Intel officially announces 12th Gen Alder Lake desktop processors, SKUs, and pricing

Intel 12th Gen Core I9 Hero Boxes
Intel 12th Gen Core I9 Hero Boxes (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Intel announced an array of new 12th Gen Alder Lake processors on the company's new "Intel 7" manufacturing process.
  • The new 12th Gen processors are the first from Intel to utilize a hybrid architecture, similar to ARM chips, and unlock DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 support.
  • You can preorder the new 12th Gen processors today with prices starting from $264.

Intel announced new processors today, the first chips based on Intel 7. This new manufacturing process is an advancement on (and successor to) the existing 14nm process utilized for 10th and 11th Gen Intel CPUs (some of the best CPUs available). The flagship 12th Gen processor is the Core i9-12900K and is positioned as the new king for PC gaming.

The range starts with the Core i5-12600KF, starting from just $264. This CPU has 10 cores and 16 threads, which may surprise those who are used to the number of threads doubling physical cores. This change is due to Intel's new hybrid architecture design that Arm Ltd first pioneered with ARM processors.

Source: Intel (Image credit: Source: Intel)

Instead of all cores being treated as equals and used for the same tasks, Intel now splits its CPUs into two with Performance-cores (Golden Cove or "P-cores") and Efficient-cores (Gracemont or "E-cores"). The former makes up the highest performing cores Intel has ever produced, while the more efficient cores are dedicated to background tasks and low priority processes.

It's also well-known that Windows 11 leverages this new scheduling technology to take advantage of this power efficiency. As we wrote back in August:

With two distinct cores on offer, Intel is introducing a new scheduler called Intel Thread Director that effectively manages workloads between the performance and efficiency cores. Via this system, intensive tasks — like a game or video editor — are assigned to the p-cores. If new tasks need to run in the background — like email or network activity — they will go to the e-core.Now, if all the p-cores are busy and there's another task that needs to be prioritized, Thread Director will determine if one of the current workloads on the p-core can be moved to the e-core and then slot in the new task accordingly. Now, a lot of this has to do with software scheduling, so Intel has worked with Microsoft to take full advantage of Thread Director in Windows 11.

Source: Intel (Image credit: Source: Intel)

The flagship gaming processor is the Core i9-12900K, sporting 16 cores in total and 24 threads. On paper, it's a machine capable of hitting 5.2GHz with Intel's Turbo Boost Max technology. The company's UHD Graphics 770 IGP is also present, allowing you to play numerous PC titles without the best graphics card.

Intel claims improvements across the board with the new 12th Gen family of desktop processors. Around 20% or more performance gains in games will allow PC owners to push the boundaries further with the latest RTX GPUs from NVIDIA. Then there's DDR5 RAM, which can provide up to 36% faster photo editing, up to 32% faster video editing, up to 37% faster 3D modeling, and up to 100% faster multi-frame rendering performance.

Intel 12th Gen: Pricing, availability, and laptops?

Intel 12th Gen Core I9 Hero

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The new processors are available for preorder now, and prices start from $264 for the Core i5-12600KF, with the top-tier Core i9 12900K coming in at a very competitive $589. By comparison, AMD launched the venerable Ryzen 9 5950X at $849 (for retail; $749 current). As to which benches the best, you'll have to stay tuned for official reviews.

Coinciding with today's news, Dell announced the new Alienware Aurora R13 desktop gaming rig and the new super-powerful XPS Desktop 8950 for consumers and professionals, both with 12th Gen chip options and powerful GPUs.

For those looking for 12th Gen in laptops, no word on those chips yet. Historically, Intel announces such chips at CES in January with a late spring rollout, which may be the case for Alder Lake as well. Alleged benchmarks from the flagship i9-12900HK reveal a powerful chip that evidently can beat Apple's M1 Max on performance (but unlikely for efficiency).

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • DDR5 Support and PCI-E 5.0. Although impressive tick boxes, there aren't any pci-e 5.0 GPUs yet and DDR5 sticks are still very much “not out yet” let alone affordable. I fear Intel might have pushed the boat too far as effectively making these paper launch specs (as in marketing gimmick) lol... Time will tell. If They have PCI-E 5.0, I hope ARC GPUs are PCIe 5.0 capable. As that would seriously pressure Nvidia.
  • DDR5 sticks are being announced today. They're not months out, they're days. You also need a new motherboard (Z690) to run this chip, so yeah, you're sinking money in it if building your own. But new gaming rigs will ship with this stuff. I'm OK with future-proofing tech. PCIe 5 is bonkers.
  • Awesome, thanks for the Info. Just finished work so catching up on the news - on the train lol. PCI-E 5.0 indeed is nuts - just thinking about PCIE-5.0 nvme storage speeds lol! What's even more nuts is that we haven't gotten to PCI-E 4.0 mass adoption in the general sense. Typically, there's the phase out period as we still have pci-e 3.0 nvme storage devices still mass produced. But that process usually takes years. Then again Covid-19 has turned everything on its head lol. Can't complain, I'd rather have PCI-e 5.0 now as opposed to years later. Sure, it's going to be pricey but that's the new tech premium. It remains to be seen... how much of a premium it adds on GPUs in this current market - given current projections are 2023 for supply chain stabilization.
  • Maybe adoption of PCIe 5 will go more quickly because of the pandemic, that's be nice.
  • @real0395 I do hope so, however the price premium ontop of the current supply situation it won't go as quickly as after the everything works fast as the slowest link. That right now is raw materials, transport and port logistics.
  • "Then again Covid-19 has turned everything on its head lol.", yeah indeed though the supply issues were bound to happen one day anyway, Covid just accelerated it. Regarding the prices, I think what helps here that it will also be (hopefully as soon as possible) be used in laptops and Intel probably needs it to stay competitive. That could greatly speed up mass adoption.
  • In regards to the supply issues happening one day, that's true... the earth has a finite number of raw material composites. Many of which are used in pretty much every electronics... kinda puts sci-fi into perspective doesn't it? Sooner or later, humanity will need to learn to mine asteroids. I agree, if PCI-E 5.0 is used in laptops that would really push adoption of PCI-E 5.0. As remote or hybrid work is not going to go away anytime soon. So, we would most likely end up with set ups that utilise e-gpus and thunderbolt ports as it's more practically to ship and provide laptops to employees. Those who need the extra graphically oomph can be provided with e-gpus. Then again, such industries already have spent a fortune on graphical hardware - which they could utlise using remote desktop. So, yup laptops would really speed up adoption.
  • And to think I just recently a few days ago bought a new computer with a i7-11700F with ddr4 16gb... Oh well.. lol I'm still happy with my new computer. I hope These new CPU make many people happy if there looking for a new computer. :) I'm surprise there no I7-12700F......
  • Talk about unfortunate timing lol.
  • That for sure. But. I came from a Intel i7-2600 with 16gb ddr3 1200hz. So still a huge upgrade for me at least. :)
  • Damn, that is a huge upgrade. I had a similar upgrade myself I5-2500K to a R7-2700X. The difference in capabilities and opportunities blew my mind. What we're seeing right now between AMD and Intel is a text book case study why competition is a extremely good thing. Especially, healthy competition that fuels innovation and pulls technology forward. I am really hoping ARC is PCI-e 5.0 capable as that would seriously change the balance in the GPU space and really pressure Nvidia.
  • Nice upgrade you got there man. I'm just surprise how quick CPU just coming along. It was months ago I just heard of the 11Th gen and less then a year here we talking about 12th gen.. Gosh. Did they do this with the 9th gen to then 10th gen came later after a few months? :O Guess im just havent kept up with CPU much just been looking at Graphic cards since my old pc had a nvidia 1050 ti lol Current pc just has a Nvidia 3060 non ti. I would of gone with the ti if I had the spare money but oh well. :) How long has PCI-E 4.0 been around I swear just feels a few years ago 3.0 came out. :S I really do hope Intel does great though going forward. Im sure AMD CPU are great. Though back in 2009 I believe I had a PC with a AMD Phantom II 925. I just felt I wanted to scream at the time when I had that CPU like it sucked badly.
  • Yeah, it is an amazing upgrade... running virtual machines, fl studio and playing a GTA 5, maxed settings, with 7-zip compression running and a blender render running at the same time?? With the CPU barely hitting 80 degrees celcius... (I have the CPU undervolted and overclocked to 4050 Mhz) all for £193 for the CPU cooled by a £25 CPU cooler with a single fan 😱😱😱. My mind went 🤯🤯🤯 blammo lol! Haha, yeah CPU generations... that's really par for the course, as tech especially in the CPU space moves plenty quick these days and that's really down to the unspoken laws of competition. That's why AMD has really alot gotten Kudos for kicking Intel in the nuts, making them actually drop their prices (just look up intel's past prices for 8 cores) and actually innovate for once. It's been a looong time since Intel has done anything meaningful in the CPU space. The last time was really the core series during which AMD had massive slump (sure, Intel did engage in questionable practises - i.e. Bapco / Sysmark). But AMD really did have a massive slump. Now, present day - AMD has to kick it up a gear too and they know it (check out Moore's Law is Dead - pretty much all of his leaks about Intel, Nvidia and AMD have been extremely spot on). I'm really curious about when Intel is going to utlise what Jim Keller was working on at Intel. As that will really spice things up. The 3060 is a decent card and waiting for the next best gpu is a perennial waiting game. As there will always be another next best GPU lol. I'm holding out until next year or so before I get off the waiting train. As by then I will have a decent amount saved... but it pains me... that I might end up paying x10 times the price of my current GPU... (Bought for £240 - using a RX480 8GB) PCI-E 4.0 has been around about 4 years give or take in product form, but as a standard it's been around for awhile. However, PCI-E 4.0 v1 is also around 4 years old give or take in terms of ratification. PCI-E 5.0 was ratified around 2019 (started around 2017) and PCI-E 6.0 ratification is about a few months away. Those guys don't rest on their laurels lol! Can you imagine if AM5 launches with PCI-E 6.0??? I highly doubt it but who knows! 🤣🤣 If the market wasn't so screwy right now, I'd have said it's an amazing time to be a PC enthusiast... I hope we do get regulations to combat tech scalping as that's the only way we will get around it. As scalping was prevalent in the music industry - it still is but not as widespread due to enforced rules and legal consequences.
  • Heh, it's always going to be an issue with such a fast-moving industry. :-)
  • I'm really interested to see what these do in practice. Prices don't seem bad, but comparing to Ryzen 9 seems generous. Intel is bringing 8 E-cores and 8/16 P-cores/threads. The 5950X is 16C/32T, all from the best of what Zen 3 can offer. Most interesting will be how much of a performance hit the E-cores suffer and how much they add to the P-cores in the heaviest workloads. These should be solid mainstream performers, but workstation performance could still be behind.
  • "but comparing to Ryzen 9 seems generous. Intel is bringing 8 E-cores and 8/16 P-cores/threads. The 5950X is 16C/32T, all from the best of what Zen 3 can offer."
    Core i9-12900K has 16 cores in total and 24 threads. I think it's for certain Intel will win this round, not in all benches/games, but in many of them.
  • Consumers win if production can keep up, otherwise what was announced today will be a long drawn out lotto of people that get lucky and the winners are still people who scored hardware last year :)
  • Absolutely, and with a better positioned Intel this should see additional movement in the AMD camp. A win-win for consumers for better-performing chips at aggressive prices. The flagship i9 at less than $600 is a bold move and shows how much is riding here for Intel.
  • Depend what you compare... Can't compare 12th gen to Zen3. Zen3D also is just Zen3 with more cache, and last gen for AM4. Zen4 will be real comparison to 12 gen, when AMD introduce new socket AM5, with DDDR5 support and other stuff...
  • Unfortunately, over the next year or two, it's likely not going to be even ground for comparison. We were comparing 7nm PCIe 4.0-supporting AMD Ryzen 5000 CPUs against sluggish 14nm Intel counterparts at one point and laughing about how inferior Intel was (which was absolutely the case). Now, it's a little more even with 12th Gen and the possibility of AMD coming back with Zen 4 is fantastic for consumers. This is how it should be, a tick-tock if you will between the two companies.
  • But you can't say Intel won this round comparing new Intel CPUs against more than year old AMDs... That's not same category.
  • If it's AMD's latest, it's exactly the same category. No one was saying "wait for Intel's next CPUs" when Ryzen was "winning."
  • Keith, yeah, I'm very curious to see about the P/E core impact. Seems like a good idea if it lets a small number of cores scream for foreground app or gameplay, and still provide a bunch of cores for smooth multitasking between OS activities and multiple background apps, and does all that while keeping prices down. On the prices being at or below comparable AMD chip prices, I wonder if that's at least partly a marketing angle to promote the P/E cores as a way to boost foreground performance without having to pay extra for it or sacrificing the multiple background cores that keep the OS snappy. That would be a good way to come in with a lower price without communicating, "We've swapped places with AMD -- now they're the performance king, but we're cheaper."
  • "We've swapped places with AMD -- now they're the performance king, but we're cheaper."
    Intel is advertising this as the fastest/best chip for gaming, beating the 5950X. I think we'll see that claim hold.
  • Nice. Well done Intel!
  • Hmmm, time for the Surface Studio 3 with a 12th Gen Chip!!!
  • It would be nice if Microsoft used Intel’s best in future Surface products instead of always using Intel’s older, less expensive chips.
  • Watt? That's a whole lotta watts.
  • No thanks, I will stick with AMD if I don't change to a Mac.
    As we used to say in the Amiga days, Intel outside :)
  • This architecture looks very good, the problem are the board prices, the 12600KF looks specially good in value.
  • x86 big.LITTLE, bring it on. Intel might take the non-ARM performance lead again and these hybrid chips could cut typical x86 power consumption by half or more.
  • If there was to be a way for Intel to get back in the game, this would be it. We'll have to see what our numbers are after more testing. But if everything goes well, this should be amazing for us all with a very competitive CPU market, leading to further innovation and improved performance/value.
  • I refuse to believe that it really took them this long to get these chips ready. I think they milked Skylake until the teats atrophied and fell off. They laughed all the way to the bank. The performance of these CPUs is shaping up to be pretty baller, though...
  • The complacency that comes from decades of market dominance is a real thing. They were able to continue laughing all the way to the bank for so long because we kept buying and had no viable alternatives. Apple Silicon is the wakeup call/kick in the pants we all needed.
  • Okay, but can they cook? 👀
  • At 150 to 241 watts they will cook up a mess.