Skip to main content

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 11: Core i9-12900K and i5-12600K Application Benchmarks — The TLDR

Image 1 of 2

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 2 of 2

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

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

Alder Lake delivers a few stunning wins in the threaded workloads that Ryzen has dominated for so long, highlighting the advantages of the x86 hybrid architecture. It is quite surprising to see the 24-thread Core i9-12900K with DDR5 memory tie the 32-thread Ryzen 9 5950X in the multi-threaded ranking, but even more surprising to see it take a 3% lead with DDR4. That's pretty impressive in light of the 5950X's $800 price tag.

The Core i5-12600K is equally impressive in its price range as it is 38% faster in threaded work than the comparably-priced 5600X, and 7% faster than the 5800X that costs $161 more.

Shifting gears to overclocking, the Core i9-12900K was a scant 1.5% faster in lightly-threaded work and 3.2% faster in multi-threaded, while the Core i5-12600K was
4% and 8.8% faster, respectively, in the geometric mean of our workloads. Notably, you'll see larger gains in individual applications below, while others only see a muted impact.

The deltas in favor of Alder Lake are even more convincing in the single-threaded metric, but you shouldn't put undue importance on this metric because it is comprised of a few very specific workloads. You can see a broader spate of lightly-threaded workloads below. Needless to say, Alder Lake dominates those types of workloads.

Be sure to check the following page for the ugly side of Alder Lake — application benchmarks in Windows 10 encounter plenty of snags.

Windows 11: Rendering Benchmarks on Core i9-12900K and i5-12600K

Image 1 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 2 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 3 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 4 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 5 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 6 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 7 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 8 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 9 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 10 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 11 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 12 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 13 of 13

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

This series of tests, conducted within the Alder Lake-friendly confines of Windows 11, is nothing short of impressive. Here we can see the 16-core 24-thread 12900K battle toe-to-toe with the Ryzen 9 5950X in what used to be its uncontested turf.

You'll notice that two of the applications that performed so badly in Windows 10, Corona and POV-Ray, run flawlessly in Windows 11. These are the same versions of the benchmarks, too, so this is entirely the work of Intel's Thread Director tech in tandem with the optimized Windows 11 scheduler. 

The Core i9-12900K is 3.9% faster than the Ryzen 9 5950X in the threaded Cinebench test and 17% faster in POV-Ray, showing that the hybrid architecture exposes exceptionally strong performance despite the lesser thread count. On the other hand, the 5950X takes the lead in a few of the other threaded applications, but by surprisingly slim deltas given its much higher price tag. Remember, the 12900K's pricing is closer to the 5900X. 

The 12900K and the 12600K lead the entire Ryzen lineup in the single-threaded tasks, showing that the Thread Director works perfectly to ensure those tasks run on the fastest cores. 

Windows 11: Encoding Benchmarks on Core i9-12900K and i5-12600K

Image 1 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 2 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 3 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 4 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 5 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 6 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 7 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 8 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 9 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 10 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Here we can see that Handbrake x264, which struggled in Windows 10, runs on the P-cores perfectly in Windows 11. This program is coded to deprioritize its threads, and here we can see that Thread Director works in tandem with the Windows 11 scheduler to rectify the issue.

Alder Lake dominates encoding workloads, be they lightly- or multi-threaded. 

Windows 11: Web Browsing on Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K

Image 1 of 4

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 2 of 4

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 3 of 4

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 4 of 4

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The ubiquitous web browser is one of the most frequently used applications, and here we can see yet another commanding performance from the Alder Lake chips. 

Windows 11: Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop, Lightroom on Core i9-12900K

Image 1 of 6

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 2 of 6

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 3 of 6

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 4 of 6

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 5 of 6

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 6 of 6

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

We've integrated the UL Benchmarks Procyon tests into our suite to replace the aging PCMark 10. This new benchmark runs on Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Lightroom. Here we can see that these types of workloads clearly prize the increased memory throughput from DDR5.

You'll notice that the Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K are actually slower in the Adobe Premiere Pro workload after overclocking. We're investigating these results, as they are repeatable. 

Windows 11: Office and Productivity on Core i9-12900K and i5-12600K

Image 1 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 2 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 3 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 4 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 5 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 6 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 7 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 8 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 9 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 10 of 10

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Intel's Alder Lake dominates the Microsoft Office testing and delivers the snappiest application load times. Meanwhile, AMD's Ryzen chips continue to lead in the GIMP benchmark suite.

Windows 11: Compilation, Compression, AVX Benchmarks

Image 1 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 2 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 3 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 4 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 5 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 6 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 7 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 8 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 9 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 10 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 11 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 12 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 13 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 14 of 14

Intel Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K Application Benchmarks

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

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 chose to ax AVX-512 support in Alder Lake chips, but the increased throughput of DDR5 helps the chips step forward past their 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. AMD continues to benefit in the SHA3, AES, and HASH benchmarks from its cryptographic optimizations. 

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.

  • 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