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Intel Core i3-12100 Review: The Little Gaming Giant

Lowly quad-core serves up big gaming performance.

Intel Core i3-12100 Review
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Core i3-12100 Application Benchmarks — The TLDR

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 benchmark results further below.

The Core i3-12100 is surprisingly agile in our cumulative measure of single-threaded performance. The 12100 is 27% and 5% faster than the Core i5-10100 and i5-11600K,  respectively, but the 12400 leads by roughly 2%.

Compared to Ryzen, the 12100 dominates in single-threaded applications, with its lead stretching between 25% over the Ryzen 5 3600 to 11% over the Ryzen 5 5600G. 

Overall, the Core i3-12100 offers great performance in single-threaded workloads for its price point, but if you're looking for the closest thing to a "catch," you'll find it in threaded application workloads. 

In multi-threaded work, the Core i3-12100 continues to assert its dominance over comparably-priced chips with an 18% lead over the Ryzen 3 3300X and a 30% lead over the Core i3-10100. However, the 124100 isn't as impressive in multi-threaded work against the six-core chips as we saw in our gaming benchmarks. The Ryzen 5 3600 and 3600X lead by ~11%, while the 5600G leads by 19%. 

Those six-core chips obviously lead in threaded productivity applications, they do carry much higher price tags after all, but they pale in comparison to the Core i5-12400 as it takes a 32% lead over the 12100. Unfortunately, unlocking the power limits and tuning the memory didn't yield any performance increases in threaded work for either the 12100 or 12400.

Overall the Core i3-12100 offers a solid blend of performance in both single- and multi-threaded apps given its price point, but its single-threaded performance stands out as exceptional. You'll have to look to Intel's own Alder Lake family for faster single-threaded performance. The 12100 also dispatches the comparably-priced Ryzen 3 3300X and Core i3-10100 easily in threaded work. 

1080p Gaming Benchmarks %age Relative to Core i9-12600K with DDR4
Tom's Hardware - Application BenchmarksSingle-ThreadedMulti-Threaded
Core i5-12600K DDR4100%100%
Core i5-1240090.7%73.4%
Core i3-12100 DDR4-3800 / Stock90.7% / 88.9%53.6% / 53.5%
Core i5-11600K84.1%73.8%
Ryzen 5 5600X82.1%71.5%
Ryzen 5 5600G78.4%65.9%
Ryzen 3 3300X69.3%43.7%
Ryzen 5 3600X69.2%60.8%
Core i3-1010064.5%37.3%

Rendering Benchmarks on Core i3-12100

The Core i3-12100 is impressive in single-threaded rendering work, leading all competing Ryzen chips in both Cinebench and POV-Ray benchmarks, including those that cost more than twice the price.

The 12100 also easily beats AMD's price-comparable Ryzen 3 3300X throughout the full gamut of threaded rendering benchmarks and shows massive gains over the Core i3-10100. The six-core Ryzen models take the lead in the threaded workloads over the quad-core Core i3-12100, but that isn't a fair comparison because they are in a much higher price class. 

Encoding Benchmarks on Core i3-12100

Web Browsing on Intel Core i3-12100

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. The Core i3-12100 beats the competing Ryzen processors in its price bracket easily.

Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Lightroom on Core i3-12100

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. 

The Core i3-12100 is incredibly impressive as it takes the lead over all the Ryzen chips in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop and trails only the vastly more expensive $299 Ryzen 5 5600X in Adobe Premiere Pro. 

Office and Productivity on Core i3-12100

The Core i3-12100 provides snappy application load times, but the Ryzen 5 5600G and Ryzen 3 3300X are faster. Conversely, the 12100 beats the entire Ryzen roster in the Microsoft Office suite. 

Compilation, Compression, AVX Benchmarks on Core i3-12100

The Core i3-12100 easily beats the comparably-priced Ryzen 3 3300X in nearly all of these workloads, including exceedingly branchy code in the LLVM compilation workload and the massively parallel molecular dynamics simulation code in NAMD. That said, most of these types of workloads aren't well-suited for this class of chip, but we include them as a reference.

Paul Alcorn
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.

  • adamXpeter
    What is wrong with the Core i5-12600K?
    Reply
  • Why_Me
    adamXpeter said:
    What is wrong with the Core i5-12600K?
    My guess is it was reviewed before newer bios came out.
    Reply
  • deepblue08
    This chart makes me think how good of a value 5600X has been all this time. Even now it performs very solidly against the latest from Intel.
    Reply
  • blagomils
    The only thing is that i3-12100 should be compared against i5-10400 (if comparing current alternatives from previous generations) instead of i3-10100, as the i5 is the one that is similarly priced and the older i3 has much lower price. Basicaly the same 30% lower price for the same performance drop.
    Reply
  • rtoaht
    deepblue08 said:
    This chart makes me think how good of a value 5600X has been all this time. Even now it performs very solidly against the latest from Intel.
    5600x was getting sold for over $300 a year ago. It is now getting matched by a $169 12400F. Doesn’t seem to be a good value for “all the time” when a $300 class CPU becomes a sub $170 class CPU within a year. There wasn’t much inflation when 5600X launched for AMD to jack up the Ryzen 5 price by $50. Consumer mentality like yours can make them increase the price again this year by another $50 or may even be more since now there is an inflation to blame as well.
    Reply
  • tennis2
    rtoaht said:
    5600x was getting sold for over $300 a year ago. It is now getting matched by a $169 12400F. Doesn’t seem to be a good value for “all the time” when a $300 class CPU becomes a sub $170 class CPU within a year.
    AMD was a little too proud of their accomplishment in Ryzen 5000 at launch for sure.

    Can we appreciate that 4 cores is still relevant in offline/single-player gaming though!
    Reply
  • spentshells
    tennis2 said:
    AMD was a little too proud of their accomplishment in Ryzen 5000 at launch for sure.

    Can we appreciate that 4 cores is still relevant in offline/single-player gaming though!
    too proud? They overcame their only rival for the first time in a decade and did so quite handily.
    I'd say they were right on the money........
    Reply