Intel Alder Lake CPUs – everything we know about the 12th gen

Will Alder Lake beat AMD gaming CPUs? Intel is betting the future of its gaming PC processors on P-cores and E-cores

Two Intel processors against a black background

Intel’s upcoming Alder Lake processors are due to arrive in November, just in time for that new Christmas gaming PC you’re looking to build. While team blue’s CPUs should officially see the light of day at the Intel Innovation event on October 27, the rumour mill is spinning full-throttle with plenty of leaks on key specs and performance benchmarks.

The new chips will be the first to support DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5 which should make them perfect partners for the best gaming RAM and best SSDs of the future. However, you’ll be pleased to know that they’ll also support your existing DDR4 RAM and PCie SSDs. Intel’s proprietary interface technology Thunderbolt 4 will also make a return.

It’s too early to call whether Alder Lake will put Intel on top in terms of having the best gaming CPU on the market but the Core i9-12900K, with its reported 16 cores and 24 threads, is shaping up to give AMD’s Ryzen 9 5950X a run for the title.

Here’s all we know about Intel Alder Lake:

ALDER LAKE RELEASE DATE

Intel’s Alder Lake processors will be made available for preorder during the Intel Innovation event on October 27. The CPUs will then be released the following week on November 4, alongside third-party reviews.

A 3D render of Intel's upcoming Alder Lake desktop processors

ALDER LAKE PRICE

Intel is tight-lipped on the subject of pricing for its upcoming processors but qualification samples of the flagship Alder Lake CPU, the Core i9-12900K, have reportedly circulated on the Chinese black market for over $1,000 USD.

When referring to the company’s current best gaming CPU, the $540 USD Core i9-11900K, and its main competition, the $799 USD AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, best guesses point to somewhere within that price range for the flagship chip.

A 3D render of Intel's upcoming Alder Lake desktop processors

 

ALDER LAKE SPECS

Intel’s 12th generation CPUs mark a shift in the company’s approach to processor design. It describes Alder Lake as a ‘hybrid’ architecture with Alder new chips featuring a combination of ‘P-cores’ and ‘E-cores’ rather than the standard homogenous core layout we’re accustomed to with previous generations.

P-cores, short for performance cores, are designed for tasks such as gaming and productivity workloads and are the closest thing to the standard core model. E-cores, short for efficient cores, handle background tasks while running at a lower clock speed with lower power consumption. This could, in theory, make processors built on the new architecture have an increased performance-per-watt while simultaneously reducing power consumption and thermals, as specific tasks are allocated to relevant cores, but there’s nothing to confirm that just yet.

In its recent Architecture Day, Intel confirmed that its lineup of Alder Lake chips will feature up to 16 cores, 24 threads, and 30MB of non-inclusive LL cache. Two threads are allocated to each P-core while one thread is allocated to each E-core, hence the maximum of 16 cores and 24 threads.
The architecture will also be the first to support DDR5 RAM but will also support DDR4 RAM. Support for PCIe 5, Wi-Fi 6E, and Thunderbolt 4 have also been confirmed.

ALDER LAKE BENCHMARKS

Intel claims that its new P-cores have an average performance increase of 19% when compared to the previous generation at the same clock speed. However, like all performance claims from manufacturers, Intel has undoubtedly curated these benchmarks to make Alder Lake appear as favourably as possible and so they should be taken with a degree of skepticism.

There won’t be any verifiable third-party benchmarks available until the architecture’s release date but there are some leaked gaming and performance benchmarks concerning the Core i9-12900K. In the Ashes of the Singularity benchmark, when paired with an RTX 3080, the Intel component delivers 1.4x the framerate of AMD’s Ryzen 9 5950X. The same processor attained an impressive multi-core score of over 30,000 in Cinebench R20. However, like the performance claims from Intel, these results are questionable until we can test them for ourselves

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