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Introducing 12th Gen Intel Core Processors

10 December 2021




Intel’s 12th Generation CPUs: Revolutionary performance and features


Intel’s 12th Generation desktop CPUs are here! Intel has been hard at work readying one of its biggest architectural overhaul in ten years. Whether you’re a gamer, a content creator or PC enthusiast, Intel 12Th Gen CPUs will enhance your computing experience.


The first Intel 12th Gen CPUs to launch are the K models, the Core i9-12900K, the Core i7-12700K and the Core i5-12600K. These all feature an unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking. There are also KF models that don’t have integrated graphics. Many more models are likely to follow in 2022 including i3 and i5 models.



12th Gen Intel Core Processor comparison table of 'K' SKUs (source: Intel)


In addition to their class leading performance, 12th Gen CPUs support all new DDR5 memory, with higher speeds and capacities at lower operating voltages. There’s also support for PCI Express 5.0 which means you’ll be ready to support the full power of next generation graphics cards and SSDs. 12th Gen processors introduce many changes over 11th Gen, so you’ll need a new motherboard that features the LGA 1700 socket. You’ll also likely need a new cooler as most older coolers won’t fit by default – however you may find that your cooler has an updated mounting kit that may be available.


Intel 12th Gen CPUs (Codenamed Alder Lake) are built on Intel’s new 10nm Enhanced SuperFin process (officially named ‘Intel 7’). The Alder Lake die is smaller than the outgoing 11th Gen die, even though there are eight more cores onboard. It also means that performance per watt has taken a large step forward.



Introducing Intel 12th Gen hybrid architecture


Intel 12th Gen processors are fundamentally different from their predecessors. They introduce a hybrid architecture, with two different types of CPU cores on the same die. There are the Performance cores (P-Cores) and the Efficient cores (E-Cores). Performance cores are designed to do the tasks that require maximum performance, while the E-cores are better suited to things like background tasks. The E-cores are still powerful though, and when your software requests their full power alongside the P-Cores, you’ll get class leading multithreaded performance within a similar power envelope to 11th Gen processors.



12th Gen Intel Processor's Performance (P) and Efficiency (E) Cores (source: Intel)


Normally, software would have to be coded to take full advantage of such an architecture, which can be inefficient or buggy. To remove this issue, Intel built what it calls the Thread Director. Instead of solely relying on Windows to send tasks to the right core, Thread Director acts as a hardware level thread scheduler. It greatly speeds up the process of assigning the right tasks to the right cores, meaning your software is ready to take full advantage of both types of cores.


Gaming is a good example of how this will work in practice. The P-cores can be used to do the heavy lifting, such as physics or AI, while the E-Cores are better suited to less demanding tasks such as audio processing or OS and background apps. This can deliver surprising levels of power efficiency.



Z690 motherboards are packed with the latest technologies


Intel 12th Gen CPUs are joined by brand new Z690 chipset motherboards. They come with the latest technologies including DDR5 memory support and PCI Express 5.0. Z690 boards have some really attractive upgrades under the hood, notably a much faster link between the CPU and the chipset. This DMI 3.0 connection means many Z690 boards are better equipped than ever, with all kinds of leading-edge features such as USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, Thunderbolt 4, WiFi 6E and multiple M.2 NVMe drive slots. Some high-end boards come with features such as 10 Gigabit Ethernet and truly amazing amounts of connectivity. 12th Gen doesn’t only mean performance. It brings the latest in connectivity, expandability and networking features to desktop users and gamers. Note that Z690 motherboards cannot be used with previous generation CPUs like how many Z590 motherboards could be used with Intel 10th Gen CPUs.






DDR5 memory and PCI Express 5.0


Perhaps the headline platform features are the inclusion of DDR5 memory support and PCIe 5.0. DDR5 memory is already much faster than DDR4, and kits with speeds of well over DDR5-6000 are already on the market. We can expect even faster and lower latency kits to follow in the months and years ahead. Intel doesn’t require you to buy new DDR5 memory though. If you’ve got a kit of DDR4 memory that you are happy with, then you can buy a Z690 motherboard that supports DDR4. You’ll save some money while giving up little in the way of performance – at least at time of writing.


PCI Express 5.0 is the latest and greatest interface. Each lane is double the bandwidth of PCIe 4.0, though in truth its usefulness is limited for now as there aren’t any PCIe 5.0 supporting products. PCIe 5.0 GPUs are expected to launch in 2022 and perhaps more importantly, we may be seeing NVMe SSDs supporting PCIe 5.0. How does a sustained transfer rate of 15GB/s or more sound? It seems as though we’ve only just gotten used to PCIe 4.0! PCIe 5.0 support is truly forward thinking, meaning your Z690 board will support the highest performing add-in devices and peripherals for many years to come.



Illustration of die of 12th Gen Intel Core Processor (Source: Intel)


Extract the most performance of Intel 12th Gen CPUs with a good cooler


The Intel 12th Gen K-series CPUs that are currently available, do not ship with coolers, so you’ll either need an upgrade kit for your existing cooler, or you’ll need a new one. An Intel Core i9-12900K will require a high-end cooler to keep it performing at its best, while the i7 and i5 aren’t as demanding, they will also benefit from quality cooling, not just to maintain high boost clocking performance, but to keep them quiet as well. Mwave carry a large range of air-coolers and liquid-coolers suitable for Intel 12th Gen CPUs.



Choosing the best Intel 12th Gen processor to suit your needs


For the initial launch, Intel has released i5, i7 and i9 ‘K’ models. The ‘KF’ models lack integrated graphics but are otherwise identical. Here’s a very brief overview of the three models.


• The Core i9-12900K is the performance king. It’s got more cores, the highest clocks and the most cache. If you want a no compromise system or the best gaming performance, the 12900K is the CPU for you. You’ll need a very good cooler to get the most out of it.

• The Core i7-12700K is similar to the 12900K. It keeps the same number of P-cores but gives away four E-cores a little bit of cache and it clocks a little bit lower, though it’s still an amazing performing CPU. Its notably a bit more power and cooling friendly too, with a maximum Turbo Power rating of 190W compared to the 241W of the 12900K.

• The Core i5-12600K could end up being the most popular CPU of the range. Its six P-cores still clock up to 4.9GHz making it is a fantastic and affordable gaming processor. It’s 150W Turbo Power limit means it won’t require a high-end cooling solution like the i7 or i9 CPUs.

Note the maximum memory speeds. Officially they are DDR4-3200 or DDR5-4800. You can pretty much ignore that though, as all 12th Gen CPUs released thus far (at time of writing) can utilize speeds much faster than that in most cases. A simple XMP 3.0 set and forget setup is typically all that’s needed, even up to DDR5-6000 or more.



Intel Core i9-12900K Unlocked Processor


Intel 12th Gen CPUs perform great and are packed with features


Intel 12th Gen CPUs are built to perform. Multitaskers, content creators and gamers will love the performance on tap. Mwave carry a full range of Intel 12th Gen CPUs, motherboards, DDR5 memory and coolers to suit. Get in touch with us to plan your Intel 12th Gen build! We’ll be able to tailor a system to suit your needs and budget.



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