A leaked benchmark for Intel's top-end Alder Lake chip, the Core i9 12900K, has appeared from Twitter leaker OneRaichu, painting Intel's 12th-gen CPU in an incredibly positive light. While it's only one benchmark, if this performance played out across everything else, the numbers suggest that Intel could be set to reclaim its performance crown from AMD. And by some margin too.
12900KS QS Non-OCIn water cooler.Cinebench R20.ST: >810MT: >11600July 20, 2021
There's a lot of info packed into that tweet, not least of which is that the chip isn't overclocked, although these numbers were achieved using water cooling. Also, the single-threaded and multi-threaded performance figures are both incredible—much higher than a normal generational improvement.
Raichu has since tweeted that the S in the original tweet was a typo and that it is just a standard qualification sample of the Core i9 12900K. They've also followed that by saying the power consumption may be well over 200W to reach the full turbo frequency.
Still, a quick comparison against our own tests of current Intel and AMD chips shows why this is potentially such a big deal. The single-threaded performance alone is a huge leap over the previous generation, and the multi-threaded performance is phenomenal too—and that's where AMD had the biggest lead.
That gives the Core i9 12900K an 18% performance lead over the similarly 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X. Though the Alder Lake chip is actually running with fewer threads. Its 16 cores are made up of eight Golden Cove cores, with HyperThreading, and eight Gracemont cores without HT, giving a total of 24 threads. While AMD's finest Ryzen sports a full 16 Zen 3 cores with simultaneous multithreading giving it 32 threads of processing power.
I guess the key stat for us PC gamers, however, is the single-threaded number this rumour offers up. At around 22% higher than AMD's Zen 3 chips that could give it a serious lead in any gaming performance metrics you care to throw Alder Lake's way.
Obviously, we don't know what's in the rest of the system used for testing, and that could have a significant impact on the performance, but if these numbers are true they paint an impressive picture of what Intel has lined up for Alder Lake.
The bigger caveat is about whether this can translate to more applications and games, and that all comes down to the hardware scheduler that Intel and Microsoft have been working together on. That's going to be key to how Windows sees these different classes of cores, and how good it is about pointing vital workloads to the more powerful options.
It feels inevitable that we'll see more and more benchmark leaks going forward, given that these unreleased QS samples of the Core i9 12900K are also being sold in China. It could just be that Intel's going to struggle to keep the rumour mill quiet if the performance really is as good as this.
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Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.