Today, Intel is announcing its first 12th-gen Core processors, and there’s a lot to unpack here. They’re built on the Intel 7 node, which was previously called Enhanced SuperFin. But the most notable change is that they use Intel’s hybrid technology, offering both big and little cores.
The idea of having powerful cores and efficient cores is not new; indeed, ARM chips have been doing it for years. The idea is that tasks that require more power can use those performant cores, while tasks that don’t require that much power can use the efficient cores, thus saving on energy usage.
Historically, this has been a way to preserve battery life on mobile devices. The last and only previous time Intel showed us its hybrid technology was with Lakefield, a penta-core series of chips that were made for foldable and dual-screen PCs. It wasn’t very good, but these 12th-gen ‘Alder Lake’ processors are in an entirely new ballpark.
Intel hybrid architecture and Intel Thread Director
There are three main processors being announced today, and then there are K and KF variants of each, the F meaning that there are no integrated graphics. The Core i9-12900K, Core i7-12700K, and Core i5-12600K come with 16, 12, and 10 cores, respectively. Both the Core i7 and Core i9 models have eight performance cores, while the Core i5 have six.
Now the question becomes, why hybrid technology on a desktop chip? The answer is pretty simple. It’s to increase performance while using less power. More cores generally ends up meaning more performance, and with Intel Thread Director, it can intelligently direct tasks to the appropriate threads (note that the performance cores are Hyperthreaded, while the efficient cores are not).
With Intel’s 12th-gen chips, they’re being called P-cores and E-cores. Gaming and productivity workloads fall under the P-cores, while E-cores will handle highly-threaded workloads and background tasks. Frankly, it’s just a big deal that those background tasks will no longer take up those precious threads in the cores that deliver performance.
Intel is promising a 19% boost in performance with P-cores. But that’s not all. Looking at single-threaded fixed-frequency performance, the P-cores offer a 28% boost over 10th-gen ‘Comet Lake’, but even the E-cores offer a 1% improvement.
Intel 12th-gen has Faster memory, and faster everything
We’ve talked about the new Intel 7 nodes, the hybrid architecture, and Intel Thread Director, but there’s still so much more to this story. Indeed, while the company went with 14nm processors year after year, it’s really coming out with a bang in introducing something new here.
New platform improvements include support for DDR5 memory and PCIe 5.0. Indeed, it was only with Intel’s 11th-generation processors that the firm caught up with AMD in offering PCIe 4.0 support. PCIe doubles the speed of PCIe 4.0 for 32 gigatransfers per second.
There’s also a new Intel Z690 chipset, which comes with integrated support for 12 PCIe 4.0 lanes, and that’s on top of support for 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes for a total of 28 PCIe lanes coming off of the chipset. There’s also integrated support for USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 and Wi-Fi 6E.
Intel 12th-generation processors fit in the LGA 1700 socket, so the LGA 1200 socket that we had previously only lasted two generations. Of course, that’s not surprising given how drastically changed everything is here.
Pricing starts at $264 for the Core i5-12600KF, and it makes its way up to $589 for the Core i9-12900K.