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Unreal Engine: 12th Gen Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Series

Written on November 4, 2021 by Kelly Shipman
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TL;DR: 12th Gen Intel Core vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Series Processors for Unreal Engine

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.

Introduction

Last week, Intel announced their new 12th Gen Intel Core desktop processors (code-named "Alder Lake") with the most notable feature being their 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.

Another new feature of this new architecture is that the Performance-cores feature Hyper-threading, while the Efficient-cores do not. This allows for unique combinations of Performance and Efficient cores to meet the targets Intel sets. For example, the Intel Core i9 12900K, and i7 12700k have the same number of Performance cores, but a different number of Efficient cores.

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 Unreal Engine 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.

12th Gen Intel Core Processors for Unreal Engine

Because of how many things have changed, we were not quite sure how these CPUs would end up performing. If everything goes as planned, the performance should be terrific, but there is a lot of new technology that could potentially cause problems if something does not work right.

In this article, we will be examining the performance of the new Intel Core i9 12900K, i7 12700K, and i5 12600K in Premiere Pro compared to a range of CPUs including the Intel 11th Gen and AMD Ryzen 5000 Series processors. If you are interested in how these processors compare in other applications, we also have other articles for Cinema 4D, V-Ray, DaVinci Resolve, and several other applications available on our article listing page.

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Test Setup

Listed below are the specifications of the systems we will be using for our testing:

12th Gen Intel Core Test Platform
CPU Intel Core i9 12900K ($589)
Intel Core i7 12700K ($409)
Intel Core i5 12600K ($289)
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte Z690 UD AX DDR4
RAM 4x DDR4-3200 16GB (64GB total)
11th Gen Intel Core Test Platform
CPU Intel Core i9 11900K ($513)
Intel Core i7 11700K ($409)
Intel Core i5 11600K ($272)
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte Z490 Vision D
RAM 4x DDR4-3200 16GB (64GB total)
AMD Ryzen 5000 Series Test Platform
CPU AMD Ryzen 9 5950X ($799)
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X ($549)
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X ($449)
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X ($299)
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte X570 AORUS ULTRA
RAM 4x DDR4-3200 16GB (64GB total)
Shared Hardware & Software
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 10GB
Storage Samsung 980 Pro 2TB
Software Windows 11 Pro 64-bit (2009)
Unreal Engine 4.26

*All the latest drivers, OS updates, BIOS, and firmware applied as of October 27th, 2021

In order to see how the new 12th Gen Intel Core processors perform in Unreal Engine, we will be comparing them not only to the previous 11th Gen Intel Core CPUs but also to AMD's Ryzen 5000 series. For the test itself, we will be using our custom testing suit in Unreal Engine 4.26.

As for the test platforms we will be using, there is a number of things we want to point out:

First, you will note that we are using Windows 11 for our tests. Windows 11 includes features that works closely with the Intel Thread Scheduler, which may be necessary to get the full performance possible from the 12th Gen Intel CPUs. VBS was left disabled, and all chipset and Windows updates were applied to fix a number of AMD performance issues

Windows 11 had a rocky start with AMD CPUs and processors with more than 32 cores, but with the latest updates, we found the difference between Windows 10 and Windows 11 with these Ryzen CPUs to be negligible for Premiere Pro. We will have those results, and similar testing examining Intel 12th Gen performance on Windows 10, in an upcoming "12th Gen Intel Core - Windows 11 vs Windows 10" article.

Beyond the OS, we will be primarily using DDR4 RAM because, at least for the immediate future, DDR5 is expected to be largely unavailable. We did get in a set of Kingston DDR5-4800 16GB sticks early enough that allowed us to get some initial numbers, however, which we will include in the results. Note that while the RAM itself is rated for 4800MHz, the 12th Gen platform only officially supports that speed on motherboards that have just two physical RAM slots. In the cases where four sticks are being used, the supported RAM speed is 4400MHz, which is what the Gigabyte board we used defaulted to when we left the RAM speed on Auto.

The DDR5 RAM we are using is very much intended for stability over raw speed, and has fairly loose CL40 timings. However, we tend to be fairly conservative on RAM speed, so this is actually a good comparison to use against the DDR4-3200 CL22 RAM we are using for the rest of our tests.

Like any early launch content, keep in mind that performance is likely to change over time. Especially in this case where there is still work to be done for Windows 11, the thread scheduler, and DDR5, performance is likely to increase slightly as the software and technology is developed.

Code Compile Results

Code Compile Results in Visual Studio 2019

Compiling code in Visual Studio can really favor CPUs with a large number of cores. This is pretty evident in these results. The more cores and threads a CPU has, the faster it performs. This test also shows the potential of the new DDR5 RAM. With the existing DDR4 RAM, the Intel Core i9 12900K is not able to keep up with the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X, even though both CPUs feature 24 threads. This is likely due to the differing numbers of Performance cores. Moving the CPU to the DDR5 platform, the 12900K sees a significant increase in speed edging out the 5900X.

This trend continues down the stack. Wherever there are equal threads between CPUs, AMD leads by a decent amount. It’s hard to say at this point if this is an issue with the new Thread Director, or if Visual Studio is just more suited to AMD’s designs. It will be very interesting to see the full results of the DDR5 testing.

Build Lighting Results

Results for building lighting on the 12th gen Intel CPUs.

Light baking is still a very integral part of game development and ArchVis. While GPU lightmass has greatly improved and looks to be the future of this process (not to mansion the real-time improvements of UE5’s Lumen) CPU based light baking is still part of many users’ workflows. Here we see things level off between Intel and AMD. While the top of the line 5950X holds a clear lead, the12900k with DDR4 and 5900X are tied. Upgrading the Intel CPU to the DDR5 platform does provide a good performance increase.

More interestingly, the 12600K manages to outperform the 5800X while costing $160 less. DDR5 may potentially increase that lead even further. That is a very good sign for the budget minded game developer.

Compiling Shaders Results

Compiling Shaders results on Intel's 12th Generation CPUs.

Compiling shaders is something that everyone working with Unreal has to contend with. Some only have to wait for a few shaders to compile ever once in a while, others see thousand on a regular basis. Because this is a lot of small tasks that can happen in any order, it lends itself to high core count CPUs. Once again, Intel shows dramatic improvement generation over generation. Even their lower end i5 12600K is faster than the last generation’s top-end 11900K.

Looking at the DDR5 results is particularly interesting. For the first time in this benchmark the Intel 12900K takes the top spot. Hopefully this is a glimpse into what DDR5 has in store. As the platform continues to mature, and faster RAM comes available, we should see even better compile speeds.

FPS Performance

How many frames a system is able to put out is heavily tied to the GPU, though the CPU does have some impact. In our test scene, running at 4k with Ray Tracing enabled on an Nvidia RTX 3080, we do see the 12900K take the top spot by roughly 2%, not really enough to make a difference in anybody’s workflow or even be perceivable by the user. In fact, the difference between the fastest CPU tested and the slowest is only 6%.

If we drop down to 1080p and turn off RTX, we can build a bottleneck where the GPU is processing frames faster than the CPU can keep up with. This shows differences in how the CPU is able to move data around when the GPU isn’t involved. Now we see Intel extend its lead. There isn’t a use case where this is the primary factor to consider, but it may have an impact on external uses such as mocap data.

Overall CPU Performance

Overall CPU Performance with Intel's 12th generation CPUs.

Intel made huge strides with this new CPU architecture, seeing massive performance gains across the board. Unfortunately for Intel, They are playing catch up with AMD. When equipped with DDR4, Intel doesn't quite match AMD's performance. When equipped with DDR5, Intel marches ahead when matched by price. The only question is when DDR5 will become readily available, and where will prices land. If looking for best performance at any price, AMD is still in a firm lead with not only the Ryzen 5950X, but also the Threadripper line, a big favorite among Unreal users.

Are the 12th Gen Intel Core Processors Good for Unreal Engine?

For Unreal, most development related tasks favor CPUs with lots of threads. In all our tests, the AMD Ryzen 5950X scores the top spot. After that, because Intel is launching this CPU with support for both DDR4 and DDR5 RAM, things get complicated. Using a motherboard that supports DDR4, which will be much more readily available at launch, Intel lags behind AMD. However, if using a DDR5 compatible motherboard, the early impression is that it will be a much closer fight. We still have some testing ahead of us on this, so keep your eye out for those articles.

That said, if you are looking for the fastest CPU for compiling shaders, code and building lighting, AMD’s Threadripper is still the top choice.

Keep in mind that the benchmark results in this article are strictly for Unreal Engine and that performance will vary widely in different applications. If your workflow includes other software packages (we have similar articles for Cinema 4D, After Effects, DaVinci Resolve, and more), you need to consider how the system will perform in those applications as well. Be sure to check our list of Hardware Articles to keep up to date on how all of these software packages - and more - perform with the latest CPUs.

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Looking for an Unreal Engine Workstation?

Puget Systems offers a range of powerful and reliable systems that are tailor-made for your unique workflow.

Configure a System!

Labs Consultation Service

Our Labs team is available to provide in-depth hardware recommendations based on your workflow.

Find Out More!
Tags: AMD Ryzen 5000-series, 5600X, 5800X, 5900X, 5950X, Intel 11th Gen, i9 11900K, i7 11700K, i5 11600K, Intel 10th Gen, Intel 12th Gen, i5 12600K, i7 12700K, i9 12900K, Unreal Engine