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Alder Lake Intel Core i5 12600K - What Everyone Is Missing

There are two important things about the new i5 12600K. Benchmarks are missing the point. If you are building a gaming PC here's what you need to know.

 

The Alder Lake Intel i5 12600K - Why Gamers Can Rejoice

 

Unless you have been hiding under a rock in the desert with no internet to said rock, you will of course know that the new 12th-gen Intel CPUs are here, and they have made a big splash. With benchmarks showing Intel's new processors take gaming to a whole new level, with the 12th-Gen being heralded as "the best processors for gaming".

We'll highlight a few things you should know about the benchmarks we've been seeing, and - more importantly - we will also highlight the things you are not reading about in the reviews and videos featuring the new Alder Lake S chips.

Intel i5 12600K Specifications

The specifications for the new Alder Lake chips are clearly the stuff of nightmares for AMD, with their own best gaming CPU, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X looking positively average against the Intel CPUs in benchmarks. AMD's focus always being a balance of gaming performance, productivity multitasking, energy efficiency, and - of course - budget, they have managed to secure their market position readily upon each CPU launch.

Back in the Blue Camp, Intel have justified every patient gamer waiting for the Alder Lake release with two CPUs in particular - the i5 12600K and the i9 12900K. For our viewing pleasure today, we have the mid-range Alder Lake 12th-Gen i5 12600K, which is priced around £279.99, boasting 10 Cores and 16 Threads, unlocked for overclocking, and clock speeds from 3.7GHz - 4.9GHz with Turbo boost. The big news is the DDR5 support, and PCIe 5.0 capabilities, though this is matched by the advent of Intel's P-Core/E-Core advantages in the Alder Lake processors.

Intel Core i5-12600K specs:

  • Cores / Threads: 10 (6P + 4E) / 16
  • Base clock speed: 3.7GHz (P-cores), 2.8GHz (E-cores)
  • Max Turbo Boost: 4.9GHz (P-cores), 3.6GHz (E-cores)
  • Cooler included: No
  • Unlocked for overclocking: Yes
  • TDP: 150W
  • Socket: LGA 1700
  • Motherboard chipset: 600 series (Z690, more TBC)

i5 12600K P-Cores and E-Cores

Alder Lake splits the ten cores up into the larger and faster Performance cores (P-cores) and smaller Efficiency cores (E-cores). The Core i5 12600K comprises 6x P-cores and 4x E-cores, with Hyper-Threading ramping the thread count to 16. This alone means the i5 12600K has an advantage over the hexa-core AMD Ryzen 5 5600X and Intel's own Core i5-11600K. The CPUs have been designed to spread workload more effectively than previous generations of CPU - E-cores take on the background processes and manages less demanding applications, and the P-cores can take on the heavy lifting of gaming and CPU-intensive applications (video editing, 3D etc.) without the need to share processing power, heat and energy with what used to be regular sized cores.

The upshot of this new engineering means vastly better single core performance, and when multi-threading ability is required, the i5 12900K is an excellent performer.

i5 12600K Benchmark Reviews

There has been a veritable banquet of benchmarks since the release of Intel's new CPUs, and we have seen a lot of the same interesting data crop up from one test to the next. Gaming, multitasking and energy data all shows significant improvements over the 11th-Gen chips, but the most interesting aspect has been the benchmarking on games that have been updated to perform better on the CPU side. Further, DDR5 and DDR4 memory has seen data impacted, and there are ever more decisions to be made for gamers looking to build a Socket 1700 gaming PC.

RockPaperShotgun Benchmark Highlights

RockPaperShotgun's benchmarking showed significant gains in the single core tests with a rig that had 16GB Geil Polaris RGB DDR5 4800MHz installed in an Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero, with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE riding along for the gaming.

 

Intel Core i5-12600K Cinebench R20 single core test

Credit: RockPaperShotgun

 

The multicore benchmark showed that the i5 12600K could hold its own against the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 CPUs - an area where they excelled before the advent of Alder Lake.

 

Intel Core i5-12600K Cinebench R20 multicore test

Credit: RockPaperShotgun

 

Better yet, the gaming benchmark showed an incredible performance for the mid-tier i5 12600K:

 

Intel Core i5-12600K FPS benchmark metro Exodus Ultra, Assassin's Creed Odyssey Ultra High, Valhalla Ultra High and Watch Dogs Legion Ultra

Credit: RockPaperShotgun

 

Gamers Nexus Benchmark Highlights

All signs point to Intel for a gaming PC build right now, though a recent video from Gamers Nexus, which involved a detailed benchmark of the i5 12600K showed there was very little difference in performance on certain games. Cyberpunk 2077, for example, ran at a smooth 173.2 FPS, in comparison to the Ryzen 5 5600X at 167.4 FPS. With updates to AAA games squashing framerate issues and cross-processor bugs, the improvements are coming at a software level rather than a hardware level.

 

Gamers nexus Cyberpunk 2077 Benchmark Intel i5 12600K

Credit: Gamers Nexus

 

The Hitman 3 benchmark further muddied the waters with the caveat that the game relies on memory for most of the gameplay, and this would not reflect in the CPU benchmarks in any meaningful way. Although it looks fantastic for Alder Lake in terms of like-for-like performance, because the comparison sees an 17% improvement over the previous generation i5 11600K CPU.

 

Hitman 3 benchmark for Intel i5 12600K

Credit: Gamers Nexus

 

For those looking at buying the i5 12600K for true workstation duties like Blender and Adobe Premiere Pro, the results look promising, with phrases like "excellent value" being thrown around for the first time with an Intel chip next generational release.

 

Blender Benchmark i5 12600K

Credit: Gamers Nexus

 

Intel Alder Lake vs AMD

For the first time the conversation has switched from what little gains have been made from one generation to the next with Intel, to how they are consistently beating AMD on almost every important aspect of CPU design and function. The conversation will also include the fact that Intel's new chips are affordable, relatively speaking.

Power Consumption

The significant fly in the ointment is Intel's power hunger, which is not a total surprise, of course. The benchmarks we have all been salivating over have one caveat - the power consumption will differ from one motherboard to the next, being totally dependent on the Vcore settings. This is normal, and to be expected, though it is worth noting if you think something squiffy is going on with reviewers' numbers.

On the power consumption side of the AMD vs Intel comparison, we know that AMD has always held their head high in terms of energy consumption. The i5 12600K will eat almost as much wattage as an AMD Ryzen R9 5950X under full load, but - as Gamers Nexus pointed out - this would drop, and potentially be better comparatively if the Alder Lake is performing routine daily work.

 

CPU Power Consumption i5 12600K and i9 12900K

Credit: Gamers Nexus

 

When we compare the power consumption to the Core i9 12900K, we can see in the above screenshot that under full load, the 12900K is chomping through power under full load, with no respite that the earlier generation afforded. The i9 11900K boosts up to 4.8 GHz for up to 56 seconds before dropping to 4.3 GHz, at which point it runs at a package power of 125 watts. No dice, here. The Core i9 Alder Lake runs at this wattage across the board, and won't let up on the National Grid until its work is done.

Gaming

The comparison here is the Core i5 12600K vs AMD Ryzen 5 5600X. More directly, here is what you can expect in a stand-up fight between the two: -

 

Detail AMD Ryzen 5 5600X Intel Core i5 12600K
Family AMD Ryzen Intel Core i5
CPU group AMD Ryzen 5000 Intel Core i 12000
Generation 4 12
Architecture Vermeer (Zen 3) Alder Lake S
Segment Desktop / Server Desktop / Server
Predecessor AMD Ryzen 5 3600X Intel Core i5-11600K
Cores 6 10
Threads 12 16
Frequency 3.70 GHz 3.70 GHz
Turbo (1 Core) 4.60 GHz 4.90 GHz
Turbo (All Cores) 4.20 GHz 4.50 GHz
Core architecture normal hybrid (big.LITTLE)
Hyperthreading Yes Yes
Overclocking Yes Yes
Integrated Graphics None Intel UHD Graphics 770
GPU frequency - 0.35 GHz
GPU (Turbo) - 1.45 GHz
GPU Generation - 11
Technology - 10 nm
Max. displays - 3
Execution units - 32
Shader - 256
Max. GPU Memory -  
DirectX Version - 12
Memory DDR4 DDR4/DDR5
TDP (PL1) 65 W 125 W
TDP (PL2) -- 150 W

 

On the subject of gaming, you will notice that the Core i5 12600K comes with integrated graphics, in the form of Intel UHD Graphics 770. This is a solid integrated GPU, which will jump at the chance to play games like Valorant at +100 FPS with DDR4 on board, and even though it cannot stand up to Ryzen 7 5700G or Ryzen 5 5600G in gaming performance, you can still expect good 1080p results in competitive games and 720p in some of the most popular PC games like Dead by Daylight, and the upcoming Elden Ring.

Pairing the Core i5 12600K with a dedicated GPU will see you enjoying gaming as it was designed by developers, with an average of 78FPS at 1440p on Cyberpunk 2077, and 126FPS at 1440p on Horizon Zero Dawn running an Nvidia RTX 3080 for example.

In comparison to the AMD chips, you are getting significant value for money buying a next gen, better performing Intel 12th-Gen CPU at roughly the same price as an older AMD Ryzen 5 CPU.

What Reviewers Are Not Talking About

Integrated Graphics

The first point we need to address is that most reviewers are not talking about the integrated graphics in the i5 12600K. The Intel UHD 770 will allow you to play most games right now, and you can get away with waiting just that bit longer for a GPU to become affordable. Of course, to spec out a gaming rig that includes an i5 12600K processor will require you to think about your budget in terms of motherboard, DDR4/DDR5 and CPU cooler, but it will be worth it for the performance gains.

Pricing Will Come Down

While most reviewers are saying that you should jump on the Blue train right now, grab a 12600K and never look back, the smarter PC enthusiast should wait. Yes, we've all waited a long time for the Alder Lake to show up, but what is a couple of months more if you can be assured of lower motherboard pricing, balanced DDR5 pricing, and an overall better value gaming rig.

Historically, DDR memory has been around 30% - 40% more expensive that the previous technology, but currently RAM pricing will see this premium rise to around 50% - 60%. So, with some patience, if you can hit the sweet spot, you'll save up to 20% on your RAM alone.

Motherboard pricing for the Core i5 12600K is still quite high, but you can pick up a motherboard bundle that will save you money overall.

 

Alder Lake Intel Core i5 12600K Motherboard Bundle

Alder Lake Intel Core i5 12600K Motherboard Bundle

 

Patience is key, still, it would appear. Just waiting a few more months could see you saving money on your build, but buying a bundle might help you get one step ahead.