Intel’s 12th generation processors, codenamed Alder Lake, have finally been unveiled, and with them the company ditched 14nm desktop processors for the first time since 2015. This is a change that has been closely watched since AMD’s dominance in the market, and it looks like Intel will finally be ready to fight back.
Alder Lake represents one of the biggest changes in Intel’s approach to processors in recent memory, following a similar path with ARM processors and, more recently, Apple’s approach with its incredibly powerful M1 chips. Alder Lake’s flagship chip, the Core I9-12900K, comes with 16 cores and 24 threads, which can be confusing at first glance. The discrepancy stems from a separation of architecture where Alder Lake has performance and efficiency cores.
Intel promises big improvements over last generation
Like the Apple M1, Alder Lake chips can delegate resource-intensive tasks to their main and more powerful performance cores, while simultaneously leveraging clusters of efficient cores to perform less intensive tasks and reduce power consumption. This allows the performance cores to boost clock speeds when needed, while Intel rates its fastest chip at 5.2GHz, thus earning the title of “World’s Best Gaming Processor.”
It also means that Intel reports power consumption in a slightly different way. Across the entire range of Alder Lake chips, from the base Core i5 to the layered Core i9, all processors will have a base TDP of 125W. This is what Intel says is needed for the chips to operate at a stable and constant clock speed, with the chips having different maximum powers in Turbo Power mode, where they all dynamically increase the speed of individual cores. The “K” variants of each of the three new chips also come into play here, with these more expensive versions offering basic boost profiles that can always support a specific boost clock across all cores, which is quite handy.
Alder Lake also introduces support for future PC hardware such as DDR5 RAM and PCIe Gen5. The processors also require a new chipset given their increased size over the past half decade of Intel processors. The new Z690 motherboards will ship from Alder Lake next week when Intel unveils its three new chips on November 4th.
Prices start at $ 589 for the flagship Core i9-12900K (16 cores, 8 high performance cores, 8 efficient cores, 24 threads), $ 409 for the Core i7-12700K (12 cores, 8 high performance cores, 4 effective cores, 20 threads). and $ 289 for the Core i5-12600K (10 cores, 6 performance cores, 4 efficiency cores, 16 threads). Each chip also comes in a “KF” variant, which removes the onboard Intel graphics for a small discount if you’re confident you’ll never be left without a functioning dedicated GPU.