Conclusion

In today’s review, we have taken the new Intel Core i5-12600K CPU and reviewed its performance in an interesting way, with DDR4 instead of DDR5. We evaluated it on a GIGABYTE Z690 GAMING X DDR4 motherboard in Windows 11 against its predecessor, the Intel Core i5-11600K, and its main competition, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X on X570. We found the results to be very surprising, with some amazing uplift in performance compared to the competition, and generation over generation. The Intel Core i5-12600K Alder Lake CPU truly is a major generational launch from Intel. Finally, Intel is back for Desktop PC.

Intel’s 12th Generation Intel Core Processors previously known as Alder Lake CPUs have been released as of the end of October 2021 to the desktop PC. These new CPUs are based on a whole new hybrid architecture approach with a varying number of P-core and E-core components. The P-core’s support hyperthreading and the E-core’s not only are efficient but act as extra threads for high multi-threading applications. In addition, IPC and cache structure has been improved. Intel CPUs are now a viable competitor to AMD’s Ryzen 5000 lineup today on the desktop PC.

In addition, there have been platform upgrades made with the new Intel Z690 chipset. Notable improvements are PCI-Express 5.0 support to the primary PCIe slot, as well as brand new DDR5 memory support. However, Intel has maintained backward compatibility with DDR4. Motherboard manufacturers can create Intel Z690 LGA 1700 Socket motherboards with DDR4 instead of DDR5. That is what we have done today, we have purchased one such board, and tested Alder Lake with DDR4.

The specific CPU we have reviewed today is the Intel Core i5-12600K. This CPU has an RCP pricing of $289. This is Intel’s “10 Core” CPU with 16 threads. This is done by way of 6 Performance Cores and 4 Efficiency Cores, from a thread perspective this CPU has 16 threads, while the Ryzen 5 5600X has 12 threads. It also has 20MB of L3 cache and Intel’s UHD Graphics 770 on board. It supports either DDR4 3200MT/s or DDR5 4800MT/s. It runs at a P-Core Max Turbo Frequency of 4.9GHz and an E-Core Max Turbo Frequency of 3.6GHz, the two cores run independent clock speeds. It has a Processor Base Power of 125W and a Maximum Turbo Power of 150W.

Synthetic and Rendering Performance

The performance started off very strong in the synthetic system benchmarks. In PCMark 10’s standard benchmark the Intel Core i5-12600K was 10% faster than the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X and Intel Core i5-11600K. This continued in the PCMark Application Benchmark testing Microsoft Office performance. The Intel Core i5-12600K was 7% faster than the Ryzen 5 5600X. Therefore, for office work, the 12600K was an improvement overall.

3DMark’s CPU Profile test tested specifically the Max Threads performance and 1-thread performance of the CPUs. In maximum threads, the Intel Core i5-12600K was a large 43% faster than the Ryzen 5 5600X and 26% faster than the 11600K. These are very big gains and even shows from generation to generation there ware large improvements. The one thread test proved the 12600K was also faster, meaning it doesn’t just have a multi-thread advantage, it also has a single thread advantage. Geeekbench 5 actually reflected the same results as the 3DMark CPU Profile testing, backing up those performance advantages.

SiSoftware Sandra was able to specifically test the integer and floating-point performance of the CPUs in multi-threading and single-threading. The Intel Core i5-12600K dominated every single test in this benchmark, proving it has advanced in both integer and floating-point performance from the last generation and compared to the Ryzen 5 5600X. It was 39% faster than the 5600X in Dhrystone multi-threaded and 18% faster than the 11600K. In floating-point performance, it was 23% faster than the 5600X and 33% faster than the 11600K. It seems the 11600K wasn’t so good at floating-point, but that is corrected in the i5-12600K. The Intel Core i5-12600K was also faster in single-thread integer and floating-point. It was 18% faster than the 5600X and 35% faster than the 11600K. In floating-point, it was 6% faster than the 5600X and 12% faster than the 11600K.

Rendering performance was another area where the Intel Core i5-12600K did really well. Cinebench R23 had the largest result, with it being 61% faster than the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X and 56% faster than the 11600K. Those are massive gains for a new generation CPU. Single-core performance was also pretty incredible with it being 25% faster than the Ryzen 5 5600X and 24% faster than the 11600K, that’s some massive IPC gains generation to generation. This resulted in much quicker render times in Blender, shaving off 33% of the time to render compared to the Ryzen 5 5600X. We also saw time to render transcoding video reduced by 35% without even having to use QuickSync, turning that on would just further enhance its transcoding performance. In V-Ray, the 12600K was 45% faster than the 5600X and 42% faster than the 11600K.

Gaming Performance

Next, we tested gaming performance, and to do this properly we tested 1080p, 1440p, and 4K in various games. We actually found that in Battlefield 2042 at 1080p the Intel Core i5-12600K made a difference, it improved performance by 6% compared to the 5600X and 5% compared to the 11600K. However, at 1440p and 4K it didn’t make much of a difference. In Cyberpunk 2077 we found no difference at all with any of the CPUs at Ultra settings. Though at lower settings, it may be different at 1080p. In Far Cry 6, we actually found the Intel Core i5-12600K to be advantageous quite a bit. It was 18% faster than the 5600X, which is a pretty big difference at 1080p. It was 9% faster than the 11600K. This even continued at 1440p where it was 13% faster than the 5600X at 1440p. Once you get to 4K though, it’s all the same.

Flight Sim 2020 was consistently faster on the Intel Core i5-12600K, but not majorly so. Watch Dogs Legion was the next game where the Intel Core i5-12600K shined at 1080p besting the 5600X by 11% and the 11600K by 7%. Even at 1440p, it was still 4% faster. In Crysis Remastered the 12600K was consistently faster, but not majorly so.

From these gaming results, the conclusion is interesting. Depending on the game, the Intel Core i5-12600K can offer a performance advantage at the right resolution, usually 1080p when using a fast video card. If you have a fast video card, like the 3080 Ti, then it can even have some impact at 1440p. We can see this widening if you are playing at lower game settings like High or Medium. Therefore, it can and does make a difference for the better, beating the 5600X for gaming. However, as soon as you introduce a GPU-bound scenario, i.e. a slower video card, or higher game settings or resolution, it becomes less relevant which CPU you have. Therefore the situation is dependent on your configuration. That said, generally speaking, the Intel Core i5-12600K is a win for gaming.

Memory Bandwidth and Latency

In this review, we are using DDR4 throughout, and one of the big questions is will that be holding back Alder Lake? We think not, after seeing our results today. In addition, there have been past issues with Windows 11 and L3 cache latency in regards to AMD Ryzen 5000 CPUs. We also can see that issue is completely fixed now. In fact, in our testing today we have found that it is the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X that actually has better latencies when compared to the Intel Core i5-12600K.

The RAM latency is 61ns on the Ryzen 5 5600X, while it is 78ns on Intel Core i5-12600K. More importantly, the L3 Cache latency is just 12ns on the Ryzen 5 5600X, while it is 17ns on the 12600K. Therefore, the latencies are certainly not holding back AMD Ryzen 5 5600X performance in our review. It may be slower in a lot of benchmarks, but it’s not due to latencies. It also looks like the 12600K does have a faster read speed on its L3 cache.

In terms of memory bandwidth, it is indeed the Intel Core i5-12600K that comes out on top, even though we are using the exact same memory kit and timings on each system. It held its own providing about 6% better memory bandwidth compared to the previous generation 11600K, and that’s with the same memory and same GEAR settings. In addition, it’s about 9% faster in memory bandwidth than the Ryzen 5 5600X and X570. It does not seem DDR4 is holding back the Intel Core i5-12600K at all here. It’s not holding back benchmarks or memory bandwidth at all.

Power Summary

Alder Lake has had been called a power hog by many, and has kind of had a bad wrap in regards to its power and temp demand. However, we see this is as a more complex issue, with several different layers. Most of these reports have been done running the CPU at maximum CPU utilization, maxing out all threads at once. Sure, this shows the CPUs max power and temp, but it’s not also how you run your CPU on a day-to-day basis, or doing something like playing a game. Therefore we sought to evaluate based on two scenarios, one is maximum utilization, the other is playing a game.

Our results show that at maximum utilization it consumed about 124W package power, which was actually 20% less power than the 11600K. It’s much more efficient in power compared to the previous generation 11600K, so it is an improvement generation-to-generation. Though at maximum utilization the Ryzen 5 5600X still has the advantage, and the 12600K requires 63% more power. For temps though, it wasn’t a bad picture at all. The 11600K was the highest at 82c, but the 12600K was right on par with the 5600X. It’s requiring 63% more power but still operates at the same temp as the 5600X. So temperature isn’t that bad even at maximum utilization.

It is when you have a lighter load going on, like gaming, where the Intel Core i5-12600K really shines. It only requires as much power as the Ryzen 5 5600X. It’s not a power hog at all, it operates right in line with the 5600X. In fact, this is a lot lower than the 11600K which had a much higher utilization while playing games. The 12600K is a huge improvement over the 11600K. This was also reflected in the temperature, where the 12600K actually was running at a lower temp than the 5600X while gaming. It was a huge improvement over the 11600K.

Final Points

The biggest conclusion we can make here today is that the Intel Core i5-12600K is able to outperform the competition and provide a large generation-to-generation performance improvement with DDR4. You do not need DDR5 to realize the performance impact that the Intel Core i5-12600K has over its predecessor the 11600K, or its competition the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X. On DDR4, it is a very strong competitor in office workloads and gaming. It provides real-world performance advantages in day-to-day workloads and can offer faster gaming depending on the configuration. We can safely say it is the best CPU for gaming right now, flat out, in this price range.

One of the worries with Alder Lake CPUs is the power demand and temperature. Our testing revealed that it can consume more power than the Ryzen 5 5600X when running at maximum utilization. However, it doesn’t get any hotter doing it, it’s at the same temperature, which shows improvement. It’s also not as much power as the 11600K ate up, so it’s an improvement over the last generation. When you aren’t running at maximum utilization though, this is where its efficiency comes into play. It’s then on par with Ryzen 5 5600X in terms of power draw, when not at maximum utilization. Therefore it is no worse or better. It is though, still better at temperature, as it runs cooler than the 5600X when not at full utilization, which is a plus. We wouldn’t let the power demands worry you about choosing or not choosing this CPU.

Overall, we have found the Intel core i5-12600K to offer a substantial upgrade over the Intel Core i5-11600K. It has brought a large generational leap in performance in every possible way compared to Rocket Lake. Alder Lake is a huge upgrade from Rocket Lake., it’s an entirely new and better CPU on an entirely new architecture. The step-up in IPC, multi-threading performance, and single-threading performance is impressive. It also brings with it big gains over the Ryzen 5 5600X, and that CPU is no slouch.

The important point to make here is, Intel Core i5-12600K Alder Lakes works very well with DDR4, and is still able to outperform the competition in every regard.  If you are looking for the most cost-effective entry into an Alder Lake computer build, the i5-12600K is most likely the CPU you are looking at.  You can also save money by sticking with a DDR4 Z690 motherboard and either re-using RAM you already have (saving cost) or being able to buy DDR4 which is currently a lot more affordable, and abundant than DDR5.  An Intel Core i5-12600K DDR4 computer build is the best value right now all around.  It is truly like eating your cake and having it too, and this time, the cake isn’t a lie.

If you want to move to Alder Lake, but want to do it in the most cost-effective way, then DDR4 with Alder Lake is the way to go. The Intel Core i5-12600K is a phenomenal CPU. One thing is clear, Intel has proven that its hybrid architecture can work very well. It has proven that it works on the desktop PC platform. This is a good first attempt from Intel on this architecture, and it can only get better from here.

Discussion

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Brent Justice

Brent Justice has been reviewing computer components for 20+ years, educated in the art and method of the computer hardware review he brings experience, knowledge, and hands-on testing with a gamer oriented...

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6 Comments

  1. Good review. Have to say I was surprised at the results. Nice to see Intel back in the hunt, and that power draw wasn’t off the charts

    Would love to see a short follow on that pits Pcores vs Ecores just out of curiousity.

  2. Nice review indeed! I am pleasantly surprised by the results. Keep up the improvements Intel. Things get good when both AMD and Intel are competetive.

  3. Thanks for the review [USER=3]@Brent_Justice[/USER]. I really enjoyed the informative breakdown of what Alder Lake, E core, P core is along with the heads up about the AMD updates. I also enjoyed seeing Intel coming back swinging with an impressively efficient processor than perform well with a multitude of workloads.

    edit: Also loved the use of arrows in the review pic to indicate the DDR4 detail. At first I was like, what?, huh?, oh I get it.

  4. I admit a follow up with various Intel specific features turned on to see what further gains could be had would be nice as well.

  5. Nicely done on the review.

    I wonder. Will Intel have an advantage in place if running an Intel processor with an Intel Arc?

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