Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake chips usher in a new generation of x86 processors

Intel's 12th Gen Alder Lake chips are finally here, heralding a new era in chips. The flagship Core i9-12900K processor, which Intel claims is the best gaming processor, leads the charge.
Since CES 2021 in Jan, the company has teased Alder Lake. It also revealed more details about its hybrid architecture approach at its 2021 Architecture Day. Today's announcement is the culmination all those efforts, and it comes in the form hardware you can purchase and use.

Intel has three new chips in its lineup, including the Core i9-12900K model. It offers 16 cores, divided between eight performance-forced P-cores or eight efficient E-cores, and 24 threads. The chip can reach clock speeds up to 5.2GHz with Intel's Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology. The new P-core architecture promises a 19% performance increase over its 11th generation chips.

For those who don't need as much firepower, there are the Core i7-12700K (12 total processors and 20 threads), with eight P cores (and four E cores), and the Core i5-12700K (10 processors and 16 threads), with six P cores and four P-cores. To save a little money, each of the new chips is also available as a KF version that eliminates the integrated Intel UHD Graphics770.

Intel 12th Generation Alder Lake desktop chips Threads Base CPU speed, E-core / P-core GHz Turbo Boost Max 3000 clock speed (GHz), Smart Cache L3, Processor base Power (W), Maximum Turbo Power (W). Graphics Recommended Prices i9-12900KF (16 (8P / 6E) 20 3.2 / 2.7 / 4.9 / 3.8 / 3.8 / 4.9 / 3.6 NA 20MB 125 190 Intel UHD graphics 750 $689 i5-12600KF10 (6P /4E) 16 3.7 / / / /Up to 3.6 NA20MB 125 150 N/A

The new chips will also be used by Intel to provide future-facing support for advanced standards. The new chips have up to 20 PCIe lanes, split between 16 and 4 PCIe 2.0 lanes. They also support DDR5 memory at 4800MT/s and older DDR4 support at 3200MT/s.

Intel's new chips are a look at the future

New chips require a new motherboard. Alder Lake will need one built on Intel's new Z690 chipset. This adds modern conveniences such as Wi-Fi 6E support, and faster USB 3.0 Gen 2x2 data transfer. Intel uses a brand new LGA1700 socket. This means that you might need a cooler or modified standoffs from the manufacturer.

Intel is pushing Windows 11 heavily as part of its Alder Lake lineup. It also noted that it worked with Microsoft on optimizing its Intel Thread Director software in order to better manage threads when using this OS. We will have to test the new chips against Apple and AMD to determine if Windows 11 provides a significant boost in performance.

While Intel labels each year's chips as a new generation of chips, the 12th Gen lineup (beginning with today's desktop release), truly deserves this title. This is not only the most significant leap in Intel's desktop chips for years, but also the debut of an entirely new design approach by Intel to designing its best chips.

Alder Lake's new chips are the first Intel desktop chips to go beyond the 14nm process the company used since 2015s 6th Generation Skylake chips. The new 12th Gen chips are instead being released on the newly rebranded Intel 7 process. This was previously known as Intels 3rd-generation 10nm process or Enhanced Superfin.

The new Alder Lake chips, which Intel explained to us, are a new approach to x86 chip design for the company. It is a similar approach to the one Arm has used for years and has had great success with Apple's M1 line. Alder Lake hardware is not content with cramming as many powerful cores into one chip. Instead, it combines efficiency cores and performance cores that are very similar to Intel's Core-class processors for power and efficiency.

The most significant change in Intel's desktop chips since 2015.

This idea has been explored by Intel before in 2020s Lakefield chips. However, those chips were limited to low-powered hardware and only a few times. Alder Lake, however, is designed to power full-scale desktops, as Intel's flagship CPU. It can also power laptops and ultra-portable gadgets.

Intel's 12th Gen chips are also a chance to make a comeback after the disappointing 11th Gen desktop lineup. It tried to offset Intel's 14nm process age and manufacturing delays of 10nm by using 10nm designs that were backported to the 14nm process. Due to differences between the two architectures Intel had to decrease the number of cores that it could offer for the 11th Gen chips in comparison to the 10th Gen hardware.

Last year's models had poor multithreaded performance in comparison to their processors. Anandtechs comprehensive review found that the 11th generation chips provided little to no performance (and, in some cases even worse) for gaming while running much hotter and less power-hungry.

The new desktop chips are just the beginning. Intel also has big plans to create the hybrid Alderlake architecture. This includes mobile chips (as an example, it featured six P-cores as well as eight E-cores), and ultra-mobile chips (like one with two P-cores or eight E-cores for future laptops).

Preorders are open for the Intel 12th Gen chips starting today and the chips will be available by November 4th.