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Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Review: Retaking the Gaming Crown

Alder vs Zen, Fight!

Intel Alder Lake
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Windows 10: Core i9-12900K and i5-12600K Gaming Benchmarks — The TLDR

Bear in mind that we're using different game titles in Windows 10 than we did in Windows 11, but it's clear that the race between Intel and AMD certainly narrows when we test the Alder Lake chips on the older operating system. We also must caution that we noticed much more variability in our Alder Lake test runs on Windows 10 than we see with other types of chips, so Intel's warnings that you can experience performance variability from poor thread scheduling in Windows 10 are warranted.

Naturally, unoptimized thread scheduling can lead to latency-sensitive threads running on the E-cores, but this occurs unpredictably and seems to increase during multi-tasking. That means you could see far more or far less of an impact in different types of gaming scenarios, like streaming while gaming or using chat clients. Due to time constraints and the sporadic nature of the variations, we haven't fully quantified the increased deviation yet, but we'll continue to look into this issue. Also, it's worth noting that we only see these variations in our detailed test outputs — we didn't notice any outwardly-visible signs of rough gameplay.

You'll also notice right away that the DDR5 configurations lose some steam in Windows 10 compared to the DDR4-equipped setup. This isn't ideal, as the DDR5-equipped motherboard we used for testing was much more handsomely equipped than the low-end DDR4 board. However, after a bit of follow-up, we're told that this isn't an entirely unexpected result.

The 12900K with DDR4 is 7% faster at 1080p, which naturally impacts its competitive footing. With DDR5, the 12900K is 2.4% faster than the Ryzen 9 5900X, which expands to a 9.5% advantage with DDR4 memory. That isn't the best result given the expected eye-watering pricing for DDR5.

The 12600K is also roughly 8% faster with DDR4 than with DDR5, which is the difference between beating the Ryzen 5 5600X or losing to it.

Once again, flipping to the 1440p results finds slimmer deltas between the chips, but the reduced gaming performance with DDR5 in Windows 10 is an undeniable trend here, at least in our test environment.

Again, remember that our cumulative results above are impacted by some sizeable Intel leads in specific titles, which we'll cover below, so be sure to check out the individual results.

Borderlands 3 on Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K

Far Cry 5 on Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K

Hitman 2 on Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K

Project CARS 3 on Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K

Red Dead Redemption 2 on Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K

Shadow of the Tomb Raider on Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K

Paul Alcorn
Deputy Managing Editor

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

  • hotaru251
    gonna be a pretty short crown retaking but yay for them.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    I'm not so sure it will be a short crown retaking. AMD hasn't shown any indication yet they are officially reducing prices to compete, and with Zen 3+ likely to be more expensive than Zen 3, it may be quite the role reversal with Intel the best value. When Zen 4 becomes widely available in 2023 who knows, but as it stands I'd have a tough time recommending AMD over Intel at this point.
    Reply
  • VforV
    LMAO, 29 days ago this same guy had this article:
    Intel Core i9-12900K vs Ryzen 9 5900X and 5950X: Alder Lake and Ryzen 5000 Face Off
    Now he has a "review" of them. Pffft.

    Why don't you do another "review" again in 1 month, since intel does not have enough promo pieces already...

    P.S. Even with the exaggerated positive press Alder Lake had and has, still is not selling great... Still I see their CPUs in stock at better prices than Ryzen and not moving that stock. I find it hilarious.
    Reply
  • m3city
    I just don't get it. Maybe I just can't find the right numbers. Maybe I'm cherry picking but when I see:
    5900 vs 12900, CPU price somewhat similar.

    Cruncher multi 100W@37sec, 170W@107s. Single thread shows better Intel.
    Handbrake x264 4 renders vs 3 renders, 130W vs 213W, 151s vs 262s.
    Noted, Intel has iGPU - thats BIG, at least for me.

    Better CPU overall? As I said, I just don't see it. Intel is bigger, stronger. Not a better athlete at all.
    Reply
  • helper800
    I do not know what the others are on about. The new Alder lake CPU's are objectively better at more things than AMDs offerings are vs Alder lake. @VforV Anyone could argue the same about positive press for the zen 1 and 2 products. Personally I am just happy some semblance of competition is back. If you are looking at this with anything other than it being a win for consumers, than you've got brand loyalties that may make you buy into objectively worse hardware. Intel also comes in cheaper at most all price points (with exception to some whole platform considerations).
    Reply
  • VforV
    helper800 said:
    I do not know what the others are on about. The new Alder lake CPU's are objectively better at more things than AMDs offerings are vs Alder lake. @VforV Anyone could argue the same about positive press for the zen 1 and 2 products. Personally I am just happy some semblance of competition is back. If you are looking at this with anything other than it being a win for consumers, than you've got brand loyalties that may make you buy into objectively worse hardware. Intel also comes in cheaper at most all price points (with exception to some whole platform considerations).
    I'm glad for competition, but no Alder Lake is not an outstanding success beating Zen3 from A to Z and at everything and anything. Far from that...

    Like nvidia, intel too has to win back a lot of good will before I even care about them, after all the **** they done in the last 7 or so years.

    I rather buy an inferior product than step over my principles and dignity and s*** up to those 2 companies and give them my money for a minority performance advantage (at a point in time). Nvidia is actually worse than intel, but intel is bad enough still.

    Coming Zen3D, interest in Alder Lake will drop even more (it already has worse sales than predicted/wanted).

    Yes, competition is good, but only because it pushes AMD to be even better than if they did not have at all. That's the only part I care about.
    Reply
  • helper800
    VforV said:
    I'm glad for competition, but no Alder Lake is not an outstanding success beating Zen3 from A to Z and at everything and anything. Far from that...

    Like nvidia, intel too has to win back a lot of good will before I even care about them, after all the **** they done in the last 7 or so years.

    I rather buy an inferior product than step over my principles and dignity and s*** up to those 2 companies and give them my money for a minority performance advantage (at a point in time). Nvidia is actually worse than intel, but intel is bad enough still.

    Coming Zen3D, interest in Alder Lake will drop even more (it already has worse sales than predicted/wanted).

    Yes, competition is good, but only because it pushes AMD to be even better than if they did not have at all. That's the only part I care about.
    I can respect your opinion, but I disagree. In my opinion companies all do what they can to stay as profitable as they can. Consumer "goodwill" is just another currency these large multinational companies spend and receive for various conduct. AMD currently has a decent amount of goodwill, however, they spent a major chunk of it by not releasing a 5600, 5300, 5700 / 5800 while also increasing prices by 50 dollars across the board. They did this for money and they knew they could get away with it because they had garnered enough consumer goodwill.
    Reply
  • VforV
    helper800 said:
    I can respect your opinion, but I disagree. In my opinion companies all do what they can to stay as profitable as then can. Consumer "goodwill" is just another currency these large multinational companies spend and receive for various conduct. AMD currently has a decent amount of goodwill, however, they spent a major chunk of it by not releasing a 5600, 5300, 5700 / 5800 while also increasing prices by 50 dollars across the board. They did this for money and they knew they could get away with it because they had garnered enough consumer goodwill.
    There is no innocent company, AMD included. I also don't like those same things you stated about AMD that they did recently, but compared to nvidia and intel (on topic), the amount of scummy or s* things AMD did is almost meaningless.

    ... so far. And that is what matters to me. It's not like I'm losing so much performance if I use AMD, like it was the case 5-7 years ago, they are either on top or very close to the top, depending on the generation.
    Reply
  • DSzymborski
    If you want a site that writes articles that only conform to your personal philosophical ideals, you'll need to start up VsHardware.com. It's not the job of a reviewer to review CPUs based on who "deserves" anything, but what the performances are.
    Reply
  • VforV
    DSzymborski said:
    If you want a site that writes articles that only conform to your personal philosophical ideals, you'll need to start up VsHardware.com. It's not the job of a reviewer to review CPUs based on who "deserves" anything, but what the performances are.
    Sure, I'd love to see that professional impartiality from all the tech sites and YT channels, but the reality is so much different than these utopian journalism rules... which almost no one cares about or abides by them anymore. The trend is actually in the opposite direction.

    So in that regard, in a perfect world you would be right.

    Then I am also right when I say, everyone that buys a product does it based on it's own preference and subjective feeling and beliefs towards that product.
    Thus, we all give or money to those that we think they deserve out money. And we don't give to those that don't.

    Which means I don't give my money to those companies that do NOT: in this case, intel and nvidia. At least not until they prove they are atoning for all the s* they did up until now and start to do better. But if they never change and keep doing s*, then it's a no from me. It's as simple as that and I don't see a problem with this whatsoever. I may be in a minority thinking like this, but I know I'm not the only one.
    Reply