Intel Core i9 12900K
Linux Format|January 2022
Intel was never going to be without its performance crown for long, so with appropriate pomp and ceremony Jacob Ridley introduces the new CPU king.
By Jacob Ridley

SPECS

Socket: Socket V LGA1700

Process: Intel 7 10nm

Cores (P+E): 8+8

Threads: 24 P-cache: 640KB L1, 10MB L2, 24MB L3

E-cache: 768KB L1, 4MB L2, 6MB L3

P-core: 3.2GHz (5.2GHz boost)

E-core: 2.4GHz (3.9GHz boost)

Unlocked: Yes GPU: UHD Graphics 770, 32 EU, 300MHz, OpenGL 4.5, OpenCL 2.1

Memory max: 128GB, No ECC, two-channel

Memory speed: DDR5 4,800MT/s, DDR4 3,200MT/s

PCIe: v5 16-lanes, v4 4-lanes

Processor Base Power: 125W

Max. Turbo Power: 241W

Meet Alder Lake, Intel’s all-new 12th gen processor architecture. It’s a core part of what may well be the beginning of Intel’s push-back against a resurgent AMD, but more than that, it’s an extremely good chip. And that’s really what counts, right? This Core i9 12900K represents the very best in Intel’s desktop 12th Generation processors, and what that means is it houses the Alder Lake architecture in its most performant form.

Alder Lake is Intel’s first desktop processor to use the Intel 7 process node, which was previously referred to as Intel 10nm SuperFin. Smaller process means less power, less heat, more speed. The next notable change of the lot is the hybrid Core architecture. Intel is stuffing all of the K-series 12th Gen chips with two types of cores: Performance Cores (P-Cores) and Efficient Cores (E-Cores).

The P-Cores are based on the Golden Cove microarchitecture, which is one step beyond the Willow Lake microarchitecture that’s found in Intel’s 11th Gen mobile Tiger Lake processors. They offer the highest clock speeds of the two – on the Core i9 12900K these reach 5.2GHz at times – and nail down slick single-threaded speed for it. They’re also built to minimise latency, and they’re technically wider and smarter to catch up with the competition.

Each P-Core has access to 1.25MB of L2 cache. From there, they’re hooked up to 30MB of Intel Smart Cache, which is also shared between E-Cores and onboard integrated graphics.

The Efficient E Cores are built on the Gracemont architecture, whose origins are in the Atom line-up. Traditionally built for lower-power, lower-performance processors, Intel has decided that its Atom architecture may find a use in more powerful processors after all, and the Core i9 12900K features eight Gracemont Efficient Cores in total. That’s eight Efficient Cores clustered into two groups of four, with each group having access to 2MB of L2 cache. These then share access to that same 30MB of Intel Smart Cache.

Sounds like Arm’s big.LITTLE design, and it is! But how can a bunch of Atom-like cores help in a desktop? For starters, they help increase the multi-threaded performance, but their key use is removing lighter loads from the P-Cores.

Say that you’re a game streamer and you’re trying to play a competitive title on one screen and beam your capture off to the world on the other. An Alder Lake CPU should be able to divvy up this workload in order to keep your P-Cores focused on delivering gaming frame rates and your E-Cores on streaming that over the web.

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