and also added a few new application and gaming benchmarks.

Alder Lake will also be used with the less-than-optimal Windows 10, too, so it's important that you know that these chips can suffer in some multi-threaded workloads in Windows 10 due to difficulties with code with certain prioritization settings. You can correct those issues either via command-line utilities or third-party software, like Process Lasso, and receive the full expected performance. We expect the industry to correct many of those issues over time.

Still, it is important to know that Windows 10 could require additional handholding to extract the utmost performance from the Alder Lake processors. We have a deeper dive into what that looks like in our initial 12900K review, but aside from a few errant programs, the overall performance trends between Windows 10 and 11 are similar. As such, we're not going to post the redundant Windows 10 benchmarks in this article.

In accordance with AMD's official guidance, we assured that our clean-install Windows 11 test system had all patches for a recent AMD L3 cache bug that impacted AMD processors. AMD says the patches resolve the L3 issues, and our own in-depth testing has also confirmed that the patches are successful.

We also tested with secure boot, virtualization support, and fTPM/PTT active to reflect a properly configured Windows 11 install. We also measure the difference between DDR4 and DDR5 performance. We used the MSI Z690 Carbon WiFi as our DDR5 platform and the decidedly lower-end MSI Z690-A WiFi for DDR4 testing.

We're sticking with our standard policy of allowing the motherboard to exceed Intel's recommended power limits, provided the chip remains within warrantied operating conditions. Our tests use the default lifted PL1 and PL2 restrictions. Almost all enthusiast-class motherboards come with similar settings, so this reflects the out-of-box experience with a high-end motherboard. Naturally, these lifted power limits equate to more power consumption, and thus more heat, as we'll cover in detail later in the review. We also have a full breakdown of the test system configurations at the end of the article.

Core i7-12700K Gaming Benchmarks — The TLDR

As usual, we're testing with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 to reduce GPU-imposed bottlenecks as much as possible, and differences between test subjects will shrink with lesser cards or higher resolutions. Because most of the titles below show little meaningful differentiation at higher resolutions, we only tested four of the seven titles at 1440p.

Due to Alder Lake's hybrid architecture, there will be early teething pains with some games. In some cases, Denuvo DRM can falsely identify Intel's E-cores as a separate system, and thus 22 Denuvo-enabled game titles currently don't work with Alder Lake chips. Intel has issued guidance on a workaround that fixes the issue for all impacted titles. You can read about the simple fix and find the impacted games here. Denuvo says that all affected games will be patched soon.

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Core i7-12700K Review Benchmarks

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Paired with affordable DDR4 memory at the 1080p resolution, the $409 Core i7-12700K is an impressive 12% faster than the roughly $390 Ryzen 7 5800X in our cumulative performance measurement. The 12700K is also 7.5% faster than the more expensive $549 Ryzen 9 5900X that holds the title as AMD's fastest gaming chip. 

Pairing the Core i7-12700K with DDR5 causes performance to decline, slightly reducing the leads to 10.4% over the 5800X and 5.5% over the 5900X, but we have to keep things in perspective — we're only looking at 3 fps between the DDR4 and DDR5 configs. It's clear that you don't need an expensive DDR5 kit or motherboard to extract the best of the 12700K's performance. That's important because DDR5 remains extremely expensive and suffers from poor availability.

Intel Core i7-12700K Gaming Benchmarks Percentage Relative to 12900K with DDR4/5
Tom's Hardware 1080p Game Benchmarks - fps %age
Core i9-12900K DDR4/5100%
Core i9-12700K DDR4/5~98.3%
Ryzen 9 5900X92.0%
Ryzen 7 5800X88.0%

The Core i7-12700K is plenty impressive against AMD's chips, but perhaps it is most impressive against Intel's own flagship $589 Core i9-12900K: The 1.1% difference between the two chips is in the noise of expected run-to-run variance. That means the 12700K delivers a 12900K-class gaming experience, but for $180 less. Naturally, the 12900K will have a bit more heft for background tasks like streaming due to its additional four E-cores, and perhaps a bit more gas in the tank for future GPU upgrades due to its 200 MHz higher boost clock. 

Oddly enough, the arrival of Alder Lake could be a bit disappointing to Rocket Lake buyers that adopted the previous-gen platform a mere six months ago. The 12700K leaves its ancestors in the dust, beating the $399 Core i7-11700K by 18% and the $539 Core i9-11900K by 9.5%. That means the resale value of Rocket Lake chips just dropped significantly.

Naturally, moving over to 1440p brings a GPU bottleneck into the equation, so the performance deltas between the chips shrink tremendously. If you game at higher resolutions and don't plan to upgrade your GPU before you buy your next CPU, those results provide a good perspective. 

Flipping through the 99th percentile charts for both resolutions also shows larger deltas, but we have to view those with caution as Windows 11 is still young and seems to suffer from more framerate variability than our Windows 10 test platform. This could result from yet-to-be-updated game code, the relatively new graphics drivers for Windows 11, or some other combination of factors that could be smoothed out in the future.

Intel's Alder Lake carves out a convincing win in Windows 11, but large performance deltas in a few of the game titles can heavily impact these types of overall measurements. For instance, Intel enjoys a sizeable lead in Hitman 3, but that game is specifically tuned to leverage the E-cores effectively by offloading low-priority tasks like physics to the small cores. That type of benefit will also come in handy for some streaming programs, like OBS, that support offloading the encoding tasks to the E-cores.

The competition between Intel and AMD is absolutely closer now, so it's best to make an informed decision based on the types of titles you play frequently. Be sure to check out the individual tests below.

3DMark, VRMark, Chess Engines on Intel Core i7-12700K

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Intel Core i7-12700K Review Gaming Benchmarks

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Synthetic benchmarks don't tend to translate well to real-world gaming, but they do show us the raw amount of compute power exposed to game engines. It's too bad most games don't fully exploit it.

The Core i7-12700K beats both the Ryzen contenders easily in the DX12 CPU test, taking a 32% lead over the Ryzen 9 5900X. Here we can see that DDR5 also provides a small performance boost, but it's within a few percentage points of the DDR4 config.

Meanwhile, the Ryzen 9 5900X is ~1% faster than the Core i7-12700K in the DX11 3DMark Time Spy CPU test, but that isn't very impressive given its $140 higher price point. The Core i7-12700K fires back in the VRMark benchmark, taking an 8% lead over the 5800X. 

We've added the open-source neural network-based Leela chess engine to our benchmark roster. As evidenced by the DDR5 test results, this AI-powered engine obviously scales better with more memory throughput than the Stockfish engine, allowing the 12700K to scrape past the 5900X. The Stockfish test goes in the Ryzen 9 5900X's favor to the tune of 13%, reminding us that the 5900X will still lead in some threaded tasks. 

Far Cry 6 on Core i7-12700K

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Core i7-12700K Review Benchmarks

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F1 2021

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Hitman 3 on Core i7-12700K

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Horizon Zero Dawn on Core i7-12700K

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Microsoft Flight Simulator 2021 on Core i7-12700K

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Red Dead Redemption 2 on Core i7-12700K

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Watch Dogs Legion on Core i7-12700K

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Core i7-12700K Application Benchmarks — The TLDR

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We can boil down productivity application performance into two broad categories: single- and multi-threaded. These slides show the geometric mean of performance in several of our most important tests in each category, but be sure to look at the expanded results below.

Given its more amenable $409 price tag, it is impressive to see the Core i7-12700K deliver a win over the $549 Ryzen 9 5900X in threaded work, highlighting the advantages of the x86 hybrid architecture. Taken as a cumulative measure, the 12-core 20-thread 12700K is 2.5% faster than the 12-core 24-thread 5900X, but be aware that this measurement only encompasses a selection of the threaded tests — you'll see a few wins for the 5900X in the individual benchmarks below. However, that's still a nice win for the 12700K — the performance-per-dollar ratio is strong.

As you'd expect given the 12700K's performance against the beastly Ryzen 9 5900X, it stretches its legs against the $390 Ryzen 7 5800X with a 40% performance advantage in threaded work.

The deltas in favor of Alder Lake are even more convincing in the single-threaded metric, with the 12700K being ~17% faster than both Ryzen contenders. As you'll see in the broader spate of lightly-threaded workloads below, Alder Lake dominates those types of workloads. The 12900K is the only chip on the market that can beat the 12700K in lightly-threaded work, albeit by a relatively slim 3% lead. 

The generational uplift is impressive, too. The 12700K is 19% faster than the previous-gen 11700K in single-threaded work and 34% faster in threaded applications. Against the previous-gen flagship 11900K, the 12700K is 14% faster in lightly-threaded work and 35% faster in heavily-threaded tasks. That's an impressive gen-on-gen leap in performance and pricing, especially since Alder Lake arrived six short months after the prior-gen Rocket Lake chips. 

The 12900K earns its price tag for serious productivity and prosumer tasks: The 12900K is ~17% faster in threaded work than the 12700K, and that percentage climbs in some workloads. The 12700K puts up strong results in applications with branchy code like LLVM compilation and the massively parallel molecular dynamics simulation code in NAMD, but these heavily-parallelized high-throughput applications respond very well to the E-cores, giving the 12900K an advantage.

Percentage Relative to 12900K with DDR4/5
Tom's Hardware - Application BenchmarksSingle-ThreadedMulti-Threaded
Core i9-12900K DDR4100%100%
Core i9-12700K DDR4/5~97.1%~85.2%
Ryzen 9 5900X83.0%83.6%
Ryzen 7 5800X82.5%61.33%

Rendering Benchmarks on Core i7-12700K

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Intel Core i7-12700K Review Rendering Benchmarks

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Intel Core i7-12700K Review Rendering Benchmarks

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Intel Core i7-12700K Review Rendering Benchmarks

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Intel Core i7-12700K Review Rendering Benchmarks

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Intel Core i7-12700K Review Rendering Benchmarks

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Here we can see the 12-core 20-thread 12700K battle with the Ryzen 9 5900X in a series of rendering workloads that used to result in decisive wins for AMD's stable.

That story is quite a bit different now. The Core i7-12700K is 2.6% faster than the Ryzen 9 5900X in the threaded Cinebench test and 20.8% faster in POV-Ray, highlighting the surprising performance packed into the incredibly small E-cores. The 5900X takes the lead in a few of the other threaded applications, with an 11% lead in the Corona benchmark and a strong showing throughout the various Blender renders. 

The 12700K leads the entire Ryzen lineup in the single-threaded rendering benchmarks, showing that the Thread Director places those tasks perfectly onto the faster P-cores. 

Encoding Benchmarks on Core i7-12700K

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Intel Core i7-12700K Review Benchmarks

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We ran into issues with Handbrake x264 in Windows 10 because it is coded to deprioritize its threads, but here we can see that Thread Director works in tandem with the Windows 11 scheduler to rectify the issue, allowing the Core i7-11700K to take the lead.

Overall, the Core i7-12700K dominates encoding workloads, be they lightly- or multi-threaded, with only one slightly trailing result in the FLAC benchmark, but we consider that close enough to be a tie. 

Web Browsing on Intel Core i7-12700K

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Intel Core i7-12700K Review Benchmarks

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Core i7-12700K

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The ubiquitous web browser is one of the most frequently used applications. These tests tend to be lightly-threaded, so a snappy response time is critical. As an extra challenge for Alder Lake, placing these bursty and latency-sensitive workloads directly onto the P-cores requires an ultra-snappy response time from both the Thread Director and the Windows scheduler. That tandem obviously works extremely well as the Core i7-12700K dominates these benchmarks. 

This leads us to the Microsoft Edge browser: This test is our lone example of a browser that benefits from threaded horsepower. Here we can see that the 12700K takes another easy win, proving it is quite versatile in browser work. 

Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Lightroom on Core i7-12700K

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Intel Core i7-12700K Review Benchmarks

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Core i712700K benchmarks

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Core i712700K benchmarks

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We've integrated the UL Benchmarks Procyon tests into our suite to replace the aging PCMark 10. This new benchmark runs complex Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Lightroom workflows with the actual software, making for a great real-world test suite. 

Here we can see that Adobe's Premiere Pro clearly prizes the increased memory throughput from DDR5. For example, in the Adobe Premiere Pro video editing workload, the Core i7-12700K leads the Ryzen 9 5900X by 11.7% with DDR4 but is 22.8% faster with DDR5 memory. 

We don't see the same trend in the Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop overall score — the Core i7-12700K leads by ~8% with both DDR4 and DDR5, showing little impact in the overall score from faster memory throughput. 

Office and Productivity on Core i7-12700K

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Intel Core i7-12700K Review Benchmarks

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Intel Core i7-12700K Review Benchmarks

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Intel's Alder Lake dominates the Microsoft Office testing and delivers the snappiest application load times. Meanwhile, the Ryzen 7 5800X leads in the GIMP testing, but the 5900X and 5950X trail all other chips in the test pool significantly. Moreover, this condition is repeatable, suggesting that GIMP doesn't scale well with Ryzen 9's additional compute die. 

Compilation, Compression, AVX Benchmarks on Core i7-12700K

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Intel Core i7-12700K Benchmarks

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This grab bag of various tests finds Alder Lake notching several more important wins. From the exceedingly branchy code in the LLVM compilation workload to the massively parallel molecular dynamics simulation code in NAMD, the Alder Lake chips impress.

Notably, Intel disables AVX-512 when the E-cores are active, but the increased throughput of DDR5 helps the 12700K beat its AVX-512-equipped Rocket Lake predecessors in some vectorized work, like the multi-threaded y-cruncher benchmark. However, Rocket Lake still keeps the lead for the single-core y-cruncher test, where single-core memory bandwidth isn't as much of an advantage. AMD continues to benefit in the SHA3, AES, and HASH benchmarks from its cryptographic optimizations. 

Intel Alder Lake Core i7-12700K Power Consumption, Efficiency, and Thermals

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Intel Core i7-12700K Benchmarks

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Intel Core i7-12700K Benchmarks

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Yes, the Intel Alder Lake chips still suck more power than AMD's Ryzen 5000 series chips, but pairing the Intel 7 process with the hybrid architecture brings big improvements, particularly in threaded work.

As we can see, the Alder Lake chips consume far less power than the Rocket Lake chips. Overall, Intel has reduced its power consumption from meme-worthy to an acceptable level. Besides, Alder Lake is much faster than the previous-gen chips, earning it some forgiveness.

As you can see in our renders-per-day measurements, the Core i7-12700K can be nearly twice as efficient as the 11700K, which is commendable. This lower power consumption results in lower cooling requirements, too. 

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Here we take a slightly different look at power consumption by calculating the cumulative energy required to perform Blender and x264 and x265 HandBrake workloads, respectively. We plot this 'task energy' value in Kilojoules on the left side of the chart. 

These workloads are comprised of a fixed amount of work, so we can plot the task energy against the time required to finish the job (bottom axis), thus generating a really useful power chart. 

Bear in mind that faster compute times, and lower task energy requirements, are ideal. That means processors that fall the closest to the bottom left corner of the chart are best. 

As you can see, Intel's chips have descended from the undesirable upper right of the chart down to the lower left hand, nearly matching AMD's chips in power consumption while being faster. The gap between the 11700K and the 1200K is remarkable: That's an outstanding improvement after six years of power-guzzling 14nm chips. 

Core i9 Gaming for i7 Pricing

Like its other siblings, the Core i7-12700K comes to market with disruptive pricing. As a result, the $409 Core i7-12700K beats the price-comparable $390 Ryzen 7 5800X by tremendous margins and even rivals the $550 Ryzen 9 5900X. The 12700K even provides basically the same gaming performance as the world's fastest gaming chip, the $589 Core i9-12900K, but for $180 less.

Intel's Alder Lake pricing is very impressive, but the company's decision to bring only Z690 motherboards to market takes a bit of the shine off the value proposition, at least until the more affordable B- and H-series motherboards arrive in the coming months. At least the chip pricing takes a little of the sting out of the inevitable high platform costs associated with Z690 motherboards.

Below, we have the geometric mean of our gaming test suite at 1080p and 1440p and a cumulative measure of performance in single- and multi-threaded applications. Remember that we conducted the gaming tests with an RTX 3090, so performance deltas will shrink with lesser cards and higher resolution and fidelity settings. 

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At its price point, the Core i7-12700K is a no-brainer for gamers looking for the highest-end performance, but much like we encountered in our testing, there could be initial hiccups with Windows 10 systems. Those problems could include performance variability or programs that don't operate to their full potential, but we expect that these software stumbles will be fixed over time as the industry adjusts to hybrid architectures. You can rectify the issues now with built-in Windows tools or friendlier third-party applications like Process Lasso, but be aware that Windows 10 could require some fine-tuning.

In 1080p gaming, the $409 Core i7-12700K is an impressive 12% faster than the Ryzen 7 5800X and 7.5% faster than the Ryzen 9 5900X that holds the title as AMD's fastest gaming chip. It also provides essentially the same performance as the Core i9-12900K.

The 12700K's performance in applications is just as impressive. In lightly-threaded apps, the 12700K is ~17% faster than the 5800X and 5900X. In threaded work, the Core i7-12700K is 2.5% faster than the Ryzen 9 5900X, though the 5900X does carve out a few wins in heavily-threaded apps. The competition isn't even close with the Ryzen 7 5800X — the 12700K is 40% faster in threaded work.

Given the 12700K's impressive price-to-performance ratio, the question becomes whether to buy it or the Core i9-12900K. If you're focused primarily on gaming, the Core i7-12700K delivers essentially the same performance for $180 less. The Core i9-12900K really proves its worth in threaded applications, where it is ~15% faster than the 12700K primarily on the strength of its four additional E-cores, and in single-threaded applications, where it is 3% faster than the 12700K due to its 200 MHz boost clock advantage. 

The Core i7-12700K also has a much more modern platform than AMD's AM4 ecosystem. Leading-edge DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 interfaces will add some cost in the early days, but support for DDR4 can help reduce that overhead. It's also clear that you won't need to adopt pricey DDR5 memory to unlock the best gaming performance — unless you have a very specific need for DDR5 throughput, it's probably best to skip it until it matures further.

The Core i7-12700K still consumes more power than AMD's competing chips, but the new 'Intel 7' process reduces power consumption and nearly doubles power efficiency, reducing AMD's massive advantage in that key area.

Intel's hybrid x86 architecture presents a new paradigm, but Intel's bold transition to not one but two entirely new architectures in the Alder Lake SoC spurred a massive generational leap forward in nearly all facets, including gaming, performance in lightly- and heavily-threaded work, power consumption, and platform connectivity options.

AMD will respond with its 3D V-Cache processors with up to 192MB of L3 cache per chip, imparting up to 15% more gaming performance. Those chips arrive next year, and while the impact on gaming in a broad spate of titles is unknown, AMD has confirmed that the chips will drop into the AM4 platform. In the meantime, we could see some pricing adjustments on Ryzen 5000 series processors. 

The Core i7-12700K delivers incredible levels of threaded performance, often rivaling or beating the Ryzen 9 5900X, but at a much lower price point. That type of performance will pay off in all manner of productivity applications. If you're looking for snappy performance in lighter fare, it also offers leading single-threaded performance in its price class, and by a large margin. 

For gamers looking for the best value, the Core i5-12600K remains the best CPU for gaming. However, if you're primarily looking for a high-performance gaming chip, the Core i7-12700K is the chip you seek — the Core i9-12900K doesn't deliver enough extra gaming performance to justify its price tag. The 12900K serves up extra cores and extra boost speed for those looking for the utmost in productivity performance, but the Core i7-12700K is a well-rounded chip that provides an impressive blend of pricing and performance in both gaming and applications. 

Core i9-12900K, Core i7-12700K, and Core i5-12600K Test System Configurations
Intel Socket 1700 DDR5 (Z690)Core i9-12900K, Core i7-12700K, Core i5-12600K
MSI Z690 Carbon WiFi
2 x16GB G.Skill Ripjaws S5, DDR5-5200 @ DDR5-4400 36-36-36-72
Intel Socket 1700 DDR4 (Z690)Core i9-12900K, Core i5-12600K
MSI Z690A WiFi DDR4
2x 8GB Trident Z Royal DDR4-3600 - Stock: DDR4-3200 14-14-14-36
Intel Socket 1200 (Z590)Core i9-11900K, Core i7-11700K, Core i5-10600K
MSI Z590 Godlike
2x 8GB Trident Z Royal DDR4-3600 - Stock DDR4-3200/2933 Gear 1
AMD Socket AM4 (X570)AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, Ryzen 9 5900X, Ryzen 7 5800X, Ryzen 5 5600X

MSI MEG X570 Godlike
2x 8GB Trident Z Royal DDR4-3600 - Stock: DDR4-3200 14-14-14-36
All SystemsGigabyte GeForce RTX 3090 Eagle - Gaming and ProViz applications
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE - Application tests

2TB Intel DC4510 SSD

Silverstone ST1100-TI
Open Benchtable

Windows 10 Pro version 2004 (build 19041.450)
Windows 11 Pro version
CoolingCorsair H115i, Custom loop
Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.

  • MB007
    Lol no comment on the productivity benchmarks, an absolutely totally not biased preselection of intel-not-friendly benchmark </irony coughcough*
    no further comment
    And by the way comparing ADL to RL, and giving Intel credits for being more efficient than Rocket-lake, you really gotta have some balls considering RL was just a burning hot-plate.
    Reply
  • Sisyfos
    Nice review. MB007 above is just hurt because facts are hard to accept for fanboys, but what ever. Looking at his past posts everything he posts about is Intel bashing.
    Reply
  • larkspur
    MB007 said:
    And by the way comparing ADL to RL, and giving Intel credits for being more efficient than Rocket-lake, you really gotta have some balls considering RL was just a burning hot-plate.
    Lol @ your post. Nothing wrong with comparing previous gen with new gen. Intel managed to almost double their efficiency and is now reasonably competitive with AMD on efficiency. Everyone knows Zen 3 is a unicorn of efficiency. For Intel to get more competitive in efficiency vs Zen 3 is/was a huge focus for them. They've done that with a first gen hybrid CPU. And they are beating the competition in perf/price (although total platform costs remain similar). Too bad the H and B series boards aren't yet available. Let's face it - competition is raging!
    Reply
  • VforV
    Compared to 12900k, this 12700k does look better for intel, I have to admit that.

    But yes, Rocket Lake was a huge failure, so everything is better than that. No extra points there from me...

    Still Zen3 wins in efficiency and I expect Zen3D will match or beat Alder Lake, while also being more efficient, which will make it even better. I like that a lot in a CPU, because I don't have to buy a better cooler each time I upgrade.

    I went from Ryzen 2600 to 3600 to 5600x now on the same budget CPU cooler and the heat and noise is the same. Theoretically I can go to 5950x (not that I intend to) and still be in my 200W cooler's performance bracket and have low noise and good cooling.

    Just because the cooler is rated 200W does not mean I should put a 200W CPU on it, the noise from going full ham would make me throw the PC out of the window, so I would need a more expensive cooler for Alder Lake and probably a bigger PSU (besides the MB, CPU and RAM - last one optional). Yeah, Zen still has the win for me now and more so with Zen3D.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Paired with affordable DDR4 memory at the 1080p resolution, the $409 Core i7-12700K is an impressive 12% faster than the roughly $390 Ryzen 7 5800X in our cumulative performance measurement.


    Might want to adjust the charts to reflect the 5800X's lower price, it still shows $450.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    Alvar Miles Udell said:

    Might want to adjust the charts to reflect the 5800X's lower price, it still shows $450.
    All prices listed are MSRP. Do you expect them to constantly monitor prices and update the chart every day as prices move around?
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    spongiemaster said:
    All prices listed are MSRP. Do you expect them to constantly monitor prices and update the chart every day as prices move around?

    When they're writing a new article they could take 5 minutes to update the chart prices so that prices would reflect current pricing and not year old pricing, especially as lower prices would reflect current MSRP and not initial.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    Alvar Miles Udell said:
    When they're writing a new article they could take 5 minutes to update the chart prices so that prices would reflect current pricing and not year old pricing, especially as lower prices would reflect current MSRP and not initial.
    One minute of searching on AMD.com reveals the current MSRP of a 5800x is $449.00

    Products Available For Purchase
    Reply
  • hancor
    That was a really fine article, but the problem is DDR5 supply which is NON-EXISTENT.
    DDR5 is essentially UNOBTAINIUM, except for reviewers on the interwebs.

    I went with an X570S high end mobo, and a place holder 5600X until the 3D V-Cache CPUs come out in Q1 of 2022. With memory clocked at around 4000MT/s and a 15% bump in 3D V-Cache it should be plenty until the "Blue Team" sort out their supply chain/pandemic/ garbage.

    DDR5 Memory Are Out of Stock Everywhere Due To Shortage of PMIC Chips
    "Sources said that the PMIC chip is currently in very short supply, while the purchase price of the PMIC chip to be used in DDR5 memory is 10 times more expensive than the corresponding chip in D4, and the procurement cycle is at least 35 weeks."
    35 weeks is well out until June/July 2022 so if one is building a system NOW, that is a long time!

    And no one at Intel figured there was a supply chain issue with PMIC chips before they released all these motherboards for sale?

    Sorry but that situation is beyond stupid.

    Fortunately, the most critical piece a graphics card I got from EVGA 3080 FTW3 Ultra came two weeks ago after being on the waiting list for ONE YEAR!

    Cheers

    Hans
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    Good review but I did find this paragraph amusing.

    "The Core i7-12700K also has a much more modern platform than AMD's AM4 ecosystem. Leading-edge DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 interfaces will add some cost in the early days, but support for DDR4 can help reduce that overhead. It's also clear that you won't need to adopt pricey DDR5 memory to unlock the best gaming performance — unless you have a very specific need for DDR5 throughput, it's probably best to skip it until it matures further. "

    It starts off saying LGA 1700 is a much more modern platform. Then the rest of the paragraph is saying it will add cost and you should skip it until it matures.

    So it that a positive or a negative?
    Reply