Intel Core i9-12900K vs AMD Ryzen 9 5900X Performance Review

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Intel Core i9-12900K CPU and AMD Ryzen 9 5900X CPU angled toward each other with 12900K v 5900X text between them


At the top-end of Intel’s new 12 Generation Alder Lake CPU product stack lies the Intel Core i9-12900K CPU (SRL4H) Alder Lake-S 881 CPU.  It’s time that we review it.  Thanks to Intel, we can make that happen.  Today we take the fastest Alder Lake CPU and compare it directly against the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X to see who comes out on top in 2022.  This is an Intel Core i9-12900K versus AMD Ryzen 9 5900X, head-to-head, in synthetic benchmarks and gaming performance at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K in 2022 review.

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If you want the lo-down on the Intel 12th Gen CPU architecture check out our Intel Core i5-12600K DDR4 Alder Lake CPU Review where we detail what makes this architecture new and what P-Cores and E-Cores are.  You can follow that review up with our Intel Core i5-12600K Alder Lake DDR4 vs DDR5 Performance review.  Finally, you can also check out our Intel Core i7-12700K vs AMD Ryzen 7 5800X Performance review.  Now we come to the big guns in Intel’s new lineup, the 12900K.    

As a quick refresher, the 12th Generation Intel Core Processors are based on a hybrid architecture with Performance Cores (P-Core) and Efficiency Cores (E-Core) components.  The P-Cores support hyperthreading but the E-Cores do not.  It is the combination of these cores, plus Cache differences, and frequencies that make up the Intel SKUs for these CPUs.  These new CPUs can also support new DDR5 memory, but also support DDR4.  It depends on the motherboard, and with the new Intel Z690 chipset, PCI-Express 5.0 is supported.

Intel Core i9-12900K Specs

Intel 12th Gen Intel Core Desktop Processors SKU Product Stack Lineup Slide
SpecificationsIntel Core i5-12600KIntel Core i7-12700KIntel Core i9-12900K
Architecture/Process Node12th Gen/Intel 712th Gen/Intel 712th Gen/Intel 7
Cores/Threads10 (6P+4E)/1612 (8P+4E)/2016 (8P+8E)/24
L2/L3 Cache9.5MB/20MB12MB/25MB14MB/30MB
Intel Turbo Boost Max 3.0N/A5GHz5.2GHz
P-Core Max Turbo4.9GHz4.9GHz5.1GHz
E-Core Max Turbo3.6GHz3.8GHz3.9GHz
Base Power/Max Turbo Power125W/150W125W/190W125W/241W
RCP Pricing USD 1K$289$409$589

The Intel Core i9-12900K is in the 12th Generation Intel Core i9 Processors family and has an RCP Pricing (USD 1K) of $589.  This makes it $180 more expensive than the i7-12700K and $300 more expensive than the i5-12600K.  For comparison to the competition, the price competitor is the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X CPU which has an MSRP of $549.  This is the closest competitor by MSRP pricing.  This puts the two CPUs about $40 apart, with the 12900K being the more expensive option, but not by much.

The Intel Core i9-12900K is an LGA1700 socket CPU. The Intel Core i9-12900K is a “16” Core CPU, now of course that is the total amount of P-Cores and E-Cores combined, which we know do perform differently.  In terms of how it breaks down, this is an 8 P-Core and 8 E-Core CPU, so it has 8 high-performance cores and 8 efficiency cores.  Since only the Performance Cores provide Hyperthreading, those 8 Performance Cores are providing 16 threads total of processing threads.  Then, on top of those 16 threads, you add each efficiency core, which there are 8 of, making for a total of 24 processing threads with this CPU.  The way to represent this is 16(8P+8E) CPU with 24 Threads. 

For comparison, the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X has 12 cores that can do multi-threading, so it has a total of 24 processing threads as well.  Therefore, both CPUs have the capability to do 24 processing threads, but they come by it by different means.  The 5900X has 12 standard cores, and the 12900K has 8 “big cores” and 8 “small cores.”

The Intel Core i9-12900K has 30MB of L3 Intel Smart Cache and 14MB of L2 cache.  This is the most cache in the stack.  The frequency bit here can get confusing, so read carefully.  The Intel Core i9-12900K has an Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 frequency of up to 5.2GHz.  It has a P-Core max Turbo frequency of up to 5.1GHz.  It has an E-Core max turbo frequency of up to 3.9GHz.  Those are its Processor Turbo frequencies.  The Processor Base Frequency has a P-Core base frequency of 3.2GHz and an E-Core base frequency of 2.4GHz. 

If you compare the frequency with that of the 12700K you’ll find that the 12900K can boost up to 200MHz higher on the Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 frequency.  Its P-Cores can also boost 200MHz higher than the 12700K and the E-Cores can boost 100MHz higher.  Compared to the 12700K, it has 4 more E-Cores, plus these higher frequencies and higher caches.  Also, for comparison, the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X can turbo up to 4.8GHz.

The Intel Core i9-12900K is an unlocked CPU as it has the K spec.  It has the Intel UHD Graphics 770 onboard for integrated graphics.  It supports DDR5 and 4.  The Processor Base Power is 125W, but more importantly, its Maximum Turbo Power is 241W.  This is much higher than the 12700K’s Maximum Turbo Power of 190W and higher than the 12600K which is 150W.  For comparison, the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X has a TDP of 105W. 

Intel Core i9-12900K Positioning  

Intel has positioned the Core i9-12900K as the world’s best gaming processor and a giant leap for content creation performance.  It comes with a full array of architecture improvements and benefits from all the platform improvements.  When looking at estimated performance, Intel compares it with the previous Core i9-11900K CPU.  In this Intel shows an uplift in performance in most games at 1080p.  Intel even shows It beating a Ryzen 9 5950X in gaming performance at 1080p with an RTX 3090.  Content creation performance is also improved by leaps and bounds. 

A focus on single-threaded fixed-frequency performance allows the 12900K to beat previous generation CPUs.  Even the E-Core is as fast as the 10th Gen Comet Lake-S CPU’s core.  With the hybrid nature of the CPU, Intel claims similar multi-threading performance as the Core i9-11900K at approximately 1/4th the power.  The Intel Core i9-12900K combines the PL1 and PL2 power states so that it operates at Maximum Turbo Power up to 241W.

Intel Core i9-12900K Pictures

The Intel Core i9-12900K comes in unique retail packaging, unlike the other CPUs in the product stack. It has a nice blue box, with a wafter-looking padded container inside. Open it up and you are presented with your 12900K protected well in foam.

The Intel Core i9-12900K looks like the 12700K and 12600K exactly, same shape and size. The Intel Core i9-12900K on the CPU shows i9-12900K SRL4H CPU markings. Compared next to the Ryzen 9 5900X the CPU is taller and more narrow.

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Brent Justice
Former managing editor of GPUs at HardOCP for 18 years, Brent Justice has been reviewing computer components since the late 90s, educated in the art and method of the computer hardware review, he brings experience, knowledge, and hands-on testing with a gamer-oriented and hardware enthusiast perspective. You can follow him on Twitter - @Brent_Justice You can sub to his YouTube channel - Justice Gaming You can check out his computer builds on KIT - @BrentJustice

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