12th generation Intel Core are here

12th generation Intel Core are here

ALDER LAKE. Intel has just officially launched its 12th generation processors, called Alder Lake. Six models of desktop CPUs inaugurate this series with a new high-performance hybrid architecture.

On October 27, after months of rumors and speculation, Intel officially unveiled its first Core 12 processors.e generation, known as Alder Lake. CPUs that are commercially available since November 4. An important step for the giant of the sector which has seen its eternal competitor AMD gain momentum and gain market share in recent years with its formidable Ryzen range, but which must now also reckon with Apple and its surprising M1 chips with unprecedented performance. All in a tense economic context, with in particular the shortage of electronic components which is hitting several industrial sectors around the world (see our article). Suffice to say that, even if it can count on the support of Microsoft, its loyal ally in the PC world, the American company is playing big.

What are the early models of Alder Lake processors?

Concretely, Intel unveiled six Core 12 modelse generation for desktop PCs: in decreasing order of power, the Core i9-12900K, Core i7-12700K and Core i5-12600K, all three of which incorporate a graphics module (iGPU), in this case the all-new Intel UHD Graphics 770, and their KF versions without graphics circuit, the Core i9-12900KF, Core i7-12700KF and Core i5-12600KF (see our article to know all about the classification and references of Intel processors). Of course, other models will follow in the coming months, both for stationary PCs and for laptops and ultraportables, in more energy-efficient versions. In total, these are 60 twelfth generation models that Intel has planned to completely renew its Core family.

As the table below indicates, these six processors are distinguished by several technical characteristics, in particular their number of cores, their cache memory, their operating frequencies (nominal and maximum) and their “thermal envelope”, an intimately related data. to their electricity consumption. The most powerful models, in every sense of the word, the Core i9-12900K and Core i9-12900KF thus have 16 cores – 8 high performance and 8 low consumption, see below – capable of handling 24 threads in parallel while the The smaller Core i5-12600K and Core i5-12600KF are content with 10 cores – 6 high performance and 4 low power – for a total of 16 threads. Note, Intel immediately released the “frequency lock” of these new Cores, which allows them to operate at higher speeds than those recommended as standard: a function that will be of particular interest to overclocking enthusiasts, who will thus be able to push these chips to their limits and to gain performance on the condition, of course, of providing them with suitable cooling devices. For the rest, all have the same characteristics, which are specific to the new Intel architecture: Alder Lake.

© Intel

What’s new in Alder Lake architecture?

In fact, beyond their somewhat convoluted references for the uninitiated, what distinguishes these processors of 12e generation of their predecessors, it is precisely their architecture. In other words, the combination of technologies and organization of internal elements that determines a chip. In the case of Alder Lake, the big news is the adoption of a big.LITTLE type structure that combines high performance and high consumption cores – called Golden Cove or P-Cores – and less powerful cores. low consumption – called Gracemont or E-Cores. A hybrid architecture, inspired by that of ARM, which is widely used in chips – SoCs – for mobiles from Qualcomm and Mediatek, but also by Apple in its M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max. The idea is indeed to mix powerful cores for tasks requiring heavy calculations and smaller cores to process lighter tasks while saving energy. In Alder Lake, the distribution of tasks between these different cores is organized by the Thread Director, a controller that works in close association with the operating system, Intel having worked with Microsoft to optimize this technology with Windows 11. The principle is simple. : it consists of constantly analyzing the tasks in progress and sending a report to the operating system to direct data flows to the P or E cores in real time.

© Intel
© Intel

As it should be, this new generation of processors uses a new medium – a socket, in the jargon – type LGA1700, obviously incompatible with the format used on existing chips. To use these Core 12e generation in a PC, it will be necessary to acquire a suitable motherboard doc. Of course, who says new generation of processors and new support also says new chipset – the set of circuits installed on the motherboard which manages all the basic functions. For now, Intel has contented itself with unveiling only the Z690 – others will follow – a fairly high-end model that complements the range of new Core with many technologies such as Wi-Fi 6E, USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 at 20 Gbit / s, the PCIe 5.0 bus or even Ethernet at 2.5 Gbit / s. Above all, Alder Lake and the adapted chipsets manage DDR5, this famous – but expensive… – ultra fast RAM which should eventually succeed the classic DDR4 currently used. However, since DDR5 is still very rare, the Z690 chipset will also accept DDR4. Informed hackers will however be able to have a great time since they will be able to use the XMP 3.0 profiles which make it possible to optimize the memory settings according to profiles tested by the manufacturers of Ram, but also to fine-tune some of them, to win in performance.

Finally, let us note that these first Core processors of 12e generation are engraved in 10 nm technology, according to a process called Intel 7. An optimized process, but which is still far from the 7 nm engraving used on the best Ryzen AMD – those with the Zen 3 architecture – and 5 nm Apple M1 chips, manufactured by the giant TSMC which remains the pioneer in these sophisticated technologies.

How well are Alder Lake processors performing?

As we can imagine, Intel promises to break new records in terms of performance with its Alder Lake processors. And, to tell the truth, it would be high time for the manufacturer to regain the honors of the podiums, as AMD has secured good places there in recent years with its Ryzen. And that, even if he does not play in the Windows court – yet? -, Apple has given a cold sweat to the entire industry with its M1 chips, both powerful and energy efficient. Clearly, with this 12e generation of Core, Intel is playing on its technological and economic credibility.

Unsurprisingly, the giant showed very flattering results during its presentation. According to its tests, the Core i9-12900K – the most powerful of its new range – offers significant gains for intensive tasks compared to the champion of the previous generation: up to 36% for processing photos (with Lightroom), 32% for video processing (with Premiere Pro), 37% for 3D modeling (with Autodesk) and even 100% for rendering special effects (with After Effects). Rather impressive! The same goes for video games, a favorite battleground for high-end processors – and heated discussions among avid gamers – where the same processor is on average 10% faster than the Ryzen 5950X, its rival AMD, with deviations ranging from -3% and + 30% in FPS §number of frames generated per second) depending on the game tested (Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Far Cry 6, Crysis Remastered, F1 2021).

© Intel

However, attentive experts noted several annoying little details in the results obtained and presented by Intel. Thus, according to several specialists, the comparisons between the Core i9-12900K and the Ryzen 5950X would be misleading because they would have been made with Windows 11 in early October, before Microsoft and AMD published the fixes for bugs that penalized this family of processors (see our article). A bit as if the new Intel champion had made a bike race against a competitor with a flat tire… Certainly, the Core i9-12900K should keep the lead in the competition, but not with a narrower gap. In addition, experts noted that the Core i9-12900K required enormous electrical power to perform to its full potential: some 240 W is thus needed to run its high-performance cores fully in a test with CineBench, where 150 W are sufficient for the Ryzen 5950X for an almost identical result. This gluttony does not plead in favor of Intel, especially as AMD is preparing to launch for its part a new generation of chips with Zen 4 architecture engraved in 5 nm, which could well prove to be more energy efficient in performance. similar. Either way, it will take a few days – the Alder Lakes have only been on the market since November 4 – for extensive independent testing to shed light on the real capabilities of Intel’s new champions.

What are the prices for Alder Lake processors?

The Intel Core should be available for sale from Thursday, November 4, 2021. Their release will of course be accompanied by the marketing of suitable motherboards in major specialized brands, such Asus or Gigabyte, without which these chips will only be pieces of inert silicon. As always prices will vary depending on inventory, merchants, promotions and demand – and especially during this time of shortage of electronic components – but relatively high prices are to be expected for the first Alder representatives. Lake, which represent the top of the range. According to the first prices communicated by sales sites in France, it takes around 750 euros for the Core i9-12900K, 530 euros for the Core i7-12700K and 360 euros for the Core i5-12600K. We can bet that many gamers will break the bank to afford these new cars by the end of the year!