12th Gen Intel Core CPU Review RoundupWritten on November 4, 2021 by Matt Bach
Last week, Intel announced their 12th Gen Intel Core desktop processors (code-named "Alder Lake") with the most notable feature being the new hybrid architecture which utilizes a mix of Performance and Efficient-cores. The Performance-cores (P-cores) are what you typically would think of when it comes to a CPU core, and are designed to maximize performance for heavier workloads. The Efficient-cores (E-cores), on the other hand, are intended either for tasks that can be run in parallel, or for background tasks where higher performance isn't necessary.
The benefit of this type of hybrid setup primarily comes down to the fact that the E-cores take up significantly less room on the CPU die, along with having much lower power requirements. Because of this, Intel is able to pack a higher number of total cores into their processors which should give them a nice boost to multi-threading performance.
However, the difficulty is that the system needs to be able to dynamically choose what tasks are run on each type of core. For example, it would be less than ideal if Photoshop was to run on an E-core because your web browser decided to take up all the P-cores. To account for this, Intel has also launched a technology called Thread Director, which works with the OS in order to dynamically adjust which processes are run on each core.
This new hybrid architecture should, in theory, allow the 12th Gen Intel CPUs to excel at both lightly and highly threaded tasks, but that is not the only change they made. Among various architecture improvements, the 12th Gen CPUs also have support for both DDR4 and DDR5 RAM, as well as having 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0. Both DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 likely won't have much of an impact at launch since they are very new technologies that need time to evolve before we will see their full potential, but all of these improvements together should help give the 12th Gen CPUs a big boost over previous generations.
If you want to read about what sets these CPUs apart in more detail, we recommend checking out our landing page for the 12th Gen Intel Core Processors.
While specifications are often not that useful when comparing Intel and AMD CPUs (or even two CPUs from different families), we did want to specifically point out the MSRP pricing for the 12th Gen CPUs as compared to the previous 11th Gen CPUs and the AMD Ryzen 5000 series. While pricing currently fluctuates widely depending on supply, this is still important because it gives a baseline with which to compare the different CPUs.
|Intel Core i5 11600K 6 Core||$272|
|Intel Core i5 12600K 6P+4E Core||$289|
|AMD Ryzen 5 5600X 6 Core||$299|
|Intel Core i7 11700K 8 Core||$409|
|Intel Core i7 12700K 8P+4E Core||$409|
|AMD Ryzen 7 5800X 8 Core||$449|
|Intel Core i9 11900K 8 Core||$513|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5900X 12 Core||$549|
|Intel Core i9 12900K 8P+8E Core||$589|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5950X 16 Core||$799|
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Read the full article: Adobe Photoshop: 12th Gen Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Series
Summary: With the 12th Gen processors, Intel once again takes the performance crown in Photoshop - although it is mostly by single-digit percentages. While the 12th Gen CPUs are anywhere from 12-17% faster than the previous 11th Gen processors, compared to similarly priced AMD Ryzen CPUs, we saw about 5-11% higher performance with the 12th Gen Intel Core processors. While this is statistically significant, it is small enough that you may have a hard time noticing the difference in your day-to-day work.
Unlike most of the other applications we tested, DDR5 isn't likely to change things much for Photoshop as we only saw a marginal increase in performance with DDR5 that was easily within the margin of error for this kind of real world tests. But even with DDR4, if you are looking to get the best performance in Photoshop, the 12th Gen Intel Core CPUs are the way to go.
Adobe Lightroom Classic
Read the full article: Adobe Lightroom Classic: 12th Gen Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Series
Summary: The new 12th Gen CPUs from Intel represent a major shift in CPU performance for Lightroom Classic. For the last few generations, AMD has been the dominant choice, but with these new CPUs, Intel has taken a commanding lead. The performance between Intel and AMD is closer at the top-end, but the i9 12900K still manages to pull ahead of the Ryzen 5900X by a small 6% with DDR4, or by 15% when using DDR5 memory. At the i5 and i7 level, however, the Core i7 12700K and Core i5 12600K perform about 15% faster than the Ryzen 5800X and 5600X respectively, which should only further increase once DDR5 becomes widely available.
This now makes Intel the clear choice for Lightroom Classic when it comes to performance. Even better, this is true both for active tasks like image culling, and for passive tasks like exporting. All around, the 12th Gen CPUs are simply a solid investment for photographers using Lightroom Classic that are in the market for a new workstation.
Adobe After Effects
Read the full article: Adobe After Effects: 12th Gen Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Series
Summary: Overall, the new 12th Gen Intel Core processors are terrific for After Effects, providing roughly a 15% performance gain over the previous generation Intel CPUs when using DDR4 memory. And while DDR5 is likely going to take some time to become widely available, our early testing showed that we could get nearly another 10% on top of that with DDR5 memory.
Compared to a similarly priced AMD Ryzen 5000 series processor, the 12th Gen CPUs were anywhere from 6-14% faster on average with DDR4 RAM. This gap should widen once DDR5 becomes a viable option, and our Windows 11 vs Windows 10 testing found that the 12900K is actually roughly 6% slower in Windows 11. This means that Intel should be able to expand their lead even further when the Windows 11 performance issues are presumably fixed.
Adobe Premiere Pro
Read the full article: Adobe Premiere Pro: 12th Gen Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Series
Summary: Overall, the new 12th Gen Intel Core processors do extremely well in Premiere Pro, providing anywhere from a 20% to nearly 50% performance improvement over the previous 11th Gen processors. And compared to a similarly priced AMD Ryzen 5000 series processor, Intel holds anywhere from a 25-40% performance lead on average! That number drops a bit if you are restricted to DDR4 (which most users will be until DDR5 supply improves), but even without DDR5, the 12th Gen CPUs represent a major jump forward in performance for Premiere Pro.
And in fact, our Windows 11 vs Windows 10 testing found that the 12900K is actually roughly 8% slower in Windows 11. This performance drop did not happen on the AMD Ryzen CPUs, which means that Intel should be able to expand their lead even further when the Windows 11 performance issues are presumably fixed.
To put this into context, the 12th Gen CPUs are fast enough that even the Intel Core i5 12600K 6+4 Core processor was able to effectively score on par with the significantly more expensive AMD Ryzen 5950X 16 Core. And from there, the Core i7 12700K and Core i9 12900K only give you better and better performance.
DaVinci Resolve Studio
Read the full article: DaVinci Resolve Studio: 12th Gen Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Series
Summary: Overall, the new 12th Gen CPUs from Intel are a terrific option for those looking for a cost-effective DaVinci Resolve Studio workstation. They won't be able to match the higher-end AMD Threadripper (Pro) or Intel Xeon W platforms for more complex workflows, but they are solidly faster than the AMD Ryzen 5000 series.
At the top-end, the Core i9 12900K is a small 5% faster than the 5900X when using DDR4, but this should jump to closer to 11% once DDR5 becomes more widely available. Lower down the stack, the i7 12700K and i5 12600K also beat the similarly priced AMD Ryzen options, coming in at 11% and 17% faster than the Ryzen 5800X and 5600X respectively.
Read the full article: Unreal Engine: 12th Gen Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Series
Summary: Intel regained a lot of ground with AMD when it comes to Unreal Engine performance. Their new Big/Little core architecture has given them them anywhere from 50 to 75% better scores in our testing compared to the previous generation. However, these massive gains are just enough to catch up to AMD's Ryzen CPUs. This new platform from lintel brings with it several new technologies such as DDR5, PCIe 5.o, and more. DDR5 is not yet widely available, that leaves the only option to use these new CPUs with the existing DDR4 RAM. Unfortunately, this combination does not make enough of an improvement to recommend it over the AMD Ryzen CPUs. If you are considering going with Intel, it would be best to wait for more DDR5 testing and availability
If you are looking for the absolute best CPU for Unreal Engine development work, the undisputed leader is AMD's Threadripper.
Read the full article: Cinema 4D: 12th Gen Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Series
Summary: In Cinema 4D, modeling and animation workflows will be greatly improved by the single core performance of the new Intel 12th gen CPUs. The multi-core capabilities have also dramatically improved, making these new CPUs very competitive, and sometimes better than AMD's Ryzen CPUs. The new DDR5 looks to further improve these results once it becomes more widely available. This makes for a great platform for someone that is using GPU rendering, and is even ready for the next generation of PCIe 5.0 video cards.
V-Ray CPU Rendering
Read the full article: V-Ray: 12th Gen Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Series
Summary: For CPU-based rendering, the number of cores is the primary concern. Intel jumped from 8 cores/16 threads as their top-end CPU of the last generation to 16 cores/24 threads as the top CPU of this generation. That upgrade gives the new CPU a 65% increase in rendering speed over that last generation. This still trails AMDs Ryzen 9 5950X and Threadripper lines.
However, this only represents CPU rendering performance. Many V-Ray users have moved to GPU rendering. For users that are looking for a high-performance modeling/animation workstation, these new CPUs make for a tantalizing solution. Not only do you get great single-core speeds to help with modeling/animation, but the system will also be ready with PCIe 5.0 once video cards become available.
Do you need Windows 11 for 12th Gen Intel Core Processors?
With the hybrid architecture, Intel has remarked on how there are additional optimization in Windows 11 that should improve how well the Thread Director works. Because of this, we did most of our testing with Windows 11, but we also wanted to do some additional testing to see just how much faster Windows 11 was than Windows 10. In addition, the AMD Ryzen CPUs had a number of performance issues with Windows 11 when it was launched, and we wanted to verify that the issues have either been fixed, or otherwise did not impact our results.
To answer both of these questions, we published a full article: 12th Gen Intel Core - Do you need Windows 11? that you can read if you are interested.
To summarize it, however, while Windows 11 didn't make a big impact on performance for the new 12th Gen CPUs in most cases, when it did improve performance, it did so by a large amount. Specifically, in Photoshop we saw about a 28% improvement in performance when using Windows 11 with the Intel Core i9 12900K.
Overall, it is probably a good idea to plan on using Windows 11 for the 12th Gen Intel Core processors. Even outside of the performance you may see in individual applications, the optimizations to Thread Director should give you an overall better experience - at least, it should according to Intel.
How well do the 12th Gen Intel Core CPUs perform overall?
In a nut shell, the new 12th Gen Intel Core processors exceeded our expectations and highlight what the new hybrid architecture is capable of. 15-20% performance gains were common, and in some cases we saw a 30% (or even larger) improvement over the previous 11th Gen processors. In fact, the 12th Gen CPUs performed so well that the entry-level Core i5 12600K ended up beating the top-end Core i9 11900K from the previous generation in every single one of our benchmarks.
Compared to the AMD Ryzen 5000 series processors, the Intel 12th Gen CPUs hold a strong lead overall, although the exact amount varies based on the specific application. As a complete average across all our tests, the Core i9 12900K scored about 8% faster than the Ryzen 5900X with DDR4 memory, or roughly 17% faster with DDR5. Intel actually takes an even further lead at the i7 and i5 levels, with the Core i7 12700K beating the Ryzen 5800X by 16% on average, and the Core i5 12600K beating the Ryzen 5600X by a large 26%. And based on what we saw with the i9 12900K, we would expect those numbers to increase by roughly another 10% on average if you were to utilize DDR5 memory.
What is interesting is that a lot of Intel's biggest wins are in highly threaded tasks like CPU rendering, which until now, was where the higher core count of the Ryzen series has typically made AMD the stronger option. With the additional E-cores, however, Intel makes up the difference and especially at the i5 level, takes a massive lead. But even in more common applications like After Effects and Photoshop, Intel holds a decent lead with the Core i9 12900K, and a very commanding lead at the i5 and i7 level.
In fact, we only found a single instance where the AMD Ryzen 5000 series was faster than the Intel 12th Gen processors. In the CPU portion of our Unreal Engine testing, the AMD Ryzen 5900X was about 9% faster than the Intel Core i9 12900K for the CPU. However, that was only with DDR4 memory and as soon as we switched to DDR5, Intel once again came out on top and beat the Ryzen 5900X by a solid 14%.
Overall, the 12th Gen Intel Core CPUs are terrific across the board, providing a large performance boost over the previous 11th Gen CPUs, and in almost every single case, handily out-performed AMD's Ryzen 5000 series. Intel's lead is larger at the i5 and i7 level, but even with the Core i9 12900K, Intel consistently came out on top.
One thing we do want to note is that these results are likely to change slightly in the coming weeks and months. The hybrid architecture is still very new, and there are likely further OS and thread scheduling optimizations to be made. In addition, DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 are both in their infancy, and should be able to provide greater benefits as new RAM and GPUs are released.
If you are looking for a workstation with one of these new 12th Gen Intel Core CPUs, you can visit our solutions page to view our recommended workstations for various software packages (some of which will be using the 12th Gen CPUs once they finish our qualification process), our custom configuration page, or contact one of our technology consultants for help configuring a workstation that meets the specific needs of your unique workflow.
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