Intel’s Next-Gen Alder Lake Processors Have Arrived, and We Now Have All the Information

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Photo: Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/Gizmodo – Three of the company’s upcoming chips have had their pricing and performance exposed. Intel has officially published price and performance specifications for three new 12th-generation Alder Lake CPUs. The good news is that, while Intel’s 11th-gen CPUs were not especially inventive, interesting, or…differently-shaped, the 12th-gen chips are. They’re made with Intel’s 7 process, and they’re the first CPUs to use Intel’s new-ish hybrid architecture—which means you’ll need a new Z690 motherboard to upgrade.

Intel’s newest hybrid design combines large, high-powered performance cores (P-cores) with compact, low-powered efficiency cores on the same chip (E-cores). This sort of hybrid design isn’t entirely new—we’ve seen it before in Intel’s Lakefield processors—but it’s now paired with Intel Thread Director, a hardware-based optimization tool that improves performance by directing jobs to the right cores: P-cores handle single-threaded, high-performance activities, whereas E-cores manage background operations and multitasking.

Because Intel Thread Director was created in tandem with Windows 11 and is officially supported by it, you’ll need to upgrade pretty much everything if you want to optimize efficiency and performance.

Photo: Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/Gizmodo

Of course, the new CPUs and motherboards are the first to enable DDR5 (up to 4800) memory, so that’s something else to consider.

“The Best Gaming Processor in the World”

The Core i9-12900K CPU from Intel is being dubbed “the world’s finest gaming processor,” according to Intel. If Intel wants to recover from its disappointing 11th-generation CPUs, these processors will have to live up to the hype.

Intel’s 11th-gen i9s have been reduced to 8 cores and 16 threads, down from the 10-core, 20-thread 10th-gen i9s, with the company saying that the reduction was required to “maximize real-world performance.” The new hybrid architecture brings the 12th-gen i9s back up to 16 cores and 24 threads. This is, of course, a combination of P- and E-cores: The 12th-generation i9 processors contain a balanced balance of 8 P-cores and 8 E-cores, resulting in a 19% performance boost (according to Intel).

New size, shape, and socket

Alder Lake might be Intel’s most revolutionary CPU generation in over a decade, in terms of both physical form factor and performance. Because of the socket architecture and pin arrangement (Alder Lake has 1700 pins, up 500 from Rocket and Comet Lake’s 1200-pin design), the new 12th-gen CPUs are physically incompatible with earlier motherboards. Intel CPUs have had a variety of sockets since the mid-2000s, but they have all had the same size and form. The new CPUs are bigger and rectangular, measuring 7.5mm longer on one side.

Because the new LGA 1700 socket necessitates a new motherboard, Intel also announced their flagship Z690 chipset with Alder Lake. The Z690 chipset supports DDR5 (and/or DDR4) memory, native PCIe 5.0, USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 data transmission, Thunderbolt 4, and integrated Wi-Fi 6E, so it should be relatively future-proof. Because not all Z690 motherboards support both DDR4 and DDR5 memory, you shouldn’t need to change your RAM to DDR5 if you get the proper one (unless you want to).

Because of the chip’s new size and shape, you’ll need to rethink your present CPU cooling setup, since throwing a square-shaped heatsink on top of a rectangle isn’t exactly the most efficient approach to maximize cooling efficiency, especially if you intend on overclocking. Many cooler manufacturers have already offered free or low-cost LGA 1700 conversion kits, so depending on your circumstances, you may be able to reuse your cooler. However, because there are various elements that might impair performance, such as a lower z-stack height and an asymmetrical socket design, it’s definitely a good idea to budget for an update.

Let’s Have a Conversation About Overclocking

Overclocking is still not completely supported by Intel, and it probably never will be. When asked if overclocking voids the warranty, Intel VP Mandy Mock told Gizmodo that it still does. (I guess Intel’s legal team disagrees with Mock, who said she wouldn’t be concerned about hardware failure or another warranty issue as a result of overclocking.) Intel may never embrace overclocking with warranty in hand, but they’re doing a pretty good job of appealing to gamers, streamers, and other overclocking speed/power enthusiasts (like me) with overclocking features and (up-to-date) tools.

The Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU), Intel’s principal overclocking tool, just received support for Alder Lake and the new chip’s hybrid P-core/E-core design. The current version of XTU now supports DDR5 memory and adds a variety of overclocking options with varied degrees of control, ranging from Speed Optimizer, which overclocks everything with a single button click, to per-core and per-package overclocking for selective overclocking.

Intel also announced an update to its Extreme Memory Settings (XMP) tool, which is a memory overclocking tool in the BIOS menu that allows you to switch between custom memory profiles rapidly.

XMP 3.0 includes DDR5 support, as well as more memory profiles and customization options. Intel also touted its Dynamic Memory Boost Technology, which functions as a RAM “turbo boost” (compatible with DDR4 and DDR5 modules). Dynamic Memory Boost Technology dynamically switches between several XMP memory profiles (as well as default profiles) based on real-time data from your system to provide the best possible combination of speed, power, and reliability. When it’s ready (which Intel promises will be “soon”), Intel’s Dynamic Memory Boost Technology will be available through BIOS update.

When and how much can you buy?

The new CPUs are more expensive than the previous generation, which is understandable but nonetheless disappointing: The $589 i9-12900K is a $50 upgrade over the $539 i9-11900K from the previous generation. Intel has only released price for a few of its desktop CPUs so far. Unlocked CPUs begin with a K, whereas processors beginning with a F do not contain Intel’s UHD 770 integrated graphics. Here are the specifics:

Photo: Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/Gizmodo

Core i9-12th Gen

i9-12900K ($589): 3.2GHz P-core, 2.4GHz E-core, with 5.2GHz turbo.
i9-12900KF ($564): P-core up to 3.2GHz, E-core up to 2.4GHz, and turbo up to 5.2GHz.

Core i7 12th Gen

The 12th-generation i7 processors feature 12 cores (8 P-cores and 4 E-cores) and 20 threads in the mid-range price range.
i7-12700K ($409): P-core up to 3.6GHz, E-core up to 2.7GHz, and turbo up to 5.0GHz.
i7-12700KF ($384): P-core up to 3.6GHz, E-core up to 2.7GHz, and turbo up to 5.0GHz.

Core i5 12th Gen

The 10 cores (6 P-cores and 4 E-cores) and 16 threads of the 12th-generation i5 processors are the most powerful yet.

Up to 3.7GHz P-core / 2.8GHz E-core / 4.9GHz boost on the i5-12600K ($289).
i5-12600KF ($264): P-core up to 3.7GHz, E-core up to 2.8GHz, and turbo up to 4.9GHz

Preorders for all three chips are now open, and shipment will begin on November 4th.