Linux Snatches Alder Lake Productivity Crown From Windows 11

Core i9-12900K box
(Image credit: Future)

The latest Kernel updates for Linux have brought some important performance optimizations for Intel Alder Lake CPU owners. When Intel's 12th-Gen Core processors first launched in Q3 2021, they were better performers in Windows 11 (with its new scheduler) than in Linux. Now, thanks to Linux kernel improvements since Linux 5.16, the open source OS has retaken the lead with Intel's first desktop hybrid architecture processors. Linux-centric site Phoronix ran a bevy of benchmarks looking at browsing, coding, rendering, encoding, and de/compression. 

We noted last week that Intel's Thread Director was on the way to Linux users with Kernel version 5.18 and above. However, Phoronix's tests show that the OS seems to have already gained the upper hand in performance, making the best use of Alder Lake's Performance cores (P-cores) and Efficiency cores (E-cores). 

Phoronix used a Core i9 12900K system with an Asus Z690 motherboard and 2 x 32GB of DDR5-4400 RAM for its extensive comparison tests. Phoronix tested Windows 11 and a trio of Linux kernel 5.16+ based OSes for performance comparisons, with one Linux distro in the mix still using kernel 5.15.  

The newest Linux kernel helped the system race ahead of Windows 11 in web browsing. Phoenix noted that previous kernel versions often got a bit confused with the P-core and E-core choices, with subpar results evident when the E-cores inexplicably took charge of important user experience tasks.

The several pages of benchmark comparisons aren't all as clear-cut as the "browsing race." Windows 11 sometimes enjoyed a lead, but Linux went from a pretty consistent loser to a noticeable leader in many tests, which is rather impressive.

In conclusion, with the latest Linux kernel update in place, Windows 11 led in just 14 of the suite of 104 tests. On the other side of the coin, Microsoft's newest OS took last place in 39 of the tests. Congratulations must be given to the fastest Alder Lake Linux performer, Clear Linux 35810, for gaining first place in 66 of the 104 tests. It is also worth noting the laggardly Ubuntu 22.04 uses kernel version 5.15 out of the box,  helping shine a light on the Linux kernel improvements.

(Image credit: Phoronix)

Microsoft and Intel worked closely together so that Windows 11 could be delivered with thread allocation optimizations for hybrid processors, like the more premium Alder Lake parts that have a mix of P-cores and E-cores.

In particular, Windows 11 works with Intel's Thread Director from the get-go. Understandably, the Wintel alliance's move put other architectures and OSes on the back foot for a while while they indulged in post-launch optimizations. Now, Linux has had a kernel update delivered, and the above-summarized tests show it now works even better than Windows 11 in many productivity apps.

Mark Tyson
News Editor

Mark Tyson is a news editor at Tom's Hardware. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.