While it may be November, the impact of Techtober 2021 is still in full swing. This week, Tom's Hardware published its Alder Lake processor reviews, specifically the 12th Generation Core i5 12600K and 12900K processors. These new processors have taken Intel in a new direction, finally catching up with their long-time rivals - AMD. New features, new powers, and new peripherals are all part of this new generation.
The biggest change in the processor is the physical infrastructure. Intel has run on 14nm infrastructure for a long time, but the 12th Generation has finally moved to 10nm architecture. While this is technically the second Intel processor family to run on 10nm architecture, it is the first family for desktop use. This change means that more transistors can fit on the same amount of space.
These new process, thanks in part to the new architecture, are showing some real power. In the gaming department, the Alder Lake processors nearly always exceed the performance if their AMD Ryzen counterparts. When it comes to productivity tasks, the two brands go back and forth depending on the task. But, despite these major improvements in performance against AMD, these new processors come in with a more AMD style price than an Intel price point.
Along with the architecture change comes a lot of new benefits. The biggest benefit is the addition of two different types of cores: Performance cores and Efficiency cores. The concept is an expansion on an old Atom processor idea - some cores are really powerful for high need tasks like gaming or video rendering, while others are low power for tasks like antivirus scans.
Adding these dual purpose cores required more than just a re-architecture of the processor - it required some changes to the operating system. Microsoft made changes to Windows 10 and Windows 11 in order to implement task scheduling. This new Windows feature is what allows for routing of certain tasks to the portion of the processor most suited to handle the task.
It's a shame that the processor itself is not capable of identifying what type of task it is receiving, but it makes sense that this level of information is not quite available at that level. Either way, it is a far more powerful version of the Atom infrastructure that was developed for netbooks in the early 2010s. Those processors suffered from multiple personalities - having two totally different modes, and switching between them depending on the load on the processor. This design was more for battery performance than overall performance.
These new processors are the first to support DDR5 RAM. There are some issues, though, as using DDR5 requires special motherboards, as would be expected. But, there are still some compatibility concerns when it comes to this new RAM and individual motherboards.
In addition, Alder Lake supports PCIe 5. While there is little that supports the new standard, you can know that your new machine will be able to support it when it gets popular. For now, it will also support PCIe 4, so the existing super fast SSDs will be compatible.
Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLUGHITZ Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the rhythm game community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bay Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and helping with ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors, currently housed at AMRoC Fab Lab.
Avram's been in love with PCs since he played original Castle Wolfenstein on an Apple II+. Before joining Tom's Hardware, for 10 years, he served as Online Editorial Director for sister sites Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he programmed the CMS and many of the benchmarks. When he's not editing, writing or stumbling around trade show halls, you'll find him building Arduino robots with his son and watching every single superhero show on the CW.