While the flagship chips are often the most exciting offering when any new CPU lineup is unleashed onto the market, often it is the midrange chips that are the most useful for most people. This year it is no different, and Alder Lake brings a lot of exciting features to the full lineup, making this year’s Intel i5-12600K CPU one of the more interesting offerings in some time. With specs that beat out some previous i9 CPUs, for people looking for a solid mid-range upgrade, this is your year to make the leap.
As we mentioned in our 12900K review, Alder Lake brings a lot to the table, many things PC builders will not get to take full advantage of until the parts come available. It is the first CPU range to offer DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5, and can also work with some previous technology, allowing DDR 4 if you select the right motherboard. Alder Lake will continue to work with previous generations of PCIe SSD drives, and it will also carry forward Intel’s Thunderbolt 4, so all your peripherals have not gone obsolete overnight.
With Alder Lake, Intel is gunning for PC builders of all kinds, with it offering a range of options for enthusiasts to people looking to just get an upgrade. The Core i9-12900K has an MSRP of $589 USD, and the mid-range Core i5-12600K costs $289 USD. While it is not a budget range by any stretch, Alder Lake is one of the biggest releases Intel has made in a while, and it delivers for people that demand the best for the money spent.
Even on the mid-range, Alder Lake offers a ‘hybrid’ architecture” featuring a combination of both ‘P-cores’ and ‘E-cores’, compared to the previous homogenous core layout seen in past CPU generations. This means each core is tailor-made to deliver either power, or efficiently, and they will excel at those tasks. This is a major departure from the past solution of throwing as many general cores as possible to manage all types of workloads.
The P-Cores (performance cores) are the cores that are built for gaming or productivity tasks and are the closest thing to cores seen in past CPU’s. E-cores (efficient cores), on the other hand, are built for background tasks, or processes that require less resources and power to run. This means, when done properly, these can be combined to push the CPU and deliver performance per watt, while also reducing the overall power consumption and thermal load of the PC.
Looking at the specs, the Core i5-12600K boasts six performance cores and four power-efficient cores, for a total of ten cores (6+4) with 16-threads (12+4), with only the performance cores offering hyperthreading. The performance cores on the 12600K run at a base clock of 3.7GHz with maximum boost to 4.9GHz, but the Turbo speeds shown vary between 4.5GHz and 4.7GHz.
For the benchmarks, CGMagazine used an all-new build, featuring a Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro mainboard, 32GB DDR5 Corsair Vengeance 4800 RAM, Seagate FireCuda 530 1TB, an MSI MPG A850GF PSU, and an Asus ROG Strix RTX 3070 GPU. We ran our tests against a similar build with an i9-11900K, and an AMD Ryzen 5600X. All systems are running Windows 11, with all the current patches for AMD installed.
As with any CGMagazine CPU review, including with our 12900K coverage, we wanted to give a focus to the gaming and content creation side of the new range. Looking at the latest titles, along with putting it through standard Adobe and other creation tests, this gave a good picture of how the new i9-12600K would fare for our readers without getting into the weeds or dumping spreadsheets of numbers.
Mixing things up this time around, looking at the synthetic benchmarks of CPU-Z, the 12600K managed a single-core score of 771, with a multi-core score of 7215. With a notably better performance than even the 11th Gen i9 (716 Single Core, 6539 multi-core), things are starting off with a bang, especially considering the 12600K has an MSRP of $289, lower than even the AMD Ryzen 5600X. Considering the 5600X hits 624 and 4,811, this is a major step for the mid-range market, and a great option for consumers.
Jumping over to Cinebench R20, the 12600K delivered a fantastic 750 single-threaded score, and an overall good 7,014 in Multi-threaded, with Adobe workloads showing a notable 45 percent speed improvement compared to last year’s 11600K.
But with the synthetic benchmarks out of the way, it is time to jump into some gaming starting things off with our Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (1080P Ultra) benchmark we saw a solid showing out of the gate with 72 FPS, this is compared to the 74 FPS we saw with the Ryzen 5600X, and 81 we saw with our i9-11900K. When moving over to our Watch Dogs Legion (1080P Ultra) benchmark, the 12600K pushed an average of 67 FPS, compared to the 76 FPS with the 11900K or the 70 FPS we managed on the Ryzen 5600X.
Jumping into Cyberpunk 2077 (1080P Ultra) and things start to get interesting, with the 12600K boasting an impressive average of 102 FPS, beating out the higher priced Ryzen that only managed an average of 95 FPS, while the 11900K fell to last place only achieving 93 FPS. Jumping over to Red Dead Redemption 2 (1080P Ultra) and the Intel i9-12600K comparable performance to Ryzen showing scores of 98 FPS and 97 FPS respectively, with the 11900K coming in a photo finish third place with 96 FPS.
At the price Intel is releasing this new CPU, and the fact it brings all the exciting features seen on its bigger brother, including DDR 5, PCIe 5 and the new hybrid core design, the Intel i5-12600K CPU is a landmark release that is sure to shape up the PC landscape. It is a major leap forward, and even at the mid-range, Alder Lake is a force to be reckoned with.
Considering it fairs so close to the i9-11900K and beats or matches blow for blow what the Ryzen 5600X is laying down in performance, at a lower price, the 12600K is an easy chip to recommend to anyone looking to upgrade or just looking to build a new PC.
Alder Lake is proving to be a truly monumental release. It will be interesting to see how Team Red strikes back with the new Ryzen offerings coming in 2022. For now, Alder Lake is the new king of the mid-range, delivering performance and value I did not think possible from Intel.